Meaning of Damages
Damages is a legal term whose meaning may not be clear to many. Essentially,
the meaning of damages in a legal sense is the financial loss someone
suffers because of the action of another. For example, if you are in a
car accident and are admitted to the hospital, your hospital bills, car
repair costs, and other financial losses you suffered because of the accident
are your damages.
But damages are not limited to an actual financial loss suffered in a situation.
Legally, damages can also be an estimation of what future losses are because
of the actions of another. For instance, if you are injured in a way that
makes work impossible for you, the person responsible for your injury
may have to pay for money you would have otherwise earned had you not
These kinds of financial losses are the 'actual damages' that a
person suffers; but punitive damages are different. For example, in 2000
a Florida jury ordered a group of tobacco companies to pay
$145 billion in punitive damages to people who were damaged by smoking. That case is
an example of a jury punishing a company for how they acted.
The Difference between Punitive Damages and Actual Damages
Punitive damages are so named because they act as a way to punish someone
who causes harm to another. But not every case will include a claim for
punitive damages. Generally speaking, mere negligence does not rise to
level of conduct that punitive damages seeks to punish. So for example,
if you own a store and fail to clean up a spill because you forgot, and
someone slips on that spill and is hurt, the law will require you to compensate
the injured person for their actual damages, but the law won't punish
the store owner for merely being negligent. To rise the level where the
law punishes a person,
Florida law requires a person to act with
intentional misconduct, or with
gross negligence. Florida law also lets a jury decide whether punitive damages will be
assessed in a case.
Intentional misconduct has to cause damage to someone before it can be
turned into punitive damages. Legally speaking, intentional misconduct
means a person actually knew that what they did was wrong, and that they
would hurt someone with their actions.
Gross negligence is similar to intentional misconduct. The legal meaning
of gross negligence is that a person acts in a way that is so reckless
that it is the same as a conscious indifference to the harm it might cause
If you have a personal injury case, make sure you hire an attorney that
will fight for all of the damages you have suffered. In Panama City, The
Pittman Firm is a professional firm that will help you decide whether
punitive damages apply to your case or not.