Sustaining a personal injury can be devastating for Florida residents and their families. Whether the accident occurred on the road, at work, or under the watchful eye of a healthcare professional, any injury can take a catastrophic toll on those involved. Depending on the nature of the incident, personal injuries can take months or even years to fully recover from causing a great hardship for those involved. In addition to physical injuries, personal injury cases often involve psychological and emotional trauma, financial difficulties, and in some cases, the victims suffer permanent disability, disfigurement, or death.
There are many situations that can result in a personal injury case including car accidents, medical malpractice, motorcycle and scooter accidents, product defects, dog bite injuries, and dangerous property accidents. While some accidents are the direct or indirect result of the individual who sustained the injury, many other accidents are caused by the negligence of someone else. In these cases, the physical, psychological, and financial difficulties experienced may be exacerbated.
Fortunately, Florida law has established guidelines for personal injury cases when injuries are caused by the negligence of someone else. Further, Florida law provides residents with the option of seeking compensation for their injuries, financial losses, and psychological trauma. For the family of an individual who has died due to the negligence of someone else, Florida law also offers the aid of the Florida Wrongful Death Act, providing loved ones with the ability to seek compensation for their loss after a tragic, often preventable death.
It is important to note that personal injury and wrongful death claims are separate from any criminal action taken against the person who caused the accident. In some cases, criminal charges may help prove that an individual was negligent, depending on the nature of the accident and charges. It is also important to note that in many cases, criminal charges will not be brought against the person who caused personal injury to someone else or who wrongfully caused someone’s death. One example of this would be a case that involves murder, which requires intent. There are exceptions where wrongful death claims may be filed against an individual when someone was intentionally killed, though the legal complexities are far greater if the case is applicable at all.
The primary purpose of personal injury and wrongful death claims is to protect Florida residents from negligent wrongdoing.
- Car Accidents - Automobile accidents are one of the most common situations where personal injury lawsuits arise. Two of the most important factors involved are the number of cars on the road and the many dangers that come with driving on Florida’s busy roadways. Common elements contributing to personal injury accidents on Florida roadways include distracted driving, driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, drowsy driving, speeding, and aggressive driving. There are many factors that can contribute to negligence behind the wheel, and unfortunately, individuals who are negligent behind the wheel risk not only their lives, but the lives of all those around them. In many cases, they also choose to break the law, which negligently endangers the lives of those around them in many cases.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released specific statistics for the type of vehicles involved in injurious and fatal accidents across the nation, including more than 12,000 fatalities in accidents involving passenger cars and more than 9,000 fatalities involved in accidents involving light trucks. Additionally, more than 1.3 million people were injured in passenger car accidents, with another 762,000 people injured in light trucks or as passengers.
- Motorcycle and Scooter Accidents - Motorcycle and scooter accidents are often more injurious than other automobile accidents because people riding exposed two-wheeled vehicles are at risk from dangers that other drivers are not exposed to. Other factors increasing the likelihood of injury include the fact that many larger vehicles cannot see motorcycles or scooters on the roadway. Poor weather conditions, speeding, impairment, or reckless driving can all result in injurious accidents. Further, inexperience operating a motorcycle or scooter can also result in accidents, which can injure the operator, passenger, or individuals in surrounding cars or near the roadway. The nature of the injuries sustained in motorcycle and scooter accidents, regardless of who is at fault, are often catastrophic and permanently disabling.
- The NHTSA has also released national data regarding the instance of injury and death among two-wheeled vehicles. In 2012, more than 4,900 people were killed in motorcycle accidents, while more than 93,000 were injured. Pedal cyclist injuries topped 49,000, while pedal cyclist fatalities reached greater than 700. In Florida alone, motorcycle accidents increased by more than nine percent in 2012.
- Medical Malpractice - Healthcare professionals are required to provide excellent care within the standards established by federal guidelines. Healthcare professionals include physicians, nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, pharmacists, nursing home workers, and others who may be involved in caring for individuals. Medical malpractice is one of the most unfortunate, but very real, aspects of the legal system. Some of the common forms of medical malpractice include failure to diagnose, surgical errors, anesthesia errors, prescription medication errors, fetal or maternal birth-related injuries, brain injuries, nursing errors, or nursing home negligence.
- It is estimated that as many as 200,000 people die every year in the United States due to preventable medical errors or negligence. Thousands of additional patients sustain injuries or contract illnesses due to improper medical care. Medical negligence can be expensive to the victim and his or her family as additional medical care and treatment may be required. Additionally, far too many medical errors result in death leaving the medical expenses, funeral costs, and loss of financial support as a burden for the surviving family members. Medical malpractice is also an area of law that many Florida residents will not understand on their own as it is very complex and often involves handling insurance company communications, expert witnesses, and in-depth investigations into the claim.
- Wrongful Death - Wrongful death is an area of law governed by the Florida Wrongful Death Act. This statute was enacted to help the loved ones of anyone killed due to the negligence of another person seek compensation for their loss. Wrongful death lawsuits, or claims, can be brought against any person believed to have negligently caused an accident resulting in death. Common examples of such accidents include fatal automobile accidents, workplace fatalities, fatalities caused by defective products, medical malpractice, fatal animal attacks, and dangerous property.
- When a wrongful death claim is filed, it is the burden of the plaintiff (the person filing the claim) to prove that the defendant (the person who the claim is brought against, also known as the wrongdoer) was negligent and contributed to or caused the fatal injury. The plaintiff must also prove that the defendant had a duty of care that was breached causing death. Plaintiffs may include the spouse, children, or immediate relatives of the deceased, or may be anyone who received primary support from the individual.
Examples of types of defendants include:
- Individuals who were impaired and caused an accident resulting in the death of another person
- Doctors who failed to provide adequate care that resulted in a fatal injury or illness
- The owner of a dog who attacked a child resulting in death
- The owner of a business who failed to comply with building codes causing a collapse of the structure leading to death.
- Individuals who caused an accident, or who were present at an accident scene who refused to lend aid to a victim in distress. Examples of this include hit and run drivers or drivers of involved vehicles who refused to lend aid.
Many other circumstances may result in a wrongful death claim. It is crucial for anyone in Florida considering filing such a claim to be diligent in investigating the legal process for doing so, and getting the help of an experienced attorney. Wrongful death claims have very specific legal guidelines that restrict the time when a case can be filed. If these guidelines are not followed, this may result in the case being barred from continuing through the legal system.
What Compensation can be awarded through personal Injury and wrongful death claims?
As provided in further detail below, personal injury and wrongful death claims, if successfully litigated, can provide much needed financial compensation to help with the expenses that often follow a tragic accident. Additionally, compensation from personal injury or wrongful death claims can help ease the mind of the victim and their family by providing them with financial stability after an accident or tragic loss. While no amount of financial compensation will remove the hurt and grief of a tragic injury or loss of a loved one, it can help Florida residents put the pieces of their lives back together so that they can move forward. Remaining financially secure after a tragic injury or death can dramatically help ease the stress of looking to the future rather than being crippled by the past.
Personal Injury - Personal injury cases may involve injuries ranging from minor to severe, or may even involve catastrophic injuries that leave the victim permanently disabled. Florida’s personal injury laws allow the victim to seek damages in a personal injury lawsuit for expenses such as:
- Lost wages or other income
- Medical treatment and expenses
- Permanent disability compensation
- Pain and suffering
- Psychological or emotional damages
- Loss of social and familial relationships
Because there are many aspects of personal injury cases, the type of compensation awarded may vary according to the individual case. When seeking compensation in a personal injury accident, it is important to understand how the process of proving damages and determining compensation is handled.
Wrongful Death - Similar to personal injury compensation, the compensation provided to individuals or families in wrongful death cases can vary depending on the individual case. Common damages awarded in wrongful death cases include:
- Medical expenses related to the accident
- Pain and suffering for the period between accident and death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of income or financial support including expected income, inheritance, or benefits
- Loss of companionship, nurturing, and affection of the individual
- Loss of valued services of the individual
There are additional forms of compensation that may be available depending on the individual case and specific guidelines provided by Florida law. Every case is different and will require a different approach to determining the type of compensation that can be sought.
What Florida Residents Can Do
Florida residents who have become ill or injured due to a personal injury incident should act quickly to make sure that their rights are upheld. Additionally, the family of someone killed due to the negligence of someone else should also be swift to take action. Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits have time limits set by the applicable statute of limitations, specific procedures, and limits as to what claims can be brought.
The complexities of this area of the law can be overwhelming, especially for victims and their families who are grieving, healing, and trying to move forward. Fortunately, no Florida resident has to go through this difficult process alone. With the guidance of an experienced Florida personal injury attorney who is knowledgeable in all areas of personal injury and wrongful death laws, Florida residents can rest easy knowing that their case is in good hands.
It is not enough to file a claim or settle with an insurance company. Often, insurance companies only have their own best interests in mind, or the interests of the corporations that they represent. In addition to the criminal process for individuals who break the law, Florida residents have the right to seek accountability and compensation from someone who has negligently caused an injury or death. Managing personal injury or wrongful death matters can be extremely taxing and complicated, but you do not have to go it alone. Get the help you need to find successful resolution without the heartache of a difficult legal battle.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a personal injury accident, or you have lost a loved one due to a fatal accident, don’t wait to get the help you need. Contact our Gainesville Personal Injury Attorney today. Call our office to set up a free consultation of your case. We work diligently to find successful resolution to the most complex cases, and will work hard to get you the help you need.