Automobiles are one of the greatest inventions in modern history. But, because of their size and speed, accidents often result in serious injury or even death. Florida courts consider an automobile to be a dangerous instrumentality which may become extremely dangerous through negligent or wrongful use. Because of the potential dangerousness of automobiles, Florida puts the responsibility on the owner of the vehicle to ensure its proper operation. Therefore, be careful who drives your car, because you are responsible for their actions.
State law provides for a right to recover for personal injury and damage to property caused by the negligent operation of a motor vehicle. A vehicle operator who starts a chain of events may be held responsible for a misfortunes which are the result of the negligent conduct, even where there may be an intervening cause. Negligence generally means failing to follow the law of the road. The mere occurrence of an accident does not automatically give rise to liability without evidence of negligence. But, even where recovery is not available from another driver because of a lack of negligence or one’s own fault, one may be able to recover some benefits from one’s own insurance carrier. It is necessary to seek medical evaluation and treatment within fourteen days of an accident or you will waive entitlement to compensation.
Punitive damages are not normally recoverable in negligence actions. However, a defendant may be held liable for punitive damages if the plaintiff establishes at trial, by clear and convincing evidence, that the defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Fla. Stat. § 768.72(2). Intentional misconduct means that the defendant had actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and the high probability that injury or damage to the claimant would result, and, despite that knowledge, intentionally pursued that course of conduct, resulting in injury or damage. Fla. Stat. § 768.72(a). Gross negligence means the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct. Fla. Stat. § 768.72(b).