Punitive Damages Possible For Distracted Driving Accidents In Florida
A Florida car accident attorney explains how this process works
Distracted drivers wreak havoc on Florida’s roads and highways. More than 12 percent of all car accidents in Florida are caused by distracted drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA). Specifically, distracted drivers cause an estimated 45,000 motor vehicle accidents each year in Florida. That figure climbed even higher among drivers between the ages of 15-19. In their case, 21 percent of fatal car accidents involve distracted driving, according to the NHTSA.
In an effort to combat this problem, Florida is one of several states which allows victims of distracted driving accidents to seek punitive damages for their crash. But what does this mean? Why should it matter if you’ve been injured in a distracted driving car accident? Central Florida attorney Brent C. Miller explains and goes over how the legal system works overall when it comes to distracted driving accidents.
What are punitive damages?
“Punitive damages” is a legal term used to describe financial compensation (referred to as damages in a court of law) which is awarded to an injury victim if the person at fault behaved in an especially reckless or negligent manner. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the at-fault party and to send a strong message to society at large that such behavior will not be tolerated.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving is any activity which diverts a driver’s attention from the road and other people around them. Distracted driving often involves three types of distractions:
- Visual distractions – Anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road
- Manual distractions – Anything that takes the driver’s hands off the wheel
- Cognitive distractions – Anything that diverts the driver’s attention
Distractions can include:
- Texting while driving
- Talking on a cellphone while driving
- Eating while driving
- Looking up directions while driving
- Adjusting the radio while driving
Why are punitive damages possible for distracted driving accidents?
In general, punitive damages are possible for distracted driving accidents since the driver who caused the collision made a conscious decision to not pay attention while driving, resulting in a distracted driving accident.
Just because a driver was clearly distracted and caused your car accident, however, that doesn’t mean you will automatically receive punitive damages in addition to actual damages, which are often awarded for medical bills, lost income and other accident-related expenses.
As a result, you and your attorney will likely need to demonstrate to a judge or a jury why you believe you should be awarded additional punitive damages for your distracted driving accident on top of the actual damages you received for your car crash.
Does Florida have distracted driving laws?
Yes. Florida has many strict rules and regulations governing distracted driving accidents. These laws include Florida’s statewide ban on texting while driving, which is known as The Wireless Communications While Driving Law. This law includes the following statutes:
- Granting the police the authority to stop vehicles and issue tickets to drivers who are texting while driving (Section 316.305).
- Prohibiting drivers from operating a hand held phone while in a school zone or road work zone (Section 316.306).
If drivers are caught breaking this law, they can be fined $30 for their first offense. For the second offense, the penalty is a $60 fine and three points on their driver’s license. The penalty for any additional offenses is another $60 fine and an additional three points on their driver’s license.
How much is my distracted driving accident claim worth?
Determining how much your distracted driving claim could be worth can be challenging. Depending on the insurance company or jury ruling on your settlement or verdict, your claim could be worth many thousands or millions of dollars. The bottom line is you should be fairly compensated for all your accident-related expenses, now and in the future, including for:
- Emergency medical bills
- Follow-up medical care
- Replacement income during your recovery
- Lost future income if you cannot return to work
Learn more about the legal options available to you after your distracted driving accident. Talk to an experienced Florida distracted driving attorney who can help you. Contact the Law Offices of Brent C. Miller, PA, and schedule your free consultation today.