If you’re filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida, it’s best to become familiar with the various state laws that can play a role in your claim. If you have been hurt in an accident of any type of severity, including truck or boating accidents, contact a Florida personal injury lawyer for help, even prior to contacting your insurance company.
Legal Hurdles to Overcome in Your Personal Injury Claim
Deadlines for Filing an Injury Lawsuit in Florida
Like all states, Florida sets a limit on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit in civil court known as a “statute of limitations.” Under Florida’s statute of limitations for personal injury cases, you have four years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If you don’t file your case within this period, the court will likely dismiss your claim.
However, in some situations, you might not discover that you actually suffered harm for some time after the incident that caused the injury. In those cases, the filing window could be extended. Other exceptions may alter the applicable deadline, and if you’re filing an injury claim against the state or local government in Florida, you’ll need to proceed under a different set of rules altogether (which includes a shorter filing period). Your best option is to immediately contact a Florida personal injury lawyer for help after an injury.
There are other reasons to file quickly, as witnesses tend to forget details over time, and evidence tends to go stale. You should also be aware that the statute of limitations applies to most, but not all, Florida personal injury cases. For example, Florida has a specific statute of limitations for lawsuits involving injuries caused by medical malpractice.
Florida’s Comparative Negligence Rule
In some cases, the person you are trying to hold liable for your injuries may claim that you’re actually to blame, at least in part, for causing the accident that led to your harm. If you are at fault for some of your injuries, that can reduce the amount of compensation you can receive based on the percentage of fault that is yours.
For example, if you’re in a car accident because another driver ran a red light, but you were driving a few miles an hour above the posted speed limit, you might share 10 percent of the blame for the accident, while the other driver is 90 percent to blame. Accordingly, your compensation will be reduced by 10 percent.
Florida’s No-Fault Insurance Rules
In auto accident cases, Florida follows a “no-fault insurance” system, which means that after most traffic accidents, an injured person’s own insurance policy will provide compensation for certain out-of-pocket losses like medical bills and lost income, no matter who was at fault for the accident. If you’re injured as a passenger, you’d turn to the no-fault coverage of the driver in whose car you were riding.
In Florida, you can’t hold the other driver liable after a car accident unless the crash resulted in “serious injury” to you. Therefore, most minor accidents will fall under the no-fault umbrella. “Serious” injuries include:
- Permanent injury,
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or
- Significant and permanent loss of a bodily function.
These terms are open to interpretation, which makes it very important to let the Florida personal injury lawyers at Searcy Denney handle your negotiations.
Damage Caps in Florida
Damage caps set a limit on the amount of money an injured person can receive in certain kinds of cases or for certain types of losses. Most often, these laws limit the amount of non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, that an injured person can recover.
In terms of common personal injury cases like car accidents, slip and fall injuries, and product defect claims, punitive damages are in the greatest risk of being capped. For most types of injury cases, Florida law limits punitive damages to three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever amount is greater.
Damage caps can be complicated in Florida personal injury cases. For example, a state law setting a limit on non-economic damages like pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases was ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in June 2017.