Articles Posted in Personal Injury

In most Florida personal injury cases, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant violated a duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff, and that the defendant’s breach of this duty resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. However, in some situations, Florida accident victims can utilize the doctrine of negligence per se to prove the first two elements of a negligence claim: duty and breach.

Negligence per se is a legal doctrine that results in a legal finding that the defendant acted negligently. For negligence per se to apply, a plaintiff must present evidence that the defendant violated a regulation, law, or statute that was passed to protect people in the plaintiff’s position. If a plaintiff is able to establish that negligence per se applies, the plaintiff must only prove that the defendant’s actions were the cause of their injuries. A recent state appellate decision illustrates a situation in which the court determined negligence per se applied.

The court explained the facts as follows: the plaintiff was driving when she looked up to see a mattress flying towards her car. The plaintiff tried to avoid the mattress, but in so doing crashed into a cement barrier. Witnesses to the accident were able to obtain the other vehicle’s license plate number, and police officers eventually caught up with that driver, who was towing a trailer.

One of the most important legal doctrines that all accident victims should understand is the concept of comparative fault. While some Florida personal injury accidents are solely the fault of one party, many accidents involve a situation where the parties share responsibility for that accident. The doctrine of comparative fault determines which parties involved in an accident can recover for their injuries.

Under Florida Statutes section 768.81, any “contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.” This means that an accident victim’s negligence will be considered by the jury, and will be used to reduce the victim’s overall recovery amount, but will not completely prevent them from recovering for their injuries from any at-fault parties.

While some states prohibit an accident victim who is more than 50% at fault from pursuing a claim, Florida law employs the “pure” comparative negligence model, meaning a plaintiff can bring a claim even if they are found to be more than 50% at fault. For example, assume a Florida car accident victim is found to be 30% liable for causing the collision, and the only other driver involved is determined to be 70% at fault. If the plaintiff’s damages were $500,000, then the plaintiff would be entitled to recover $500,000 less 30%, or $350,000.

While juries can determine the appropriate amount of compensation to award a plaintiff, a jury’s award must be consistent. On May 29, 2019, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida car accident case holding that the jury’s zero-dollar award for the plaintiff’s claim of past non-economic damages was legally insufficient because it was inconsistent with the jury’s determination that the plaintiff suffered injuries that required medical treatment.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was stopped at a red light when he was struck by another car. Evidently, the defendant made an illegal left turn into the intersection and hit a vehicle that then struck the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff did not receive medical care at the scene and did not go to the hospital after the accident.

Nearly four years after the accident, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the car as well as the owner of the car. The plaintiff claimed that the driver was negligent in causing the accident and that the owner of the vehicle was negligent in entrusting her vehicle to the driver. The defendant acknowledged that the defendant driver was responsible for causing the accident, and so the trial proceeded only on the issue of damages.

The typical Florida personal injury case requires the plaintiff to establish proof of four elements:  duty, breach, causation, and damages. In many cases, the defendant acknowledges that they breached a duty that was owed to the plaintiff and that the plaintiff suffered injuries, but they claim that their breach of the duty was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

To satisfy the causation element, a plaintiff must show that their injuries were the direct or natural consequence of the defendant’s actions. Importantly, a Florida personal injury plaintiff does not need to prove that the defendant’s negligence was the only cause of their injuries, only that it was a contributing factor. A plaintiff can even recover from a negligent defendant if the plaintiff shared responsibility for the accident resulting in their injuries.

Proving that the defendant’s actions were the legal cause of an injury can be tricky, depending on the circumstances. Generally, a plaintiff cannot rely on speculation and must present some evidence indicating that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. A recent decision issued by a state appellate court discusses the element of causation.

When a patient is injured after receiving negligent medical care, they may be able to pursue a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit against the medical professionals they believe to be responsible for their injuries. Florida medical malpractice lawsuits, however, are subject to several additional requirements that can be burdensome for many prospective plaintiffs. For example, before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, a plaintiff must determine that there are “reasonable grounds” for their claim by conducting a pre-suit investigation.

There are several other differences between medical malpractice cases and traditional negligence cases. For example, due to Florida’s medical malpractice damages cap, the number of damages available to medical malpractice plaintiffs are capped at a lower amount than damages in traditional negligence claims. Finally, the stature of limitations in a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit is just two years, whereas the statute of limitations for traditional personal injury cases is four years.

That being said, most Florida injury victims would prefer that their case be classified as one of traditional negligence. However, when a case arises in a quasi-medical setting, defendants routinely try to categorize a plaintiff’s claim as a medical malpractice claim. Depending on the nature of the claim, the stage of litigation, and the amount of time that has passed, this could completely defeat a plaintiff’s chance at recovering for their injuries. A recent case illustrates the types of arguments defendants make in hopes of successfully categorizing the plaintiff’s claim as one of medical malpractice.

When someone is injured due to another’s negligent actions, they can pursue a claim for compensation through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. Depending on the type of accident, the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, and the defendant’s conduct that gave rise to plaintiff’s injuries, there are various types of damages that an injury victim may recover. These include compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, as well as for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

Many Florida personal injury accidents, however, affect more than just the accident victim. Indeed, in many accidents, a victim’s injuries can impact their marriage. Thus, the spouse of an injury victim may be able to pursue a claim against the defendant. This is referred to as a claim for the spouse’s loss of consortium.

In Florida, courts consider loss of consortium damages to include company, cooperation, and aid of the other. This consists of the sexual relationship, affection, solace, comfort, companionship, fellowship, society, and assistance that a spouse provides. While a loss of consortium claim will not result in a double recovery for any amount that the injury victim receives, a successful claim may compensate a spouse for the injured spouse’s inability to perform work they would normally do around the home, such as raise children.

Typically, when a Florida car accident victim files a case against another driver, they must establish that the defendant’s conduct was negligent and that their negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. However, under certain circumstances, the law imposes what is called a presumption of negligence. A “presumption” allows for a judge or jury to conclude a fact based on the surrounding circumstances unless it can be shown by greater evidence that the presumption should not apply.

One example of a legal presumption in Florida personal injury law is the rear-end collision presumption. In Florida rear-end collisions, without any additional showing, the rear driver is presumed to have been negligent. However, that does not necessarily mean that the rear driver’s negligence was the sole cause of the accident. A recent case illustrates how Florida courts apply the rear-end collision presumption.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was rear-ended by the defendant as she was driving on a Florida highway. The plaintiff and defendant offered differing versions of the events leading up to the accident; however, the defendant admitted that he could have avoided the accident had he not been following so closely.

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Bringing a successful Florida personal injury lawsuit often requires more than just proving that the defendant was responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. In fact, there is a significant amount of thought that must go into a case before the case is even filed. One concept that can cause a Florida injury victim’s claim to run aground early in the process is jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to hear a case. There are two types of jurisdiction. Subject-matter jurisdiction refers to the court’s ability to hear a certain kind of case and personal jurisdiction refers to the court’s ability to issue judgment over a specific defendant. Most Florida state courts are of general jurisdiction, meaning they can hear a variety of cases, including Florida personal injury cases.

A state always has jurisdiction over those who are domiciled in that state. However, establishing personal jurisdiction in a Florida personal injury lawsuit involving an out-of-state defendant can be tricky, depending on the type of claim. In these cases, the burden is on the plaintiff to show that the court has jurisdiction.

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All Florida personal injury cases must be brought within a certain amount of time. Florida Statutes section 95.11 provides the statutes of limitations for each cause of action. For example, most personal injury lawsuits alleging negligence must be brought within four years; however, Florida medical malpractice lawsuits must be brought within two years.

It is essential that a plaintiff is aware of the applicable statute of limitations in their case, so they know how long they have to bring their case. However, determining when a statute of limitations begins to run can be tricky. For example, the statute of limitations in a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit begins when the “incident was discovered, or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence.”

Recently, a federal appellate court issued an opinion interpreting a similar statute of limitations regarding a lawsuit brought against a prescription drug manufacturer.

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In general, all relevant evidence is admissible in a Florida personal injury lawsuit. The Florida Rules of Evidence define relevant evidence as any evidence “tending to prove or disprove a material fact.” Thus, under the general rule, almost all of the evidence a party would hope to use at trial would be considered relevant.

Merely because evidence is relevant, however, does not mean that it will be admissible because the evidence may be precluded under another rule of evidence. Florida Rule of Evidence 90.403, which is based on Federal Rule of Evidence 403, is among the most important rules of evidence used by parties. Florida’s Rule 90.403 states that “relevant evidence is inadmissible if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, misleading the jury, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.”

It is important to note that not all prejudice is considered to be unfair. The type of prejudice that courts are concerned with is that which will allow or encourage jurors to base their decision on something other than the issues involved in the case. A recent state appellate opinion is a good illustration of this concept.

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