Each state enacts laws that affect the personal injury claims filed in their state. The type of injury claim dictates which statutes apply in the case. Some laws might apply to all types of personal injury claims, but other laws might be more specific.
Navigating these laws can be challenging without the help of an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer.
What is a Statute?
A statute is a written law that has been passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by the governor. Statutes cover numerous areas. Examples of issues and areas covered by statutes include:
- Personal injury claims
- Real estate matters
- Criminal cases
- Motor vehicles
- Natural resources
- Public health and social welfare
- Alcoholic beverages and tobacco
If another party injures you, you might be entitled to compensation for your injuries, financial losses, and other damages. However, numerous statutes can affect the outcome of your personal injury case. Below are several statutes that impact injury claims in Florida.
Statutes of Limitation — Deadlines for Filing Lawsuits
A statute of limitations sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit seeking damages from another party. The statutes of limitations vary by type of case.
For example, a lawsuit to foreclose a mortgage has a five-year statute of limitations.
An action to break a contract has a four-year deadline. However, an action seeking specific performance of a contract must be filed within one year.
Most personal injury claims have a two-year deadline for filing lawsuits. If an injured party fails to file a lawsuit before the deadline, the other party can ask the court to dismiss the lawsuit. The two-year deadline applies in wrongful death matters, medical malpractice cases, and general personal injury cases such as car crashes, dog bites, and other premises liability claims.
However, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations. In some cases, a victim may have longer to file a lawsuit if they did not discover the injury was caused by another party’s negligence. Minors may also have longer to file a lawsuit.
It is always in a person’s best interest to talk to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident. You never want to assume that you have plenty of time to file a personal injury lawsuit. You must file a notice of claim to protect your right to file a lawsuit in some cases.
Sovereign Immunity — Statutes Protecting Government Entities from Lawsuits
The government is protected from many types of lawsuits by sovereign immunity. You cannot sue the government unless the government gives you permission to sue it. What happens if your car accident or slip and fall accident involves a government entity?
Florida statutes include a waiver of sovereign immunity for specific tort actions. If you are injured because of negligence, you can sue the government. However, there are special rules for suing the government.
Florida law requires that you provide notice of your claim to the appropriate government agency before you file your lawsuit. You must also meet specific terms before you can sue the government.
The statute limits the compensation you can receive for a personal injury claim. Compensation for damages is capped at $200,000 for one person. The total for any claim is $300,000. Therefore, you could receive much less than a jury awards for damages because of the statute.
For example, if a jury awards $1 million for a car accident claim involving a government entity, the most you can receive is $200,000 according to the statute. However, the statute does allow for victims to petition the Florida legislature to approve the balance of the judgment. Unfortunately, it requires an official legislative act to pay the full value of the judgment.
Florida’s sovereign immunity act bars recovery for punitive damages. Punitive damages are paid when a defendant acted with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others. The damages are intended to “punish” the defendant for gross negligence.
Comparative Fault — Assigning Fault and Damages
Florida’s comparative fault statute can limit the amount of money you might receive for a personal injury claim. The statute allows the court to reduce the amount of compensation an injured person receives for a claim by the percentage of fault assigned to the victim for causing the accident.
For example, if you are in a motorcycle crash caused by another driver, you are entitled to recover the full value of your economic damages and non-economic damages. However, if you were 30 percent to blame for the cause of the accident, your compensation is reduced by 30 percent.
Insurance companies often use this statute to try to limit their liability for an injury claim. If the insurance company says that you contributed to the cause of your injury or accident, it is best to contact a personal injury lawyer immediately for legal advice.
No-Fault Insurance Laws — Suing for Damages
Florida is one of the handful of states that have no-fault insurance laws for automobile accidents. In a no-fault insurance state, each driver files a claim with his or her insurance provider regardless of who caused the accident. In other words, you look to your insurance company for payment of medical bills, lost wages, and death benefits under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance.
PIP insurance does not cover all damages caused by car accidents. You cannot recover compensation for your pain and suffering. However, you might be able to recover compensation for pain, suffering, and other damages by suing the driver who caused the crash.
Florida’s no-fault insurance laws limit when a person may file a personal injury lawsuit against another driver. If you sustain permanent or serious injuries, you can seek compensation from the other driver. The statues define serious injuries as:
- Significant disfigurement or scarring
- Permanent and significant loss of an important bodily function
- Wrongful death
- Permanent injury within reasonably medical probability
When you meet the injury threshold, you can seek compensation from the at-fault driver for damages that are not covered by no-fault insurance policies.
Other Statutes and Laws Can Affect a Personal Injury Claim
The above statutes are not the only statutes that could impact your case. There are many other statutes and case law that affect a claim.
Some statutes and laws are broad and impact all types of injury claims. Other state laws and statutes might be specific to a particular type of injury claim, such as the Florida Wrongful Death Act.
Working with a lawyer who has experience handling cases similar to your case is best. The attorney understands the various laws and statutes that can directly impact the outcome of your case. Your lawyer knows what evidence is needed to meet each legal requirement to prove your claim and how to use the laws in your favor.