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Punitive Damages in Florida Wrongful Death Cases

January 16, 2018 | Category: Wrongful Death | Share

If you have lost a loved one in a wrongful death scenario, you may be wondering about the nature and extent of damages to which you are entitled.  Generally speaking, most wrongful death lawsuits do not involve an award of punitive damages — otherwise known as exemplary damages — as the conduct at-issue is not egregious enough to justify such an award.  In some cases, however, the circumstances are such that punitive damages may be available, so long as you make a reasoned, well-supported argument that the court should award punitive damages. Our Fort Myers wrongful death attorney can help you in that effort -- contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A. today.

Damages for Wrongful Death

In a typical wrongful death lawsuit, the damages that the plaintiff (i.e., a surviving family member of the deceased loved one) is entitled to are directly related to losses suffered as a consequence of their loved one’s death.  For example, you might be entitled to sue and recover damages for emotional distress and loss of financial support for the loss of your father or mother, assuming that you can introduce adequate evidence to support your argument.

These damages are meant to compensate you for the losses you have suffered due to the wrongful death at issue.  Punitive damages, on the other hand, work quite differently.  Let’s take a brief look.

How Punitive Damages Work

Punitive damages — whether in the context of wrongful death or a standard personal injury case — are intended to “punish” the defendant and discourage others from similarly egregious behavior.  To that end, punitive damages are awarded as a multiple of the total compensatory damages amount, which can increase the liability of the defendant substantially.

For example, suppose that your loved one is killed in a motor vehicle accident that was caused by a drunk driver.  You sue the drunk driver in a civil wrongful death lawsuit, claiming total damages of $100,000.  The court agrees that the defendant-driver has acted in a manner that is grossly negligent and subsequently awards punitive damages of $300,000, or three times the compensatory damages, for a total damage award of $400,000.  As you can see, punitive damages can greatly heighten the damage values for a wrongful death lawsuit.


If you have lost a loved one due to the negligent, reckless or intentional actions of another, Florida law may give you the right to sue and recover damages for wrongful death.  Depending on the circumstances of the wrongful death, however, the court may find it appropriate to award punitive damages.  Defendants who engage in particularly egregious conduct may be exposed to such liability, though it’s important to note that punitive damages are only infrequently awarded — but they may be attainable with the aid of a skilled wrongful death attorney who has experience with successfully recovering punitive damages in prior lawsuits.

Contact Randall Spivey today to speak with an experienced Fort Myers wrongful death attorney at the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.  We will provide a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights.

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