Types of compensatory and punitive damages a car crash victim may qualify for
A car accident can change your life forever. It’s that simple. When the accident occurs, those involved may not only suffer physical and mental harm but also extensive financial losses. These losses are immediate and can have a lasting impact on their quality of lives.
The American civil court system understands the significant impact an accident can cause due to the negligence of another person. For this reason, a system has been set up a system for getting accident victims compensation.
Under Florida law, car accident plaintiffs can claim compensation under two distinct categories:
- Compensatory damages
- Punitive damages
Compensatory damages are further divided into two types: economic and non-economic.
Below, we explore these different types of damages more in-depth.
What are Economic Damages?
Economic damages are those expenses and costs that are directly related to and are a result of the accident. The most common forms of compensatory economic damages include:
- Past and current medical expenses. All your medical costs incurred from the moment you’re injured will be part of your final compensation package. This includes costs for the ambulance, healthcare expenses, traveling to follow up medical appointments, and over-the-counter prescriptions and supplies.
- Future medical expenses. If you will have to undergo future medical procedures or require long term care, your attorney can seek damages for future expenses as well.
- Home health care services and physical therapy. Home healthcare and physical therapy will be included as part of your economic losses. As an injury victim you’re entitled to receive all of the medical care you need to help make a physical recovery — including home health aides if necessary.
- Loss of current wages, benefits and retirement contributions. Any work wages that you lost as a result of the accident should be included in your compensation package. This also includes any employer contributions to your health care or retirement fund. Lost vacation days and other similar benefits may be included based on your employment contract.
- Future loss of wages, benefits, and retirement contributions. If your injuries will cause you to change careers, take a lower paying position, miss extensive days for medical care or stop working altogether, your attorney should seek damages for future lost wages. Again, these will also include any benefit contributions that your employer makes.
- Cost of lost services. If you’re unable to provide services or do normal chores around your home that you normally do — such as mowing the lawn, repairing the car, cleaning the house, or running errands — your attorney can seek compensation for the current and future costs of having to pay someone to provide these services for you.
- Child care expenses. If you provide care for your children and are unable to because of your accident, your attorney may seek damages for your additional child care expenses.
- Property damage. Part of your economic losses include the damage done to your vehicle as well as any personal property that was contained within the car and damages as a result of the accident.
Your personal injury attorney will work very closely with you to determine the extent of your economic losses. Economic losses will vary from case to case based on the extent of your injuries and what types of compensation apply. Your attorney will explain in detail what types of compensation you can seek under Florida law and help calculate the full value of your accident case.
What are Non-Economic Damages?
Non-economic damages are injuries or losses that result from the accident which are suffered on a more personal level rather than direct out-of-pocket expenses. These compensatory non-economic damages include the following:
- Pain and suffering. This includes the physical pain that you endured at the time of the accident as well as throughout the recovery period and any potential lasting pain you may have to endure due to the crash. Every case will be very different in the amount awarded under this type of damage.
- Disfigurement. Disfigurement damages provide additional compensation for loss of limbs, loss of eyesight, loss of hearing, loss of fingers or toes, excessive scarring, and any similar type of bodily change that’s a result of the injury from the accident.
- Physical impairment. Your injury may have caused you to lose the ability to do certain things. Any type of restrictions you have with your body because of your accident injury is considered an impairment. Impairment compensation is based on the severity of the restriction, if there is potential for recovery, and how negatively the impairment will affect your future.
- Mental anguish. This is a very personal type of injury. Your attorney can seek compensation for the stress and anxiety that accident has caused. For some people, mental anguish claims may be even more severe if there are lasting problems caused by the accident, such as the onset of mental disorders like depression.
- Loss of consortium. Damages associated with loss of consortium are reserved for the spouse or children of a loved one killed in a fatal car accident. Close family members can seek compensation in a wrongful death case for losing their ability to interact with a deceased loved one. Your attorney can tell you if this type of compensation applies.
These types of losses are more challenging to prove, but they are real losses that must be taken seriously. Florida tried to set a strict limit cap on the amount of non-economic damages a plaintiff could request, but it was ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in a June 2017 decision.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are a type of financial penalty that’s used by the court system to punish the responsible party if they believe that gross negligence played a role in the accident. These types of damages are not awarded often. However, if the person who caused your accident was driving under the influence, texting while driving, or otherwise recklessly driving, your attorney may seek these damages on your behalf.
Florida limits punitive damages to three times the amount of compensatory damages, or $500,000 whichever amount is greater.
If you or a loved one were recently involved in a Florida car accident, we strongly encourage you to contact our Tampa law firm. At Lorenzo & Lorenzo, we offer free case evaluations to individuals who want to learn more about their legal rights. We can help calculate your car accident claim and determine which damages you qualify for. Contact us as soon as possible before your case expires.