Personal injury cases are usually settled through negotiations between the injured party and the at-fault party’s insurance company. However, if you cannot settle the insurance claim, your St. Petersburg personal injury lawyer may file a personal injury lawsuit. If so, we refer to the parties in the lawsuit as the plaintiff and the defendant.
Who Is the Defendant in a Florida Personal Injury Lawsuit?
The defendant is the at-fault party in a personal injury lawsuit. It is the party who allegedly caused the accident or incident that resulted in harm to the injured party. Many accidents and incidents can give rise to a personal injury lawsuit, including, but not limited to:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Dog bites
- Construction accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse
- Slip and fall accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Premises liability
- Truck accidents
- Product liability
- Wrongful death
Even though the at-fault party is the defendant, the insurance company is involved in the personal injury lawsuit. Typically, the insurance company hires an attorney to represent the defendant in the lawsuit.
What Does a Plaintiff Need To Prove To Win a Personal Injury Lawsuit in St. Petersburg, FL?
The injured party is the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit. You have the burden of proving the legal elements to create liability for damages.
Most personal injury cases are based on negligence. The elements of a negligence claim are:
- The defendant had a duty of care to take reasonable steps to avoid causing injury or harm
- The defendant breached the duty of care through their actions or omissions
- The breach of duty by the defendant was the proximate and direct cause of your injuries
- You incurred damages because of the breach of duty
You must link the defendant’s conduct directly to the cause of your injuries. Without causation, you cannot hold the party liable for damages. Therefore, even if you prove that the party was negligent, you do not have a case without causation.
The burden of proof in a civil lawsuit is by a preponderance of the evidence. You must convince the jury that there is a greater chance the defendant caused your injury than not. The burden of proof applies to each of the legal elements of a negligence claim.
The preponderance of the evidence applies to compensatory damages, including economic and non-economic damages. If the circumstances support punitive damages, you would need to prove that portion of the case by clear and convincing evidence, which is a higher standard of proof.
Does the Defendant Need To Prove Anything in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Even though the plaintiff has the burden of proving their case, the defendant can present evidence refuting the plaintiff’s allegations. For example, the defendant can call eyewitnesses, present evidence, and use expert witnesses during the trial. In addition, they can testify regarding what they allege to be the facts of the case.
The defendant can raise several affirmative defenses in a personal injury case. The defendant has the burden of proving the elements required for each defense.
Allegations of Comparative Fault
A common defense in personal injury cases is comparative fault. The defense alleges that the plaintiff has some fault for causing their injuries. Under Florida’s modified comparative fault laws, the plaintiff’s compensation would be reduced by their percentage of blame.
If the defense proves the plaintiff is more than 51% at fault, the plaintiff is barred from receiving any money for their claim.
Failing To Mitigate Damages
Another affirmative defense is failure to mitigate damages. Injured parties have a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent their damages from worsening. If the defendant proves you failed to mitigate damages, you may not receive compensation for any damages you could have avoided.
For instance, the defense may claim that your injuries worsened because you did not stay out of work for the time your doctor prescribed. As a result, you had to have surgery. If the defendant proves the surgery would not have been necessary had you stayed out of work, the jury might find you are not entitled to damages related to the surgery.
Missing the Statute of Limitations
The defense could claim that you missed the statute of limitations. Florida’s statute of limitations sets deadlines for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Florida recently changed the statute of limitations in many personal injury cases from four years to two years. The change applies to injuries or accidents occurring on or after March 24, 2023. In some cases, the statute of limitations could be shorter or longer.
If you miss the deadline, the judge may dismiss your case. Therefore, it is in your best interest to talk with our St. Petersburg personal injury attorneys as soon as possible after an injury.
Contact Our St. Petersburg Personal Injury Lawyers for a Free Consultation
We help you get the compensation you deserve after a party causes you injury or harm. Contact our law firm at (727) 933-0015 to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced St. Petersburg personal injury attorney at Lopez Law Group Accident Injury Attorneys.