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RD- an actual child support client
"My case was handled quickly and with ease."
01/10/2014
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Punitive Damages

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Personal Injury

As professional advocates to accident victims, the Gainesville Personal Injury Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. take a dedicated and steadfast approach that is premised upon attaining compensation for any and all damages that a victim may be entitled to. In some cases, the conduct of a Defendant may have been so egregious, as to allow for a victim to seek liability against a Defendant for a special category of damages, referred to as punitive or exemplary damages. While technically a form of intangible (aka general) damages, punitive damages are perhaps better understood when considered in isolation from other types of damages, due to its many distinguishing characteristics.

Punitive Damages are awarded in addition to, and separate from, other damage categories. Also, in contrast to economic (tangible) and non-economic (intangible) damages, which are intended to compensate the victim for losses, punitive damages are intended to punish or deter the defendant’s conduct. Actions or inactions, the presence of which, are so reprehensible that they invoke the potential for recovery of punitive damages, are far and few between. However, when such damages are awarded, the amount is often substantial.

In accordance with the distinction in intent for an award of punitive damages, the procedural requirements associated with this award are much more complex, in comparison to other types of damages. Pursuant to Florida Statute 768.72, the ability to seek and obtain punitive damages is dependent on two primary factors:

(1) Sufficient evidence providing reasonable basis for recovery;

-AND-

 (2) Clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was personally guilty of

(a) intentional misconduct;

-OR-

(b) gross negligence.

It is important to note that the first factor, sufficient evidence providing reasonable basis for recovery, must be established prior to ever reaching the second inquiry. In some cases, your attorney will include a request for punitive damages in the original complaint. However, in other cases, evidence of conduct that can allow for punitive damages is not always immediately apparent in the initial stages, and for this reason, it is not uncommon for the complaint to be subsequently amended to include such request.

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In addition, if and when issues concerning punitive damage reach the second procedural stage, the statutory elements associated with the tortfeasor’s conduct–whether intentional misconduct and/or gross negligence–must then be fully established, based upon clear and convincing evidence. The two forms of conduct which can allow for the recovery of punitive damages, are defined by statute as follows:

Intentional misconduct” means that the defendant had actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and the high probability that injury or damage to the claimant would result and, despite that knowledge, intentionally pursued that course of conduct, resulting in injury or damage.

Gross negligence” means that the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.

It is important not to confuse the ‘clear and convincing’ standard with other standards, such as the ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard and the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard. The evidentiary standard associated with punitive damages can be considered a medium-level burden of proof. In other words, it is a higher standard than preponderance of evidence, but is a less rigorous standard than beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Gainesville Auto Collision attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. remind the residents of our communities, that every incident is unique—and should be evaluated based upon the factual circumstances involved.  While punitive damages are available in many types of civil cases— successful recovery of this type of damage award typically demands the knowledge of an experienced attorney.

Moreover, it is imperative that you select a dedicated lawyer that is willing to put in the time and effort required to seek exemplary awards, such as punitive damages. Our personal injury team has been providing representation to accident victims for decades, and we want to help you obtain the compensation that you and your loved ones deserve.