This guide will help you understand the personal injury laws of Florida. You will learn what personal injury law is, the different types of laws, the duties created by the law, and the remedies that are available for you.
What Is Florida Personal Injury Law?
Florida personal injury law, also called tort law, is the law used to hold wrongdoers accountable for the damages caused when someone is injured by their actions. In order to prevail, an injured person must prove:
- The wrongdoer had a duty to act in a certain way
- The responsible party then breached that duty
- The breach of duty caused damages to the injured person
- The value of the damages that they suffered
Whether a person has a legal duty to act in a certain way depends on the Florida legislature and the Florida courts. When the legislature creates a duty, they do so through passing laws that require people to act in a certain way. Violating the statute can subject the person to monetary damages when their actions cause injury to someone.
When the courts create a duty, they do so through common law. This basically means the courts decide in a particular circumstance that people must act in a manner that does not cause harm. When someone does not act in the manner described by the courts, that person will be legally responsible for injury to others caused by their actions.
Types of Personal Injury Laws
People have engaged in certain activities that may cause injury so often that the Florida legislature and the Florida courts have created a large body of laws that apply to them. The following are the most common:
Car accidents generate the overwhelming majority of personal injury cases in Florida. As a result, Florida has a large body of statutes and case law that thoroughly define all aspects of the laws that govern car accidents. Those laws help determine who’s at fault in a car accident, when you are entitled to compensation, and what type of insurance coverage you must have.
For example, car drivers generally have a duty to drive with reasonable care. If you fail to drive with reasonable care you are responsible for the damages, you cause. However, the injured person cannot be compensated for pain and suffering damages unless they sustained a permanent injury.
Medical malpractice is the term used for the personal injury laws that govern the care provided by medical providers. In general, hospitals, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers have a duty to act within the standard of care for their profession. If they fail to do so and cause an injury, they are legally responsible for the injury they cause.
Another area of tort law that is common in Florida involves injuries that occur because of a dog bite. In Florida, dog owners are strictly liable for injuries caused by their dogs. This means the injured person does not have to prove the dog owner was negligent.
A premises is a house or building and the land it sits on. The law that governs injury that occurs on such property is called premises liability law.
The most common way a person is injured on a property is that they slip, trip, or fall. The premises liability law that governs these types of injuries is commonly referred to as slip and fall laws.
Florida’s senior population continues to grow. As that happens, more and more people are living in nursing homes. As a result, a large body of law has been created to cover abuse and neglect in nursing homes. This law is generally referred to as nursing home abuse laws.
When someone dies as a result of someone else’s actions, it is called a wrongful death. The Florida wrongful death act governs these claims.
When a defective product causes injury, the injured person does not have to prove negligence. Instead, the person must prove the product was unreasonably dangerous. This makes the manufacturer strictly liable for injuries.
Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases
Every injury lawsuit must be brought within a certain amount of time. If it is not brought in that time it can never be brought and any damages that could have been recovered are forever waived. This deadline to bring a lawsuit is called the statute of limitations.
In Florida, most personal injury cases are governed by Florida Statutes §95.11. Under the law, the statute of limitations is four years from the date of the event.
However, in some circumstances, it is two years from when you knew or should have known that negligence had occurred. In addition, when the at-fault party causes death, the statute of limitations is 2 years from the date of the death.
If you have any concerns about the deadline for filing a lawsuit, call a personal injury lawyer right away.
Florida’s Comparative Negligence Rules
Most Florida injury cases are governed by certain negligence rules. Types of cases that apply negligence rules include car crashes, premises liability, most wrongful death cases, and most standard personal injury cases.
For these cases, the duty is to use reasonable care. A person breaches the duty to use reasonable care when they do something that a reasonable person would not do, or they fail to do something a reasonable person would do under the circumstances. When this happens, the person is negligent. When someone is negligent and the person’s actions cause injury, that person is responsible for any damages they cause.
If more than one person is negligent then each person may be responsible under the law of comparative negligence. Comparative negligence means, that everyone involved in the event has a duty to use reasonable care. Anyone involved that does not use reasonable care is considered negligent.
The law gives a jury the power to compare the negligence of all parties and non-parties to the lawsuit and assign a percentage of negligence to each. This includes the ability to assign a percentage of negligence to the injured person bringing the lawsuit.
The injured person can only recover the percentage of the award assigned to each party from that party. If the jury assigns negligence to someone that is not part of the lawsuit, the injured person cannot recover anything for the percentage assigned to that nonparty.
In addition, if the jury assigns a percentage of negligence to the injured person bringing the lawsuit, the amount of the recovery is reduced by that percentage.
The Strict Liability Rules in Florida
In some cases, the legislature or the courts have decided to make it easier to prove an injured person is entitled to recovery for their damages. In those circumstances, the courts require less evidence to show a duty was breached. Instead of proving negligence, the injured party only has to prove certain conduct occurred. If this happens, then the at-fault party is considered strictly liable for the damages that occurred.
One area of personal injury law that only requires strict liability is dog bite law. In most circumstances, if the injured party proves the dog bit them, then the owner is strictly liable for what happened.
Similarly, when a defective product injures someone, the manufacturer is strictly liable if the product was unreasonably dangerous.
Damages Personal Injury Law Cases
Damages are the harms and losses a person suffers. The damages for each case are unique to that case. As a result, it is impossible to determine what a case is worth until all the evidence is gathered.
At that point, we can look at comparable cases and determine a reasonable settlement value. Even then, it is very difficult. Often, reasonable people have different beliefs about value. As a result, a case is worth the last dollar the at-fault party or their insurance company is willing to pay, or, if you turn that down, what a jury awards for your case.
Below are the common damages that may occur in a personal injury lawsuit case:
- Medical expenses incurred in the past
- Medical expenses that may occur in the future
- Lost wages that have occurred up to the time of the lawsuit
- Lost wages in the future
- Loss of earning capacity
- Damage to property
- The costs of hiring someone to do things you can no longer do
- Pain and suffering damages
- Loss of enjoyment of life damages
Do You Need a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer?
Trying to figure out the personal injury laws in Florida can be overwhelming for an injured person. Lawyers skilled in this area can figure out if you have a case and if so, obtain fair compensation. Not only can a good lawyer take the burden off your shoulders, but they can also hold the wrongdoer accountable for their actions.
At Distasio Law Firm, we have the knowledge, resources, and skills to help you through your personal injury claim.