What to Know About the Personal Injury Process in Florida
In the legal field, the term “personal injury” (“PI”) refers to any harm suffered by a person due to the negligence of another person, property or product. Whether you slipped and fell, got bitten by a dog, or had a car accident, if you are injured in Florida, you should be educated about the personal injury process in Florida.
To be eligible to receive a monetary compensation for the suffering caused by your injuries, you must prove that your injuries were caused by the negligence of another person or entity. If you were recently injured, it is wise to act quickly within the legal process in order to preserve evidence. Here are a few tips to follow after being injured in an accident:
- Document everything you can remember about how the accident occurred;
- Get the names and contact information of any witnesses to the incident;
- Report the incident to the proper authorities (for example, call Animal Control for a dog bite or the local 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 or entity who injured you before you make any statements, written or verbal, to insurance company representatives.
Personal Injury Lawyers
Most personal injury lawyers in Florida will handle your case on a contingency basis, which means that they will not charge you any attorney’s fees or costs unless they are able to collect any monies on your case. Most contingency fees are between 33.33 (one-third) and 40% of the total settlement amount, plus the amount of costs the lawyer incurred to process your case. Therefore, PI lawyers typically agree to handle solid cases which they feel have merit and the potential of a monetary collection. The lawyer will be frank with you and advise you that perhaps you do not have a good case, or advise that you seek other counsel for a second opinion.
Statute of Limitations
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 let the statute of limitations run, that is, if you do not make a claim before the 4-year anniversary of your accident, you have given up your right to sue.
How Do I Determine Who is at Fault?
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 in that duty;
- The failure of that duty is directly related to your injuries; and,
- You suffered damages
If you have been injured by a consumer product, the manufacturer or seller may be responsible for your injuries. You would need to prove that:
- The product was defective, which made it unreasonably dangerous
- You used the product the way it was supposed to be used
- The defect caused your injury
- You suffered damages
If you had some responsibility for your injury, this is called contributory fault. Florida Statute states that whatever fault you had in causing an accident in which you were injured may diminish proportionately the potential award amount, but it does not bar recovery, that is, it does not prevent you from collecting.
Florida PI Laws Regarding Automobile Accidents
Florida is considered a “no-fault” state, which means that each person’s own car insurance will pay for injuries and damages resulting from an accident, regardless of who was at fault. Every driver is required to carry a personal injury protection (PIP) policy, with a minimum coverage of $10,000 per person per accident.
Florida’s Definition of Serious Injuries
In Florida, the law allows you to file a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident if the injuries are serious. Serious personal injuries are defined as:
- 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
What Kind of Damages Would an Injury Lawsuit Cover?
If you are able to prove that another person or entity was responsible for your injuries, 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
Other Personal Injury Claim Types
Medical Malpractice Cases: Medical Malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional is negligent. Negligence means that the healthcare professional violated his or her standard of care when treating a patient. In Florida, the standard of care is defined as the level of care, skill, and treatment which, given all the facts of the patient and his or her condition, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar healthcare providers. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases in Florida is 2 years. There is an additional limitation on Florida medical malpractice claims known as the statute of repose, which begins when an action is completed, not the date of the actual injury sustained. The statute of repose states that unless there are extenuating circumstances, healthcare providers may not be sued for medical malpractice more than four years after the malpractice incident occurs. This means you must realize you have been the victim of medical malpractice within four years after the negligent medical incident occurred or else you will not be able to file a lawsuit. There is a maximum cap of seven years for cases involving fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation by a prospective defendant health care provider. The only exception to this is if the claimant is a minor of age eight or younger. Here, the seven year period doesn’t bar an action on behalf of the minor before his or her eighth birthday.
Wrongful Death Cases: A wrongful death case can occur in a variety of situations including auto accidents, medical malpractice or product liability cases. When a death occurs due to the negligence of another, the liable party can be held financially responsible to the estate of the decedent.
Workers’ Compensation Law: Florida is a compulsory state meaning that employers are required to carry workers compensation insurance. If an employee is injured while working, the employer will be responsible for compensating the injured party for his injury provided it occurs during the scope of employment.
If you want to do some legal research of your own on Florida’s negligence and personal injury laws, you should consult with an attorney. At Lauriston Law our mission is to provide effective, quality service to help deliver successful outcomes through hard work and dedication to our clients’ cause. For more information on your personal injury case contact us today!