Florida Lawsuits Over Gun Accidents
Florida gun owners often choose to carry guns or keep them in their homes for self-defense. With awareness of gun violence growing steadily, however, many people have become more conscious of the potential dangers associated with guns. Accidents can occur in the blink of an eye. A child gets his hands on an unsecured gun. A gun fails to function properly or malfunctions, causing an accident. On a hunting trip, one hunter fails to note the presence of another and accidentally shoots him instead of an animal.
Without proper care and attention, gun owners can create substantial risks for everyone around them. Gunshot injuries often leave victims with severe complications, long-term injuries, and in many cases, death.
If you suffer injuries due to a malfunctioning weapon, an improperly secured gun, or a hunting accident, you deserve legal compensation for your injuries.
How an Attorney Can Help After a Gunshot Accident
Gunshot accidents can occur in a variety of ways:
- Accidental discharge due to manufacturing error or poor owner care
- Hunting accidents
- Children finding unsecured guns
- Negligent handling
- Range accidents
Regardless of how your gunshot injury occurred, you may need a personal injury attorney to help you seek the compensation you deserve. A personal injury attorney can:
- Help you better define the expenses related to your injuries and the compensation you deserve. An experienced personal injury attorney can provide vitally-needed advice about when to continue negotiating and when to accept a settlement offer following a gunshot accident.
- Negotiate on your behalf. In many cases, gun accident victims discover that having an attorney on their side can make it easier to receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries. Many insurance companies, including the companies that cover gun manufacturers and shooting ranges, may offer higher levels of compensation when a lawyer gets involved.
- Provide peace of mind. When you work with an experienced personal injury attorney, you know that someone has your best interests in mind as you file your claim. This can provide immense peace of mind at a deeply trying time in your life.
The Potential Severity of Gunshot Injuries
In an action movie, victims with so-called minor gunshot wounds often go on to perform stunning feats of athleticism and energy. In reality, however, gunshot wounds often cause substantial complications for their victims.
Responsible gun owners learn never to point a gun at something they do not intend to fire at, because even a glancing wound can cause severe damage or death to a victim.
- Severe bleeding. Gunshot wounds often pass deep into the body, causing serious bleeding. The rupture of blood vessels, especially major vessels and arteries, can quickly cause a gunshot victim to bleed out without appropriate medical attention. In some cases, tourniquets intended to stop the bleeding can stop blood flow to impacted limbs, causing death of the tissue and eventual amputation.
- Damage to organs and tissue. Gunshot wound victims shot in the torso may suffer serious injuries to internal organs, especially if the bullet passes through center mass in the body. In some cases, this proves immediately fatal. Other victims may suffer long-term repercussions from their injuries, including loss of some organ functions.
- Shock. Victims who experience gunshot wounds may quickly go into shock. These victims may fail to recognize the full severity of their injuries. Often, victims in shock do not move blood properly through their bodies, which can increase the risk of organ damage in gunshot victims. In some cases, failure to properly treat shock can lead to the victim’s death. Victims in shock may show signs of weakness and fatigue, or they may struggle to respond appropriately to their current circumstances, even to the detriment of their medical care.
- Broken bones. Bullets can break bones as they travel through the body, especially in the extremities. Some victims suffer shattered bones from their wounds, greatly complicating treatment of the injury site.
- Infection. Gunshot wounds introduce foreign matter into the body, substantially increasing the risk of infection. Gunshot wounds also often go deep, requiring a long recovery time and increasing the risk that the victim will develop an infection. Infections can cause temperatures to rise, lead to the death of tissue, or, in some cases, lead to the death of a victim who might otherwise have survived the gunshot wound.
- Scar tissue. Some people have surgeries to remove bullets from their bodies following gunshot wounds. In other cases, however, doctors may choose to leave the bullet or fragments of the bullet in the body. Removal can, in many cases, cause greater risk and further damage to the victim. Often, leaving bullet fragments in the body can increase the risk of developing scar tissue, which can cause pain and ongoing complications for the victim. Scar tissue can cause increased mobility difficulties in the victim, including stiffening of impacted limbs or loss of flexibility.
Recovering from a gunshot wound often leaves the victim with long-term complications, including psychological trauma related to the incident. Victims may suffer from ongoing anxiety, nightmares, or difficulty sleeping after the event. Some victims struggle with PTSD or rehearse the event over and over again in their minds. Psychological recovery from a gunshot injury, even an accidental discharge injury, can take just as much time (or more) as physical recovery from the event.
Who Bears Liability for a Gunshot Injury?
Gunshot accidents—entirely separate from deliberate shootings—often occur due to negligence. Following a gunshot injury, working with an attorney can help you identify the entities liable for your injuries and seek compensation for your medical expenses and your pain and suffering.
The gun manufacturer. Most gun manufacturers put their guns through strenuous safety checks to ensure that they do not pose a danger to the people who use them. This may include installing safety features that will help prevent accidental discharge of the gun. When the gun manufacturer fails to craft the gun properly, including errors in design and errors in the manufacturing process itself, it can pose a substantial danger for anyone who uses the gun. Accidental discharge often causes wounds to a victim’s leg, groin, or foot. Accidental discharge can also cause a gun owner to inadvertently shoot someone else.
The gun owner. Gun owners must properly maintain, store, and carry their weapons. In Florida, gun owners should carry their weapon holstered unless hunting or practicing shooting in an approved location. Gun owners can also choose to carry their guns openly in their homes. Florida does require a permit for concealed carry in public areas.
If an accidental discharge occurs due to improper carrying procedures, including holsters that do not adequately cover the trigger, the gun owner could bear liability for the injury. In addition, gun owners must care for their guns properly: improper maintenance, including failing to put the gun back together properly after cleaning or failing to properly clean the gun, can increase the risk of accidental discharge.
The owner of a gun must also take care to properly store weapons, especially with children in the home. All too frequently, children find unsecured guns in the home, play with them, and end up shooting a friend or family member in the process. When storing guns in the home, owners should ensure that children cannot access loaded guns. Trigger locks, gun safes, and storing the weapon and bullet separately can help prevent children from accessing guns without consent. Children who live in homes with guns should also receive age-appropriate lessons about what to do if they see a gun: most notably, leaving it alone.
In a hunting accident, many victims suffer serious damage due to another hunter failing to realize the presence of a human in the area. Hunters should always wear identifying gear, including the appropriate bright colors, when hunting in season. Hunters should always make sure of their targets before aiming a gun. Even though the perpetrator of a hunting accident may not bear criminal liability in a hunting accident, the responsible driver may still bear liability for injuries suffered by the victim.
The person handling the gun. Often, negligent discharge occurs when a gun owner fails to show proper safety while handling the gun. This becomes more likely in a social setting or when the gun owner lends the gun to someone who has not received proper training. Inebriation can increase the risk of negligent discharge. Passing the gun back and forth with friends, pointing it at each other, or gesturing with the gun can all increase the risk of a negligent discharge accident.
A shooting range where the accident occurs. Shooting ranges allow people to come in and practice shooting in a safe environment. To make the experience as safe as possible for everyone involved, the shooting range must follow careful safety rules and precautions, including properly maintaining shooting lanes to help protect everyone who uses the range. When the range fails to provide appropriate safety precautions for all its visitors, the shooting range may share liability for any injuries that occur.
The property owner where the shooting occurs. While a criminal may bear civil liability for shooting you or a loved one, as a practical matter, a criminal doesn’t carry insurance or own the resources to pay for the damages he causes. Nightclubs, theme parks, schools, hotels, and other public accommodations and institutions, however, may bear the responsibility for keeping you safe through providing adequate security. A personal injury lawyer can evaluate your claim to see if you can secure compensation from any of these sources.
Seeking Compensation After a Gunshot Injury
When you suffer a gunshot injury due to the negligence of another party, you deserve compensation for your injuries. Even if the liable entity does not face criminal charges for the gunshot wound due to lack of malice or intent, that entity may still owe you compensation for your injuries and suffering. How do you know how much compensation you deserve after a gunshot injury?
If the responsible entity has an insurance policy that provides coverage for your accident—gun ranges and manufacturers, for example, may carry insurance designed to protect them against financial repercussions, and many private gun owners carry insurance to help protect them in the event of an accident—the limits of that policy may impact what you can receive in compensation for your injuries.
In general, following a gunshot accident, victims ask for compensation in several key areas.
- Medical expenses. You may have substantial medical expenses following your gunshot injury: emergency treatment, hospitalization, and multiple procedures leading up to recovery. You may need surgery as well as extensive physical and occupational therapy to recover from your wounds. If you suffer other complications, including amputation or organ damage, for your injuries, it could increase your medical bills and, therefore, the compensation you need to request for your injuries.
- Lost wages. Gunshot injuries often prevent you from returning to work in your usual capacity. While some businesses can make accommodation for workers as healing progresses and they can return to work on a limited basis, others may require workers to make a full recovery before returning to work. Some long-term physical injuries or lingering psychological concerns can also prevent the victim from returning to work in their former capacity, which may necessitate including long-term earning potential as part of the claim for lost wages.
- Pain and suffering. Gunshot wounds can cause severe physical and psychological trauma. By talking with an attorney, you can get a better idea of what you should claim for pain and suffering.
Do You Need an Attorney After a Gunshot Injury?
Whether you suffered injuries in a hunting accident, due to a malfunctioning or improperly secured gun, or even after a crime, you deserve compensation for your injuries. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney with a strong understanding of personal injury law can help you seek the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation with Dolman Law Group either call our Clearwater office at (727) 451-6900 or fill out a contact form online.