If you’re involved in a personal injury case in Florida, or you believe you have a case and are considering approaching a personal injury lawyer about it, there are some common terms you’ll likely hear. Your familiarity with them will help you understand your case better.
Common legal terms in personal injury cases
Plaintiff: the person who brings the complaint or the lawsuit. This can also be a group or party of people.
Defendant: the person, persons, group, or entity being sued and thus must make a defense.
Duty of care: the legal duty an individual or entity has to adhere to the standard or expected levels of reasonable care and safety.
Standard of care: the term for duty of care more often used in medical malpractice cases. It refers to the level at which the average, prudent healthcare provider in a given community would manage a patient’s care under the same or similar circumstances.
Negligence: when an individual or entity fails in the expected duty of care.
Assumption of risk: the risk someone assumes when engaging in an inherently risky activity. Such activities are common in Florida, such as bungee jumping or cliff diving. It is standard practice to have participants sign a waiver. However, this does not completely eliminate liability on the part of the activity provider.
Complaint: the formal expression of grievances against the defendant(s).
Proximate cause: the act, negligent or intentional, that caused the injury or damages claimed in the lawsuit.
Burden of proof: the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove that the complaints brought against the defendant are true, or at least more likely true than not, depending on the type of case.
Statute of limitations: the period of time, set by law, in which a suit may be filed after the event that caused damages. The statute of limitations for a personal injury case against another party in Florida is four years; against a government body, three years; for a wrongful death case, two years. In some cases, such as health damage that does not appear until sometime after the cause (ex. cancer) the statute of limitations period may begin at the time the illness presented itself.
Tort: a wrongful act that is not a crime and does not arise from a contract. Examples include negligence, wrongful death, libel, slander, trespass, and civil assault and battery.
Class action lawsuit: a lawsuit involving a large number of people who have suffered similar levels of damage or loss. The lawsuits of all individuals are presented as a single suit.
Mass tort: a lawsuit involving many individuals whose levels of damage or injury vary greatly and are therefore filed separately.
Premises liability: the responsibility that property owners have to keep their property safe and compensate those who are hurt on their property due to the owner’s negligence.
Strict liability: liability assigned to an entity whose actions cause harm regardless of fault or intent. Product liability is strict liability.
Comparative fault: fault is partitioned between defendant and plaintiff. Florida is a “pure comparative negligence” state, which means that a jury will apportion the settlement based on your level of responsibility for the injury.
Damages: the monetary compensation expected due to injuries sustained. This can include both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include loss of income, cost of a new car or home handicap modifications, and medical bills. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, permanent injury, wrongful death.
Settlement: the financial agreement that the plaintiff and defendant (through their lawyers) come to in order to resolve the case out of court. This is the most common resolution in personal injury cases since court cases are long and expensive and usually both parties prefer to avoid them.
Award: the amount a judge or jury determines is owed to the injured party if a settlement is not reached.
Components of a personal injury lawsuit
Florida law requires that the plaintiff in a personal injury case prove:
- The person or business who caused your injury owed you a duty of care
- The person or business was negligent in that duty
- You suffered injury or damage that was caused by the breach of duty
- The injury or damage can be demonstrated legally
As a Florida personal injury lawyer located in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area, I am committed to helping Florida residents throughout the state receive just and fair compensation to help them cope with the injuries they have sustained through someone else’s negligence. Contact me to see how I can help you.