I thought I would write today about a personal injury attorneys’ take on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Although this does not necessarily apply to all personal injury claims based on negligence, there has been so much talk in Florida about these laws due to recent events in the news, I thought I would put in my two cents:
Florida’s Stand your Ground Laws are codified in Florida Statute §776.013. Here is a link: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0776/Sections/0776.013.html
Put yourself in the shoes of a person in these two scenarios:
1) I am getting mugged. I don’t want to run because it puts me at a tactical disadvantage requiring me to turn my back on the attacker. I stand my ground. I win. I shouldn’t go to jail.
2) Someone is breaking into my house. I feel my family and I are in danger of injury. I try to fend off the attacker. I win. I shouldn’t go to jail.
Welcome to Florida. You are protected from criminal prosecution despite what people tell you, because of the statute above. I believe this law is just fine the way it is.
The only thing that this statute has changed is the fact that in the old common law, there was a requirement that you retreat if it could be done safely. That rule was supposed to weed out some of the people who would shoot first and ask questions later, as well as bad guys who would claim self defense when it wasn’t really so.
It is not new that a people will try to rely on self defense to get away with murder. That has been happening forever.
From a personal injury standpoint, people are responsible for injuries or deaths they negligently, recklessly or intentionally cause to others that are not justified. This includes assault and battery. The defenses of self defense and defense of others are available in civil trials as well as criminal. If it is found that you reasonably believe you are in immediate threat of death or bodily harm, you probably will not be successfully sued for causing death or bodily harm to the attacker.
The immediate requirement is good because you don’t want to have people say; “I killed him because he threatened me over the phone.”
Another good part of the rule is the word “reasonably.” That prevents a 300-pound man from killing a 35-pound 3 year old kid because that kid is throwing a tantrum – you get the idea.
Importantly, in a civil suit for assault or battery, you are not allowed to use death or serious bodily harm if you are only protecting personal property.
That may make some people mad, but look at the other side of the argument. What if someone came up to you and broke your jaw because they thought you were hurting their grass? The balance must be struck.
There is a very pragmatic problem with cases involving assault and battery that has always concerned me. The problem with these cases is that most insurance policies exclude intentional acts. While I have successfully made a claim against a business for battery because a person committed the battery in furtherance of that business, it is not common. And without the ability to be paid, attorneys cannot afford to take these cases on a contingency fee.
Of course, this blog was an broad overview of the law. I did not mention many exceptions, exclusions and scenarios where differences would change the outcome.
Each case will be judged on the facts specific to that case.
Obviously, this is a Florida law and does not apply to other states. To really know your rights when you have been injured by the negligent, reckless, or intentional act of someone else, contact a qualified personal injury attorney such as Herman & Wells, P.A. at 727 821-3195.
As a side note, I only accept clients that I like and trust. If you were in the process of committing a crime when you were hurt, I am not the attorney for you. Do not call me.