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Delray Beach Negligence Lawyers

Delray Beach Negligence Lawyers

Have you been injured as the result of someone else’s actions or failure to take action?  If so, you may be able to recover from them for your injury. This is true even if your injury was not intentional.  The negligence lawyers at Demand the Limits in Delray Beach can evaluate your case, let you know if you have a claim, and pursue your claim for you.

While it may seem strange to hold people responsible for accidents or other behavior that was unintentional, negligence claims are actually the most common type of tort claim.  Negligence claims are based on the code of conduct that people are expected to follow.  In many instances, this expected code of conduct translates to a legal duty.  Failure to adhere to the code of conduct is negligence.  Negligence cases are based on the idea that if someone is injured because of another person’s failure to adhere to those standards, then the person who failed to adhere to the standards should be held responsible for the injury.

What is negligence?

Negligence is a type of tort.  Negligence is a type of tort committed by failure to act like a reasonable person to a person to whom the actor owed a duty.  In other words, negligence is caused when someone is unreasonably dangerous.

What are the elements of negligence?

There are three elements one must prove to prove negligence: (1) there must be a breach of duty of a known standard of care; (2) there must have been harm to the plaintiff; and (3) the breach of that duty must have been both the actual cause and the proximate cause of the harm to the plaintiff.

Okay, what is a tort?

The term tort is a legal term.  It means an act or omission that gives rise to a harm or injury to another.  Civil courts can impose liability for a tort; in fact, tort lawsuits are the largest category of civil litigation.  Torts can be intentional or unintentional.  Most unintentional torts fall under the claim of negligence.

There are four elements to a tort case: duty, breach of duty, causation, and injury.  The defendant must have owed a duty to the plaintiff, that duty must have been breached, the plaintiff must have been injured, and the injury must have been caused by the breach.

What are the types of torts?

Generally, there are three types of torts: intentional torts, negligent torts, and strict liability torts.  Intentional torts are the most difficult to prove, while strict liability torts are the easiest to prove.  Negligence torts are in an intermediate zone; while they are easier to prove than intentional torts because you do not have to prove intent, they are more difficult to prove than strict liability torts.

An intentional tort is when the wrongdoer (tortfeasor) purposely commits an action or engages in conduct that results in an injury to another.  For example, intentionally hitting someone is an intentional tort, while accidentally hitting someone is not a tort.  This means that intentional torts focus a lot on the idea of intent.  Intent refers to the mental desire and will to act in a particular way, not necessarily the desire to produce a certain result.  However, because intent focuses on the actor’s desires, it can be difficult to prove intent.  The factfinder is allowed to look at the behavior surrounding an incident to determine intent.  Some examples of intentional torts include: assault, sexual assault, battery, fraud, trespass, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and conversion.  Many things that fall under the category of intentional tort are also illegal under criminal law.  However, there is a difference between intentional torts and crimes; crimes are prosecuted by the government and do not generally result in a judgment for the injured party (though courts can order restitution), while torts are filed by the injured party for the purposes of seeking monetary compensation (damages) for an injury.

A negligent tort happens when the person fails to adhere to the reasonable person standard.  It is not based on a deliberate action, but more like careless action.  Some examples of negligence include: slip and fall accidents, swimming pool accidents, medical malpractice, car accidents, bike accidents, motorcycle accidents, and truck accidents.  Many traffic-related negligence torts might also include criminal legal violations, since negligent and reckless driving are prohibited by law.

Strict liability torts are sometimes lumped under negligence claims, though you do not have to prove actual negligence to prevail in a strict liability lawsuit.  Instead, all you have to prove is that an action occurred and that an injury resulted.  Some examples of strict liability lawsuits include: defective products, animal attacks, and abnormally dangerous activities.  Though they are not actually negligence suits, strict liability lawsuits do have some relation to the reasonable care standard.  The idea seems to be that a reasonable person would not engage in that behavior without being aware it could expose them to legal liability.

What if the action could be intentional or negligent?

While negligence cases focus on negligent torts, it is not always easy to separate the different type of torts. It can be useful to think of the idea of intention as a continuum from careless to intentional.  Someone who is careless is disregarding reasonable standards, someone who is reckless is behaving in a way that is likely to cause injuries, and someone who is intentional is trying to cause an injury.  While those delineations may seem easy, in practice they can sometimes be hard to separate.  For example, running a stop sign and hitting another vehicle may be an intentional action or a negligent action.  It can be impossible to know whether someone intended to cause an injury or accidentally caused an injury.  Where there is a duty of reasonable care imposed on the person, then the injured party can choose to pursue a negligence remedy.  In that instance, they do not have to prove that the actor acted intentionally or had any type of malice when causing the injury.

Can someone be held legally responsible for unintentional actions? 

Yes.  The goal of tort law is to ensure that injured parties are compensated for harms that are caused by others.  Secondary goals include placing liability on those responsible for the harms and hopefully preventing others from committing harmful acts.  While these goals are clear when someone’s behavior is intentional, they are equally important when negligence results in injuries to another.

Is a tort the same as a crime?

The answer to that question is both yes and no, depending on the civil and criminal law surrounding a particular question.  Torts can be based on criminal activity.  In addition, failure to comply with laws, including criminal laws, can serve as the basis for establishing that a person failed to adhere to the reasonable person standard.  However, while crimes are considered wrongs against society and are prosecuted by the government, torts are considered wrongs against the individual.

What is a standard of care?

The standard of care is the level of care that one person owes to another person.  Care is a catch-all term that encompasses the watchfulness, attention, caution, and prudence that a person should use in that situation.  The standard of care is a subjective standard, rather than an objective standard, because reasonable people may differ in how they approach things.

What is a duty?

Duty is the responsibility that one person owes to another, according to the law.  There are some relationships that establish a duty to treat a person in a particular manner.  For example, a babysitter has a duty to watch children in his care that imposes greater restrictions than if there was no relationship between the parties.  However, even if there is no relationship between the parties, there is still a duty.  We all owe a duty to each other to act in a reasonably safe manner.  There is a general duty not to be negligent, to keep our premises safe, and to obey the law.  Failure to observe that general duty is considered a breach of duty.

What is the reasonable person standard?

The reasonable person standard means what a reasonable person would do under the same circumstances.  All people have a duty to act like a reasonable person would under the same circumstances.  However, sometimes the reasonable person standard is not enough.  If someone has greater skills or specialized training, then his behavior is not compared to the average person, but to the average person with the same skill set.  For example, a doctor acting in his capacity as a doctor is held to the standard of care of other doctors.

How do you prove causation?

There are two different types of causation that may be relevant in a negligence lawsuit: actual cause and proximate cause.  Actual cause is the one that is generally easier to understand.  Actual cause exists when someone’s action directly caused an injury or harm.  Proximate cause can be more difficult to understand, because the action might not be directly responsible for the injury.  Instead, the proximate cause may have started a series of events, and, but for that action, the injury would not have occurred.   When considering proximate cause, it is sometimes helpful not to look at trying to establish that an action caused an injury, but instead to approach it from the other direction and look at whether the injury was more likely to occur as a result of the action.

Does insurance cover negligence?

Yes.  One of the reasons that people are required to purchase certain types of insurance is to make sure that they have coverage for negligence claims.  However, not all negligent actions will be covered under insurance policies.  Policies may specifically exclude behavior that might otherwise fall under a negligence claim.  Much of this comes down to fault, how it is defined in any applicable policies, and how it is determined under state law.

What is fault?

In the context of negligence cases, fault refers to whether a person is blameworthy for an injury.

Is Florida a no-fault state?

Yes and no.  Many people believe that Florida is a no-fault state because Florida’s automobile insurance laws require drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance in the event of an automobile accident.  People can make claims against their own PIP for injuries sustained in an accident, as can their passengers, without establishing fault.

However, fault remains an important component of negligence law in Florida. In Florida, drivers can still be sued for injuries that they cause in an automobile accident, even if the injuries were due to negligence.  While the first responsible party for paying for medical care and losses is the party’s personal automobile insurance (or the insurance belonging to the person with whom they were driving), they can still seek compensation from the other driver.

In addition, there are important rules to keep in mind, at least in the context of automobile accidents.  Generally, unless your damages exceed $10,000, you will be unable to sue the other driver, even to recover amounts, such as your deductible or some percentage of lost wages, which is not covered by your own PIP protection.  However, if your damages do exceed $10,000, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the other driver.

Finally, while Florida may have a no-fault auto insurance system, it still has fault in the context of other negligence lawsuits.  Therefore, in Florida, how an injured person approaches an injury depends significantly on how the injury occurred.

Conclusion

The whole point of tort law is to allow someone who has been injured because of someone else’s actions to recover from the wrongdoer from the injury.  It is based on the idea of causation and holding the person responsible financially responsible for damages.  Negligence claims, which fall under tort law, are based on the idea that someone does not have to intend a harm for their actions to lead to a harm.  Instead, a person’s negligent behavior and failure to adhere to the same standard of care as a reasonable person, can cause harm, and it should be the responsibility of the negligent person to pay for those claims.

In many scenarios, making a determination of how a reasonable person would behave in the same scenario is relatively simple.  This is especially true if there are any laws or other guidelines as to how people should behave in that scenario.  However, there are other situations where it might be difficult to determine how a reasonable person might behave.  If you have been injured by the actions of another and wonder if you are entitled to compensation, we recommend scheduling a free no-obligation consultation with the negligence attorneys at Demand the Limits in Delray Beach.