What Determines Liability in Personal Injury Law?
What is liability? What determines if a person becomes liable for their actions? When a person sustains injuries as a result of another’s negligence, the person who causes those injuries is liable. Only a Personal Injury lawyer with Board Certification can advise clients on what actions to take when their pain and suffering is a result of another’s actions.
What is the Florida 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 sustaining injuries in an accident. After sustaining injuries in an accident, it’s necessary to act as quickly as possible to retain a lawyer.
In Exploring the Statute of Limitations in the State of Florida, we 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. Thus, which one applies to a specific case becomes clear after details of the accident come to light during Discovery.
The four types of liability we’ll cover in this article are as follows:
- Premises liability
- Social host liability
- Trucking carrier liability
- Hit-and-run liability
1. Premises liability
Imagine a slip and fall accident at one of Florida’s busy shopping malls ending in painful injuries that require surgery! Under such circumstances, liability lies in the business failing to implement safety measures. For example, if a patron slips and falls because the ‘Wet Floor’ sign is not visible, the mall becomes liable for their injuries. An example of these injuries would be a disk herniation or knee injury that occurs while shopping during business hours.
However, workplace accidents could bring litigation as well, if while performing assigned tasks, an employee sustains injuries on the job.
Homeowners vs. business liability
Homeowners can certainly be liable for injuries occurring 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 while guests are visiting a home fall under social host liability. We will further discuss social host liability in the next section of this article.
2. Social Host liability
A few states have laws holding those hosting a private party liable for injuries that occur on their property. This law usually applies to social hosts who allow minors to drink while under their roof. However, it applies if they allow an adult to drive after consuming alcohol on their property. Furthermore, a host can make themselves responsible for any injuries a drunk minor causes while under the influence.
Most social host specific laws are more often in place to reduce the rate of drunk-driving accidents, injuries, and deaths resulting from minors who are not of-age to drink. 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”).”
Truck drivers must uphold a specific set of regulations:
- 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 reckless hit-and-runs are much more serious than standard traffic accident laws are suggesting. A lawyer with experience in hit-and-run accidents is necessary to litigate these types of cases. This is especially true if a wrongful death occurs 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 hit-and-run accidents is being able to obtain “punitive damages” on behalf of a client.
Damages are available to victims in cases where the negligent party is responsible for pain and suffering that directly results from their actions. If a driver acts in a careless manner, such as leaving the scene of an accident (hit and run), they may be liable.
How does a judge determine damages?
Medical expenses for injuries resulting from negligence are expensive. Accidents such as hit-and-runs result in life threatening, long term injury. In these cases, the determination of damages can occur in two different ways:
- In proportion with the defendant’s lack of moral conduct.
- By how much does it take, financially, to punish the defendant for their lack of morality in committing the act? This calculation is usually the most important during civil trial. If the defendant shows little to no remorse, the judge may impose more damages than if the defendant is crying, upset, and feels remorse for the victim’s pain and suffering.
Experience, empathy, and ethics
A winning combination of experience, ethical conduct, and empathy is what sets lawyers with Board Certification above the rest. These lawyers can see cases of negligence and recklessness through all the way to verdict when necessary.