Punitive Damages in Texting and Driving Accident Cases
Florida banned texting and driving in July 2019. Under the new statute, the violation is considered a primary offense, which means officers can pull over motorists solely for using their phones while behind the wheel. To date, 48 states have implemented a texting and driving ban in the hopes that it will reduce the number of traffic fatalities and injuries attributed to distracted driving.
If you were struck by someone who was texting and driving, you may be entitled to compensation for the associated losses. Examples of such losses might include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. These are called “compensatory damages.”
Depending on the circumstances, you may also be entitled to punitive damages. While these damages are rarely awarded to car accident victims, they may apply if the defendant’s conduct constituted gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Unlike compensatory damages, which aim to make the plaintiff “whole” again, punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant and deter similar transgressions in the future.
How Can I Seek a Punitive Award on Top of the Standard Compensatory Damages?
In order to build a claim that warrants punitive damages, you will have to gather sufficient evidence of the liable party’s wrongdoing. Examples of such evidence may include eyewitness deposition, a confession from the at-fault driver recorded in the police report, and cell phone records. It may be necessary for your lawyer to file a subpoena to obtain the driver’s cell phone records.
Florida law places a cap on punitive damages awards. For car accident lawsuits brought on the basis of negligence, the cap is usually three times the total compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater. If you were struck by a government employee—a school bus driver, for example—you cannot seek any punitive damages whatsoever from the city or state agency that employed them.
How Long Do I Have to File the Lawsuit?
If you intend to pursue punitive damages, it is likely that the defense will dispute your claim. If no settlement can be reached through correspondence between your lawyer and the legal team of the defense, it may be in your best interest to file a lawsuit and proceed to litigation.
In the state of Florida, the standard statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is four years; however, if you are bringing a wrongful death lawsuit, you may have just two years to file suit.
While this might seem like a significant amount of time, it is important that you do not put off the action. By consulting an attorney right away, your legal team will have an opportunity to gather time-sensitive evidence and to help you avoid critical mistakes early in the proceedings.
Speak with a Florida Car Accident Attorney Today
If you were hurt in a distracted driving-related wreck, contact Emerson Straw. We will conduct a thorough investigation and gather the evidence needed to strengthen your claim. Call (727) 821-1500 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a free consultation with a car accident lawyer in Florida.