Every US state and the District of Columbia applies some form of personal injury law. When one person suffers an injury due to the behavior of another party, the injured party can seek financial compensation for their tangible and intangible losses. Personal injury law is defined by statutory law and courtroom precedent.
The defendant is a “party” instead of a “person” because either an individual or a company can bear personal injury liability.
The Rationale Behind Personal Injury Law
One of the main purposes of personal injury law, and undoubtedly the most obvious purpose, is to force responsible parties to compensate the victims of injuries that they cause.
The second, more profound purpose is to use the deterrence that mandatory compensation generates to prevent accidents from happening in the first place.
Types of Personal Injury Cases
Following is an abbreviated list of some of the most common types of personal injury claims besides car accidents. There are many other types of personal injury claims not listed below.
Special Case: Florida Car Accident Law
Car accident claims are probably the most common personal injury claim. Florida roads see a staggering total of hundreds of thousands of car accidents in the average year.
Florida’s no-fault insurance system
Florida is one of a minority of states that applies a no-fault system to auto accident compensation. Every Florida motorist must purchase $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and $10,000 in property damage liability insurance. In the event of an injury accident, each motorist pays their own bills using their PIP insurance without worrying about who was at fault.
“Serious” injuries and other exceptions
If you suffer a “serious” injury (as Florida law defines that word), among other exceptions, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
In this case, unlike the case with PIP insurance, you can seek non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. Non-economic damages might multiply the value of your claim. Since Florida does not require its drivers to purchase bodily injury liability insurance, however, it can be difficult to locate a viable source of compensation.
A truck accident can easily result in death or catastrophic injury. The silver lining is that truck drivers are very well-insured. The exact amount depends on the weight and nature of the cargo.
Nevertheless, even the least insured trucker is likely to have enough insurance to cover your claim. If you are seeking a basis for liability, be aware that truckers must obey hundreds of different regulations. You can base your claim on a regulatory violation.
If truck accidents are bad, motorcycle accidents are even worse. Motorcycles, lacking the frame protection that cars offer, can turn a rider into a rag doll during an accident.
If you suffer an accident while not wearing a helmet, you might find yourself unable to recover compensation for your head injuries because you “failed to mitigate damages.”
Bicycles lack the frame protection of a motorcycle. Because they are not motor-powered, however, they lack the power to accelerate out of trouble to avoid a traffic accident.
This leaves bicyclists facing the worst of both worlds. If you suffer a bicycle accident, you can rely on your PIP insurance even though you weren’t driving an automobile.
Crossing the street in Florida is more dangerous than it looks. Fortunately, your PIP insurance covers you if you suffer a traffic accident as a pedestrian.
Workers’ Compensation Claims
The Florida workers’ compensation system pays out to the victims of on-the-job injuries. Workers’ compensation will only pay a portion of your economic damages and none of your non-economic damages. Fortunately, however, you don’t have to prove fault to win. You can even win your claim if you were the one at fault in most cases.
Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death claim is appropriate if the victim dies in the accident or passes away some time later due to injuries suffered in the accident. You have two years from the date of the victim’s death (not necessarily the date of the accident) to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Theories of Liability
A “theory of liability” is a legal justification for a claim. In personal injury law, the main theories of liability are negligence, intentional tort, strict liability, and vicarious liability.
Negligence means something like carelessness. A negligence claim consists of five elements:
- Duty of care: The defendant owed the victim a specific duty of care at the time of the accident. The duty to obey traffic laws, for example.
- Breach of duty: The defendant failed to comply with their duty of care. A driver might have run a red light, for example.
- Damages: The victim must have suffered a physical injury. Some “physical” injuries, such as PTSD, have intangible symptoms.
- Cause in fact: The defendant’s breach of duty must have caused the victim’s injuries.
- Proximate cause: The relationship between the defendant’s breach of duty and the victim’s resulting injury must have been direct enough to allow a ‘reasonable person’ to have foreseen the occurrence of the accident.
Negligence is the most commonly used theory of liability.
An Intentional tort is an intentional violation of someone else’s rights. Not all intentional torts involve personal injury (conversion, for example, is an offense against property).
Intentional torts that are relevant to personal injury include assault, battery, and false imprisonment. These “torts” are also criminal offenses.
“Strict liability” means liability without fault. You don’t have to prove fault, for example, to win a claim against someone based on an injury caused by a defective product. In Florida, a dog owner is strictly liable for any injuries that their dog causes.
In vicarious liability, one party bears liability for the wrongful conduct of another party. The most common example of vicarious liability is employer liability for the wrongful acts of an employee. This liability only applies when the employee acts within the scope of their employment.
Personal injury law offers victims three possible types of damages:
- Economic damages: medical bills, lost earnings, and other financial losses.
- Non-economic damages: Compensation for intangible losses such as pain and suffering or diminished enjoyment of life.
- Punitive damages: An extra amount that courts only occasionally award. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for particular unacceptable conduct. Florida limits punitive damages to three times the amount of the compensatory damages award or $500,000, whichever is greater.
Personal injury claims can sometimes be in the millions of dollars.
There Is No Substitute for the Assistance of an Experienced Orlando Personal Injury Lawyer
It is true that some types of accidents, such as non-injury fender-benders, don’t require the intervention of a lawyer most of the time. Most accident victims, however, can benefit from the assistance of an Orlando personal injury attorney.
Even if you can win without a lawyer, how much can you win? An experienced personal injury lawyer can calculate the true value of your claim and make sure you receive every dime of it. Contact one of our lawyers at Payer Personal Injury Lawyers. For a free consultation, you can call us today at (407) 648-1510.