If you’ve been injured in Fort Walton, Destin, or the surrounding Northwest Florida area, state laws are probably the last thing on your mind. But, many Florida statutes could significantly affect your personal injury claims.
Florida state statutes are simply laws that have been written and approved by the Florida legislature and the governor.
Florida statutes cover everything from whether you can file a lawsuit at all to how much money you might be eligible to recover.
It’s best to consult a Florida personal injury lawyer for legal advice after your accident. They are trained in personal injury law and regularly handle all types of accident claims.
Statutes of Limitation
These laws are incredibly important because they set deadlines for filing civil actions. If you miss the deadline, you’ll forfeit your right to recover any compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.
Some of the most commonly used laws affect:
Personal Injury Cases
For most personal injury cases in Florida, you must file your action within two years of an injury caused by someone else’s negligence. Under some circumstances, your case might fall into another category with different deadlines.
If you were harmed due to medical malpractice, in most cases, you’ll have to file your lawsuit within two years of the event that caused you harm. Sometimes, medical mistakes aren’t visible to you right away. If the harm isn’t immediately apparent to you, you’ll have two years from when you discovered the harm.
If fraud or other misconduct prevented you from discovering the harm, then you could have up to seven years to file your lawsuit.
If you were hurt in a workplace accident, you’ll likely have to comply with a different set of requirements to request workers’ compensation benefits. You’ll have to report your accident to your employer within 30 days.
If a third party (not your employer) was responsible for your accident, you could be eligible to seek additional compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.
If you lost a loved one due to someone’s negligence, you’ll have just two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Many accidents are complex and may involve statutes of limitation from more than one category. It’s important to talk to a lawyer so that you don’t miss critical deadlines.
Shared Liability – Comparative Fault Statute
In Florida, if you are found to be partially at fault for an accident that caused your injuries, Florida’s modified comparative fault statute will limit the amount of compensation you can receive.
This law divides the cost of injuries between negligent parties. So, if your own negligence contributed to your accident, then you can’t be compensated for the percentage of the accident that was your fault. If you were mostly responsible, you won’t be able to recover any money.
If you’re awarded $100,000 in damages, but you were 20% at fault, you’ll still recover $80,000.
The insurance company will try to pin the blame on you. This is almost guaranteed. The percentage of comparative fault, however, is subjective. It varies with every case. You’ll want an aggressive Florida personal injury lawyer to handle your case. Preferably one who understands the insurance defense side of cases.
Coverage Under Florida’s No-Fault Insurance Laws
Florida is a “no-fault” state when it comes to automobile accidents. Florida law requires drivers to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. PIP covers certain expenses regardless of who caused the accident. You’ll file a claim with your own insurance company as the first step after an accident.
Those same laws limit an injured person’s right to sue an at-fault driver for damages. You can only file a personal injury lawsuit if your injuries meet certain criteria.
- 80% of medical expenses deemed reasonable and medically necessary
- Up to $10,000 for injuries
- Up to $5,000 in death benefits
- Medical services provided within 14 days of the accident
PIP can be helpful by providing immediate access to funds to pay for some medical bills, especially if you are at fault.
But the cost of medical treatment that Injured victims need often exceeds their PIP limits. And PIP doesn’t cover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Suing for Damages Under Florida’s No-Fault Laws
If another driver caused the accident, the injured party might be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover additional compensation for damages not covered by PIP.
A lawsuit can be filed against the at-fault party if the victim suffered any of the following:
- Permanent injury, determined as reasonably probable by a medical professional
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
- Wrongful death
PIP adds a level of complexity to any motor vehicle accident in the state of Florida. Regardless of the level of severity of your injuries, it’s best to seek legal advice after a crash to have the best chance of getting all of your expenses covered.
Statutes Affecting Medical Malpractice Cases
In addition to the statute of limitations, lawsuits to recover compensation for injuries caused by medical malpractice must meet specific requirements under Florida law.
In fact, Florida has an extensive set of laws dedicated to medical malpractice lawsuits. Which sections of the law will apply to your case will depend on the specific facts of your case.
Some of the most notable statutes that affect med mal cases are:
- You must conduct a pre-suit investigation.
- You must give notice of intent to sue to any medical professional or entity you plan to name as a defendant.
- The defendant(s) have 90 days to respond to the notice—by rejecting it, making a settlement offer, or making an offer to arbitrate the dispute.
- You must provide a copy of the complaint to the Florida Department of Health (and possibly to the Agency for Health Care Administration).
There may be many other statutes that apply to your case. While medical malpractice cases are a subset of personal injury cases, these cases are often extremely complicated. You’ll want to be sure that you choose a Florida personal injury attorney with experience litigating complex medical negligence cases.
Lawsuits Against Government Entities
You might be involved in a bus accident or slip and fall accident that involves a government agency. The government can’t be sued without its consent. This is a concept called sovereign immunity, and it applies to federal and state government entities.
Florida has a statute under which it waives sovereign immunity for tort matters. So if a government actor caused your injury, you can likely sue for damages. These are complicated cases, so you’ll want to hire a reputable Florida personal injury attorney who has handled similar cases.
Limited Amount Available from Government in Most Cases
Damages in cases involving the government are limited to $200,000 to be paid to any one person, or $300,000 for damages arising out of the same incident.
Punitive damages and interest aren’t allowed in actions against government entities.
It’s possible to get a jury verdict that exceeds the statutory limits. But in order to collect anything above the amount allowed by statute, you’ll have to submit it to the state legislature. It’s up to their discretion whether to allow the excess amount, even if they have the insurance to cover it.
Exception on Cap for Liability for Damages in Riots
A controversial addition to the law was enacted in 2021. It says that municipalities have a duty to allow their police departments to protect people and property during a riot. And that if a municipality breaches that duty, it can be held liable for damages for personal injury, property damage, and wrongful death as a result of the breach.
The damage caps that apply in other tort actions against government entities do not apply to this new section of the law.
The fate of this new section of the law is uncertain—nine cities have sued the governor throughout the state over the law, which also includes many other provisions relating to law enforcement during riots.
Our Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help
Many more statutes could affect your case, depending on the circumstances of your accident. If you’ve been hurt in an accident in Florida, the experienced personal injury lawyers at Brannon & Brannon can help you understand all of your legal options. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case.