Collier County personal injuries run the gamut – from slip-and-falls at local restaurants and stores to car and motorcycle accidents on busy intersections and parking lots, to injuries reported at schools and nursing homes. Given Collier’s reputation as a tourist destination, we also tend to see more incidents involving things like golf cart accidents, swimming pool accidents and boating accidents.
These accidents have serious and lasting impact on one’s life. Collier County personal injury lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, can explain that while unfortunately not every devastating accident is cause for a claim, a substantial number are.
The Florida Department of Health reports injuries are the No. 1 cause of death for residents of all ages in Collier County. In a recent 10-year stretch, the top causes of injury deaths (which can vary by age) are:
- Motor vehicle accidents;
- Unintentional poisonings;
Infant mortality rate in Collier County has fallen in recent years to 4.6 deaths for every 1,000 live births (lower than the national rate of 5.8 per 1,000 live births). Some of these, as well as maternal deaths, we know are attributed to medical negligence.Proving Negligence in Collier County Injury Claims
Most of the time, the first question we must answer is: Was someone else negligent? General provisions of negligence law are found in Chapter 768 of Florida Statutes. There is a great deal of nuance and many exceptions, but generally what we need to know is:
- Did the other person owe you a duty to exercise reasonable care?
- Did the other person breach that duty by failing to do so?
- Were you hurt due to that breach of duty?
- Did you suffer financial damages due to your injuries?
The question of damages is entirely separate. “Damages” refer to the losses you suffered due to a Collier County personal injury and how much you should be compensated. Sometimes, Collier personal injury case defendants will agree they were negligent and liable BUT fight vigorously on the issue of damages. They will argue you (plaintiff) aren’t injured as badly as you say or that you share a big part of the blame (something called contributory negligence, F.S. 768.81).
The good news is that in Florida, the fact that you were partially at-fault for your own injury won’t prevent you from going after someone else who shares blame. However, it can ultimately reduce your damages proportionately so it is something you’ll want your injury lawyer to aggressively challenge.Do I Always Need to Prove Negligence in a Collier Injury Case?
There are some Florida injury claims for which negligence isn’t a factor (though you should talk to your attorney before determining if your case falls into one of these exceptions). Those include:
- Personal injury protection (PIP) auto insurance coverage. Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to auto insurance, meaning your own insurer is supposed to be your first avenue of recovering for medical bills, lost wages and other losses following a crash – no matter who was at-fault. Still, it’s complicated. PIP is supposed to be for the insured and his/her passengers, but it can also be paid to bicyclists or pedestrians who don’t have their own PIP coverage. PIP isn’t available for motorcyclists. And even if you are granted PIP, the most you will receive is $10,000 to cover up to 80 percent of your medical bills, 60 percent of your lost wages and a few other expenses. That assumes also your injuries were emergent. Otherwise, the most you’ll get is $2,000. If your damages exceed these caps and you want to file a claim against the other driver, you not only have to meet the serious injury threshold (F.S. 627.737), you have to prove defendant was negligent.
- Vicarious liability. In some cases, a person or entity can be held responsible for the negligent conduct of others – even if they didn’t personally do anything wrong. This is called vicarious liability. For instance, the legal doctrine of respondeat superior (Latin for “let the master answer”) allows employers to be held vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees. Similarly, the owner of a vehicle in Florida can be held vicariously liable for the negligent operation of said vehicle by any permissive driver because motor vehicles in Florida are considered “dangerous instrumentalities.” However, F.S. 324.021(9)(b)(3) caps these damages to $100,000 unless plaintiff can show the owner was negligent in loaning the vehicle to the at-fault driver.
- Workers’ compensation coverage. Per Chapter 440 of Florida Statutes, injuries sustained by employees acting in the course and scope of employment are covered by no-fault workers’ compensation insurance – usually. You’ll have to prove your status as an employee (as opposed to an independent contractor) and the assertion your injuries arose out of and in the course and scope of your work. You won’t need to prove your employer was negligent to collect workers’ compensation, though most employers do push back on questions of injury severity. If you pursue a third-party liability claim in addition to your workers’ compensation coverage, there again, you’ll need to prove negligence.
- Strict liability for defective products or dog bites. The doctrine of strict liability (as spelled out in the Restatement (Second) of Torts §402A, adopted by the Florida Supreme Court in West v. Caterpillar Tractor Co.) is one with regard to product liability that holds a manufacturer, distributor or retailer of a product can be liable without fault if the product is unreasonably dangerous and the defect existed when the product left the control of defendant. As far as Collier County dog bites go, F.S. 767.04 stipulates dog owners are responsible for any damages suffered by another person lawfully on site bitten by that dog – regardless of whether the dog had ever previously been vicious or the owner knew about it.
Note there are some cases wherein it’s not just negligence that must be proven, but a breach of the applicable standard of care. Such is the case with medical malpractice claims, outlined in Chapter 766 of Florida Statutes, which require an expert witness even before trial to prove.
Our dedicated Collier County personal injury lawyers can help you determine the best course of legal action to fight for compensation following an accident in Southwest Florida.
If you or someone you care about has been hurt, contact the Collier County injury lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured. You pay us no fees unless we win.