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The “American Rule” in the Context of Florida Personal Injury Cases

lawAutomobile accidents, premises liability cases, and other personal injury claims fall within the scope of negligence law. Negligence is the failure to use the level of care a prudent person would use in the same or similar circumstances. In order to establish negligence, a plaintiff must demonstrate that he or she was owed a duty of care by the defendant, that the defendant breached this duty of care, and that the plaintiff suffered harm as a direct result of the defendant’s breach. A plaintiff who can show negligence is entitled to recover compensation for his or her harm.

In the United States, the losing side does not typically have to pay the winning side’s attorney’s fees. Under the so-called American rule, each party pays their own attorney’s fees, irrespective of whether they win or lose, unless there is some contract, statute, or court rule that says otherwise. This permits individuals to file claims without the fear of incurring excessive costs if they lose the case. The American rule is in contrast to the English rule, which mandates that the losing party pay the winning party’s attorney’s fees.

One exception to this general rule is set forth in Florida Statute 627.428, which holds that if a judgment is made against an insurer, the plaintiff can collect reasonable attorney’s fees.

Another important exception for personal injury litigants is outlined in Florida Statute 768.79. Under this rule, the court can award attorney’s fees and costs in limited situations. Although the amount a court can award is generally lower than what a client will owe his or her attorney, the money does help offset the total litigation costs.

In order to recover attorney’s fees under this rule, a number of requirements must be satisfied. First, the party who ultimately won at trial must have made a settlement offer to the opposing party at least 45 days prior to the trial. Secondly, the winning party must have received a judgment that was at least 25 percent more in his or her favor than the original offer. For example, if the plaintiff was willing to settle for $100,000, the judgment must be at least $125,000 in order for the plaintiff to be able to recover attorney’s fees.

When the conditions listed above are met, the plaintiff can be awarded attorney’s fees and other expenses related to the trial. It is important to note that the party cannot recover any attorney’s fees that were incurred prior to the settlement offer. The amount of attorney’s fees awarded to a plaintiff in these situations will vary from case to case and depend on how much work it took to get the case ready for trial.

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision or another type of accident, we can help. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our Miami auto accident attorneys can conduct a full investigation into your personal injury claim. We can work diligently to seek the compensation you deserve for your harm. We understand that dealing with an accident is never easy, which is why you can expect the utmost compassion from our entire team. We proudly serve clients throughout South Florida. For more information, do not hesitate to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.

More Blog Posts:

Parking Lot Accidents in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, December 9, 2015

Ordinary Negligence vs. Medical Negligence in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, December 9, 2015

Information of Subsequent Accident Admissible in Florida Car Wreck Case, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, December 9, 2015