When an individual suffers an injury due to another person’s negligence, Florida personal injury laws provide a legal framework to seek compensation for damages. Personal injury cases can arise from various situations, such as car accidents, slip and fall accidents, defective products, medical malpractice, and workplace accidents, among others. To successfully navigate a personal injury claim in Florida, it is essential to understand the relevant laws, procedures, and requirements. This comprehensive guide aims to provide an in-depth overview of Florida personal injury laws and what you need to know to protect your rights.
Statute of Limitations
One of the most critical aspects of personal injury law is the statute of limitations, which sets the time limit within which a claim must be filed. In Florida, as of March 25, 2023, the statute of limitations for general negligence personal injury claims is two years from the date of the accident. If a claim is not filed within these time frames, the injured party may lose their right to pursue legal action and recover damages.
Exceptions to the two-year rule may exist, such as in cases involving medical malpractice or a claim which accrued on or before March 24, 2023. In these instances, the statute of limitations may vary, and it is essential to consult with an experienced attorney to determine the applicable deadline for your specific case.
Florida has shifted from a “pure” comparative negligence standard to a “modified” comparative negligence standard.
This means that when determining fault and damages, the court or jury will consider each party’s degree of responsibility for the accident. If the injured party is found to be 51% or more at fault, they cannot recover any damages. If the injured party is found to be partially at fault but less than 51% at fault, their compensation will be reduced proportionally to their degree of fault.
For example, if you were injured in a car accident and found to be 20% at fault, while the other party was 80% at fault, your total compensation would be reduced by 20%. If your total damages were $100,000, you would receive $80,000 in compensation.
No-Fault Auto Insurance Laws
Florida is one of the few states that follow a no-fault auto insurance system (Florida Statutes Section 627.7407). This means that in the event of a car accident, each driver’s insurance company will cover their own policyholder’s medical expenses and lost wages, regardless of who was at fault for the accident up to the no-fault coverage policy limits.
Florida law requires every driver to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage, which pays for medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses for the policyholder, relatives living in the same household, and passengers who do not have their own PIP coverage. PIP coverage typically covers 80% of medical bills and 60% of lost wages, up to the policy limits.
Threshold for Recovering Non-Economic Damages
Under Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system, injured parties are generally limited in their ability to sue the at-fault party for pain and suffering or other non-economic damages (Florida Statutes Section 627.737). To recover non-economic damages, the injured party must meet a specific threshold:
If the injured party meets one of these thresholds, in addition to economic damages such as medical bills and lost wages, they may recover against the at-fault party for non-economic damages such as pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease.
Damage Caps in Personal Injury Cases
In some states, damage caps limit the amount of compensation an injured party can receive. However, in Florida, there are no specific caps on damages for most personal injury cases. The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases were unconstitutional, effectively removing those limits.
However, there are still some instances where damage caps may apply. For example, in cases against the government or government entities, the Florida Tort Claims Act limits damages to $200,000 per person or $300,000 per incident (Florida Statutes Section 768.28). It’s important to consult with an experienced attorney to determine if any damage caps apply to your specific case.
Types of Damages in Personal Injury Cases
There are three primary types of damages that can be awarded in personal injury cases: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
The Role of Insurance Companies
Insurance companies play a significant role in personal injury cases. When an accident occurs, injured parties will typically file a claim with their insurance company and the at fault’ insurance company to be compensated for their damages. However, it’s essential to remember that insurance companies are for-profit businesses, and their primary goal is to minimize their financial exposure.
Insurance adjusters may try to offer a quick settlement, but these initial offers are often much lower than what the injured party is entitled to. It’s important not to accept a settlement offer without consulting an experienced attorney who can evaluate the offer and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
The Importance of Legal Representation
Navigating the complexities of Florida’s personal injury laws can be challenging, and attempting to handle a personal injury claim on your own can be overwhelming and lead to unfavorable outcomes. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate the legal process, gather necessary evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Steps to Take After an Accident
If you’re involved in an accident, taking the following steps can help protect your rights and strengthen your personal injury claim:
Understanding Florida’s personal injury laws is crucial when seeking compensation for injuries sustained due to someone else’s negligence. By familiarizing yourself with the statute of limitations, comparative negligence, no-fault insurance laws, and the role of insurance companies, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the legal process. It’s essential to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help protect your rights and guide you through the complexities of Florida’s legal system. By taking the appropriate steps after an accident and seeking legal representation, you can increase your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve and work towards a more secure future.