Every Florida injury lawsuit is different, and the law is always evolving. That’s why when you ask any lawyer a seemingly straightforward question, you almost always get: “It depends.”
That said, there are some common questions our Fort Myers personal injury lawyers have noticed frequently arise, whether we’re talking about car accidents, nursing home injuries, slip-and-falls or medical malpractice.
If you’re thinking of suing for a personal injury or wrongful death in the Sunshine State, here are five facts to know:
- You may not even have to sue. U.S. government data reveals that only about 5 percent of all personal injury cases go to trial. That means 95 percent are resolved or settled before they ever get to that point. Data on claims settled prior to litigation is harder to come by. But as longtime Florida injury lawyers, we can say with confidence that a significant percentage of claims is settled before any paperwork is filed with the court. That’s not to say you don’t need a lawyer. In fact, having a committed and knowledgeable attorney can often help you obtain a fair settlement much faster than trying to negotiate the terms on your own – especially when you’re recovering from your injuries/losses. Litigation is only necessary when responsible parties stubbornly deny liability or refuse to pay a fair sum for the injured person’s losses. An attorney can help you quickly gather all relevant evidence and present it to insurers in a way that’s comprehensive and compelling. We can also tell you if the settlement offer they’re proposing is fair, fully considering all current and future damages. If it is not, we can then help you navigate the next steps of filing a Florida injury lawsuit.
- Even if you’re partly to blame, you might still have a case. Florida follows a system of pure comparative fault, per F.S. 768.81. In layman’s terms, that basically means that everyone is responsible for their own share of the fault, so you might still have a case even if your actions played a role in your injuries. Lots of other states also follow a system of comparative negligence, but typically have a bar of somewhere between 49 and 51 percent. In those states, they can sue another person for their wrongdoing – even if they were partly responsible – so long as they aren’t 49-51 percent responsible. Florida being a pure comparative negligence state, you can pursue a Florida injury lawsuit against another even if you are 99 percent responsible and they are only 1 percent responsible. That said, you’d only be allowed to collect 1 percent of the damages. Let’s say your total damages are $100,000. If you’re 99 percent liable, you’d only be able to collect $1,000. Not a desirable outcome. But that kind of scenario is extreme/unlikely. The bigger takeaway is that even if you presume you’re partly to blame for what happened, you may still have a case worth pursuing. Although no attorney can give you exact odds or outcomes in any civil injury case, you can often get a fairly accurate assessment of case viability and value from a lawyer with extensive experience in that area of law.
- You likely have between 2 and 4 years to pursue your Florida injury lawsuit. Take this with a grain of salt (and not official legal advice) because certain factors in your case could require you to act sooner. (Again, “It depends.”) There could also be caveats that result in a longer statute of limitations window. For the most part, though, Florida personal injury claims must be filed within four (4) years of the cause of action (when the incident happened). The one major exception is medical malpractice cases, which must be filed within two (2) years. Wrongful death claims must be filed within two (2) years. In cases where the defendant is a government agency, you may need to provide notice of intent to pursue legal action soon after the incident. In any case, it’s best to reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible. In rare instances, the statute of limitations might be extended, namely when injuries connected to the incident didn’t surface immediately. If you think too much time has passed, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney just to be sure, for your own peace of mind if nothing else.
- Evidence is critical to collecting pain and suffering damages. Often one of the most substantial damages awarded in Florida injury lawsuits is for pain and suffering. But these damages are by no means a guarantee. You need lots of evidence to establish it. Once you have clearly proven the defendant(s) liable for your injuries, you need to show how substantially those injuries impacted you – not only physically, but emotionally, personally, professionally, etc. Pain and suffering is an intangible thing, but part of the challenge for injury lawyers is finding how we can compellingly convey the full scope of your losses. How has your day-to-day life changed? How has your future changed? Were your personal relationships affected? The court will be looking at things like the severity and type of injuries, required medical treatments for those conditions, recovery periods (including rehabilitative), etc. Testimony from your doctors, mental health professionals, spouses/close family members and even directly from you can be essential.
- You can sue the government – but it may not be easy. Cases against government entities (schools, hospitals, public safety officials, etc.) are complicated because of something called sovereign immunity. However, sovereign immunity in Florida is waived per F.S. 768.29, but only conditionally. For instance, you can’t file a lawsuit until you’ve given the state 180 days to launch their own internal investigation. Personal injury claims against the government generally can’t be filed after three years from the incident date (or two years in cases of wrongful death or medical malpractice). Furthermore, damage awards against state government agencies is $200,000, unless there are multiple government agencies involved, in which case, it’s $300,000. If a court awards you any more than that, you must get a bill passed in the state legislature to collect payment. If you’re considering pursuing an injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the State of Florida, you should only do so after careful consideration with a highly skilled Florida injury attorney.
If you are injured in Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, Cape Coral, Naples or Key West, contact our injury attorneys at Garvin Injury Law at 800.977.7017 for a free initial consultation.
F.S. 768.81, Florida Comparative Fault
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What Happens if I Skip My Florida Jury Duty? June 24, 2021, Fort Myers Injury Attorney Blog