Victims of slip and falls, vehicle collisions and other situations that result in injuries or deaths frequently have a right to file a lawsuit for compensation. Injuries sometimes result from an unfortunate incident that happens without anyone being at fault, such tripping over your own foot and falling to the ground. Florida personal injury laws allow you to file a lawsuit for compensation when the cause of the accident was under the control of another party, such as a fall caused by tripping on a broken sidewalk a property owner knew about and failed to repair.
Understanding some of the basic principles of personal injury law helps to distinguish between a truly accidental event and one for which someone can be held responsible and ordered to pay compensation.
Torts that intentionally cause harm
A tort occurs when someone’s conduct or failure to act causes harm to another person who has the right to file a civil lawsuit for damages. Torts can be intentional, such as occurs when someone punches you, or they can be the result of negligence, such as a motorist texting while driving or a pharmacist filling a prescription by giving you the wrong medication.
Intentional torts involve an intentional act committed with the purpose of causing injury to the victim. Hitting someone with a baseball bat during an argument is an example of an intentional tort if the person swinging the bat did so to cause injury to the victim and actually caused such injury. Some intentional torts could be the basis for a criminal charge and a civil claim for damages. The person using the baseball bat to hurt someone in Florida could be charged with committing the crime of battery in criminal court and sued by the victim for damages in a civil court action.
Torts caused by negligence
The law requires people to exercise reasonable care to avoid causing injury to others. What is reasonable depends upon the type of activity. For instance, a person operating a motor vehicle exercises reasonable care by doing all of the following:
- Obeying Florida traffic laws;
- Maintaining control over the vehicle;
- Keeping a constant lookout for other people and vehicles using the roads; and,
- Operating the vehicle in a safe manner for the conditions existing at the time.
Driving in excess of the speed limit, not yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians at crosswalks, failing to stop at a red light and texting while driving represent only a few of the behaviors that could prove a driver failed to exercise reasonable care.
The evidence in a lawsuit based on negligence must prove the following:
- The existence of a duty to exercise reasonable care toward the party who was injured;
- A breach of that duty;
- Injuries or harm caused to the party filing the lawsuit; and,
- The conduct of the party being sued was the proximate cause of the injuries or harm.
Florida law may require that your attorney prove additional factors depending upon the type of negligence case. For example, if you slip and fall on a substance that spilled on the floor at your local supermarket, Florida law requires evidence proving the business owner knew or should have known of the hazard and failed to take action to eliminate it.
Some laws in Florida limit the types of injuries that give you the right to sue for damages. Florida no-fault laws offer a method for victims injured in motor vehicle accidents to recover medical expenses, lost earnings and other damages regardless of who was at fault by filing a claim through their own insurance company. You can file a lawsuit for pain and suffering and other damages provided your injuries are permanent or cause significant and permanent loss of a bodily function. Lawsuits may also be brought in cases resulting in scarring and disfigurement or death.
Lawsuits based upon strict liability
Dog bites defy classification as either intentional torts or negligence because the law in Florida imposes liability on dog owners when someone is attacked. Known as “strict liability,” the statute holds dog owners strictly liable for dog bites occurring in a public place or on private property when the victim was lawfully on the property.
The strict liability law eliminates the need for a victim to prove the owner of the dog was negligent. Proof that you were bitten and injured is on public property or that you were lawfully on private property is all that is required to prove your claim in a lawsuit.
The Florida dog-bite statute only addresses injuries caused by being bitten by a dog. Your attorney might need to rely on negligence to bring a lawsuit if the caused you to be injured by jumping on you or in some way other than by biting.
Finding out if you have a right to sue
Contact our team or a Tampa personal injury lawyer is a valuable resource for legal advice about your right to file a lawsuit for injuries. An attorney’s knowledge of the law and experience applying it to different situations helps you know and protect your rights when injured.