Florida 101: The Rights of Canadians Injured in Florida
Welcome to Florida 101! This is the first in a series of educational blogs for Ontario residents about personal injury law in the State of Florida.
Each year, Florida welcomes over 3 million Canadians, most of whom are looking to escape the harsh winter weather and enjoy the year-round warmth of the Sunshine State.[i] That is about 8% of the total population in Canada and over 20% of Ontario’s total population. Further, many of these travellers are either frequent visitors or have residences in Florida.
Whether you’re a permanent resident, first-time visitor, or anything in between, it’s important to understand your legal rights as an Ontarian in Florida, and the options available to you in case you get injured on foreign soil.
In this blog, we do not address the steps following a motor vehicle accident which are very different and will be covered in separate series of blogs.
Before reading further, click here to get a general sense of the life cycle of a personal injury case.
Can I sue or be sued?
Yes! As a general rule, every person (individual or corporation) has the right to commence a civil proceeding against another individual or government. This means that if you get injured in Florida, you can sue the party/parties that are responsible for the damages. The same is true for Floridians injured here.
For example: John rents a lounge chair and umbrella combo from Jane to use on the beach. Jane places and sets up the equipment at John’s preferred location. John takes a seat, and upon doing so, the umbrella collapses on him, causing him serious injuries. John has the right to seek damages from Jane, the equipment manufacturers, Jane’s company, and any other involved parties that contributed to his injuries.
As a Canadian injured in Florida, you have four options for which venue will hear your case:
- Circuit Trial Court; or
- County Court.
The court level – in both locales – depends on the amount of damages being claimed. In Ontario, the Small Claims Court only hears cases where the total amount of damages being claimed is $35,000 CAD or less. Anything, even one cent, more than that will be heard in the Civil Division of the Superior Court of Justice. In Florida, the County Courts can hear civil cases with total damages not in excess of $15,000 USD. Otherwise, it will go to a Circuit Court’s Trial Division.
The venue of a civil action is usually determined by where the basis of the claim originated. This is what’s known as the territorial principle of public international law. If a tort is committed in Florida, the state will automatically have jurisdiction overhearing the plaintiff’s case. In Ontario, the same is true. However, Ontario’s Rules of Civil Procedure allow for Ontario courts to be the venue for cases involving foreign defendants, as long as there is a “real and substantial connection to matters in the province”.[ii] It can be very difficult to prove this if the injury was sustained abroad, though, so bear that in mind.
If the proceeding is better-suited to be heard in Florida, you should hire a lawyer who is a member of the Florida Bar. David Derfel, lawyer at Derfel Injury Law, is an Ontario licenced lawyers and can only offer advice and assistance on matters pertaining to Ontario law. David is not licenced to practice law in Florida and cannot give any advice on matters pertaining to Florida law. For advice and representation on issues pertaining to Florida law, David can recommend a Florida lawyer or you can reach out to the Lawyer Referral Service of the Florida Bar. Please refer to our earlier article discussing the prevalent injuries encountered by Canadian individuals who are vacationing or residing in Florida.
This blog was written by David Derfel and law student, Rachel Weitz.
The information contained in this blog does not constitute legal advice. Blogs are purely for educational purposes only. If you have been injured and need legal services, get in touch with David Derfel to schedule a consult.
[i] Florida, eh? Why snowbirds in Canada love heading south by Angeli Gabriel (January 12, 2022). Fox29 Philadelphia, online: < https://www.fox29.com/weather/florida-eh-why-snowbirds-in-canada-love-heading-south>.