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How Florida Statutes Affect Personal Injury Claims

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How Florida Statutes Affect Personal Injury Claims

Florida personal injury law comes from more than one source.

Most of it is ultimately based on common law (judge-made law), but some of it is based on statutes instead.

The interplay between common law and statutory law can be complex and nuanced, but an experienced personal injury attorney understands just about every detail.

Florida Statutes That Affect Personal Injury Claims

Florida Statutes That Affect Personal Injury Claims

Following is an incomplete list of statutes that might affect your personal injury claim. Other statutes sometimes apply too – even federal statutes in some cases. The statutes set forth below, however, apply more than others.

The Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations sets the deadline by which you must either file a lawsuit over your claim, finalize a settlement, or abandon your claim. In March 2023, Florida’s personal injury statute of limitations deadline changed from four years after the date of the accident to two years after the date of the accident. 

Certain exceptions sometimes apply, such as if the victim was under 18 at the time of the injury.

Comparative Fault

Comparative fault is a system that applies when more than one party is at fault for an accident. Suppose, for example, that one party to a car accident was driving the wrong way on a one-way street, while the other party was driving at night with their headlights off. How do you distribute liability?

Florida follows a “modified comparative negligence” standard with a 51% recovery bar to address the issue. An accident victim who is found to be 51% or more responsible for their accident would be barred from recovering compensation. 

Otherwise, their damages can be reduced proportionate to their assigned percentage of blame. For example, sharing 25% of the blame means their damages can be reduced by 25%.

Statutory Limitations on Damages

The Florida state legislature has taken active steps to prevent “runaway juries” from awarding ridiculously large sums to personal injury plaintiffs. In particular, the state has imposed the following limitations:

  • Florida law limits punitive damages to triple the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
  • It also limits the amount of money you can win against Florida state and local governments to $200,000 for a single claim or $300,000 for all claims arising out of the same incident. 
  • You cannot sue the government for punitive damages.

The Florida legislature tried to put a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, but the Florida Supreme Court found the cap to be a violation of the Florida Constitution

Insurance Bad Faith

Insurance bad faith occurs when an insurance company deals with a claimant fraudulently, dishonestly, deceitfully, or unfairly. It doesn’t matter whether you are a first-party claimant (the person who is insured) or a third-party claimant (someone who is entitled to compensation under someone else’s liability insurance policy). 

Either way, you can file an insurance bad faith claim and seek compensation not only for insurance bad faith but also for the underlying claim. 

Lack of Mandatory Auto Accident Liability Insurance

Florida is a no-fault auto insurance state. It requires all motorists with vehicles registered in Florida to carry at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and $10,000 in property damage insurance. 

However, Florida law does not require its drivers to carry personal injury liability insurance.

No-Fault Auto Insurance Laws

Florida is one of a dozen states that apply no-fault auto insurance laws to car accidents. In most car accidents, you must look to your own PIP insurance to pay your economic damages from the accident (medical bills and lost earnings). You cannot seek non-economic damages, and you cannot sue the at-fault driver.

If your injuries are “serious” as Florida statutory law defines that term, you can escape Florida’s no-fault system, file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, and even seek non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

Workers’ Compensation Claims

Like other states, Florida has enacted its own workers’ compensation statute. The law requires almost every Florida employer to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance pays a portion of the economic damages that an employee might suffer from a work-related injury. 

Unless an exception applies, you cannot sue your employer under the workers’ compensation system. Instead, you must file an administrative claim under the workers’ compensation program.

Wrongful Death

If the victim of a personal injury dies from their injuries, the executor (personal representative) of the deceased victim’s probate estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party. Wrongful death lawsuits are often worth a lot of money.

Product Liability Claims

A product liability claim arises when someone suffers an injury because of a defect in an unreasonably dangerous product. You might take a defective prescription drug, for example, that damages your liver. Florida allows you to file a product liability against anyone in the chain of distribution of the product that injured you.

You can file a claim based on a manufacturing defect, for example, against a US-based distributor such as Walgreens. It doesn’t even matter that Walgreens could not have manufactured the product. This works out well for claimants if, for instance, the manufacturer is located outside the country.

The Statute of Repose

The statute of limitations is riddled with exceptions. The statute of repose sets a hard deadline for product liability claims that applies no matter what. In Florida, the deadline for filing a product liability lawsuit is 12 years after delivery of the product to its first purchaser or lessee.

Dog Bites

Florida has enacted a strict liability dog bite statute. A dog owner is strictly liable for injuries inflicted by their dog. This liability applies even if they were not negligent in their handling of the dog. An exception exists in the case of a trespasser. You cannot win a lawsuit against a dog owner whose dog bit them while they were trespassing. 

The Dram Shop Law

The Florida Dram shop law allows victims of DUI accidents to sue a nightclub who sold alcohol to the defendant prior to the crash. This might happen if the defendant was under 21, or if the vendor knew the defendant was an alcoholic. The purpose of this law is to ensure that victims of catastrophic DUI accidents have someone to sue who has enough money to pay their claim.

Contact a Tampa Personal Injury Lawyer

If the amount of your personal injury claim is significant, you probably don’t need to represent yourself. You also shouldn’t seek even an experienced lawyer if they lack particular experience in Florida personal injury law. 

Instead, find an experienced Tampa personal injury lawyer at Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers and schedule a free initial consultation at (813) 223-6200. Since personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, you will owe nothing in attorney’s fees unless you win compensation.

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