Damages caused by someone else’s negligence are more rampant than you think. Knowing the basics of the Personal injury law in Florida can go a long way. Such personal injuries can disrupt your daily life and cause severe emotional distress, which is why you’re afforded the remedy of filing a lawsuit as the victim.
Not only is this an enforcement of your rights, but also a reasonable way to recover compensation from your losses.
Overview of Florida Personal Injury Law
Florida Statutes Title XLV (torts) and Florida Statutes Chapter 768 (Negligence) encompass personal injury cases in Florida. Torts are civil liabilities that arise when civilians cause injuries to one another.
They’re NOT intentional crimes, but there are damages incurred nonetheless. Negligence, on the other hand, is the failure to perform a duty that results in severe injuries to another person. Damages arising from negligence tort don’t have to be physical injury only; they can also be emotional distress, lost income, or anything that leads to permanent scarring.
These two concepts let us further understand what Florida personal injury laws entail. Basically, it is a lawsuit when someone causes you serious injury because of their negligent acts.
Having this in mind, a personal injury lawsuit is essentially a legal proceeding designed to bring to justice those accountable for inflicting injuries on another individual. Under Florida legislation, the individual who has been harmed possesses the right to request that the culpable party cover the cost of their losses. When a personal injury lawsuit reaches a favorable conclusion, the outcome is a financial compensation awarded to the injured party for their sustained injuries and subsequent damages.
We’ll discuss the other concepts of this Florida law below.
1. Florida No-Fault Insurance System
The most common premise for personal injury claims is car accident cases. While it’s valid, note that Florida has a “No-Fault Insurance System” for minor vehicle accidents.
In an automobile accident, the car insurance company shoulders the damages. All drivers are required to secure a $10,000 personal injury protection for this purpose. Personal injury protection covers medical bills, lost income, and other damages. But if the injuries sustained are severe and critical, you can now file a Florida personal injury case against the one who caused the accident.
What constitutes a serious injury? It can be:
- Permanent Injury
- Significant and Permanent Disfigurement
- Significant and Permanent Loss
If the injured person dies or loses bodily functions permanently, or her injuries are irreversible, personal injury lawsuits are enforceable.
2. Product Liability Claims
These pertain to defective and dangerous products that cause harm to the customer. Manufacturers must ensure that their products are safe for use and are otherwise held liable.
While it is difficult to go against big corporations, Florida personal injury lawyers can help you prove your injury claim as long as you have sufficient evidence of damages.
3. Strict Liability for Dog Bites /Attacks
Unlike other states, Florida upholds strict liability for dog bites. The dog owner will be held liable regardless of the dog’s past behavior when an attack occurs.
The dog owner should compensate the victim for the injuries suffered, which can include medical treatment and further assistance related to the attack.
Of course, the state also takes the victims’ actions into account. It can reduce the dog owner’s liability if it’s proven that the victim’s faults resulted in the attack.
4. Florida Comparative Negligence Rules
The above example of a reduced liability is the best way to explain the comparative negligence rule. When both parties contributed to the incident, it just so happens that one suffered more than the other.
For instance, the victim accidentally trespassed on the property. While we may still hold the dog owner liable, the pure comparative negligence rule tells us that the victim also contributed to his own injuries.
The compensation can be lowered and adjusted to what is fair to both parties. This also applies to various Florida personal injury cases (car accidents, malpractice, etc.).
An experienced attorney will usually employ insurance adjusters and expert witnesses to help convince the court that the damages they seek are fair and appropriate.
Talking to your Florida personal injury attorneys or trial lawyers is best to smooth out the details and receive justifiable compensation.
What are the 5 Most Common Personal Injury Cases in Florida?
The cases are not limited to the list below but are the most common personal injury cases in Florida.
1. Automobile or Car Accident
Car accidents happen daily, which is why the “no-fault” system of Florida law makes perfect sense. However, some accidents are more severe than others, causing permanent injury.
If severe, the one at fault should shoulder the medical expenses and other compensations suffered by the victim.
2. Dog Bites and Attacks
You’d be surprised how common dog attacks are. But the injuries sustained can be fatal, and the medical expenses can skyrocket unexpectedly.
If the personal injury victim abides by lawful acts (e.g., staying on the property with permission, not harming the dog in any way, the dog escaping, etc.), it’s clear that the owner is generally negligent.
3. Workplace Accidents
There are accident-prone workplaces like factories and construction sites.
Though many of these are supposedly covered by an insurance company, some cases qualify as personal injury.
But many of these cases are tricky. We advise you to seek a personal injury attorney for such clarifications. Many personal injury lawyers provide free consultation sessions.
4. Medical Malpractice Cases
Although it shouldn’t be, medical malpractice is quite usual. Florida personal injury laws give you the right to seek compensation and hold the healthcare worker liable for the mistake.
While some incur non-economic damages (no monetary impact on the victim), some mistakes can be critical and cause complications that add to your medical expenses.
Again, it’s best to consult a Florida personal injury lawyer to break down the specifics. If money is an issue, look for those with free case evaluation services.
5. Wrongful Death
Wrongful death is when a victim passes away from the personal injuries they’ve sustained.
The Florida personal injury lawyer helps the family and loved ones recover the damages. If the victim is a breadwinner, the compensation will likely be higher since the family will suffer more significant losses.
NOTE: These Cases Should Be Unintentional
It’s crucial to understand that many of these cases are unintentional for them to be counted as personal injury cases. If it’s intentional, it’s considered a criminal case. Civil negligence and criminal negligence are different. The cases discussed above are civil negligence, wherein the wrongdoer was only careless.
In a criminal negligence case, the wrongdoer was aware of the risks but did it anyway.
A personal injury lawsuit is based on the premise of civil negligence.
What are the Qualifications of a Personal Injury Claim?
As repeatedly mentioned, negligence must be proven to determine the enforceability of a personal injury case. And to do that, we look for these components.
Let us use the pet owner example to make it easier to understand.
1. Breached Duty of Care
The main element that must be present is the breached duty of care.
This shows that the defendant (wrongdoer) had a duty and failed to do it, thus causing personal injuries to the plaintiff (victim).
For instance, a pet owner should keep the animal on a leash or the gates closed. They forget to do so, and the pet escapes their home, attacking a civilian on the streets.
The owner had a responsibility to keep their pets secured but was careless. Ergo, they breached their duty of care.
2. Victim Suffered Damages
Of course, the personal injury must be present. The victim must prove the losses incurred, such as medical bills, hindered income because they couldn’t work, etc.
It can also be non-economic damages like mental health effects. For example, the victim developed a phobia of dogs and could no longer perform daily functions.
It’s best to preserve evidence as much as you can. Take photos of the accident scene, document the developments, and turn them over to your personal injury attorney or law firm.
3. The Breached Duty of Care Is the Main Cause for Damages
Another vital element is the direct correlation of the breached duty to the damages suffered by the victim.
The victim’s injury should prove that it resulted from the dog attack. The most direct evidence is the actual bites or wounds that weren’t already there.
A victim cannot blame the defendant for an injury that was already present without any connection to the animal. A must cause B.
But the victim can claim that the attack made her existing injuries worse. For example, he was recovering from a fractured leg, and the dog attack made him stumble again, triggering the damage.
There are many loopholes and nuances in these cases, which is why the assistance of a personal injury attorney will be helpful to sort out your situation correctly.
4. Reasonable Care
After proving the correlation and validity of these elements, the defendant is responsible for providing adequate medical care and compensation to the victim.
The compensation must still be reasonable and connected to the situation. The victim cannot ask for an unreasonable amount or demand ridiculous returns.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Florida
Looking to file for a case? Here’s what you need to know.
Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The thing with lawsuits is that evidence is crucial. Matters must be proven beyond a preponderance of the evidence.
Collecting as much evidence as possible will do you well if you’re involved in a personal injury case. Here are some good examples:
Collect all hospital bills incurred from treatments, checkups, and surgeries (if applicable). If the case is proven valid, you’ll be compensated fairly.
Other than the financial aspect, the medical expenses also show the severity of your suffering. For example, a victim rushed to the ICU proves that the injury was fatal.
If you’re the defendant, note that you’ll still pay the decided amount even if the insurance company shouldered all or portions of the bill.
It’s also helpful to present price quotations for your future expenses. These are reasonably projected expenses that you’ll incur because of your injury claim.
It will help your case to show that your inability to perform or attend to some issues will significantly ramp up your bills, which counts as damages.
Lost Financial Opportunities
If the injury caused you to leave your job or have no-work-no-pay employment, you have the right to demand lost income compensation.
We all know the importance of financial income for necessities and bills, and its loss will significantly impact your livelihood.
You can also prove that you’re the primary provider of the household, and the lost money affects not only you but also your family.
Inability to Work
Some injuries are permanent (i.e., paralysis, lost bodily functions, etc.), leaving the victim unable to work for good.
You can demand a justifiable provision to compensate for the lost opportunities and further complications that are expected to occur.
Physical damages are the easiest to prove. You can show the wounds, fractures, medical results, and hospital bills. You can also present documents from your insurance company.
Unlike physical effects, it can be challenging to show emotional distress. Some tangible pieces of evidence are therapist prescriptions, witness accounts of your distress, proof of episodes, etc.
But in some cases, emotional turmoil can be easily proven depending on the situation.
Negative Impact on Personal Life
Some personal injuries have chain effects on an individual’s life. Loss of consortium is a good example, wherein spouses can no longer provide intimacy for their partners.
Other examples are effects on family life. For example, a parent cannot perform their duties or spend time with their children anymore.
These will be more difficult to prove, so having a personal injury lawyer can help immensely.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for a personal injury case in Florida is four (4) years.
The statute of limitations is the duration of your case’s validity. From the occurrence of the accident, you have four (4) years to file a lawsuit against the defendant. If you file against a government agency, you have three (3) years.
But there are exceptions to these deadlines. In some cases, the court allows extensions. The maximum statute of limitations is seven (7) years. These are the exceptions below.
Late Discovery of the Injury
The injury doesn’t show up immediately in some cases. The victim could have been fine at the moment of the accident and later discovered an internal problem or long-term trauma.
For these situations, a two-year extension will be granted. You can prove your case quickly with the help of doctors, professionals, and insurance company documents.
The extension also applies if fraudulent actions hinder the victim from discovering the injuries.
Absence of Defendant
If the defendant fled Florida and avoided the case, the victim would also be granted an extension. Of course, additional consequences for the defendant may apply for escaping.
Incapacity of Victim
An incapacitated victim cannot immediately file a personal injury lawsuit, especially if it’s mental incapacity.
For these scenarios, the victim may be given more time to file a lawsuit.
But note that the maximum duration is still seven (7) years. If the mental effect is severe and renders the victim permanently incapacitated, the family can fight the case on his behalf.
Florida laws also do their best to extend protection to the defendants. There are limitations to the damage compensations, depending on the severity of the personal injury claims.
Damage caps commonly apply to non-economic damages since they’re “intangible” and more challenging to measure.
But it’s chiefly enforced to limit compensation for punitive damages ($500,000 limit) awarded to defendants to prevent similar acts from happening again.
It serves as a lesson for everyone and a basis for future cases of similar nature. These apply to unique and “bizarre” issues.
What to Do After Suffering Personal Injury in Florida
Leave all of the legal technicalities to your lawyers, but there are some ways to help address your case easier.
Step 1: Collect Evidence
Since you’re involved first-hand, you have the leverage to collect evidence that can later be useful for legal purposes.
We’re talking about documenting the accident scene (taking pictures, videos, and recordings) and compiling paperwork.
It works both ways, too. Both defendant and the plaintiff can benefit from this.
Remember that everyone’s innocent until presumed guilty – defendants can still prove that the other party also contributed to the accident.
Of course, collecting evidence should only be second to safety. If the victim sustains serious injuries, prioritize getting any necessary medical attention.
Step 2: Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer
Consult with legal professionals to help you deal with these cases lawfully. They’re more familiar with the technicalities.
If budget-constrained, look for free consultations or public trial lawyers.
Step 3: File the Case ASAP
If you know that compensation is necessary, file the case immediately. Don’t exceed the statute of limitations (four years); the exemptions don’t apply to everyone.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]
Let’s answer some of the FAQs.
How Much Can You Sue for Pain and Suffering in Florida?
The courts determine the awards for pain and suffering – there’s no one amount for all. It depends on your medical expenses, bills, and other damages.
It could even reach millions if the injuries suffered are severe and critical.
How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Claim?
You have four (4) years to file a personal injury lawsuit. Extensions can be granted for some exemptions: Late discovery of the injury, absent defendant, incapacitated victim.
Overall, the maximum period is seven (7) years. Your lawyer may help you extend the 4-year statute of limitations within allowable circumstances.
Can You Sue for Personal Injury in Florida?
Yes, you can sue for personal injury in Florida under the Florida Statutes Title XLV (torts) and Florida Statutes Chapter 768 (Negligence).
The laws seek to protect the parties involved and arrive at fair solutions for defendants and plaintiffs.
We hope we have made personal injury laws easier for you to understand.
This guide aims to simplify the big word and help you get your needed assistance.
While lawsuits are intimidating, Florida’s laws are here to protect your rights. Good luck!