I get inquiries from time to time about ‘personal injury’ cases. Those are cases where someone has been hurt in some sort of accident; the most common is a motor vehicle accident, but it can cover slip and falls, product liability (where a consumer product doesn’t work like it’s supposed to), medical malpractice, and other types of cases.
And, some of these types of cases have their own rules; medical malpractice in Florida is a very specific area of law; some product liability cases involve an interplay between state law and federal law, and even automobile accidents have their own rules regarding what you have to do in order to recover.
Nonetheless, the general rule in personal injury cases is that you need to show at least two things; first, that someone either did something that they should not have done or did not do something that they should have done, (failing to exercise “ordinary care”), and you need to show that you suffered an injury as a result.
Both of these have to be present; a failure to exercise ordinary care and an injury. Someone can be very negligent, and yet not be liable for negligence, if no one is actually hurt.
The best example I can give of ‘no injury, no liability’ is this one: years ago, when I was in law school, I was driving back home for the weekend on I-95 through Ft. Lauderdale. All of the cars were at or a little bit over the speed limit, including myself. It was a three lane section, and it was packed with cars. All of the sudden, one driver in the extreme left hand lane must have seen that he was going to miss his exit, and decided to slam on the brakes, and cut across all of the lanes of traffic to get to the exit ramp.
Of course, everyone else slammed on their brakes. Including me. Tires were squealing, a couple of cars started to fishtail, one car wound up facing in the opposite direction from traffic flow, everyone came to a complete stop. Nonetheless; no car managed to hit any other car; no car hit the construction barrier; and there was no damage to anyone’s car or body; just a lot of people who were very shaken up. Everyone sort of looked at one another, and then started up and drove away, all of us under the speed limit, at least for a little while.
Was the driver negligent in pulling across three lanes of traffic to get to the exit ramp? Yes. Did he violate traffic laws? Certainly. Had a police officer seen this, the officer could have written the driver up for several traffic violations. Could any of the other drivers, including me, have sued the guy for what he did? No. Because none of us were hurt; none of our cars were damaged, the worst that happened was people were shaken up. There was no damage, thus, no negligence case.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, you should contact a lawyer, and contact a lawyer quickly; there may be certain deadlines, and in some cases your not meeting those deadlines may result in you losing rights.
And, as I note here:
Protecting Your Assets from the other guy, Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Florida
One thing you can do to protect yourself is to get uninsured motorist coverage. If you are hurt in an automobile accident and the guy who did the damage is not carrying insurance, or is not carrying enough insurance, you can go after your own insurance company for the damages, in some cases, but only if you carry uninsured motorist coverage.