Before discussing the elements of standing to sue, it helps to understand what is meant by standing. The issue is addressed in the United States Constitution for federal cases. However, states have enacted laws and issued rulings that impact how standing is determined in cases in state court.

Standing is a legal concept. It refers to the capacity of a person to file a lawsuit. Florida laws require that a person have a “stake” or interest in the outcome of the case. For example, individuals who have been injured in a slip and fall accident, automobile accident, or another personal injury incident generally have standing to file a lawsuit.

They have an interest in the outcome of the case because the outcome determines whether they receive compensation for their injuries and damages. 

The Three Elements of Standing to Sue

When determining whether you have the standing to sue, Florida courts examine three elements:

Injury in Fact

To sue another party, you must have suffered an actual injury. The injury may be a physical injury, such as injuries sustained in a construction accident. However, it can also include monetary losses, such as lost wages, property damage, and medical bills.

You must have sustained the injury before filing the lawsuit. Standing is not granted for hypothetical claims or the risk of being injured. The injury must be “real” and provable through evidence.

Causation

The court does not decide whether the defendant is responsible for your injuries and damages when considering causation. Instead, the judge merely views the evidence in the pleadings to determine whether there is a reasonable likelihood of a causal link between the defendant’s behavior and your injuries. 

The court will examine if you would have sustained your injuries had it not been for the other party’s conduct. If there is no link between your injuries and the defendant’s conduct, you might not have the standing to file a lawsuit.

Redressability

Redressability is concerned with whether the judicial system can provide relief to the person filing the lawsuit. In an accident case, the court cannot undo the injuries sustained by the plaintiff. However, it can hold the defendant financially liable for the plaintiff’s damages.

Damages in a personal injury case may include: 

  • The victim’s past, present, and future medical expenses
  • The cost of personal care or long-term nursing home care
  • The victim’s past, present, and future loss of wages, bonuses, salary, benefits, commissions, and other forms of income
  • The pain and suffering experienced by the victim, including physical discomfort, mental anguish, and emotional distress
  • Disfigurement and scarring caused by the injury
  • Permanent impairments and disabilities
  • A reduction in future earning potential
  • Loss of enjoyment of life and quality of life

The jury determines the value of damages if the jurors find that the defendant is responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries and damages.

Standing Does Not Mean the Defendant is Guilty

Having the standing to sue does not mean that a plaintiff automatically wins the case. 

Standing is merely the right to file a lawsuit. The plaintiff must provide sufficient evidence to convince the jury that the defendant’s conduct directly resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries and damages. If the plaintiff does not prove the legal elements of their case, the jury may decide in favor of the defendant. 

Can Someone Have a Case and Lack Standing to Sue?

Yes, there are cases in which a person meets the three requirements for standing but cannot file the lawsuit on their own behalf. 

For example, a minor may meet all of the requirements to file a lawsuit for a personal injury. However, by law, minors do not have the standing to file a lawsuit. Instead, a parent, guardian, or court-appointed representative must file the lawsuit on behalf of the minor. 

The same rule applies in cases involving adults with a mental incapacitation that prevents them from making decisions for themselves. If a person holds a general durable power of attorney, that person might have standing to file a lawsuit on behalf of the incapacitated person. The court might also appoint a conservator to file the lawsuit on behalf of the incapacitated adult.

Standing is an affirmative defense to a personal injury lawsuit. The defendant must raise the issue of standing if they want the dismiss the case for lack of standing. Failing to raise the issue before a trial could result in waiving the defense.

The best way to know whether you have standing to file a personal injury lawsuit is to ask an attorney. An attorney can evaluate your situation and explain your legal rights and options for receiving compensation for damages.