General Theories of Personal Injury Negligence
The scope of who may be liable for causing physical injury or emotional pain is defined broadly under Florida law. The issue is whether the person acting (or failing to act) could reasonably foresee that their decisions may have resulted in the injury that has occurred. Foresee ability is crucial in defining the scope of the general duty placed on every person to avoid negligent acts or omissions. Florida, like other jurisdictions, recognizes that a legal duty will arise whenever a human endeavor creates a generalized and foreseeable risk of harming others. In general, in order to recover, an individual must be within the “zone of risk” that is encompassed within the negligent actions of the other party.
In simple terms, when driving a commercial truck, for example, the driver owes a duty to those around him or her to drive the truck in reasonable manner, because the individuals on the roadway are within the foreseeable “zone of risk” of the driver’s actions. This is because it is foreseeable that the failure to drive appropriately would result in the injuries of those that the driver injures or the property that is damaged.
In driving the truck, the driver must exercise reasonable care, which would be to drive it consistent with a reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances. This includes consideration for the conditions of the road, the traffic in the area, or the time of day. Thus, the duty of a reasonable driver floats with the facts and circumstances of the actual event and is not chiseled in stone. Driving the speed limit on a street is no defense to a collision, when there was heavy traffic or rain that could impact the safety of those around the driver.
Similar to other areas of personal injury law , negligence claims fall into several categories. The most common, such as those described above relating to the truck driver, come under the category of “active” negligence of the party. Those circumstances occur when, as set forth above, the party takes some affirmative action (or makes a clear omission in fulfilling a duty which the law requires him or her to take) that directly results in the injury to another party.
Another type of negligence claim is based upon the concept of “passive” negligence. This occurs when someone is responsible for the actions of another for whom he has responsibility. Under those circumstances, the liable party is “vicariously” liable for the actions of another, meaning that, although the party is not directly negligent, the law deems the person to be negligent through the actions of another.
Vicarious Liability Negligence Claims
A common, but not exclusive, example of vicarious liability falls in the employment context, when, under the doctrine of “respondent superior,” an employer may be deemed liable for the negligent actions of the employee, when the conduct of the employee falls within the course and scope of the employees duties to his employer. Generally, this doctrine also commonly applies when a “principal/agent” relationship exists, making the “principal” responsible for the acts of the “agent” falling within the course and scope of the agent’s duties.
Negligence Per Se
Another type of negligence falls within the doctrine of
negligence per se. Under these circumstances, a negligent party may be deemed negligent “per se” when he or she violates a statute that has been passed to protect a specific class of citizen.
If the citizen is injured as a direct result of the liable party’s failure to follow the requirements of a statute designed to protect that citizen, the liable party is negligent per se. This, however, still is not the equivalent of “strict liability.” Additionally, the violation of a legislative enactment does not result in a determination of negligence per se if the statute was designed to protect the public at large, rather than the specific class of individuals injured as a result of the failure to follow the statutory requirements. Nevertheless, once a claimant can establish that he is a member of the class that the statute was designed to protect, that he suffered injury of the type the statute was designed to prevent, and that the violation of the statute was the proximate cause of the injury, then the negligence per se doctrine can be employed to ascribe liability.
If the actions taken by a potential defendant create a foreseeable hazard, and the defendant fails to take reasonable actions to prevent the injury or damage, the party who suffers the loss may seek to recover for his injuries.
For more information about personal injury negligence claims, please contact the Florida trial law firm Corless Barfield Trial Group at 813-498-1623.