What Compensation Can I Get for My Accident?
A car accident can cause hundreds or thousands of dollars’ worth of losses, which may range from medical expenses to the costs of repairs to lost wages and more. Of course, these economic losses do not factor in the intangible costs of other harm, such as psychological injuries, physical pain, suffering and anguish.
At the law offices of Buckman & Buckman, P.A., we understand how car accident injuries can affect you. As experienced Sarasota car accident attorneys, our primary goal is goal make sure that you know you have an advocate during the claims process, and to help you seek the maximum amount of compensation possible.
The following reviews what you need to know about Florida’s no-fault car insurance laws, how these laws may have an effect on your right to damages, and how much – and what types – of compensation may be available after a crash.
Florida’s No-Fault Car Insurance Laws
When you are involved in a crash in Florida, you need to file an injury claim for damages. However, Florida’s no-fault car insurance law will undoubtedly not only affect your right to recover compensation, but it may also affect the types of damages you are able to recover as well.
Under the no-fault car insurance system, drivers are required to carry a type of auto insurance called PIP, or personal injury protection, coverage. This type of insurance pays for injuries that the policyholder sustains in a crash, regardless of who was at fault. This means that even if another driver causes an accident in Florida, you cannot file a claim against them for very minor injuries; instead, you need to turn to your own PIP policy first.
In Florida, as explained by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, the intention of PIP coverage is to provide drivers with up to $10,000 in immediate medical coverage after a crash. In addition to medical expenses, PIP coverage may also be used to pay funeral and burial expenses, lost wages, and lost services.
But Is $10,000 Really Enough?
The problem with PIP coverage is that for many drivers and passengers who are injured in a crash, $10,000 simply is not enough to cover all of their medical bills and other economic losses, and does not provide for noneconomic damages like pain and suffering.
For those people who are involved in a car accident where serious injuries are suffered, thereby requiring more compensation to remedy, stepping out of the no-fault system is possible. A driver may step out of the no-fault system when their injuries meet Florida’s injury threshold. As found in Florida Statutes Section 627.737, an injury is considered serious when at least one of the following is true:
- It results in permanent and significant loss of a bodily function.
- It results in significant permanent injury (other than scarring and disfigurement).
- It causes significant scarring or disfigurement.
- It results in death.
When a driver or passenger has suffered the injury types above, they are allowed to pursue damages outside of the no-fault system. This means that they can seek noneconomic damages for pain and suffering, that their recoverable damages award is not capped, and that they are allowed to pursue a liability claim or a lawsuit against the at-fault party.
Recovering Economic Damages for Your Losses
Most people only think about economic damages in the initial stages following a car accident. Some of the most obvious types of economic damages are things like property damage to a car, immediate medical bills, or lost wages when an injury prevents a person from going to work.
However, when you pursue a claim outside of the no-fault system, you may seek the full value of your economic damages, which may also include:
- Future medical expenses, such as costs of in-home care, future surgeries, medications, therapy and treatment, etc.
- The costs of your loss of earning capacity and benefits, including any pension or bonuses that you would have earned had you been able to continue working.
- The economic costs of adjustments that are necessary, such as having to move to a home that is suitable for your new disability.
Seeking Noneconomic Damages
In addition to seeking economic compensation for your losses, you also have the right to seek noneconomic damages when you pursue a claim outside of the no-fault system. Noneconomic damages are those damages that are intangible and harder to calculate, such as the value of your:
- Psychological injury
- Emotional anguish
- Loss of quality of life
Noneconomic damages are uncapped in Florida, which means that there is no limit on the amount of noneconomic damages you may be able to receive. Our experienced car accident attorney can help you understand this area of injury compensation law and what your case may be worth.
Another type of damages that are sometimes allowed in civil cases (but are never allowed in a claim with your own insurance company’s PIP policy) are punitive damages. Punitive damages are not compensatory in nature, which means that rather than being designed to compensate you for your losses, they are part of a civil suit in order to punish a defendant for their wrongdoing.
As found in Florida Statutes, punitive damages are only permitted when the injuries sustained by the plaintiff occurred as a result of the defendant’s gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Punitive damages in Florida are limited, and cannot be awarded in an amount greater than $500,000, or three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff.
What If I Was at Fault for My Accident?
The tricky thing about stepping outside of the no-fault system and being able to seek compensation for the types of damages listed above is this: while personal injury coverage protection pays for some of your expenses regardless of fault, you will have to prove the fault of the other driver (or other negligent party) in order to recover compensation outside of the no-fault system.
This means that even if you suffered a serious injury (which qualifies you to step outside of the no-fault system), you may be unable to recover compensation if you were the one at fault for your car accident and related car accident injuries. In order to hold another party liable for the harm you have suffered and maximize your damages award, you will not only need to prove that the other driver owed you a duty of care (which is typically implied), but you will also need to prove that they:
- Breached this duty of care as a direct result of negligence (i.e. speeding, drinking while driving, driving aggressively, using a cellphone, running a red light, etc.); and
- That your accident and injuries would not have occurred but for the breach and the act of negligence.
If you were completely at fault for the crash, you will likely be unable to recover damages except for the damages that are recoverable through your own PIP insurance policy. If you were partially at fault for your injuries, you are not barred from seeking damages from the mostly at-fault party, but the amount of money that you are able to receive is diminished in proportion to your degree of fault. Our experienced car accident attorney can help you to prove the fault of the other party to the greatest degree possible to preserve your right to damages.
Start the Process of Recovery Compensation Now
The process of recovering compensation for the harm that you have suffered begins immediately. If you are seriously injured, the most important thing that you can do for yourself and for your future is to seek medical care and get the treatment you need. You need to follow all of your doctor’s instructions throughout the healing process, and keep thorough documentation of your care and treatment plan.
You should also start investigating the accident as soon as possible. If you are seriously injured, this may be impossible for you. As such, it is very important to contact a car accident attorney in Sarasota who can begin the investigation process and start collecting evidence necessary to prove damages and fault.
It is also essential that you notify your insurance company of the accident as soon as possible. An attorney can represent you in all conversations with your insurance company moving forward. You should never accept a settlement offer without speaking to a car accident attorney first.
Learn More About How to Recover the Compensation You Deserve for Car Accident Injuries
When you are involved in a car accident, injury compensation should be a top priority. At Buckman & Buckman, P.A., our family-run law firm knows that whether it is you or a loved one who is hurt, you want answers regarding what types of compensation are available to you and what the future will hold. We take your claim very seriously, and prioritize getting you the full and fair compensation that you deserve.
To schedule your free consultation, please contact us online or by phone today.