Damages are a crucial — yet often overlooked — element of a personal injury lawsuit. Florida personal injury victims must specifically plead and prove the damages they hope to obtain, and a failure to do so may result in a reduced verdict; even if the defendant was found to be at fault.
In a recent case, a Florida car accident victim successfully appealed a jury’s zero-dollar verdict for past non-economic damages. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was involved in an accident when a pickup truck made an illegal left turn and hit a car that collided with the plaintiff’s vehicle. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff did not receive medical treatment or go to the hospital.
Several years later, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and owner of the pickup truck. Pretrial proceedings resolved all issues in favor of the plaintiff, and the trial jury only needed to determine damages. The jury awarded the plaintiff $50,000 for past medical bills, $200,000 for future medical expenses, and nothing for past or future non-economic damages.
There are three main types of damages available to Florida injury victims, economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Economic damages are tangible losses that a plaintiff incurred. Typically, these are easily quantifiable. For example, medical bills, lost earnings, and property damage are generally considered to be economic damages. Non-economic damages include things such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, reputation damage, and loss of support or enjoyment. Finally, punitive damages are not based on a victim’s losses, but rather the defendant’s egregious behavior. Punitive damages are rarely awarded and hinge on the severity of the defendant’s conduct.
In this case, the plaintiff filed a motion arguing that the jury’s zero-dollar verdict for non-economic damages was insufficient based on the evidence that he presented at trial. At trial, the plaintiff presented testimony regarding the onset and level of his pain. The defendants did not dispute that he experienced pain and suffering. However, the court denied the motion concluding that the plaintiff’s evidence of non-economic damages was disputed and therefore, they could not override the jury’s award.
In instances where a plaintiff moves to reverse a jury’s decision, the court must review the amount to decide whether the award is insufficient in light of the facts and circumstances of the case. Florida law provides courts with five statutory elements,
- Whether the verdict was influenced by prejudice, passion, or corruption;
- Whether the jury ignored or misinterpreted evidence;
- Whether the jury speculated or incorrectly counted damages;
- Whether the award was reasonably related to the injuries the plaintiff sustained; and
- Whether the award was reasonable and supported by the evidence.
Here, the appellate court held that the trial court erred when they denied review because the evidence suggests that the plaintiff did suffer past non-economic damages. However, they did not find any error regarding a zero-dollar verdict for future non-economic damages.
Have You Been the Victim of a Florida Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida car accident, contact the experienced accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert Dixon. Many accident victims do not understand that damage awards are not automatic, even when the defendant is clearly negligent. It is essential to retain a skilled attorney to ensure that you receive the maximum amount of damages to which you are entitled. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert Dixon have had great success getting injury victims the compensation that they deserve. Contact the law firm today at 1-877-499-4878 to schedule your free initial consultation.