Florida Judge Rules Punitive Damages May Be Awarded in Texting Lawsuit

by Carmen Dellutri on November 24, 2011

Naples car accident attorneyCollier Circuit Judge Hugh Hayes recently granted a motion to allow a North Naples widow to seek punitive damages against a driver who was accused of texting a co-worker when he killed 62-year-old bicyclist James L. Caskey Jr. in a 2008 Florida car accident.

While judge routinely allow plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits to seek punitive damages to deter people from driving while drunk, texting is still uncharted legal territory. However, given the growing evidence that that texting while driving is far more dangerous, increasing the risk of collision by 23 times, the ruling is warranted.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant, set an example, and deter similar conduct. They are awarded in addition to actual damages, which compensate a plaintiff for the losses suffered due to the harm caused by the defendant. Punitive damages are the part of a lawsuit that often results in the largest awards. Florida law allows jurors to award three times compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is higher.

In order to award punitive damages in this case, the jury still must decide whether the driver was texting or whether that conduct rises to reckless indifference to the rights of others (the applicable legal standard).

What’s Next for Texting While Driving?

If the jury does award punitive damages, the decision will likely be appealed, leaving the Florida Supreme Court to get the last word. As we have mentioned on this blog, Florida is one of the few states that does not place any limits on texting or talking on cell phones while driving. It is unclear if this ruling will finally prompt legislative action.

Source: Naples News

The Dellutri Law Group is focused on making bad situations better and putting lives back together. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Florida car accident caused by texting, you may be entitled to compensation.

To learn more about your legal options, contact our experienced Florida injury attorneys for a free consultation. 

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