FLORIDA PERSONAL INJURY LAWAn overview to see if you've been affected
Have you been affected? Check out what the law says below:
When a person purposefully harms another person or property, this is called an intentional tort. (“Tort” is the French word for “wrong”). In Florida, there are seven basic categories of intentional tort: assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, trespass to land, trespass to chattels, and conversion.
In cases where the allegation is that the defendant acted intentionally, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant committed the alleged action, intended (or knew of) the harm the action would cause, and the action that caused the injury.
Negligence is the legal term for accidental injuries – when a defendant does not intend to cause harm, yet still does. Examples include auto accidents (although crashes involving drinking while driving may rise to the level of intentional), slip and fall cases, and medical malpractice actions. To succeed in a negligence action, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty of care towards the plaintiff, that the defendant breached that duty, that the defendant’s breach proximately caused the injury or damages, and/or that the plaintiff suffered damages.
The first thing that the plaintiff must prove in a personal injury action is that the defendant was at fault for causing the injury. If a plaintiff cannot prove that the injuries were caused by the defendant, then the plaintiff will recover nothing. It does not matter if the injuries were horrendous or if the damages totaled millions of dollars. However, if the injured party proves that the defendant’s actions or inactions caused the injury, then the plaintiff’s chances of recovery are much greater.
To be successful in a personal injury claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s action or inaction caused the plaintiff’s injury. Causation can be supported by expert testimony. Causation is especially important in cases where it is alleged that the defendant was negligent. In negligence cases, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s action proximately caused the injury. The Florida Supreme Court has made it clear that a defendant’s negligence must have “foreseeably and substantially” caused the damages. Sanders v. ERP Operating, Ltd. Partnership, 2015 WL 569041 (Fla. 2015).
In Florida, there are laws that prevent a plaintiff from filing a case if it is not filed within the proper amount of time. These laws are known as statutes of limitations. Although these statutes sometimes contain time limits that differ depending upon the type of case, in most personal injury cases, the injured party has four years from the date of the accident to bring an action. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 95.11.
Plaintiffs may recover economic or non-economic damages in personal injury cases. Economic damages are specific damages that have easy to calculate dollar amounts, such as medical bills (past and future), property damage, lost income (past and future), and funeral expenses (wrongful death actions). Non-economic damages are more difficult to estimate, and include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anxiety, and disability or disfigurement. It is important to note that the laws regulating damages, as well as the methods for calculating damages, vary from case to case. For instance, to recover for pain and suffering in an automobile accident case, the plaintiff usually must prove that the injuries are permanent. In a slip and fall case, that is not required.
In order to present a good case for damages and causation, a plaintiff may need to hire an expert witness. A witness may be “qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education.” Fla. Stat. § 90.702. To be qualified as an expert, the witness must either be duly and regularly engaged in the practice of a profession who holds a professional degree from a university or college and has had special professional training and experience, or possessed of special knowledge or skill about the subject upon which called to testify.
Most personal injury lawsuits are settled prior to a lawsuit being filed, and in situations where a case is in litigation, many of them settle prior to trial. Settlements are encouraged most of the time, because trials are costly and stressful to the parties and their attorneys. Additionally, many times an experienced attorney can settle your case early in the proceedings. Settling personal injury cases is beneficial because it lowers attorney’s fees and costs for the defendant and plantiff, and it eliminates any future risks.
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