The local news regularly carries stories about unintentional shootings.
- Then-16-year-old Diego Pedro Jose accidentally shot and killed 16-year-old Esteban Gonzalez while playing with a gun in March 2021 at Lake Worth Beach. In July 2022, the now-18-year-old was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
- A Pembroke Pines woman accidentally shot and killed her stepson in June 2022. Police say they are continuing their investigation.
- A 9-year-old boy died in an accidental shooting in St. Petersburg in July 2022.
The gloomy news is backed up by statistics. According to Brady United, nearly 3,000 people are unintentionally shot each year in the U.S. Of those, almost 100 die.
In Florida, an average of 187 children and teens are killed every year with 34% determined to be unintentional. So far in 2022, there have been at least 12 unintentional shootings by children in Florida, resulting in five deaths and nine injuries.
Criminal charges are not the only possible justice. Accidental shootings are typically not criminal, but they may be grounds to recover damages through a civil lawsuit.
How Accidental Shootings Occur
Unintentional shootings often happen because the gun ends up in the hands of someone without the experience, knowledge, or temperament to properly handle the weapon.
A gunshot can cause serious injury or death:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Bone fractures
- Eye injury
- Organ failure
- Blood loss
There are many reasons behind unintentional gunshot injuries and fatalities:
- Assuming the gun is not loaded
- Mistaking someone for an intruder
- Shooting without a clear target
- Lacking proper gun handling
- Cleaning the weapon improperly
These accidents happen in homes, cars, backyards, hunting property, streets, retail shops, firing ranges, schools, and parks. In some cases, the bullet’s discharge is due to defective gun safety features or design flaws.
Assigning Liability in Unintentional Shootings
Who is responsible for the shooting depends on the circumstances. The person pulling the trigger, the gun’s owner, and the gun manufacturer are potentially liable in an accidental shooting if it is the direct result of carelessness or negligence. Florida law requires gun owners to secure a firearm in a locked box, a secure location, or a trigger lock. Not all accidents are grounds for compensation.
Provable negligent cases can result in compensation for injuries and other harm:
- Compensatory Damages: This compensation is divided into two categories – economic and non-economic. Economic damages include financial losses such as medical treatment, physical therapy, lost wages from missed work, prescriptions, and other expenses. Non-economic damages do not necessarily have a specific price tag. Examples include pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of companionship. Florida does place any cap on compensatory damages.
- Punitive Damages: The goal of this award is less about compensating the victim and more about punishing the responsible party. Punitive damages are rare and typically available only in cases of extreme negligence. Punitive damages are capped at three times the total amount of compensatory damages.
Florida follows the doctrine of pure comparative fault. An injured party can collect damages that are proportional to their degree of fault. For example, if someone is 30% responsible for what occurred, their financial award will be reduced by 30%.
Tell Us About Your Accidental Shooting Case
Talk with an experienced attorney at Mitchell & West LLC about your injury case involving an unintentional shooting. Based on the details of what happened, we can advise you on your rights and potential next steps.
We have more than 100 years of experience in helping the residents of Miami and the surrounding area get the compensation they deserve. Contact us online or call (305) 783-3301 to schedule a consultation.