Unlocking Justice: A Guide to Florida Personal Injury Law
Personal injury law is a branch of the legal profession that serves people who have damages because of negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions of another. Lawyers in this practice area represent individuals with physical, emotional, and psychological injuries. In some cases, all three come into play.
Florida law allows plaintiffs to seek compensation for any kind of injury. Also, any type of incident can serve as the basis for a claim, including car accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and falls, trip and falls, and assaults. The central element of the claim must reside in the defendant’s negligence or bad action.
For example, if a customer slips on a store’s floor because it was poorly maintained, then the business was negligent, and the basis for a claim exists. However, if the customer tripped on his shoelace, the injury occurred because of his negligence, not the stores. Accordingly, no basis for a claim exists.
Many people are surprised to learn that a large proportion of injuries are due to someone’s negligence. For instance, if you trip on a cracked sidewalk, the city responsible for that street may have liability. Likewise, if you visit someone’s home and sustain injury from falling on a broken tile, the homeowner may be legally responsible.
Should you suffer an injury, it’s always worth considering if another party contributed to your situation. If so, a consultation with a personal injury attorney will determine if you have a viable claim.
How Do You Prove a Personal Injury Case in Florida?
As with all litigation, evidence serves as the foundation of your claim. Without evidence, a claim fails. However, that does not mean that you must have the incident on video or witnesses. Your account of the incident provides substantial evidence, which can be corroborated with collateral evidence, such as medical records.
Many types of evidence prove personal injury claims, including the following:
Your story serves as the linchpin of your claim. It sets the narrative and ties together the other evidence, showing why they are relevant. Your personal injury attorney will gather evidence to support your account and to battle against false denials made by the defense.
Many accidents generate official reports from government agencies or businesses. For instance, an auto collision requires a police report, while a slip and fall at a store usually necessitates management documenting the incident. These reports verify the injury occurred and the time and place of the accident.
Reports also contain valuable information, such as the results of a car accident investigation or witness contact information. Therefore, when the plaintiff has an official report, the defense finds it impossible to deny that the incident occurred.
Witnesses demonstrate that the incident happened and shed light on the cause. For example, those who see an auto accident know whether one driver ran a red light or disobey a stop sign. Often, eyewitness testimony verifies the plaintiff’s claim and makes it difficult for the defense to dispute negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions that resulted in your plight.
Video of the incident is always desirable because it shows the accident in real-time. For example, a dash cam that recorded an auto accident can prove invaluable. Likewise, a store surveillance camera showing a slip and fall establishes the injury that happened on the premises and may also show the store’s negligence.
Medical records serve as key evidence in personal injury cases. Courts need proof that the injury occurred. Medical records establish this.
In addition, medical records demonstrate the injury’s connection to the incident. Defense attorneys often attack the link between the injury and the incident when it is weak. They may argue that the damages have some other cause. Medical evidence usually shuts down this line of defense.
Medical records also serve key purposes in establishing damage awards. They correspond to medical bills but also serve as verification of pain and suffering claims. For instance, if a patient claims pain and suffering from a chronic back injury, medical records can support this claim and help the plaintiff win a larger award.
Proving the Elements of a Personal Injury Case in Florida
Personal injury law mandates plaintiffs to prove four essential elements of their claims:
- The defendant has a duty of care
- The defendant breached the duty of care
- The defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury
- The damages stem from the injury
The Defendant Has a Duty of Care
The first element is usually the easiest to prove. Duty of care is enshrined in the law, and a defendant cannot deny a duty of care in many situations. For example, all drivers have a duty of care to other motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. Therefore, they cannot mount a defense by claiming they have no duty of care.
In the instance of homeowners, the law holds them to a duty of care toward anyone on their property. For instance, the owner must ensure a stairway is safe before allowing people to walk on it.
Typically, a duty of care is established by proving the defendant was at the scene or owned property.
The Defendant Breached the Duty of Care
Here is where the defense can make a convincing argument. Proving a breach of the duty of care relies on demonstrating that the defendant was negligent in some manner. Without proof of a breach of duty of care, the case never gets off the ground.
For example, tripping on a commercial property is in itself insufficient for establishing liability against the business. A person can fall without the owner has contributed to the accident.
To win, the plaintiff must show the defendant’s negligence. This can be established, for instance, by proving the floor was wet or cracked. Leaving the floor in that condition represents a breach of the duty of care.
The Breach Resulted in the Injury
Proving a breach of the duty of care falls short of winning a personal injury claim unless the plaintiff presents convincing evidence that the breach resulted in the injury.
For example, proving that another motorist was speeding when he struck your car shows that he breached the duty of care. However, you must proceed to the additional step of showing the speeding of the other driver caused your injury.
Without this proof, the defense can maintain that you suffered no material harm as a result of its actions.
However, if you sustained broken bones, cuts, and burns in an accident you show occurred because of the defendant’s excessive speed, then you have gone most of the distance to winning your claim.
The Damages Claimed Relate to the Accident in Florida
Now that you have proven the defendant’s breach caused your injury, you must demonstrate that the damages you claim stem from the incident.
For instance, you must show medical bills claimed were for accident-related treatment. Additionally, any lost wage claims must have a link to work missed due to the injury. Finally, pain and suffering and other non-pecuniary damages must have a link to the accident’s consequences.
Because of this, personal injury lawyers often recommend that clients keep a journal of their recovery and experiences while being treated and convalescing. These notes show that the agony and anguish experienced by the plaintiff stemmed from the injury and not some other cause.
In addition to proving your case factually, you must also demonstrate that the damages you seek have eligibility under Florida law. The state allows personal injury plaintiffs to seek three types of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive.
Economic damages consist of the direct financial losses caused by the incident. Any type of economic loss can be claimed, but the most common ones include the following:
- Ambulance charges
- Medical bills
- Surgical costs
- Rehabilitative therapy
- Diagnostic tests
- Doctors visits
- Lost wages
- Lost salary
- Lost self-employment income
- Lost business income
- Lost benefits
Non-economic damages often command a more significant award than economic costs. They compensate the victim for the pain and debilitation experienced. They include the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
Punitive damages rarely apply. Economic and non-economic damages provide full compensation for most personal injury claims. The economic reimbursement and compensation for pain and loss of a full life make the plaintiff whole in the eyes of the law.
But punitive damages focus not on compensation for the victim but on accountability of the defendant. Therefore, they usually remain inapplicable when mere negligence is the accident’s cause. They come into play when the defendant acted with outrageous recklessness or intentional action.
For example, personal injury cases based on an assault may warrant punitive damages. Clearly, an assault differs from an auto accident. While one was caused by an error, the other was caused by a crime. The bad acts of the defendant open the door to punitive damages.
Rosen Injury Law Personal Injury Litigators
Personal injury law covers a lot of ground, from auto accidents to falls to assaults. Many injuries are caused by the actions of others but not all. For a plaintiff to have eligibility to pursue a personal injury claim, he must have reason to believe that another’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional action caused the harm.
Most personal injury cases result from negligence, such as a typical car accident. However, a few exist because of terrible actions by the defendant, such as drunken driving or battery. These extreme situations may warrant punitive damages.
You deserve compensation when you suffer an injury because of someone else’s actions. Contact Rosen Injury Law to discuss your legal options.
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