The first thing most people usually think about if they’ve been injured in an accident is how much treatment are they going to need to get better. After that, a person might begin to consider how much is going to cost to get the treatment and who is going to pay for it. Some people believe that simply having slipped on a foreign substance in a store or being hit by someone in a car accident entitles them to the right to reclaim money damages from the other party. Unfortunately for accident victims, the truth is more nuanced than that.
Before you can claim a right to money damages, you have to show that the other person had a duty to protect you from the harm that caused your accident. If you and another person are driving on public roads, this is typically easy to establish because all drivers owe a duty to their fellow drivers to drive in safe manner. If you are in a slip/trip and fall accident, you would have to establish that the owner of the place where you fell owed you a duty to keep you safe from harm. If you are shopping in a store that is open to the public, then you are what’s known as an “invitee”. An invitee is either someone who enters a property or land with permission to give an economic benefit to the owner of the property or land (buy goods and/or services), or someone who is somewhere where the general public is allowed. If you can show that you fit into either of these definitions then you will have a good chance of showing that the owner owed you a duty.
After you’ve established that piece of the puzzle, you will have to show that the person who owed you the duty somehow breached that duty. In the car accident example, you would have to show that the other driver did something wrong in causing the accident. If the other driver hit you from behind or ran a red light, for example, this can be easy to show. However, if the accident is a side swipe accident or occurred when you and the other driver where switching lanes into each other, then this point can be more difficult to prove and can be used to reduce the percentage of the other driver’s liability. Since Florida is a comparative negligence state, this means that it can be used to reduce the amount of money the at-fault driver is responsible for.
In a slip/trip and fall context, this is can be trickier. This is especially true in Florida since 2013 when the law was changed. Florida Statutes 768.0755 now requires that the injured person show that the owner of the property or location where they slipped/tripped and fell had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition that caused the fall. Video evidence or eye-witness testimony of how long the dangerous was on the floor prior to your fall. If there are no witnesses or surveillance video, this can make this part of your case more difficult so you should be sure to take as many photos of the scene as possible. It’s also a good idea to keep track of what your other senses tell you about the incident. If you slipped on a liquid, how did it look? What did it smell like? Could you tell where it was coming from? All of these details will help you and your lawyer establish whether the place of your fault can be found liable.
As mentioned above, Florida is a comparative negligence state. That means that even if someone is more responsible for the accident that caused your injuries, they would be able to reduce the damages owed by the percentage of fault you had in causing the accident. Apportioning the fault is something that is typically left up to a jury, but will be an important aspect of what you may be entitled to. This is another reason to make sure to keep an eye out for anything that might reduce the
All of these considerations, though, won’t mean much if the at fault party is uninsured or is “judgment proof”. Florida only requires automobile owners have personal injury protection and property damage liability in the amount of $10,000.00. Because of this, not every one who causes an accident will have the coverage to pay you for your injuries. Likewise, Florida law does not require that businesses carry liability insurance. Thus, if the at-fault party doesn’t have insurance, that usually makes them judgment proof because they will likely wont have sufficient assets or goods to seize even if you were able to win a lawsuit against them.
If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, contact The Guzman Firm, PLLC to make sure that your case is handled with the care it deserves.