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.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida car accident case discussing whether the plaintiff’s claim that her insurance company acted in bad faith should be permitted to proceed towards trial. Ultimately, the court held that although the insurance company eventually made payment under the plaintiff’s policy, the payment was too late. Thus, the court permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed.

Bad-Faith Claims Against Insurance Companies

Under Florida law, insurance companies must provide timely payment to policyholders. If an insurance company does not make payment on an insured’s claim, the insured can pursue a bad-faith claim against the insurer. However, before this type of claim can be pursued, the insured must file a civil remedy notice (CRN), giving the insurance company 60 days to respond and cure the bad faith.

The Facts

In its opinion, the court explained that the plaintiff and another driver was involved in a Florida car accident in the summer of 2013. For the purposes of this opinion, it was agreed that the plaintiff was not at fault. Both the plaintiff and the at-fault driver were insured by the same insurance company. Because the plaintiff’s injuries were serious and exceeded the coverage limits of the at-fault driver’s policy, the plaintiff filed a claim under the at-fault driver’s policy as well as her own underinsured motorist (UIM) policy.

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When someone is killed due to the negligence of another person or entity, the Florida wrongful death statute allows for the surviving loved ones of the deceased to pursue a claim for compensation against the at-fault parties. Under Florida Statutes section 768.18, these claims are generally brought for the benefit of the spouse, parent, or child of the deceased, but can be brought on behalf of other family members in certain situations.

One issue that frequently comes up in wrongful death cases is whether the survivors’ claim against the at-fault party is derivative of their deceased loved one’s claim. This is a fairly complex topic, and courts across the country have wrestled with this question for years, often coming to different results. Indeed, in a recent federal appellate opinion, the court certified a question to state supreme court, asking that court to answer whether wrongful death claims are derivative.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s mother was taken by ambulance to the defendant nursing home. Before she was admitted, the plaintiff signed a pre-admission form, containing, among other things, an agreement to arbitrate all claims. At the time, the plaintiff’s mother had executed a power of attorney document in favor of the plaintiff. Later, the plaintiff’s mother died while in the care of the defendant nursing home, and the plaintiff filed a wrongful death case against the facility.

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Frequently, this blog discusses cases involving a landowner’s duty to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition, or to warn visitors of known hazards. Most often, the dangers we refer to in these cases involve some defect with the property itself. However, Florida premises liability cases are not limited to these types of situations.

In some cases, a landowner can be held responsible for the criminal acts of a third party. While these cases are often referred to as Florida negligent security cases, they are actually based on the traditional theories of negligence. Thus, under Florida law, to establish that a landowner is liable for the intentional criminal acts of a third party, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the landowner did not act with reasonable care to prevent such criminal conduct. Most importantly, this requires the plaintiff to establish that the third-party’s conduct was foreseeable.

A recent state appellate decision illustrates how courts view this type of premises liability claim, and the kind of evidence that may be required to establish a landowner’s liability.

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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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An important consideration in any Florida personal injury case is whether a plaintiff will be able to collect on a judgment if they are successful at trial. For example, the financial and emotional expense of taking a case to trial against a defendant who does not have sufficient assets to cover a judgment may not make sense. Thus, it is essential that Florida personal injury victims name all potentially liable parties.

In many cases, this means naming the employer of the at-fault party as a defendant. Generally speaking, employers have more substantial assets than employees, and they may also have higher-limit insurance policies making collecting on a judgment much less of a headache for a successful plaintiff.

In Florida, an employer may be liable for the negligent acts of an employee, even if the employer was not negligent in causing the accident. This is referred to as vicarious liability. Of course, employers cannot be named in every Florida personal injury accident. In Florida, to establish that an employer is liable for the negligent acts of an employee, the plaintiff must show that the at-fault employee was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident and that he was “engaged in his master’s business.” A recent state appellate decision illustrates how courts view vicarious liability claims.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida product liability case discussing whether the State of Florida had personal jurisdiction over the defendant, a company that mined and processed talc that was included in products manufactured by other companies.

What Is Jurisdiction?

The term jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to hear a case and issue a binding judgment over the parties involved. By filing a lawsuit in a particular state, the plaintiff consents to that state’s jurisdiction. Thus, when jurisdiction is challenged it is challenged by a defendant who claims that the state where the plaintiff chose to file the case does not have power over the defendant.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff filed a Florida product liability case against several defendants based on the plaintiff’s use of Johnson & Johnson talc-based baby powder. Among the defendants named in the plaintiff’s lawsuit were Johnson & Johnson, the grocery store where the plaintiff purchased the powder, and the manufacturing company that provided Johnson & Johnson with the talc that was used to make the product. This opinion involved only the manufacturing company.

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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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One of the most common concerns among Florida personal injury victims is when they must file their claim. Typically, all personal injury claims must be brought within a certain amount of time, which is outlined in the statute of limitations. However, the rules differ when cases name state or federal government entities. Recently, a federal appellate issued a written opinion discussing whether a claim brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act is tolled while the plaintiff is a minor.

The Accident

According to the court’s opinion, when the plaintiff was five years old, his father was killed in a car accident on an interstate highway. The plaintiff’s mother filed a timely administrative claim with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) claiming that a highway barrier that had failed during the accident was not adequately tested or approved for use. Five years after the accident, and while the plaintiff was still a minor, the plaintiff’s mother filed a personal injury case against the FHWA in federal district court on behalf of the plaintiff.

The Federal Tort Claims Act

Generally, the federal and state governments are immune from tort liability. However, under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), specific lawsuits can be brought against the U.S. government and its subdivisions. To bring such a lawsuit, plaintiffs must comply with strict procedural requirements. Among these requirements is a two-year statute of limitations.

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While Florida landowners generally owe a duty to keep their property safe and to warn visitors of any dangerous conditions on their land, Florida lawmakers have created an exception in the state’s recreational use statute. The Florida recreational use statute was passed “to encourage persons to make available to the public land, water areas and park areas for outdoor recreational purposes by limiting their liability.”

Thus, under Florida statutes section 375.251, a landowner who allows the public to use their property for recreational purposes “owes no duty of care to keep that park area or land safe for entry or use by others, or to give warning to persons entering or going on that park area or land of any hazardous conditions, structures, or activities thereon.” However, the recreational use statute only applies if the landowner derives no commercial benefit from the use of their property.

There are limits to the protection that the recreational use statute provides to landowners, however. For example, the statute does not protect against the “deliberate, willful or malicious injury to persons or property.” A recent federal appellate case illustrates the type of scenario where the recreational use statute may not apply.

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