In the state of Florida, if you are injured by someone else’s negligence in a traffic accident, at your place of work, on another person’s property, or in an incident of medical malpractice, and if you can prove that you were injured because another person was negligent and thus liable for your injury or injuries, you have the right under Florida law to be fully reimbursed for all of your injury-related losses and expenses, including any wages that you lost because you were injured. In Central Florida, in order to file and prove a personal injury claim, an injury victim will need the sound advice and legal services of an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney.
For a personal injury claim to prevail in this state, the alleged injury victim, called the “plaintiff,” must prove that the person named as the “defendant” was negligent and that the defendant’s negligence was a direct cause of the injury.
Several kinds of reimbursement or compensation – what lawyers call “damages” – can be awarded to plaintiffs in personal injury cases: Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant for intentional misbehavior or gross negligence. Compensatory damages reimburse a plaintiff for medical treatment costs, lost wages, physical and emotional pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of the “enjoyment of life.”
What happens, however, if someone is injured by another person’s negligence in Florida, but he or she does not have the evidence sufficient to prove it in court? In another example, what happens in this state if someone’s injuries caused by another person’s negligence are minor or negligible, but the negligent person still needs to be held legally accountable for his or her actions?
In both types of personal injury cases, if a Florida court is convinced that the defendant was in fact legally negligent, the plaintiff may be awarded what the law calls “nominal” damages.
WHAT DISQUALIFIES SOMEONE FROM FILING A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?
Most of the time, a lack of evidence – or a lack of injuries – will disqualify someone from filing a personal injury claim in the state of Florida. However, in some very precise circumstances, an experienced personal injury attorney might recommend filing an injury claim in order to seek nominal damages. Nominal damages may be awarded in Florida in personal injury cases where a defendant was reckless or negligent even if the plaintiff sustained no significant personal injury or losses.
Nominal damage awards in Florida are small, essentially symbolic monetary awards. In fact, in some cases in this state, a nominal damage award may amount to no more than a single dollar. Why, then, would anyone go to the trouble of filing a personal injury claim to acquire only a dollar’s worth of nominal damages? Because in these kinds of personal injury cases, money is not necessarily the focus of the case or purpose of the claim.
In the state of Florida, a personal injury plaintiff may seek nominal damages for several reasons:
- to seek justice by legally establishing that the defendant was negligent
- to absolve the plaintiff for any legal responsibility or liability for an accident
- to set a legal precedent for claims that may be brought against the defendant in the future
- to open a legal door for other damages to be awarded. Punitive damages, for example, cannot be received unless a plaintiff has first been awarded either restitution or compensatory or nominal damages.
ARE NOMINAL DAMAGES AWARDED IN OTHER TYPES OF CIVIL CASES?
In a defamation case – a civil case where a plaintiff claims to be a victim of libel or slander – nominal damages may be requested when the plaintiff is seeking vindication of his or her reputation and seeking a legal ruling that the defendant made false, defamatory statements about the plaintiff. Nominal damages may be awarded in defamation cases in Florida even if the libel or slander does not cause any demonstrable economic loss or injury.
Sometimes, nominal damages are also awarded in Florida for claims involving freedom of speech or the violation of other civil or constitutional rights. For instance, a plaintiff whose right to free speech has been violated may be awarded nominal damages if he or she can prove that a defendant was responsible for the violation of his or her free speech right, even if the plaintiff was not directly injured or harmed in any tangible or demonstrable way by the violation of the right.
Nominal damages may also be awarded for a breach of contract claim, but that is quite rare, because a breach of contract case is usually linked to a plaintiff’s demonstrable economic losses. However, situations may arise in contract lawsuits that result in the award of nominal damages. These may include cases where the value of property cannot be determined and cases where a defendant has acted in bad faith by lying to or deceiving the plaintiff.
In such a case, a nominal damages award expresses the court’s condemnation of the defendant’s bad faith. As a matter of law, where a breach of contract has been established, an award of nominal damages is required.
WHAT MUST YOU PROVE TO WIN NOMINAL DAMAGES?
In any personal injury, discrimination, defamation, or breach of contract case in the state of Florida, in order to be awarded nominal damages, a plaintiff still must prove all of the necessary elements of his or her claim except for the need to recover compensatory damages. The defendant’s wrongdoing, however, still must be demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence – the usual standard in civil cases – or no nominal damages (or any other kind of damages) will be awarded.
If you file a personal injury, discrimination, defamation, or breach of contract claim in the state of Florida, it is important to remember that every case is unique and also to remember that exceptions to the legal rules are abundant. Those are only two of the many reasons why you must have the advice of an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney if you have been injured by another person’s negligence or intentional misconduct in Central Florida. A Florida truck accident lawyer can examine your claim, review the facts of the case, and determine if punitive, compensatory, or nominal damages are the appropriate damages to seek in your own case. For more information, speak to a truck accident attorney today.