Personal injury claims can come from a lot of places, not just car-related accidents! In fact, any injury caused by someone else’s negligence falls under personal injury law. This is even more crucial to remember in Florida, as its personal injury laws recognize that the process of treating these injuries incur high costs that must be compensated accordingly.
A good way to determine the strength of your personal injury claim is whether your injuries would have been prevented had someone observed the proper protocol. This means that to sue for personal injury in Florida, you will have to prove the other party’s negligence.
Dealing With Personal Injuries Due to Negligence in Florida
If you or someone you know is currently enduring injuries because of someone else’s negligence, it’s best to contact a licensed personal injury lawyer immediately. While it’s possible to represent yourself in civil cases, having an expert in personal injury law will increase your chances of winning your case and receiving the appropriate compensation.
However, as Florida’s top personal injury lawyers, we believe in educating people about their rights under the law. Here are eight things you need to know about Florida’s personal injury laws.
1. Car-Related Accidents are the Top Cause of Personal Injuries in Florida
Car crashes and other car-related accidents are still the top cause of personal injuries in Florida. In fact, according to the latest data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 403,626 recorded crashes in 2018. These crashes resulted in 236,157 recorded injuries, of which 19,196 were incapacitating.
Because of Florida’s no-fault laws, car drivers are mandated to carry at least $10,000 worth of Personal Injury Protection (PIP). This means that regardless of whose fault it is, insurance providers are required to pay the costs of hospitalization.
2. Florida’s No-Fault Laws Do Not Absolve Liability
No-Fault policies only serve the purpose of ensuring that participants in the car crash are given adequate medical care. It does not prevent anybody from proving fault towards another party or suing for damages—especially if they incur serious injuries.
Florida’s personal injury laws define serious injuries as bodily injuries that are characterized as any of the following:
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
- Significant and permanent loss of a bodily function
- Caused Death
If you think that you or someone you know has injuries that qualify under one or more of these descriptions, it’s best to consult a personal injury lawyer immediately. The timing is incredibly crucial, as Florida has a statute of limitations that limit the duration of time that you are allowed to file a claim.
3. Florida will Recognize Your Claim For Only Up to Four Years
Statutes of limitations act as deadlines from when any court can reasonably hear your case with evidence—whether physical documents or through eyewitness statements—that are still intact and have not deteriorated over time. This is why contacting your personal injury lawyer immediately after the accident is a good idea, as your case needs to build up evidence as soon as possible!
Florida’s statute of limitations for personal injury cases is limited to four years from the date of the injury. While this seems straightforward, the limitations do, in fact, have a few exceptions. In some rare circumstances, it can actually extend for a longer period.
This is true if certain injuries can be directly attributed to the accident, but may not have surfaced immediately. This situation is usually prevalent in medical malpractice cases, where the effects of the event could only manifest later on in life. In this case, the statute of limitations could be extended by up to two years from the date of the discovery of the injury.
The statute can also be paused in certain situations, such as when the defendant was able to exit the state of Florida or has actively gone into hiding. The same is true if the defendant is mentally incapacitated during the injury and unable to mount a defense. The statute will begin to run once the defendant’s mental capacity has been restored, but the case must still be filed within seven years from the date of the accident.
4. Compensation for Pain and Suffering is Valued by Numerous Factors
The most obvious cost rising from personal injuries are economic damages, such as medical costs and lost wages. These damages are easily determined by looking at your medical bills or by calculating how much money you lost for the duration you were not able to work.
However, these are far from the only kinds of damages that are recognized by Florida’s personal injury law. The other classification is called non-economic damages, which include pain and suffering. This type is not easily quantifiable but is nevertheless valid in the eyes of the law.
When calculating the cost of pain and suffering damages, you are actually suing for both physical and mental injuries. Here are four of the most common factors that are considered when calculating the value of pain and suffering in personal injury cases:
- Severity and type of injury – Needless to say, compensation will be much larger for a traumatic brain injury than a simple cut or bruise. After all, the severity of an injury directly correlates with an increase in medical expenditure. Remember that serious injuries are not always physical. Mental conditions, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also qualify.
- Required medical treatment – While some injuries are readily treated with rest and medication, others will require surgery, rehabilitation, assistive devices, and more. The more extensive treatment you need, the higher the value of your pain and suffering damage will be.
- Recovery period – The discomfort of enduring rehabilitation, having to depend on pain medication, and learning to use assistive devices may be unquantifiable. However, the presence of these conditions will lead to greater compensation.
- Effect of injury on your life – Serious and life-threatening conditions often result in disabilities, which will affect you for the rest of your life. While disabilities don’t have to hamper you from leading a happy life, you still deserve compensation for the pain and suffering that these damages caused you.
5. Evidence is Key to Proving Your Claim for Pain and Suffering
Once you and your personal injury lawyer have deemed that your pain and suffering is great enough to hold value in court, it’s time to start gathering evidence. Suing for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, is much more complex than it is for economic damages, like lost wages and hospital bills.
This is because pain and suffering are intangible and do not directly correspond to monetary values. This means that aside from documents, you will also have to gather some eyewitness testimony.
Here are four people whose testimony will be of great value to your pain and suffering claim in court:
- Your doctor – Because of his or her profession, your doctor can be called as an expert witness in court. Your doctor can testify about the extent of your injuries and how it will affect you for the rest of your life.
- A mental health professional – More often than not, serious physical injuries are accompanied by mental health hazards as well. Mental health professionals, like psychiatrists, and psychologists, can also be admitted as expert witnesses.
- Spouse or close family members – The people closest to you can testify how much your injuries have affected your way of life. Because they have intimate knowledge of you for a substantial period of time, they have the authority to speak on your behalf.
- Yourself – As the plaintiff, your experience can also be used as evidence. To bolster credibility, you should present a day-to-day recording of your suffering and experiences after the accident. Keeping a journal is often one of the first things that a personal injury lawyer will advise you to do, not just for evidential purposes, but also to record your recollection of the events while your memory is still fresh.
6. Florida Uses Comparative Negligence Rules
According to Investopedia, comparative negligence states that fault and/or negligence is often shared by each party involved in an accident. This “sharing scheme” is based on their actions that contribute to the accident, allowing insurers to pay insurance claims accordingly.
Different states will have their own version of the comparative negligence rule. For example, some states allow a party who is “less” at fault to receive compensation, while others do not. Florida uses the pure comparative negligence rule, where the amount of compensation can be reduced based on the degree of fault you had in the accident.
For example, if your collision was at night and the other driver had been driving a vehicle with non-working headlights, then that could be sufficient grounds for proving fault. However, if you were also speeding or texting while driving, you would have also contributed to the accident.
In this scenario, it will be up to a jury, in a trial, or an insurance adjuster, in a settlement, to determine how much fault you had contributed. If for example you were determined to be 20% at fault, then your claim of $300,000 would be reduced to $240,000.
7. Florida Has a Punitive Damage Cap
Punitive damages are rare in Florida, as far as personal injury cases are concerned. This is because these damages are usually reserved for defendants whose acts are considered as gross negligence, malicious, and intentional. Aside from determining intent, the court will also look at similar cases to see if these were also awarded to the plaintiff.
In this case, the court awards punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages – both economic and non-economic – in hopes of deterring the defendant from repeating the same acts in the future. In Florida, the cap for punitive damages is set at $500,000 or up to three times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater.
These punitive damages can then be used by the plaintiff to cover additional medical bills, hospital expenses, and any property damage, among others.
8. You Can Sue the Government for Negligence in Florida
In rare cases, a plaintiff can also sue a government agency or office for negligence resulting in personal injuries. This is because of the existence of the Florida Statutes section 768.28, where the State of Florida has conditionally waived its immunity from liability in some circumstances.
The process of suing the government of Florida follows different rules than if you are taking legal action against a private entity. Here are some things you should know if you intend to sue the state government itself.
- You cannot file a lawsuit against the state of Florida until after a 180-day investigation, which is triggered by you filing a claim to the state agency involved, with the state’s Department of Financial Services receiving a copy as well.
- The claim has to be made within three years of the incident that caused your personal injuries.
- The letter must be made on paper, as per the directions of the Florida Division of Risk Management. The letter should describe the date, facts, and losses sustained by the plaintiff. Alternatively, one can use the claim forms provided by the agency.
- If the claim is denied, then the plaintiff can file a personal injury lawsuit against the government within three years.
- The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims against the state government of Florida is two years.
- The cap for damages that can be awarded in cases against the state government of Florida is at $200,000. If the claim is against multiple state entities, then the cap is increased to $300,000.
- The state government of Florida retains the right to appeal any resolution made against it.
Seeking Help From A Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injuries have the potential to adversely affect your quality of life, which is why it should not be ignored! If you or someone you know has sustained significant physical and mental injuries due to someone else’s negligence, you should immediately get in touch with your personal injury lawyer. This way, you can receive compensation that you can then use to pay for the cost of recovering from any injuries sustained during your accident.
Are you looking for personal injury lawyers in Florida to help you with a claim? At Shiner Law Group, we are a team of Florida licensed attorneys that specialize in representing people who have suffered due to someone else’s negligence. Get in touch with us and let us help you get the representation you need for your case.