If you have been injured in an accident and the medical bills are beginning to pile up, you may ask whether you can potentially make a claim for personal injuries. This is a complex question, as it involves a two-fold analysis. First, it must be determined whether you can hold another party liable for your injuries and second, in car accident cases, it must be determined whether your injuries meet Florida “threshold” for bringing a personal injury claim. If the answers to these questions are “yes,” you likely have a valid personal injury claim in Florida. However, in order to determine the value of your claim, it must be decided whether any negligence on your part contributed to the accident.
Common Accidents that Result in Personal Injuries
Personal injury law is a vast field, as injuries can be caused by a variety of incidents, including but not limited to, the following:
- Car accidents;
- Truck accidents;
- Motorcycle accidents;
- Dog bites;
- Assault and battery; and
- Work related injuries.
Often, the manner in which you were injured will determine how you must proceed with a personal injury claim. For example, if you were injured while at work, then Florida’s worker’s compensation law controls how you can recover for your injuries. Under this law, your employer is required to carry insurance to cover your lost wages and medical bills if you are injured on-the-job; however, in exchange, you waive your right to sue your employer for negligence, which is the normal cause of action at issue in personal injury cases. This means that you will generally not be able to recover for your “pain and suffering.”
Car Accidents and Florida No-Fault Law
Motor vehicle accidents are some of the most common causes of personal injuries in Florida, but recovering for your personal injuries after a Florida car accident also has some barriers. Like many states, Florida is a “no-fault” state, which means that drivers are required to carry personal injury insurance as a part of their auto insurance policy. This insurance becomes primary after a car accident and covers emergency medical expenses as well as certain medical bills, lost wages, and incidental expenses after a car accident. Every passenger in a vehicle is eligible to be covered by the driver’s no-fault insurance policy, but despite the benefits, the no-fault law does carry some hindrances when it comes to litigating your personal injuries.
“Threshold” in Florida Car Accident Cases
Because courts in states with larger populations, such as Florida, are inundated with personal injury litigation from car accidents, no-fault laws are designed to reduce litigation by “guaranteeing” you some form of compensation regardless of who is at fault for the accident. Accordingly, Florida law sets a medical “threshold” for personal injury recovery, meaning that your injuries must meet certain pre-qualifications if you wish to pursue a personal injury claim in Florida courts. There are four categorizations of injuries in Florida that meet the “threshold” standard that would allow you to seek compensation above that paid out by your no-fault carrier:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability;
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, and
Whether your injuries meet the threshold will generally be determined by expert medical testimony as presented by your personal injury attorney during litigation.
“Aggravation and Exacerbation” of Existing Injuries
As is common in personal injury cases, sometimes an accident will cause to you either re-injure a previously healed injury or aggravate a pre-existing injury. The question remains: if you were already somewhat injured prior to your accident, do you still have a valid personal injury claim? The answer is yes because you can recover for “aggravation and exacerbation” of a pre-existing injury. This is based on a theory of law called the “eggshell plaintiff rule,” which holds that a defendant who injuries you is responsible for any injuries that are either magnified by the accident or are unexpected because of the particular characteristics of a plaintiff.
For example, if you have a blood clotting disorder and sustain a minor injury in a trip-and-fall accident that causes you to bleed profusely and sustain more serious injuries, the liable party is still responsible for the serious results of his or her negligence even though such injuries were not a foreseeable result of your fall. Further, if you had a serious knee injury and the injury was made worse by a car accident, the defendant is still responsible for compensating you for that injury provided you can present medical evidence that shows the condition was made worse by the accident itself. This will require “before and after” documentation of your injury, which is why it is important to always seek medical attention and ensure documentation for any injuries you receive.
In the same vein, however, damages or injuries are a necessary part of recovery in litigating a negligence claim. This means that even if you were involved in a severe car accident as the result of drunk driving, if you were an athlete and as a result of your training were able to prevent serious injury, you cannot recover for what “could have been” if you hadn’t been so fit.
Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Attorney to Review Your Case
If you are suffering from personal injuries, including emotional or psychological injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder, it is important to contact a Florida personal injury attorney to discuss your case. Whether it’s a worker’s compensation claim, a car accident, trip-and-fall injury, or a dog bite case, the law in Florida is different for each. However, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Take advantage for your no-risk, free consultation with the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, your premier personal injury lawyers in the greater Tampa Bay area. They are here to fight for your right to compensation, and they can advise you as to whether you have a claim for personal injuries under Florida law. Contact them today online or at (727) 451-6900.