Florida Negligence Elements & Negligence Law Overview
Most people are familiar with the term personal injury law. However, this is just an umbrella term that covers a wide range of possible legal claims, from products liability to intentional torts like assault.
But most personal injury cases are actually brought under the legal theory known as negligence, which has a long and storied history in American law. Here, we will discuss Florida’s negligence law, its elements, and how they may apply to your situation.
Florida Negligence Laws
Although there are many famous court cases that are a big part of shaping negligence law, the governing law itself is actually found in the Florida Statutes.
More specifically, Florida Statutes Chapter 768 deals exclusively with negligence and all connected issues like damages, special exceptions, etc. But sorting through all the legalese can be overwhelming and confusing. There’s a reason that attorneys have to go to law school, after all. Instead, it’s much easier to break down a claim into its basic elements.
Florida Negligence Elements
In the most general sense, negligence is when someone fails to exercise a degree of reasonable care expected of them to minimize risk of harm to another. This can be broken down into four elements: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damage.
Duty of Care
First, a plaintiff needs to show that the person/entity who injured them owed them a duty of care. This means that they had a legal obligation to do (or not do) something based on the relationship between the parties.
For example, every driver on the road has a duty to others on the road to drive their vehicle safely and according to the law. Someone who owns a business open to the public owes a duty to visitors to keep their store as free of hazards as possible.
Breach of Duty
The second element requires a breach of duty to create a legal cause of action. A driver breaches their duty by driving unsafely or breaking traffic laws. A store owner might breach their duty if they ignore a spill of some sort where customers travel.
The next element seems easy and logical, but there can be some complications. If one driver hits another and causes damage to their vehicle, causation is easy. But when there are multiple people or events that are involved in an accident, things can get confusing.
If someone in a store accidentally knocks an item off a shelf which hits someone else, the cause of the accident is at first glance, not the store owner. But if the store owner placed the item at a height and position that made it a danger for customers to navigate, then the injured customer may claim that the owner’s negligent act legally caused the harm.
Finally, the plaintiff must show that they suffered injuries or losses that can be compensated. Usually, this means financial compensation. While it seems clear that you can’t sue someone when you haven’t suffered damages of some kind, this is still an important step to completing a claim.
Damages must be proven by evidence such as medical bills, proof of lost wages, appraisals for property damage, and more. In addition, less concrete losses like pain and suffering and loss of life enjoyment are also possible losses that a plaintiff may ask for.
Florida negligence laws don’t just define what a claim is, they also define the type and amount of damages a plaintiff can seek.
Florida and Comparative Fault
One additional in a negligence claim is how fault distribution can affect potential damage amounts. Although some accidents can be attributed to one party 100%, this is not the case in many incidents.
As a result, there are different approaches for reducing damages when each party has some fault in an accident. Different states follow different rules, and Florida follows the pure comparative negligence approach.
Pure comparative negligence reduces a plaintiff’s damages by their attributed fault percentage. This means that under Florida law, the amount of your recovery will be reduced by the amount of your fault. For example, say you incur $100,000 in medical costs and other damages. However, the jury also decides that the accident was 40% your fault.
This means that the amount you are awarded will be reduced by 40% and you will receive only $60,000. Some states limit recovery altogether if the plaintiff is more than 49% or 50% at fault, but not Florida. In the pure comparative fault system, you can still seek recovery even if your fault is deemed to be a higher percentage, such as 90%.
Injured By Someone’s Negligence? Call Abrahamson & Uiterwyk Today!
If you suffer injuries or other damages in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you have the right to seek compensation. And while filing any legal claim seems scary, the personal injury team at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk is here to make the process as stress-free as possible.
We know the law and proudly boast 30 years of experience successfully representing clients throughout Florida. We offer potential clients a free case evaluation to assess your claim and advise you on the best legal path for your recovery.
To schedule an appointment with us, call us at 813-223-5295 or contact us on our website.