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What is Liability in Personal Injury Law

What is Liability in Personal Injury Law

What is liability? When a person sustains injuries as a result of someone else’s negligence, the person responsible may be liable. Only a Personal Injury lawyer with Board Certification should advise clients on what actions to take when their injuries are the cause of another.

What is the Statute of Limitations?

When a person sustain injuries due to another’s negligence or recklessness, there may be grounds for litigation. A Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer practicing Personal Injury law can determine the best course of action to compensate the client. Time is of the essence after an accident. There is only a certain amount of time given for litigation after a victim sustains injuries in an accident. This is why when a person sustains injuries as the result of an accident, it’s necessary that they act as quickly as possible to retain legal representation.

In previous articles, specifically Exploring the Statute of Limitations in the State of Floridawe discuss how the Statute of Limitations may begin as soon as the accident occurs. That is, unless there are specific circumstances that allow for reasonable delay. In Exploring the Statute… we establish the proper use of the Discovery of Harm rule:

“[…]The Discovery of Harm rule can be applied successfully in the instance of a medical malpractice claim made due to the actions of a surgeon who left a surgical tool or other medical equipment (gauze, syringe, etc.) inside the patient’s body after performing a surgical procedure. If this was not discovered until months or years later when the victim began to experience unfamiliar pain, swelling and/or sustained a life-threatening infection due to the surgeon’s negligence in leaving a foreign object in the body.”

What are the types of liability?

Lawyers frequently receive this question. There are multiple types of liability, and which one applies to a specific case is clearer after details of the accident are determined during Discovery.

The four types of liability we’ll cover in this article are as follows:

  1. Premises liability
  2. Social host liability
  3. Trucking carrier liability
  4. Hit-and-run liability

1. Premises liability

From a slip-and-fall at one of Florida’s busy shopping malls to a day at one of our beautiful museums or zoos ending under tragic circumstances, the one thing these accidents may have in common is that the business, as well as the property owners can become liable for any injuries sustained on their premises during normal business hours (after hours accidents could bring litigation as well, if employees required to work late sustain injuries while on the job).

For example, if a patron at a mall slips and falls because the ‘Wet Floor’ sign was not visible, the mall becomes liable for the injuries. An example of these injuries would be a disk herniation or knee injury that occurs on their premises.

Homeowners vs. business liability

Homeowners can certainly be held liable for injuries in certain situations. Drowning accidents, negligent security, and underage drinking to name a few, liability ultimately depends upon state laws. When the accident isn’t on public property, different laws apply. The laws that apply to injuries that are sustained by guests visiting a home as opposed to injuries sustained at a place of business are known as social host liability and we will further discuss them in the next section of this article.

2. Liability of social hosts

Quite a few states have enacted set laws that hold a person hosting a private party, that also intends to serve alcohol, liable for alcohol-related injuries sustained as a result; this law namely applies to social hosts who allow minors to drink while under their roof, but can also apply should they allow an adult of-age to drive after consuming alcohol on their property. Not only can the party host be held liable for injuries or fatalities that may occur as a result, but they also make themselves responsible for any injuries or fatalities an intoxicated minor caused while knowingly under the influence.

Most social host specific laws are more often enacted to reduce the rate of drunk-driving accidents, injuries, and deaths sustained by minors who should not have been served alcohol by an adult in the first place. As previously mentioned, there are also some states that extend this liability to party hosts who serve alcohol to those of legal age to consume alcohol as well.

The state of Florida is specific in it’s practice of holding any vendor that serves alcohol to a minor responsible (“liable”). However, as of 2019, this law does not extend to private citizens who choose to serve alcohol to minors under their own roof, or at private gathering they host.

3. Trucking carrier liability

In our extensive FMCSA blog series we discussed the various laws surrounding trucking liability at length, however, it’s important to summarize the liability specific to trucking carriers going into the new year:

“A great deal of truck driving is federally regulated, and drivers must consistently abide by a specific set of rules and standards laid out for them before they can perform their duties. These rules are put in place by the FMCSA (“Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration”).”

There is a specific set of rules for truck drivers:

  • One license in the driver’s home state only.
  • Physical and medical requirements that govern a high standard of health and safety.
  • Ten-hour breaks between shifts  to avoid driver fatigue.
  • Special training outside of standard vehicle knowledge, specific to trucking.

4. Hit-and-run liability

The legal consequences of a hit-and-run are far more nuanced and much more serious than standard traffic accident laws would suggest on paper; a lawyer with experience in hit-and-run accidents and their tragic outcomes is best suited to these types of cases, especially if a wrongful death occurred as a result. It’s best not to trust a lawyer who hasn’t been “in the trenches” with the extent of the injuries seen as a result of a hit-and-run accident. The biggest civil consequence in Personal Injury cases in relation to a hit-and-run accident is being able to obtain “punitive damages” on behalf of a client.

Damages are available to a plaintiff in the case when the negligent party is responsible for the pain and suffering that directly results from their actions. If a driver acts in a careless manner, such as fleeing the scene of an accident, they may be liable.

Calculation of damages

There is a high cost of medical expenses for injuries due to negligence. If the other party commits a hit and run, the ability to obtain punitive damages on behalf of a client are calculated in two different ways:

  1. In proportion with the defendant’s lack of moral conduct.
  2. By how much it would take financially to punish the defendant for their lack of morality in committing the act. This calculation is usually the most important in a civil trial. If the defendant shows little to no remorse or doesn’t have morals, in this instance, the judge may impose the highest amount of damages to be paid.

Experience, empathy, and ethics

A winning combination of experience, ethical conduct, and empathy is found in lawyers with Board Certification. These lawyers can see cases of negligence and recklessness through all the way to verdict when necessary.

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