Floridians suffer injuries every day on account of others but likely do not know what constitutes negligence in a legal sense. While you might have a common understanding of negligence, proving negligence in a lawsuit requires proving several key elements.
In order to recover compensation in a Florida personal injury case for your injuries you will need to show that the other acted negligently. In a lawsuit, this means showing that the other party had a duty of care that they breached. It will also mean showing that the breach directly caused your injuries, which can be valued in financial and non-financial terms. However, you own negligence could also play a crucial role in your case if your contributed to causing an accident.
For a free case assessment with our South Florida personal injury attorneys, contact the Law Offices of David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A. at (954) 751-4258 today.
Determining Negligence in a Florida Personal Injury Case
In Florida personal injury cases, negligence plays a central role in determining liability and compensation. Negligence, in the context of Florida law, refers to the failure of a person or entity to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm to another party. By consulting our Boca Raton personal injury attorneys, you can determine if you have a viable negligence claim. The various elements of negligence that apply to personal injury cases in Florida include duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Each of the following elements must be satisfied in order to recover compensation in a Florida personal injury lawsuit:
Duty of Care
In a personal injury case, the defendant must have owed a legal duty of care to the person injured. This duty can arise from various relationships, such as a driver’s responsibility to follow traffic laws or a property owner’s obligation to maintain safe premises. This usually means that the defendant had control over the mechanism that injured you and was responsible for acting safely. Duty of care can typically be inferred from the circumstances surrounding a particular case.
Breach of Duty
You must also prove that the defendant breached this duty of care through their actions or inactions. For example, a driver who runs a red light or a store owner who fails to clean up a spill on the floor. In simple terms, breach is the physical act of negligence that brings about the accident and subsequent injuries.
Once the previous two elements have been established, you must demonstrate that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused your injuries. This means showing that the accident would not have occurred if the defendant had exercised reasonable care. If you have been injured in an accident prior to your current one or are suffering from a condition that affects the same bodily areas as the one injured now, it is important to address the matter to show that your current injuries are not caused by those. In most cases, your doctor or a medical expert can testify that your current injuries are separate from conditions you suffered from previously.
Finally, you must provide evidence of the actual harm or losses you sustained as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Most people tend to think of their financial losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. However, you can claim non-economic losses caused by your accident, as well. This is commonly known as pain and suffering. These subjective damages usually include mental distress, loss of the enjoyment of life from changes in your lifestyle, humiliation, and the physical pain you have to live with even after your injuries heal.
If you have satisfied all four elements of negligence, you will be very close to recovering compensation in your Florida personal injury lawsuit. However, the individual that injured you can assert defenses that could prevent you from recovering or lower the amount of compensation you are awarded.
Defenses Against Negligence Claims and Florida’s Comparative Negligence Rule
Defenses against negligence claims in Florida typically include asserting that you contributed to your own injuries. This is known as “contributory negligence.” Florida used to have a more lax contributory negligence rule that was beneficial to plaintiffs, but recent changes to the law have now made things more difficult.
In the past, accident victims could still receive compensation even if they shared some responsibility for the incident. However, their award would be decreased in proportion to their level of fault. Now, victims will be unable to obtain compensation if they are deemed more than 50% at fault. For instance, if you are found to be 51% at fault, and the other driver is found to be 49% at fault, you will not receive any compensation for your losses. However, if both drivers share equal responsibility or a 50/50 split, you can receive compensation for half of the damages sustained. Unfortunately, this means that you will be on the hook for the percentage of losses you were found to have contributed to.
Florida’s Time Limit to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Florida’s contributory negligence rule is not the only law to have changed that can significantly affect your case. In a personal injury case, plaintiffs now have far less time to file their lawsuits than before. A significant amendment was made to Florida’s “statute of limitations,” which determines the period within which a lawsuit must be filed. Previously, victims of a personal injury were given up to four years to file their case. However, that rule has been modified, cutting the time frame in half, which means that victims now have only two years to initiate their lawsuits in Florida.
It is important to act promptly after suffering a personal injury on account of another’s actions, as time is crucial. While it might not be necessary to file a lawsuit for your injuries, it still takes considerable time to gather evidence and locate witnesses, which is necessary if you are only filing an insurance claim. If you do end up needing to file a lawsuit and it is not filed within this timeframe, the defense attorney will request that the court dismiss your case, which would, in all likelihood, be granted.
How the Serious Injury Threshold Can Limit Your Right to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Florida
If you are planning to file a personal injury lawsuit in Florida, it is important to show that your injuries fall under one of the “serious injuries” categories outlined in Florida Statute § 627.737(2). To do this, you must show that you have experienced significant or long-lasting loss of bodily functions or have sustained a permanent injury. Death, significant scarring, and disfigurement will also be considered serious injuries for the purposes of filing a lawsuit. However, keep in mind that insurance companies will almost always try to argue that your injuries are not severe enough to warrant a lawsuit. By understanding this rule, you can determine whether your injuries are sufficient to file your lawsuit. You cannot file a lawsuit in Florida without suffering a serious injury.
Our Florida Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help
Contact the Law Offices of David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A. today at (954) 751-4258 for a free case assessment with our Ft. Lauderdale personal injury lawyers.