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If you are considering filing a personal injury case in Florida, you may have heard of something called damage caps. A damage cap is a limit to the amount that you are able to file a suit for, and can apply to economic or non-economic factors (or both) depending on the state, the nature of the injury, and the lawsuit.
However, the only damage caps that you will encounter in Florida — after a Florida Supreme Court ruling in 2017 eliminated caps for medical malpractice — are for punitive damages. There are three different types of damages that may be considered and factored into your own case. Read more below to learn about each, and understand how much you could possibly win, and what caps exist.
All About Economic Damages
In Florida, there are no caps for economic damages. Economic damages are any factors that have real, measurable value appended to them, such as medical bills or lost income. The limit for economic factors is the limit of what is realistic: if you make $500 a week and miss 2 weeks of work while recovering, you can not sue for more than $1000 of lost wages. You and your attorney will consider any possibility of future lost wages, or future medical bills, as well as any past lost wages or existing medical bills from your injury as well.
In addition, if your injury has long-term effects then you will likely work with your attorney to determine the long-term impacts of these changes and factor those into your damages as well. In Fort Lauderdale, your personal injury lawyer will compile all of these factors before you begin your case.
How Are Non-Economic Damages Factored?
A non-economic damage is anything that does not have a set value attached to it. Although they can be a bit more complicated to calculate than running your medical bills and wages through a spreadsheet and estimating any future impact, they are no less real or important in your personal injury case.
These damages will include things like the pain and suffering you have endured following your accident, and take into account any reduction in your quality of life or enjoyment. This amount is usually determined by determining an appropriate multiplier of your economic damages. You and your attorney will need to make a good case to the judge about why you have used the multiplier you include, so be sure that it is realistic. Even though there is no cap, you can not just add an enormous multiplier.
Although there are not caps to the amount you can sue for, either economic or non-economic, you are capped for any punitive damages. These damages are usually reserved for major companies with “deep pockets,” and a judge will often include them so the company actually feels the financial damages. These are capped at either 3x your other damages, or $500,000, whichever is greater.
In addition, it is important to realize that you will only be able to collect as much as the defendant can afford to pay. If you win $1 million in a suit, but the defendant has no money or job, then it is very unlikely you will ever recover the amount you were awarded. Judges may order that the defendant’s wages are garnished, liens placed on their property, and other measures to ensure that you are compensated, but their ability to pay is a major limiting factor.