Florida has the power to decide what laws govern personal injury claims in the state. The Florida Legislature has passed statutes that affect how the courts handle personal injury claims.
These laws dictate who can file a lawsuit, who is responsible for an injury, and the types of damages that the victim can recover.
Personal injury statutes are complicated because the rules may vary depending on the type of injury you experienced. A personal injury lawyer can help you determine which Florida statutes apply to you.
What is a Statute?
A statute is a written law. Before becoming a statute, a bill goes through the formal legislative process where committees review the text. The committees study the bill and make changes. Then the bill goes to the house and senate for a vote. If a majority of legislators vote for the bill, it goes to the governor for approval or veto. If the governor approves of the bill, it becomes a statute.
Florida has statutes for different types of personal injury cases. These include medical malpractice, negligence, and wrongful death.
Florida’s Statute of Limitations
Like many other states, Florida has a time limit for filing lawsuits in personal injury cases. This time limit is called a statute of limitations. In Florida, you generally have four years to file a personal injury claim based on negligence.
Florida has a few exceptions to the 4-year statute of limitations in personal injury cases. Medical malpractice cases must be filed within two years from the date of the accident or the time that you discovered the accident. It cannot be brought more than four years after the accident.
Wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of death.
If you don’t file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations, the court will dismiss it, and you may lose the chance to receive compensation.
How Do FL Statutes Affect the Evidence in a Personal Injury Claim?
Florida has statutes that outline the rules of evidence in court cases. Many of these rules apply in civil cases, including personal injury claims. These rules affect what can and cannot be admitted in court as evidence. The rules of evidence also govern who can testify, what they can testify about, and the inferences a judge and jury can make about the evidence.
While personal injury lawyers need to follow every rule, there are a few rules that affect the evidence in a personal injury case. For example, Florida law prohibits lawyers from entering evidence of “benevolent gestures expressing sympathy.” This applies in personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Florida law also prohibits evidence of someone paying or offering to pay for another’s medical expenses as proof that they are responsible for the injury.
In a car accident case, this means you can’t enter the at-fault driver’s apology as evidence that they were negligent. Or, in a wrongful death case, you can’t enter the fact that they sent the deceased’s family flowers as evidence that they are responsible.
Even though there are some limitations, the rules allow a plaintiff to admit an actual statement of fault.
Who is Responsible for a Personal Injury Case?
Most personal injury cases result from negligence, and the negligent party is responsible for the damages.
The negligent party can be a person, their estate, a company, or even the Florida government. Sometimes multiple people are responsible for causing an accident. Florida recognizes that multiple people can be held responsible for paying the plaintiff’s damages.
Florida Comparative Fault Statutes
Florida’s comparative fault statute governs how much responsibility a negligent person bears for an accident. If the court finds that the defendant was negligent and the plaintiff also contributed to the accident, the court can reduce the damages. Usually, the court reduces the amount by the percentage of fault attributed to the plaintiff.
Some states completely bar a plaintiff from recovering damages if they contributed to the accident, even minimally. This means that Florida is a plaintiff-friendly state for personal injury cases.
Florida No-Fault Insurance Laws – Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Florida has a no-fault insurance statute. It requires all drivers to have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance that covers 80% of their reasonable medical expenses and 60% of any loss of income if they get into a car accident. When there’s a crash, both drivers file a claim with their respective insurance company regardless of fault. Then the insurance company is responsible for paying economic damages.
Unfortunately, PIP only covers economic damages. You can’t recover non-economic damages (like pain and suffering) stemming from the car accident. Plaintiffs who have a serious injury and more than just economic damages need to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover the full amount.
Can You Sue the Florida Government in a Personal Injury Case?
Sometimes the government (or its agent) injures someone. Imagine a painful slip-and-fall in the lobby of a government building or getting hit by a negligent driver in a government car. In certain personal injury cases, a victim can hold the government responsible for their damages.
Florida law allows victims to sue the government for negligence and wrongful death. The victim must let the government know before filing the lawsuit, and needs to satisfy statutory requirements. If the plaintiff wins, Florida limits damages to $200,000 per person and $300,000 total. This is regardless of whether or not the jury awards more damages. Florida law also bars punitive damages against the government.
What Types of Damages Can You Recover in a Florida Personal Injury Claim?
Plaintiffs can recover both economic and non-economic damages in a Florida personal injury claim. They can also recover punitive damages in certain limited circumstances.
Economic damages are costs that are easy to calculate and quantify. Usually, they include:
· Medical bills
· Past and future lost income
· Emergency room bills
· Cost of medication
· Cost of rehabilitative treatment
· Replacement value for personal property
These types of damages are designed to compensate a victim for clear economic losses associated with the accident.
Noneconomic damages are awarded for harms that don’t have an obvious dollar figure associated with them. This usually includes compensating people for:
· Pain and suffering associated with the accident
· Loss of enjoyment of life due to an injury
· Loss of consortium
· Permanent disfigurement or disability
These harms are very real consequences of personal injury cases, but they are more difficult to value.
Sometimes plaintiffs can recover punitive damages in personal injury cases. These types of damages are rare and are awarded when a defendant acted intentionally or with a reckless disregard for safety. They are intended to punish a defendant and deter future similar conduct.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer For a Free Consultation
Have you suffered a personal injury in Jacksonville, Florida? If so, you may be entitled to recover damages under the Florida statutes.
Due to the complexity of Florida’s various statutes, it is wise to consult with an attorney to determine your options. You’ll need a lawyer to fight for you in a personal injury case to get you the compensation you deserve.