If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident, it’s crucial to understand how personal injury law in the state of Florida affects your case. Personal injury cases are governed by many broad statutes that cover everything from assigning liability to the damages you can recover. Some types of injury claims also have specific statutes.
Florida personal injury law is complex and a single mistake can bar you from recovering the compensation you deserve. It’s important to consult with an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer for help.
What Is a Statute?
Statutes are written laws passed by the Florida Legislature and signed into law by the governor. Statutes are the same as laws and they may be called acts such as the Florida Wrongful Death Act.
Florida personal injury law is essentially a collection of statutes covering topics such as:
- Statutes of limitations or your deadline to file a lawsuit
- Claims against government entities like a municipality
- Motor vehicle insurance requirements and how to file a claim
- The types of damages you can recover in a tort claim
- Caps on damages
- Punitive damages and when they may be awarded
- How financial liability is determined when more than one person is at fault for an accident
The following covers important Florida laws in greater detail.
Florida Statutes of Limitations – Your Deadline to File a Lawsuit
The statute of limitations gives an injured party a time limit to file a lawsuit to seek damages from another party. The statute of limitations depends on the type of case.
The standard statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit in Florida is four years. This deadline applies to a car accident, premises liability case (such as a slip and fall or dog bite), or a product liability (dangerous product) case.
A shorter two-year statute of limitations applies to a medical malpractice case. Wrongful death claims also have a two-year statute of limitations under the Florida Wrongful Death Act. If a car accident is fatal, for instance, the four-year deadline that applies to an injury lawsuit is reduced to just two years if the victim dies.
There are some exceptions to these statutes of limitations.
There is a four-year statute of repose that applies to medical malpractice cases. This law allows you to investigate and file a lawsuit within two years of discovering or having reason to suspect medical malpractice, even if the original two-year deadline has passed. However, you cannot file a medical malpractice case more than four years after the date of the medical error.
Product liability cases also have this same four-year statute of repose. This means you must file a defective product lawsuit within four years of the injury or when you discover or should have known the product caused your injury.
However, the statute also bars you from bringing a product liability claim more than 12 years after the product was delivered to its first purchaser. This statute of repose means your claim may be barred even if you are within the statute of limitations.
There are other important exceptions to these statutes of limitations. The statute of limitations can be tolled or suspended by up to seven years if the victim is a minor. It can also be suspended if the defendant cannot be located or leaves the state or while arbitration proceedings are pending.
The Florida statutes of limitations are more complicated than they may seem. For instance, the discovery rule means the statute does not begin until the victim discovers or should have known they were injured. An experienced attorney may argue that a deadline should apply to the date of discovery, not the injury itself.
It’s a good idea to consult with a Florida personal injury lawyer to discuss the statute of limitations that will apply in your case.
Sovereign Immunity – Florida Statutes Protecting Government Entities from Legal Claims
Sovereign immunity law protects government entities from most types of lawsuits unless the government gives permission and allows lawsuits. Specific tort or negligence actions have a waiver of sovereign immunity in Florida.
Under this statute, you can bring a tort claim against the Florida state government if a state employee’s actions cause personal injury, property loss, or wrongful death. There are still limitations.
You are limited to recovering just $200,000 against a single government agency or $300,000 against multiple agencies. State employees cannot be held personally responsible for the damages unless they infringed upon your human rights, acted in bad faith, or acted with malice or intent. You are also barred from recovering punitive damages or prejudgment interest in these cases.
Comparative Negligence – How Liability Is Assigned When Fault Is Shared
If you contributed to your accident or failed to mitigate your damages afterward, the pure comparative negligence statute in Florida can limit the amount you can recover.
This rule allows the court to reduce your recovery according to your share of assigned fault. If you suffer $50,000 in damages but you are found 20% to blame, your recovery will be reduced by 20% ($10,000) to $40,000.
No-Fault Insurance Laws in Florida
Florida is a no-fault insurance state.
Motorists are required to carry minimum auto insurance coverage:
- $10,000 for property damage liability (PDL)
- $10,000 for personal injury protection (PIP)
In no-fault insurance states, each driver must file a claim against their own insurance policy no matter who was at fault for the crash. Your own insurance company will be responsible for paying for lost wages, medical bills, and death benefits under your PIP coverage.
However, PIP coverage only covers 80% of your necessary medical bills and 60% of your lost wages up to $10,000. This means you cannot recover compensation for pain and suffering and other losses.
You can step outside this no-fault system and file an injury lawsuit or liability claim against the at-fault driver if you meet the “serious injury” threshold and suffer certain types of injuries.
To do so, you must have suffered at least one of the following:
- Substantially total disability for 90+ days,
- Significant limitation of the use of a bodily function or system,
- Permanent limitation of a body part or organ,
- A fracture, or
- Significant disfigurement.
Because Florida uses a no-fault system, motorists are only required to purchase PIP coverage that pays for their own medical bills and lost earnings. Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) coverage is optional but covers damages when an injured person suffers a “serious injury” and files a third-party claim or lawsuit.
Florida Law Affects Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases
Finally, Florida law defines the types of damages you may recover in a personal injury case.
There are two types of damages available:
- Economic damages or “special” damages
- Non-economic damages or “general” damages
Economic damages compensate you for damages with a concrete financial value like medical bills and property damage. Non-economic damages are abstract, subjective, and personal. This may include emotional distress, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and mental anguish.
Aside from the cap on damages in claims against the government, Florida has only one other damage cap in injury cases. Punitive damages are limited to 3x your compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater. In a medical malpractice case, punitive damages have a different cap. You may recover up to $500,000 against a medical provider or up to $750,000 if the defendant is not a medical practitioner, such as a hospital.
Punitive damages may be awarded if the court determines the defendant’s actions or lack of action was intentional or gross negligence. These damages are rarely awarded, and they require proving gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
Call Our Miami Personal Injury Experts For Help
Given the complexity of Florida personal injury law, it’s in your best interests to work with an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer at Shaked Law Firm to understand and navigate the statutes that affect your case. Contact our Miami personal injury law office online or call (305) 937-0191 today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and how we can help you.