A basic guide to Florida’s toxic tort laws
You might not think “toxic tort” and “Florida” should ever be in the same sentence, but every state has its problems when it comes to environmental issues, and Florida is no exception.
What is a toxic tort?
A toxic tort is an injury that is caused by a pollutant in the earth, water or air, and it was generally put there by a defendant’s negligence.
The defendant – usually a corporation in an instance like this, though it could very well be an individual – might have cut some corners at work and installed insulation lined with asbestos, or made you use a paint every day for years on end that contained noxious fumes.
The problem with toxic torts and pollution cases is that it can take ages for injuries to show themselves. Breathing in those paint fumes on a daily basis might coat your lungs in gas, but it could take 30 years for mesothelioma to develop. As such, proving that the gas you inhaled 30 years ago was the proximate cause of your cancer is a difficult connection to establish – if you even realize it yourself.
The statute of limitations can also pose significant challenges for plaintiffs. Toxins can lay dormant for many years, and when they do finally rise from their sleep, it is usually decades after the original exposure. Many courts, however, recognize a tolling of the statute of limitations until the plaintiff has discovered the illness so that they have a shot at recovering damages.
The different types of pollutants in Florida
Pollutants can be almost anything, as long as they are noxious to the bodily system. If it can poison the earth or physically hurt you as a human being, then it is toxic. They can be found at a work site, somebody's home, at a public park, or even inside someone's body – like breast implants made of actual party balloons, for example. (That's a fake example. Let's say a hip implant made with weak metal instead, so when it's placed inside the body it starts to break apart.)
As there are countless types of pollutants, illnesses or injuries can occur years or even decades later. These can happen from things like:
- Asbestos material
- Groundwater contaminants
- Lead (paint, flakes, etc.)
- Dangerous or defective medication
- Hazardous waste
- Agent Orange
- Noxious gases
- Faulty implants
- Exposure to chemicals
Effects of toxic torts
It might not seem like much to breathe in fumes each day while at work, but those small doses can add up over time. These are some of the medical issues that toxic tort attorneys see while dealing with these sorts of cases:
- Brain damage
- Birth defects
- Cancers of all types
- Immune deficiencies
- Respiratory diseases
Recoverable damages in toxic tort cases
Your attorney will need to conduct extensive investigation and research to determine whether harmful toxics were responsible for your specific personal injury. The delay of the onset of your illness will, of course, make it difficult to establish a causal link between the defendant and your injuries. That’s why having an attorney in your corner will make it easier to recover damages.
In Florida, you are eligible to recover damages for:
- Medical bills (past and future);
- Lost wages (and potentially loss of future earnings);
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress; and
- Possibly punitive damages.
Florida does have damage caps on punitive damages. If the defendant intended to harm the plaintiff, then there is no limitation on punitive damages. Additionally, if the defendant did not intend to harm the plaintiff, but knew that harm was likely and he acted in an unreasonably dangerous manner that was motivated entirely by financial gain, then punitive damages are allowed under Florida state law. In all other cases, punitive damages are limited to three times the value of compensatory damages awarded to each claimant, or $500,000. (Confused yet?)
Talking to a lawyer
If you need someone to help you identify whether you have been exposed to a toxin, read some of the resources below and speak with some of Enjuris’ Florida attorneys, who are well versed in this area. They will be able to help you through this.
Resources to help you hire the best Florida personal injury lawyer
- Choosing a personal injury attorney – interview questions
- When do you NOT need an attorney after an accident?
- Preparing to meet with a personal injury attorney
- How damages are calculated
- How to talk to a lawyer
- Negotiating lawyers’ fees - how do accident lawyers charge? Are there any hidden costs?
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.