Florida Personal Injury Law

Florida Personal Injury Law

If you were hurt in an injury that was caused by another person, you should become familiar with various state laws that may affect your claim. The following are important laws to understand when filing an insurance claim or a lawsuit against a party after an accident or injury.

Automotive Accidents in Florida

Many personal injury claims arise out of traffic accidents in Florida. Florida is a no-fault state. This means that each driver's own car insurance pays for his or her injuries and damages that result from an accident regardless of who was at fault for the accident. Florida law requires all drivers to carry a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection per person per accident. In most situations, a person cannot file a personal injury lawsuit against the party who actually caused the accident. Instead, your own car insurance policy covers your medical expenses and lost income.

However, Florida law allows injured victims to file a personal injury lawsuit after a traffic accident if it resulted in a serious injury to you. A serious injury is defined under Florida law to include any of the following types of injuries:

  • A permanent injury
  • Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
  • Significant and permanent loss of a bodily function
  • Death

If you think that your car accident injury may meet this serious injury threshold, it is important to talk to an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer about the possibility of filing a personal injury claim. Florida's statute of limitations limits the amount of time that you have to file a claim, so it is important to seek legal advice as soon after an accident as possible.

Product Liability Claims

Product liability claims in Florida are handled in a different manner than other types of personal injury claims. Product liability arises when a person is injured by a defective consumer product. Florida applies strict liability principles to these claims, meaning that it imposes a duty on product manufacturers to make products safe. If the product was not safe and caused an injury to a victim,

Dog Bite Cases

States generally take two approaches when concerning dog bite or attack cases. The first is often referred to as the one bite rule. In this approach, a dog owner may not be held liable for the first time that his or her dog bit someone if he or she had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. Other states use strict liability principles that hold dog owners responsible even for the first bite if the statutory requirements are met. Florida uses strict liability. In the state, a dog owner is liable for the damages suffered by the victim who was bitten by the owner's dog regardless of the dog's past behavior. It applies so long as the victim was lawfully on the property

Negligence Principles

Many personal injury cases are based on the legal theory of negligence. Negligence occurs when a person's behavior falls below the standard of a reasonably prudent person and causes the victim harm. To establish negligence, you must satisfy certain elements. You must first show that the defendant owed you a duty of care. For example, in a medical malpractice case, you must show that the health care provider owed you a duty to act according to accepted medical practices. If it was a traffic accident, you would show that the defendant had the duty to follow all traffic laws and drive in a safe manner. Next, you must show that the defendant failed to uphold that duty. For example, a driver broke a traffic rule or a doctor's care fell below the accepted standard of care. You must also show that this failure to uphold the duty directly caused the victim to be harmed. As a result, you suffered damages.

Establishing the Elements of a Personal Injury Claim

As the victim in a personal injury lawsuit, you have the burden of proving by proof by a preponderance of the evidence that all of the elements of your personal injury claim were present. There are steps that you can take immediately at the time of the accident and in its aftermath to protect your claim and preserve evidence.

You should write down everything that you can remember about how the accident happened to preserve your memory while it is fresh. If there are any witnesses who saw the accident, get their contact information. Take pictures of the accident scene from various angles. Contact law enforcement, the business or other agency to report the accident and get it documented. Take pictures of your injuries as they develop and seek medical attention for any injuries that you have suffered. Contact a personal injury lawyer for additional assistance or if you are asked to provide a statement to an insurance company representative.

Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Damages are the extent of the harm that you have suffered because of the accident. You may be entitled to receive compensation for these damages, which may include:

  • Past and current medical expenses
  • Reasonably anticipated and necessary medical expenses
  • Lost wages from when you were attending medical appointments or therapy and when you were too injured to report for duty
  • Lost earning capacity if the job you work now renders less income than the job you had prior to the accident when the accident caused you to have to take a lesser-paying position or left you incapacitated
  • Damages for permanent disfigurement
  • Property damage
  • Cost of hiring someone to perform household services that you can no longer complete because of your injuries
  • Emotional distress and pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Any other damages that directly resulted from the accident

Medical Expenses

Medical expenses often play a significant role in the total amount of damages that you can claim in a personal injury case. Additionally, medical expenses may be used as a basis to determine damages for your pain and suffering. Medical expenses are recoverable when they are directly related to the injury and are reasonable.

Florida uses the collateral source rule which states that the defendant cannot present evidence about payments that your insurance company made for your medical bills or expenses in order to reduce the amount of compensation that you are awarded. If a jury only sees bills that have not been paid for, this could cause you to receive less compensation for your injuries. This rule protects the recovery of personal injury victims.

Damage Caps

Some states have implemented damage caps in personal injury cases to reduce the financial impact of a claim. In many situations, these damage caps apply to non-economic damages such as pain and suffering rather than the actual and economic damages that a victim has sustained. Other rules pertain to punitive damages, which are damages intended to punish the wrongdoer and to deter similar conduct in the future. These damages are not part of most personal injury cases. They are typically reserved for the most egregious of cases and often are based on a person's intentional rather than negligent conduct.

In Florida, there is a rule regarding damage caps for punitive damages. Florida courts limit punitive damages to three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.

While there was a statute that established a strict damage cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, this law was ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court. There are no other damage cap laws in Florida that apply to personal injury cases at the time of publication. However, these laws can change with the changing values of the legislature.

Comparative Negligence Principles in Florida

Florida has a number of important rules regarding comparative negligence. In many situations, a defendant claims that the victim contributed to the accident or for making his or her injuries worse. If the victim contributed to the accident, this can impact the amount of compensation available to the victim.

There are various forms of comparative negligence rules. In some schemes, a party is barred from recovering if they were at all negligent for the accident. In others, a party is able to recover even if he or she was more at fault for the accident than the other party. Florida uses a pure comparative negligence rule in which the amount of your compensation is reduced based on the degree of fault you had in the accident. Many accidents may involve this series of facts. For example, in a traffic accident, the other driver may have been distracted. The insurance adjuster or jury may determine that the driver is 80 percent at fault. If you were speeding at the time of the accident, the insurance adjuster or jury may determine that you are 20 percent at fault. If your total damages equaled $200,000, your damages would be reduced by the 20 percent that you were responsible for, so your total damages would be reduced to $160,000. These rules are applied by a jury when determining damages, as well as by insurance adjusters when trying to negotiate a settlement.

Florida also uses joint and several liability principles when apportioning fault between multiple defendants. Multiple defendants may be held liable for an accident if they each contributed to it. For example, pile-up traffic accidents may involve multiple parties who may have acted in negligent ways. Florida uses a structured system to hold more than one person at fault. A party who is found to be 10 percent or less at fault is not required to pay out of pocket for the victim's economic losses. A party who is more than 10 percent at fault but less than 25 percent at fault is responsible for damages up to $500,000. A party found between 26 percent and 50 percent at fault can be held responsible for up to $1 million of the victim's damages. If a party is found to be more than 50 percent at fault, he or she can be held responsible for up to $2 million of the victim's damages.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida. If a victim waits until after this timeline has passed, his or her claim can be barred regardless of how clear liability is. The general statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in Florida is four years. This time limit usually starts running from the date of the accident. In some situations, the time period is shorter. For example, if you are filing a claim against a governmental agency, the statute of limitations is only three years.

There are some exceptions to the statute of limitations. In rare circumstances, a personal injury may not be discovered for some time after an accident or incident, such as in situations involving medical malpractice. If this injury was not and could not have been discovered, the statute of limitations can be extended for two years after the discovery of the injury. There is also an exception for fraud. If fraud prevented the injury from being discovered, the statute of limitations can be extended by two years from the date of the discovery of the injury. However, in any event, the lawsuit must be brought within seven years from when the cause of action arose.

The statute of limitations can also be tolled or put on pause in certain situations, allowing a personal injury victim more time to file a lawsuit. A tolling of the statute of limitations may occur if the defendant is absent from the state of Florida or try to conceal his or her location to avoid service of process. The statute of limitations can also be tolled based on the mental incapacity of the victim. If the victim was mentally incapacitated before the time of the injury, the statute of limitations may be paused during this period of incapacity. The statute of limitations begins to run when the victim's capacity is restored. However, in any event, the lawsuit must be filed within seven years from the date of injury.

While these exceptions may lengthen the applicable statute of limitations, they do not need to be exclusively relied on. Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon after an accident or injury as possible to protect your legal rights and your claim.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer

If you were injured in an accident and would like to learn more about your legal options for filing a claim, contact a personal injury lawyer in your area. A personal injury lawyer should be familiar with the applicable laws in your jurisdiction. He or she can help identify the parties who may be legally liable for your injuries. He or she can handle communications with any insurance company involved in your case and attempt to negotiate a fair settlement for your claim to compensate you for the damages you have sustained.

Many personal injury lawyers in Florida charge on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they do not get paid for their legal services unless they help the victim to recover compensation. If the victim does not receive any compensation, the lawyer may not be paid for services. There may be a distinction between legal fees and costs. Legal fees are payment for the lawyer's time and services. Legal costs may include copying charges, fees paid to expert witnesses, phone charges, filing costs and other costs that are part of the litigation process. The victim may be required to pay these costs upfront or the lawyer may advance them, depending on the retainer agreement between the client and the lawyer.

Personal Injury FL - Know Your Rights!

  • A Florida Personal Injury Law Guide

    A Florida personal injury case can be brought when the negligent actions of a person caused the injuries of another. The injured party must be able to prove a duty of care, a breach of that duty, causation, and that there were damages sustained. When these standards have been proven the injured party will usually receive damages for the physical and emotional injuries they sustained. In this comprehensive guide, learn more about Florida personal injury law.

  • Common Florida Personal Injury Claims

    To proceed through an individual personal injury claim in the state of Florida, the individual may require knowledge and research into common claims that may provide additional information.

  • Florida Personal Injury Claim Misconceptions

    There are many individuals that will tell others what he or she may or may not do with an injury claim and how to proceed through the matter. It is important to research these personal injury misconceptions to know what is true, which are false and how some affect the individual negatively through the claim and further.

  • Florida Personal Injury Claims

    When someone suffers an injury through the actions of another person or company, he or she may need to file a personal injury claim to recoup losses in income, through medical bills and for the pain and suffering of the injuries.

  • Florida Personal Injury Compensation

    Compensation for a personal injury is important to the victim to recover, to pay bills and to provide for daily living when he or she is not able to work until fully capable. A personal injury claim in Florida usually arises through negligence with a company or a third party involved in the situation which may physically harm the victim.

Florida Personal Injury Lawyers

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