James L. Hunt


Few residents of twenty-first-century Florida are unfamiliar with the notion of legal liability for accidental injuries. The image of the "ambulance chasing" attorney, the call for "tort reform," and a recurring medical malpractice insurance "crisis" are well-known to the casual observer of affairs. In fact, much of the modern business of Florida trial courts concerns automobile accidents, injuries from products, and professional malpractice. In 2000-2001, approximately 35,000 such cases were filed in the state's circuit courts, roughly 23 percent of all civil cases. About 2,000 involved professional malpractice, 4,600 products liability, and 17,000 automobile accidents.1 Despite its current prominence, legal responsibility for accidental injury to persons or property is not a new phenomenon. Since 1845, individuals, companies, and the state have been confronted with the need to create and implement rules that address accidentally caused death, maiming, and property damage. The persistent question has been, "Who should pay for unintended injuries to persons and property?"