What Is a Personal Injury Case?
Personal injury recovery is compensation for damages caused by another party. When someone causes you an injury, you can file a claim with their insurance company or file a lawsuit seeking damages. We commonly refer to claims and lawsuits as personal injury cases for ease of simplicity, though they’re technically two different things. A claim becomes a case once a lawsuit is filed in a court of law.
Common types of personal injury cases our Ocala injury lawyers handle include, but are not limited to:
- Automobile accidents, including crashes involving motorcycles and commercial trucks
- Bicycle accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Wrongful death claims
- Brain injuries
- Pedestrian accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Defective product injuries
- Workplace accidents
- Dog bites
Our experienced Florida personal injury lawyers have decades of experience handling personal injury cases. Contact us to discuss your case free of charge.
What Are the Elements of a Personal Injury Case?
To recover compensation for a personal injury claim, you must prove the legal elements required under Florida tort laws. Generally, proving negligence and liability requires you to have evidence proving:
Legal Duty of Care
A duty of care is the legal requirement to take specific actions or refrain from specific conduct. A party can owe a duty of care to another party because of a law, custom, personal commitment, or morality.
For example, Florida drivers have a duty of care to follow traffic laws. They also must use reasonable care when operating their vehicles to avoid causing injury or harm to another person. Likewise, doctors owe a duty of care to their patients to provide medical care that meets or exceeds the standard care for their specific situation.
The duty of care varies depending on the parties involved and the circumstances. Generally, the duty of care is measured by what a reasonable person would have done given the same circumstances.
Could a reasonable person have predicted that their actions would have the risk of harm to another person given the same circumstances? If so, there was probably a duty of care.
Breach of Duty of Care
A breach of duty is failing to act with the level of care required for the circumstances. In other words, the party does something or fails to do something that their legal duty requires.
For example, a driver runs a red light and causes a crash. Another example would be a store owner failing to clean up a spill, which causes a customer to slip and fall. A doctor leaving something inside a patient during surgery or failing to order required tests could be a breach of duty.
The jurors decide whether a party breached the duty of care by comparing their actions to the actions of a reasonable person. Then, the jurors decide what a “reasonable person” would have done in the same situation. If the party’s action fell short of the reasonable person standard, the jury should conclude the party breached the duty of care.
There must be evidence linking the breach of duty directly to the cause of your injury. For example, you would need proof that the other driver ran the red light and crashed into your car to recover damages in a car accident claim.
Likewise, suppose you fall at the store and break your leg. You would need evidence proving a hazardous condition caused you to fall. For example, a bathroom leak caused a puddle of water, and the owner failed to clean it up or warn customers about the hazard.
The final element of a personal injury claim is damages. Even if you fell in a store, if you cannot prove that you sustained damages, you would not receive any money for a claim. Your damages can include physical injuries, monetary losses, and non-economic damages.
Examples of non-economic and economic damages include:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Out-of-pocket costs
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish
- Loss of income and benefits
- Emotional distress
- Scarring, impairments, disfigurement, and disabilities
- Future lost wages and diminished earning capacity
- A decrease in your quality of life
Some individuals may also receive punitive damages for a personal injury lawsuit. Punitive damages do not compensate the injured party for damages. Instead, punitive damages are ordered as a punishment for the defendant’s behavior. Florida laws allow punitive damages if the at-fault party’s conduct was grossly negligent or intentional.
Contributory Fault and Personal Injury Cases in Florida
Florida is a pure comparative fault state for personal injury claims. That means you can be partially to blame for the cause of your injury and still recover some money for your damages. However, your compensation is reduced by the percentage of your fault.
For example, suppose a jury finds that you were 40% to blame for the cause of a slip and fall accident. If the jury awards $300,000 for damages, you receive $180,000 (the total damages award is less than 40% for fault).
Insurance companies often use contributory fault allegations to lower the value of a personal injury claim. Therefore, do not agree to a recorded statement or provide a written statement without consulting a personal injury attorney. Something you tell the insurance company could be intentionally misinterpreted to imply fault.
Is There a Deadline for Filing Personal Injury Claims in Florida?
Florida laws set deadlines for filing personal injury lawsuits. The statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is four years from the injury date. However, there are exceptions.
The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years from the person’s death. Most medical malpractice claims must be filed within two years, but there are also exceptions to that rule.
It is best to speak with an Ocala personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an injury or accident. For example, exceptions for cases involving government entities lower the deadline to file a personal injury case. Waiting too long to contact a lawyer could result in losing your right to seek compensation for injuries.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation With an Ocala Personal Injury Lawyer
We are dedicated to helping injured victims receive the compensation they deserve for an accident or personal injury. Call our law firm at (352) 351-3258 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced Ocala personal injury attorneys. We fight to protect your right to a fair settlement amount.