Every day, hundreds of civil lawsuits are filed in courts across the state of Florida. In fact, according to the Office of the Florida State Court Administrator (OSCA), there were 171,515 civil cases that reached a disposition, which simply means a conclusion, in circuit courts statewide during the 2016-17 fiscal year. Moreover, the OSCA has indicated that 32,113 of those civil cases reached a disposition in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, which is the circuit court responsible for civil cases arising out of Miami-Dade County.
Although these cases represent only a small fraction of the 3,144,705 civil and criminal cases that reached a disposition during the 2016-17 fiscal year, this statistic demonstrates that every year thousands of Floridians, including those residing in the city of Miami, bring their disputes to civil courts throughout our state, and a large percentage of these cases fall under the umbrella of personal injury law.
What is Personal Injury Law?
Personal injury law is a body of law that focuses on injuries that an individual has sustained to their body, mind, or both due to a wrongful act such as negligence. Personal injury cases can take many forms, and arise due to a host of different circumstances. Due to this fact, personal injury cases and the laws that govern them are categorized into different areas of personal injury law based on factors such as how the injuries were sustained, the type of victim, etc. The most common categories of personal injury cases are listed below:
Negligence in Florida Personal Injury Cases
The majority of personal injury cases that arise are due to acts of negligence. The Florida Supreme Court defines negligence as the failure to use reasonable care, which is the care that a reasonably careful person would use under like circumstances. Moreover, negligence can be both voluntary and involuntary. Meaning, you can unintentionally or accidentally injure a person, and the act will still qualify as simple negligence.
In contrast, gross negligence is defined as behavior that is so reckless that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to the conduct of the negligent individual. In other words, conduct that rises to the level of gross negligence surpasses a mere accident or moment of poor judgment. Whether or not someone’s actions rise to the level of gross negligence is something that should always be determined by your personal injury lawyer, because your attorney will have to consider a number of different factors in order to determine the extent of the negligent party’s actions.
Medical Malpractice in Miami, FL
Under Fl.Stat.§766.102, a physician or medical facility can be held liable for damages incurred by a patient as a result of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is an area of personal injury law that is often misunderstood due to a misconception of the legal meaning of medical malpractice. A physician or staff member of a medical facility commits medical malpractice when they breach the prevailing professional standard of care that is applicable to that type of health care provider.
In other words, the fact that a procedure ends with a bad result for a patient does not necessarily mean that a physician has committed medical malpractice. For a medical malpractice claim to be valid, the physician or health care provider has to exhibit a lower level of care when performing the procedure than other health professionals would in a similar circumstance. Medical malpractice cases have very specific laws that govern when and how a medical malpractice suit is initiated, and you should always consult with a medical malpractice attorney to discuss the facts of your case and whether or not you have a valid medical malpractice claim.
Car Accidents in Miami, FL
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were an estimated 395,785 car crashes that occured in 2016, and a large percentage of these accidents are usually caused by the negligent actions of one or more of the drivers involved. Due to this fact, Florida law allows the parties that are injured as a result of the at-fault drivers’ actions to seek compensation for damages they sustained as a result of the accident. Car accident cases are one of the most common types of personal injury claims, and they can take many forms such as:
The type of accident you are involved in will dictate which provisions of the law apply in your unique scenario, but as a general matter, most car accidents occur due to an individual’s failure fulfill the duty of care that is owed other drivers on the road. As owners and operators of motor vehicles, we have an implied duty to drive safely and within the confines of Florida’s traffic laws. When another driver fails to fulfill this implied obligation and that failure results in an accident that injures you, the at-fault driver has committed a negligent act, and thus, is liable for any damages their negligence caused.
Dog Attack Laws in Miami, FL
You, as a member of society, expect for a pet owner to control their animal and to protect you from any harm the pet owner’s animal might cause. Unfortunately, there are irresponsible pet owners who either don’t train their dog or simply let there dog roam free without a leash, which is why the Florida legislature has enacted laws to hold pet owners responsible for the actions of their dogs. Under Fla.Stat.§767.04, a dog owner can be held liable for damages suffered by a person that is bitten by the pet owner’s dog, but there are some specific provisions in Florida’s dog bite statute that you need to be aware of.
Dog Bites on Private Property
Although dog owners are liable for damages sustained by some who was bitten by their dog, dog owners are not liable for dog bites that are incurred as a result of a person being on their property illegally. Moreover, a pet owner is not considered liable for a dog bite if they have a sign that easily readable and prominently posted on their property containing the language “bad dog.” However, this rule does not apply if the dog bite victim is under six years old or if the dog bite damages were proximately caused by a pet owner’s negligent act or omission.
Dog Bites Involving Other Animals in Florida
Pet owners are liable for damages caused by their dogs to both humans and other animals. under Fla.Stat.§767.01, and this provision of the statute applies to both domesticated animals and livestock. Fla.Stat.§585.01(10) defines a domesticated animal as any one of the following:
- Any equine or bovine animal
- Domesticated cats, dogs, chickens, ostriches, emus, rheas
- Any other domestic bird or beast
When another animal is injured due to a dog bite, the dog’s owner can be liable for things such as vet bills, medications, etc. However, you should always speak with a dog bite attorney to determine whether or not an owner is liable in your unique situation because many dog bite cases hinge on the details of how and where the bite occurred.
Premises Liability Accidents in Miami, FL
As Floridians, we are invited into to places such as homes, grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, etc. every day, and we trust the owners of a residence or business to keep their property safe. When a landowner fails to fulfill their duty of ensuring that their property is safe, they can be held liable for damages sustained by a person who is injured on their property. This type of personal injury claim is known as a premises liability claim. The duty of a property owner is determined by the type of guest they have on their premises. These guests can be divided into three groups: trespassers, invitees, and licensees.
Premises Liability Claims for Trespassers in Miami, FL
Trespassers are generally considered to be people that you do not voluntarily invite on your property, and as such, a landowner owes a very low duty to keep a trespasser safe while they are on their premises. Under Fla.Stat.§768.075(2), a property owner is not liable for injuries or damages incurred by a trespasser. There a few exceptions to this rule, but in most instances, a landowner cannot be held liable if a trespasser is injured on their premises.
Premises Liability Claims for Licensees in Miami, FL
The Florida Supreme Court generally defined a licensee is a person who enters upon the property of another for their own convenience, pleasure, or benefit in Post v. Lunney. This definition encompasses family members, neighbors, social guests, etc. A property owner owes a licensee a duty of care that requires the owner to:
- Keep their property free of dangerous defects
- Keep their property safe
- Warn licensees of dangers on their land that the property owner is aware of
Premises Liability Claims for Invitees in Miami, FL
An invitee is owed the highest duty of care by a landowner. Invitees were defined broadly by the Florida Supreme Court in Luney as a person who enters upon the premises of another for purposes connected with the business of the owner or occupant of the premises, but the Supreme Court took this definition a step further in the Luney decision by defining two classes of invitees:
- Business Invitees: A person who comes on a land owner’s property for business dealings either directly or indirectly connected to the land owner’s business dealings. An example of a business invitee might be someone you have invited to your home to make repairs or install cable.
- Public Invitee: A person who is invited onto a property owners land as a member of the public for the purpose of which the land is held open to the public. An example of a public invitee would be a person who goes to a public park. The visitor does not have a business interest in going to this location like they do in a business invitee scenario.
The first thing a personal injury attorney will do when they are evaluating a premises liability claim is to determine what type of visitor you were at the time of your accident. This information will allow your lawyer to determine whether or not the property owner is liable for the damages you incurred as a result of your premises liability accident.
Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Case in Miami, FL
If you are involved in a car accident or if you are initiating a personal injury claim in general, there are two types of damages you can seek from the at-fault driver or negligent party. The first and most common type of damages sought in both car accident claims and personal injury claims are compensatory damages. This category of damages can be separated into two groups, economic and non-economic compensatory damages. Economic damages are straight forward because they can be quantified and projected based on evidence. Examples of economic damages include lost wages, medical bills, etc.
In contrast, non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify, because they are based on the severity of the injuries you sustained and the effect those injuries have on you as a person. Non-economic damages consist of compensation for things such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc., and the amount of non-economic damages you are awarded is usually dependent on the severity of your injury.
Punitive Damages in a Miami Personal Injury Claim
While compensatory damages are awarded to compensate you for your injuries, punitive damages serve a very different purpose. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant and deter them from repeating their negligent behavior in the future. As such, punitive damages are only awarded in a limited number of cases, and the scenarios that warrant an award of punitive damages are codified in Fl.Stat.§768.72. Under Fl.Stat.§768.72, punitive damages can only be awarded when the trier of fact, which is either a judge or a jury, determines that the defendant was guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.
Gross Negligence vs. Intentional Misconduct
Remember, gross negligence is defined as conduct that is so reckless that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of the people exposed to the conduct of the negligent individual. Intentional misconduct is very different than simple negligence or gross negligence. Intentional misconduct is defined under Fla.Stat.§768.72(2)(a) as a case where the defendant:
- Had actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of their conduct and the high probability that injury or damage to the claimant would result, and
- Despite that knowledge, the defendant intentionally pursued that course of conduct, which resulted in injury or damage to the claimant
As such, punitive damages are often awarded to punish acts that are grossly negligent or that qualify as intentional misconduct, because the behavior itself is either extremely reckless and dangerous or is carried out to intentionally harm someone else.
Comparative Negligence in Florida
When an accident of any kind occurs, you might be tempted to conclude that only one person can be determined to be at fault, but this is a common misconception. Under Fla.Stat.768.81(2), both parties involved in an accident can be determined to be partially responsible. This finding of partial responsibility among the parties involved in an accident is known as comparative negligence or comparative fault, and although Florida’s comparative negligence statute is often referred to in the context of car accident cases, the comparative negligence standard applies to any negligence action, which means that a defendant in any case alleging negligence can argue that the accident victim was partially responsible.
When both parties are found to have been partially responsible for an accident by a jury, the jury will assign each party a percentage that represents the degree to which they were responsible for the accident. As a result, the accident victim’s award of economic and non-economic compensatory damages is reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if you were awarded $100,000 by a jury for compensatory damages, but you were found to have been 20% responsible for your accident. Your $100,000 award would be reduced by 20%, and you would be awarded $80,000.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in Miami, FL
There many types of accidents that occur every day and each accident has its own unique set of facts and circumstances. Regardless of what type of accident you have been involved in, you should always contact an attorney that can explain which laws apply in your unique scenario, what your legal rights are, and how you can begin the process of initiating a claim. 1-800-Injured is a lawyer referral service that connects individuals involved in an accident with a personal injury attorney in the Miami area and helps them get the medical treatment they need. Don’t let an accident ruin your life. Call 1-800-INJURED today.