A negligence claim is the most common form of personal injury case. Cases involving motor vehicle accidents, slips and falls, and medical malpractice all fall under negligence law.
In a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff is the injured party, and the defendant is the party accused of causing the plaintiff’s injury through negligence. The plaintiff must prove the elements of negligence to win their case and recover damages for their injuries.
The four elements of a negligence case are: duty, breach, causation, and damages.
Duty of Care
An injury victim must prove the defendant owed them a duty of care. Generally, duties are created by law, custom, or through special relationships.
For example, a doctor-patient relationship creates a duty of care for the doctor to provide a specific standard of care. Property owners owe a duty of care to visitors to maintain safe premises. Motorists have a duty of care to follow traffic laws to prevent accidents.
These duties are ones of reasonable care, meaning a party must act reasonably to avoid harming another party.
Breach of Duty of Care
The injury victim must next show that the defendant breached their duty to the victim. A jury determines a breach of duty by examining what a reasonable person of ordinary prudence would have done in the defendant’s situation. A jury will find the defendant breached their duty of care if their conduct fell short of what a reasonable personal would have done under similar circumstances.
For a party to be liable for damages, the defendant’s conduct must have been a direct and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. In other words, the injury victim must prove they would not have sustained injuries had it not been for the defendant’s acts or omissions.
Being in danger or at risk of injury is not sufficient. There must be evidence linking the act directly to the victim’s injury. Moreover, the victim’s injuries or damages must have been foreseeable relative to the defendant’s actions.
The final element of a negligence claim is damages. The plaintiff must prove that they sustained damages because of the breach of duty. Damages may include economic losses and non-economic damages.
They can take the form of:
- Pain and suffering caused by the injuries
- Medical bills and expenses for treatment
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life and quality of life
- Lost wages, benefits, and other income
- Reductions in future earning potential
Documenting your damages is essential for recovering maximum compensation for your injuries and damages. Prompt medical attention is also important. Your medical records help prove that you were injured and link your injury to the accident.
Effects of Florida’s Comparative Negligence Standard
Florida uses a pure comparative negligence standard for cases involving multiple at-fault parties. The rule divides blame between all parties who are responsible for a person’s accident or injury, including the injury victim. Under these rules, an injured party could be primarily responsible for their injury and still recover some compensation from the other at-fault party.
Let’s assume that you are being blamed for an accident. The jury hears the evidence and decides that you were 40 percent at fault for the accident. So instead of receiving the full value of your damages, your compensation is reduced by 40 percent.
Insurance companies use comparative negligence to reduce the value of injury claims. For that reason, it is best to consult a personal injury lawyer before talking to an insurance adjuster or making an official statement. The insurance company could intentionally misinterpret the statements you make to argue comparative fault.
What is Gross Negligence?
Gross negligence is a standard used to determine if punitive damages should be awarded in a personal injury case. Non-economic and economic damages compensate the plaintiff for losses. However, punitive damages are not compensatory, even though they are paid to the plaintiff.
Punitive damages punish the defendant for specific conduct. For the jury to award punitive damages, the jurors must find that the plaintiff proved by “clear and convincing” evidence that the defendant is guilty of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
Gross negligence is defined as conduct that demonstrates a conscious indifference or disregard for the safety of another person. In other words, the defendant knew their conduct could injure another person, but chose to proceed regardless of the outcome.
Punitive damages are capped in Florida personal injury cases. The maximum amount of punitive damages is $500,000 or three times the amount of compensatory damages.
However, there are some exceptions to the punitive damages cap. Cases involving intentional acts intended to harm someone, child abuse, intoxication, elder abuse, and abuse of a disabled person may not be subject to the cap.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Miami Personal Injury Lawyers
Whether you were injured in a car wreck, slip & fall, or other accident, you deserve fair compensation for your personal injury claim. Our Miami accident attorneys at Lavent Law, P.A., diligently fight to get you the most money for your injury claim. Contact our law firm to discuss your negligence case with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.