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Florida Personal Injury Damages: Punitive vs. Compensatory

By Team at Zimmet & Zimmet, In Personal injury, 0 Comments

gavel with money denoting punitive damages

If you're filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida, you need to know the important differences between punitive vs. compensatory damages.

If you’re suffering from an injury due to a slip and fall or car accident, you’re probably considering filing a personal injury claim. If the judge finds in your favor and awards compensation, the monetary award often falls in two categories: punitive damages vs. compensatory damages.

We’ll provide an overview of these two types of personal injury damages. Keep reading or speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can offer details on other damages you may qualify for in your Florida personal injury case. 

What are compensatory damages in a Florida personal injury case?

Compensatory damages are awarded to reimburse you for the costs of your injuries. For example, let’s say you were injured in a car accident. You can recover compensatory damages that’ll help pay for:

  • Medical treatment, including on-going and future treatment.
  • Emotional distress such as anxiety, depression, and loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Lost wages or income from missing work as a result of the injury.
  • Property damage for vehicle repairs or replacement.


When you win your injury lawsuit and receive your compensatory damages, you may also be able to receive additional “punitive damages” if your injuries are serious enough.

What are punitive damages in a Florida personal injury case?

Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages. A Florida judge will typically award you punitive damages to punish the defendant when the defendant’s harmful behavior was extremely dangerous. Under Florida law, a judge can award punitive damages when the defendant acted with:

  • Gross negligence: Extreme reckless or careless behavior without regard for the rights, lives, and safety of others. An example of gross negligence is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 


  • Intentional or purposeful misconduct: When a person knows their behavior is wrong or dangerous and could cause injury to others. An example is a grocery store manager leaving spilled milk on the ground, knowing that someone could slip and fall on it.


The judge will award punitive damages to you to punish the defendant and discourage other people from performing the same kind of extreme harm to others in the future. 

Examples of punitive damage awards

Although awarding punitive damages is rare, it is typically seen in cases involving large companies. Examples include negligent security lawsuits

A real-life example includes a federal appeals court awarding $20.7 million in punitive damages against Philip Morris USA, a tobacco company. This Florida case was filed by a woman who first tried cigarettes at the age of 13 and later suffered from a smoking-related illness. 

Now, let’s take a look at how punitive damages are calculated in personal injury cases and how they affect you during tax time.

Florida’s limits and taxes on punitive damages

When punitive damages are awarded, Florida law places a limit on the amount of money you can receive. Punitive damages cannot be more than: 

  • Three (3) times the amount of compensatory damages; or


  • $500,000 – whichever is greater.


There are exceptions to this rule. When the defendant’s actions to harm you were intentional, there is no limit. 

Additionally,  if the defendant knew that harming you would make them money, the court can award you more in punitive damages. Here’s what happens:


  • The cap increases up to 4 times the compensatory damages; or


  • $2 million – whichever is greater. 


Personal injury settlements are not usually taxed but punitive damages are treated differently because they are considered a form of income. As a result, they are taxable by the IRS. For more information on tax implications of settlements and judgements, review the IRS Settlements Taxability publication.

Contact our Daytona Beach injury lawyers to seek compensation for all your damages

When another person causes you harm, you have the right to file a lawsuit and seek compensation. But this process is not easy. Investigating the accident, finding witnesses, and collecting strong evidence to prove your case can be overwhelming. 

That’s where Daytona Beach injury attorneys from Zimmet & Zimmet come in. We’ve been serving injured victims across Florida for over 40 years. 

If you’d like to know more about the types of damages you may receive in your personal injury lawsuit, contact an experienced Daytona Beach injury attorney at Zimmet & Zimmet. We’re standing by to answer your questions, so give us a call for a free consultation.

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