Kibbey Wagner, PLLC | October 20, 2022 | Personal Injury
Because Florida is a no-fault insurance state for car accidents, most injury claims are handled by the victim’s insurance carrier. However, Florida law sets a “serious injury threshold” that allows victims to sue an at-fault driver for damages in some cases.
How Does Florida’s No-Fault Insurance Work?
Florida insurance laws require drivers to have $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. PIP is no-fault insurance. It pays benefits to individuals covered by the police regardless of who caused an accident.
No-fault insurance is designed to provide quick reimbursement for medical bills and loss of income after a Port St. Lucie car accident because you do not need to prove fault to receive benefits.
However, there are some important limitations to no-fault insurance, including:
- You must seek medical treatment from a qualified medical practitioner within 14 days of the accident date to receive benefits.
- Your benefits are limited to $2,500 if you do not sustain an injury that qualifies as an emergency medical condition.
- PIP benefits only cover 80% of your medical bills.
- You only receive 40% of your lost wages under PIP coverage.
- No-fault insurance does not cover all economic damages and pays nothing for non-economic damages.
Even if you sustain an emergency medical condition, your PIP coverage pays benefits up to $10,000. A serious injury could result in much higher medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.
The good news is that Florida insurance laws contain an exemption to the rule that you cannot sue an at-fault driver. So if your injuries meet the “serious injury threshold,” you could file a personal injury lawsuit against the person who caused your car crash.
What Are the Categories of Serious Injuries for Car Accident Lawsuits in Florida?
Four categories of “serious injuries” are listed in the Florida statutes. Those categories are:
- Disfigurement or scarring that is permanent or significant
- Permanent and significant loss of an important bodily function
- A reasonable medical probability that an injury is permanent, other than scarring or disfigurement
Unfortunately, the statute does not provide further guidance on deciding if an injury meets the “serious injury threshold” for filing a car accident lawsuit. Judges use court decisions in prior cases as a guideline.
Florida Statute §316.027 defines serious bodily injury as a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of:
- Serious personal disfigurement
- Protracted impairment of loss of the function of a bodily organ or member
Therefore, an injury that might never heal or could take an extended period to heal might qualify as a serious injury. Paralysis, traumatic brain injury, broken bones, amputations, and spinal injuries are examples of injuries that could meet the serious injury threshold.
How Do I Know if My Car Accident Injury Is Serious Enough to File a Claim?
It is important to remember that not all injuries are alike. For example, a hairline fracture that heals in a few weeks with no physical therapy might not be considered a serious injury. However, a complex fracture that requires surgery and extensive physical therapy could result in an impairment that might qualify as a serious injury.
The same injury could also be treated differently based on the victims. For example, a broken finger might not seriously impair most people’s daily activities. However, for someone who earns a living playing the piano professionally, a broken finger could prevent them from performing their job.
Courts decide cases based on the facts and circumstances of the case. A skilled Florida personal injury lawyer can help you locate medical specialists and other expert witnesses to testify regarding the severity of your injuries. Experienced car accident attorneys understand the law and how the law applies to your situation.
What Damages Can I Receive for a Serious Injury Claim in Florida?
If your injury meets the threshold for a serious injury sustained in a car accident, you could receive compensation for your economic damages. The damages include:
- The cost of medical treatment and future medical bills
- Loss of income, including benefits, wages, overtime pay, future earning capacity, and other forms of income
- Out-of-pocket expenses, including personal care and assistance with household tasks
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Physical discomfort
- Impairments and disabilities
- Mental anguish
- A decrease in quality of life
- Emotional distress
How much your injury claim is worth depends on many factors. However, seeking prompt medical care, documenting damages, and having sound legal advice can increase your chance of recovering a fair settlement amount.
A personal injury law firm can handle all aspects of your personal injury claim, from filings to proving you suffered a serious injury. Your lawyer can help you maximize the amount of compensation you receive after an accident.