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What is a Tort Case, and What does it Involve in Florida?

In Florida, a tort case is a civil claim filed over the actions of one party that resulted in the harm of another party, or that party's property. By filing a claim in a Florida Court, the claimant seeks reparation for the damages caused. In the state's court system, the Circuit and County courts have jurisdiction over tort cases. Tort cases where the damages total up to $30,000 or less are under the jurisdiction of County Courts. The Circuit Courts handle cases above $30,000 and appeal cases from the County Courts.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What is Florida Tort Law?

Florida tort law refers to a set of statutes established to guide the standards used by Florida courts to handle tort claims, tort remedies, and the rights of litigants in the state. Tort cases are covered by Title XLV Chapter 766-774 of Florida Statutes

What Kinds of Cases are Covered by Tort Law in Florida?

Cases covered by the tort law in Florida include, but are not limited to:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Damage by dogs
  • Legal malpractice
  • Misleading product marketing
  • Defective products
  • Elder abuse or neglect
  • Negligence, involving acts such as employee injuries, trespassing, injury to a parent, hazardous spills, e.t.c
  • Libel and slander
  • Sale of defective products
  • Equine activities
  • Assault and battery

What are the Differences Between Criminal Law and Tort Law in Florida?

In Florida, there are two types of laws: civil law and criminal law. Torts fall under the civil law which covers civil lawsuits, disputes, rights, remedies, and civil procedures while crimes fall under the criminal law which covers criminal acts, penalties, and criminal procedures. The tort law and criminal law are quite different in Florida. Some differences between the two laws include:

  • Statute: Tort claims, rights, and remedies of aggrieved parties are covered by the Florida Tort Law while criminal acts and penalties fall under the Florida Criminal Procedure and Corrections Law
  • Case: A tort case results from the unintentional or deliberate harm of another individual or business while a criminal case ensues when an individual commits an offense prohibited by state or federal law. However, in some instances, a case could fall under tort law and criminal law simultaneously. This is made possible by exceptions to the double jeopardy law which allows a wronged party to seek damages in a civil court, even though the defendant has already been tried in a criminal court. Cases that fall under this law are defined under the Civil Remedies for Criminal Practices Act and include assault, battery, theft, trafficking, exploitation of elderly/disabled adults, and gambling
  • Action/burden of proof: According to the law, the person who is either sued or charged is the defendant and the person bringing the action is the plaintiff or prosecution, in criminal cases. In tort cases, the plaintiff brings the action against the defendant and must prove the claim with clear and convincing evidence. In criminal cases, the state or government brings the charges against the defendant and has the burden of proof
  • Court: The Florida Circuit and County Courts have original jurisdiction over criminal cases while in tort cases, the Circuit Court has jurisdiction over tort claims that are over $30,000 and the County Courts have jurisdiction over tort claims $30,000 or below
  • Jury: A jury trial is not a staple of the civil court and unless the defendant asks for one, most cases are handled by a judge. Criminal cases usually involve jury trials
  • Penalty/Punishment: Generally, tort law grants remedies to the affected parties for the damages caused by the tortfeasors. These remedies may be monetary compensations, reimbursements, or other reparations assessed by a judge. Criminal law punishes offenders found guilty with jail time, fines, probation, counseling, community service, and in some cases, execution, depending on the severity of the crime.
  • Victim: Tort law primarily focuses on compensating the individual victim for damages suffered while criminal law focuses more on the punishing the offender than restitution for the victim

What is the Purpose of Tort Law in Florida?

In Florida, the purpose of the tort law is to protect and compensate parties who have been intentionally or neglectfully harmed by another party, whether this harm is financial, physical, emotional, or to one's property.

What is a Tort Claim in Florida?

Under Florida statutes, a tort claim is a legal action filed by an individual or business in a Florida court due to damages sustained as a result of the neglect or intent of another party. This party may be another individual or business, or the State. There are three main categories of tort claims handled by the courts: negligent torts, intentional torts, and strict liability torts. Negligent torts are mostly accidents caused by an individual's carelessness or recklessness. Intentional torts are caused by the deliberate acts of an individual. Strict liability torts include civil claims over manufactured defective products and dog bite cases.

How Do You File a Tort Claim in Florida?

An interested party may file a tort claim in Florida by contacting the Clerk of Court in the relevant county to obtain information on the local filing procedures and requirements. This, because the procedures are contingent on the type of tort case and differ by county. Most Clerks of Court have these filing instructions and information available on their official websites. Usually, to file a claim, an individual is required to complete, sign, and submit a 'Statement of Claim' form. This form may be available online on the applicable Clerk's office, or at the Clerk's office. Claimants are required to fill this form including the correct name of the sued party, the alleged harm/injury, and their phone numbers. As a rule, parties are required to be 18 years of age and above. If the party is a minor, the case can be filed by a parent/guardian. Typically, there are filing fees which the claimant must bear; these fees vary by county and the type of action. Payment and submission methods also differ by county. Depending on the tort case, the claimant may also be required to file other documents related to the claim such as cover sheets, leases, invoices, contracts, records, etc.

What Does a Tort Claim Contain in Florida?

A tort claim in Florida may contain the following details:

  • Name and address of the claimant (including the claimant's
  • The claimant's date of birth
  • Name and address of the prospective defendant
  • Description of the alleged injury/harm (including time, date, and day of the incident)
  • Amount of claim
  • Phone number of the claimant
  • Name and address of witnesses

What Happens after a Tort Claim is Filed in Florida?

After a tort claim is filed in Florida, the prospective defendants must be served with a summons to appear in court on the scheduled date and time. This appearance is for a pretrial conference and both parties may be ordered to mediation to resolve disputes. If that fails, the case moves to trial and a trial date is set. However, a significant number of tort cases are settled pretrial. Response times and the processing times of claims differ by the type of tort case. The Clerk of Court in relevant court may be contacted to obtain these details.

Why Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Tort Claim?

Claimants may contract the services of a personal injury lawyer for tort claims. This is not required by law and legally, parties may represent themselves. However, a personal injury lawyer can educate the parties on their legal options when filing a claim, the relevant tort laws and processes, and assist with negotiating a fair settlement. Most especially, when the tort case proceeds to court.

How Can I Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me

Interested parties may find personal injury lawyers in their jurisdiction through the Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) provided by The Florida Bar.

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