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The Basics of Florida Personal Injury Law
Whether from a dog bite, boating accident, or slip and fall, if you've been injured in Florida, personal injury laws should be at the top of your list of things to investigate, especially if you believe someone else is to blame.
To win money in your case, you must show that another person was careless, or negligent, and that carelessness caused your injury.
If your accident was recent, you'll want to move quickly to preserve evidence. Here are a few tips to follow after an accident that injures you:
- Write down everything you can remember about how the injury occurred
- Get the names and contact information of any witnesses to the incident
- Report the incident to the proper authorities (for example, animal control for a dog bite or the local sheriff's or police department for a boating accident)
- Take pictures of any visible injuries to yourself or others and any damages to your property
- Contact a personal injury attorney to see if you have a valid claim against the person who injured you before making any statements, written or verbal, to insurance company representatives
In Florida, many personal injury lawyers take cases on contingency, which means that they do not ask for an up-front retainer fee but will take a percentage of any proceeds you collect. This means they will be financially motivated to take solid cases and will be frank with you about your ability to file a successful claim.
The statute of limitations, or deadline by which to file a personal injury lawsuit in Florida, is four years from the date of the injury. If you do not file in this time, you give up your right to sue. Certain types of accidents, such a boat accident in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, may have a shorter statute of limitations.
Florida Personal Injury Laws
In most cases, to collect money in Florida after suffering a personal injury, you need to show that the other person involved:
- Had a duty not to injure you but failed to in that duty; and,
- The failure of that duty is directly related to your injuries; and,
- You suffered damages
However, the big exception to Florida personal injury laws is automobile accidents. Florida is considered a no-fault state, which means each person's own car insurance will pay for injuries and damages resulting from an accident, no matter who was at fault. Each driver is required to carry a personal injury protection (PIP) policy, covering a minimum of $10,000 per person per crash.
Florida law does allow you to file a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident if the injuries areserious. Florida law defines serious personal injuries as those resulting in:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
It is best to speak with a Florida injury lawyer personally about your automobile accident if you believe you have suffered a serious injury and are eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit.
What Kind of Damages Would an Injury Lawsuit Cover?
If you can prove another person was at fault for injuring you, you may be entitled to be compensated for your losses. Those losses include:
- Past, current, and future estimated medical expenses
- Lost wages from work, including time spent going to and from medical appointments and therapy
- Any property damaged because of the incident
- Any permanent disfigurement or disability
- The cost of hiring someone to do household chores when you could not
- Your emotional distress, including any anxiety and/or depression
- Interference with your family relationships, called loss of consortium
- Any other costs that were a direct result of your injury
What if More Than One Person Is to Blame for Your Injury?
There are plenty of circumstances in which more than one person may be to blame for your injury. For example, if a pet-sitter allows a dog that local officials have already identified as dangerous off a leash, you may have a suit against the pet-sitter and the dog owner. Florida's joint and several liability rules set up a very structured system for dealing with more than one person at fault.
Any person found to be 10 percent or less at fault will not pay out of pocket for any of your economic losses. Any person found to be more than 10 percent but less than 25 percent at fault will be responsible up to $500,000. Any person between 26 and 50 percent at fault will be responsible for up to $1 million of your damages. And, if a person is found to be more than 50 percent at fault, he or she will owe up to $2 million of your damages.
What Happens if You Are Partially to Blame for Your Injury?
All those numbers change if you contributed to your own injuries. Florida has comparative negligence law, which means if you are partially responsible for the incident that caused your injuries, then your potential award at trial is reduced.
So if you are partially to blame and another person is more than 10 but less than 25 percent at fault, you can only collect up to $200,000. If the other person is between 26 and 50 percent at fault, the most you can collect is $500,000. And if another person is more than 50 percent at fault - but you were also partially at fault - the most you can collect is $1 million.
What Happens if You Are Injured by a Product>
How you prove a case against a company which produced a defective consumer produce is different from other personal injury cases in Florida. Instead of showing that the company was negligent, the company has what is called strict liability. This means the company has an absolute duty to make its products safe. If it didn't, and the defect caused an injury that resulted in your suffering damages, you may have a case. Again, talk to a Florida injury attorney about your product liability case.