Almost everyone is potentially subject to civil liability, typically for money damages, if they harm someone else through their misconduct or carelessness. The law demands that people act in a manner that respects the well-being of others. Liability means legal responsibility for the harmful consequences of an action or a failure to act. Florida also recognizes certain forms of liability without fault.
Florida law also imposes liability upon some parties for types of harm that do not amount to personal injury (breach of contract, for example). Here, however, we will only discuss liability for a personal injury.
The Three Main Types of Torts
A tort is an act or failure to act that causes harm for which the law provides a remedy.
The three main types of torts are discussed below.
Negligence is a legal term that means something close to carelessness. Negligence occurs when someone breaches their duty of care to someone else, causing harm.
Following are some examples of negligence that may result in liability:
- A driver fails to stop for a red light and injures you in the resulting car accident.
- You are pregnant, and your doctor prescribes medication that warns against use by pregnant women, causing you to get ill.
- A grocery store fails to shovel snow and ice from its parking lot, causing you to suffer injuries in a slip and fall accident.
Since the list of acts or omissions that might trigger liability is nearly endless, you might need a lawyer to determine whether you have a claim. Negligence is the most commonly asserted basis for a personal injury claim.
Strict Liability Torts
Under strict liability, a defendant can bear liability even if they didn’t commit any misconduct.
Following are some examples of when strict liability may apply:
- Your neighbor’s dog bites you while you are visiting their home. Your neighbor could be liable even if the dog had never before acted aggressively.
- A manufacturer sells a defective product that eventually reaches you, and you suffer an injury from the defect. You don’t have to prove that the manufacturer was at fault to win.
A skilled personal injury lawyer can help you identify the appropriate defendant(s).
Intentional torts are often both crimes and civil wrongs. You can sue someone even if they are undergoing criminal prosecution because civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions are separate proceedings.
Some examples of intentional torts include:
- Someone punches you in the nose in an argument.
- Someone deliberately runs you off the road and into a telephone pole in a “road rage” incident.
It is much easier to hold someone liable for a tort than to convict someone of a crime. You can win a civil lawsuit against someone who commits an intentional tort, even if a criminal court has already acquitted them.
What Types of Injuries Can a Defendant Be Liable For in a Personal Injury Claim?
Different types of injuries may justify imposing liability on a defendant—including bodily injury, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. The consequences of these injuries, including medical expenses, lost earnings, and trauma, can all form a part of your personal injury compensation award.
Pain and Suffering
“Pain and suffering” refers to your physical suffering because of your injury. For example, imagine breaking a rib and suffering pain with every breath you take. Compensation for pain and suffering often amounts to more than half of the total compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.
Emotional distress includes conditions such as PTSD and depression, as long as the doctor can trace them to your physical injury. You can also sue someone for intentional infliction of emotional distress or negligent infliction of emotional distress.
How Does Comparative Fault Affect Liability?
If more than one party is liable for an accident, a Florida court will apportion liability among the parties on a percentage basis. Under Florida’s modified comparative fault system, if a plaintiff is 50% or less at fault, they will lose the percentage of their compensation corresponding to their percentage of fault. A plaintiff will be barred from recovery if their share of fault exceeds 50%.
If an accident was 15% your fault, for example, you could only receive 85% of your compensation.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer to Help You Establish Liability
If you believe that someone else is responsible for a personal injury that you suffered, you need to take prompt action. A skilled personal injury lawyer in St. Petersburg can evaluate your claim and explain your options in a free initial consultation or you can call us at (727) 353-5460. They can also help you gather evidence proving liability so that you recover the full extent of your damages.