Litigation Lawyers in Lake Worth
In Lake Worth, Florida, the civil litigation system is mainly concerned with compensating the victims of wrongdoing, rather than punishing the wrongdoers, or casting moral blame upon them.
This basic principle is subject to an significant exception, however. There are cases where a judge in Lake Worth, Florida will order a defendant to pay the plaintiff a sum of money which is not calculated based on actual harm the plaintiff has suffered. These are called "punitive damages" and serve the purpose of punishing and deterring wrongdoing.
Courts in Lake Worth, Florida do not authorize punitive damages in most cases. The civil litigation system is geared against authorizing financial windfalls to civil plaintiffs. But, there are rare cases, where the defendant has done something to the plaintiff that is so morally reprehensible, that society's interest in punishing the defendant and deterring comparable misconduct outweighs the civil justice system's preference against punitive damages.
Conduct that can give rise to punitive damages in Lake Worth, Florida
The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits in Lake Worth, Florida involve situations in which the defendant did not intend to harm the plaintiff, but did so through carelessness. This is not enough to award punitive damages in Lake Worth, Florida.
In Lake Worth, Florida, punitive damages are only awarded in extreme circumstances. Civil wrongs such as fraud, conversion (theft), battery, and other intentional, depraved acts are sufficient to award punitive damages. In deciding whether or not to award punitive damages, and how much money to award, courts in Lake Worth, Florida will consider many different factors. Usually, they employ a sliding scale, weighing the nature of the conduct and the actual harm that the conduct caused. The more immoral the conduct, and/or the more harm caused, the more likely a court is to award punitive damages.
It's important to know that punitive damages in Lake Worth, Florida are subject to limits. The Supreme Court of the United States has held, more than once, that punitive damages can't be grossly disproportionate to the actual harm sustained by the plaintiff. Grossly excessive punitive damage awards are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has held, because they amount to the government acquiring property from the defendant without due process of law.
In Lake Worth, Florida, punitive damage awards are typically (but not always) capped at 10 times the amount awarded in compensatory damages. Remember, however, that this is just a basic rule of thumb, and is not completely rigid. In Florida, appeals courts have a good deal of discretion in deciding if a punitive damage award is valid or invalid. Much larger awards have been upheld, and smaller awards have been overturned. The validity of a specific punitive damage award will depend heavily on the facts of each case.
How Can a Lake Worth, Florida Attorney Help?
In Lake Worth, Florida, there are a large variety of situations in which punitive damages are appropriate, because the decision to grant punitive damages is largely up to the discretion of the jury.
If you are involved in a case in Lake Worth, Florida where punitive damages are a possibility, a very large amount of money could be at stake, whether you are the plaintiff or defendant. You should not delay to speak with a civil litigation attorney in Lake Worth, Florida