Legal Definition of Negligence in Florida and Its Role in Personal Injury Claims

negligence role personal injury claim

Negligence is at the heart of far too many accidents and injuries, and it’s a key element that needs to be proven as part of a personal injury claim. An attorney’s ability to prove that negligence occurred—and the degree—will have a significant impact on the compensation that they can obtain for their clients. Here’s more about how negligence is defined in a legal sense, both broadly and more specifically in the state of Florida.

Negligence Definition

Legally, people are expected to use a reasonable degree of care to help prevent harming someone else. If someone doesn’t, then they could be considered negligent. Although that definition seems logical, it also raises this question: how would the word “reasonable” be defined under this circumstance?

Cornell Law School gives this definition: “A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. The behavior usually consists of actions, but can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act (e.g., a duty to help victims of one’s previous conduct).”

Florida Negligence Laws

Each state can have unique perspectives on negligence, codifying them into personal injury laws. There are several sections under Florida Statutes Title XLV Torts that describe the concept of negligence and how it applies for personal injury claims.

Here are a couple of key concepts from them. Florida is a comparative negligence state. So, if an accident occurs and the injured party is partially at fault, then damages paid to them would be proportionately reduced. A court would look at the degree in which the injured party (the “plaintiff”) contributed to what happened and reduce the compensation awarded—but these contributions to the injury don’t prevent the plaintiff from receiving some award.

Plus, under Florida law, if more than one person acts negligently and causes an injury (if there is more than one “tortfeasor”), in general, each of them is liable to pay damages. This can be true even if a judgment has not been specifically entered against each of the tortfeasors.

Even these relatively short definitions related to negligence show how complex personal injury law can become. Factor in the statutes of limitations that put boundaries on the amount of time in which an injured party has to file a claim and the situation can become even more complicated.

Economic Damages

When someone is injured, there are economic impacts. For example, the injured party will have medical expenses after the accident and, sometimes, for a long time afterwards. If the person is unable to work, there can be lost wages, as well as future lost earnings that can be temporary or indefinite. If the person needs to take a job with reduced wages, that can also be taken into account. This type of damage can be easier to quantify, though, than the second type: pain and suffering.

Pain and Suffering

This is a non-economic form of damage, focusing on pain and suffering endured to date because of the accident as well as what’s expected for the future. If someone suffers from depression, post-accident, this can be considered a form of pain and suffering. 

So, how is this concept measured in personal injuries? In Florida, juries can be instructed to consider the following when determining how much pain and suffering is involved:

  • How severe injuries were and how likely they are to continue;
  • How much economic loss occurred;
  • The age of the injured party; and so forth.

Florida does not have a cap on the amount that can be awarded for pain and suffering although a court may follow precedence (what has been awarded in the past for similar situations). 

Proving Negligence

The fact that negligence existed is one thing. Proving it in a court of law is something else entirely, and that’s why an experienced personal injury attorney can be needed to pursue compensation.

The other party’s attorney will often claim that the defendant behaved in a reasonable manner. They may also state that the actions or omissions by the defendant were not what caused the injuries of the plaintiff. In other words, the attorney could challenge the “causation” factor in an attempt to prevent their client from being responsible for damages, either in full or in part.

The injured party’s attorney, meanwhile, will likely use a combination of direct evidence and circumstantial evidence to provide that negligence took place. 

Direct evidence can include a video of the accident, if one exists, or photos of the accident scene, as just two examples, Circumstantial evidence, meanwhile, requires some inferences to be drawn from what’s presented, and having a skilled attorney lay out this evidence and the associated inferences can be crucial in obtaining fair compensation. When very little direct evidence exists, an attorney may use the legal concept of res ipsa loquitur, where the attorney describes how the conclusion should be obvious because “the thing speaks for itself.”

Personal Injury Lawyer: Jacksonville, FL

When you’re looking for a personal injury lawyer in Jacksonville, FL who will aggressively pursue your case to obtain the fair compensation that you deserve, contact our personal injury law firm. Our legal team is highly experienced and we work on a contingency basis. This means that we get paid if, and only if, we obtain compensation for your injuries.

Our accident attorneys have represented victims with a broad range of injury types. To create the best cases for our clients, we built an in-house medical library for our team; have former nurses on staff; and retain top medical doctors to obtain careful analyses and expert testimony.

Although no two cases are the same, our accident attorneys treat everyone in the exact same way: we fight for justice, pursuing the compensation our clients deserve.

For a free consultation about your personal injury situation, please contact us online or call our law office at (904) 251-1111.