People that are hurt in car accidents often seek damages in civil lawsuits from the parties that caused the accident. Typically, a plaintiff that proves a defendant’s liability in an auto crash case will be awarded compensation for the cost of treating injuries and repairing property damage caused by the accident. In some instances, though, a plaintiff may be awarded other damages as well. In a recent Florida opinion, a district court of appeals discussed when a plaintiff may assert a punitive damages claim in a lawsuit arising out of a drunk driving accident. If you were hurt in a crash caused by an intoxicated driver, it is in your best interest to speak to a trusted Florida DUI accident attorney to discuss what damages you may be able to pursue.
Background of the Case
Allegedly, the plaintiff was walking on a Florida sidewalk when he was struck by a car driven by the defendant. The plaintiff filed a civil lawsuit against the defendant, asserting a negligence claim. An investigation revealed that the defendant was intoxicated due to marijuana and alcohol at the time of the accident. While the civil claim was pending, the defendant was charged with multiple DUI crimes, to which he pleaded guilty.
It is reported that after the defendant’s entry of a guilty plea, the plaintiff moved to amend his complaint to include a claim for punitive damages. The trial court held a hearing on the plaintiff’s motion, after which it issued an order granting the motion. The defendant filed a petition for certiorari review of the order, arguing that it should be quashed because the trial court did not set forth express findings when it determined the plaintiff could assert a claim for punitive damages. Upon review, the appellate court denied the defendant’s petition.
Asserting a Punitive Damages Claim in a Car Accident Case in Florida
In Florida, a party can obtain certiorari review when a court fails to comply with the procedural requirements set forth in the punitive damages statute. To be granted certiorari relief, a petitioner must show that the court departed from the essential tenets of the law, which caused material harm for the remainder of the case that cannot be modified via a post-judgment appeal.
In the subject case, the appellate court focused on the first prong or review, that is, whether the trial court deviated from the core requirements of the statute, which constitutes a violation of a clearly established principle of law. The court noted that while the defendant argued that the statute required the trial court to make express findings that the plaintiff made the evidentiary showing required to proceed with a punitive damages claim, there was no such requirement imposed by the law. Rather, the trial court merely had to determine that there was a reasonable evidentiary basis for such a claim. Thus, the court denied the defendant’s petition.
Speak to a Trusted Florida Attorney About Your Collision
People who recklessly drink and drive should be held accountable for any harm they cause innocent individuals to suffer. If you were hurt in a crash caused by a drunk driver, you may be owed compensatory and punitive damages and should speak to an attorney about your potential claims. Jarrett Blakeley is a trusted Florida DUI accident attorney who is proficient at helping injured parties recover damages for their harm, and if you hire him, he will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Blakeley by calling (800) 602-5000 or using the online form to schedule a meeting.