Seeking compensation For Car Accident Damages
If you recently sustained injuries in a car accident, you are most likely going through a challenging time in your life. Lost income from missing work and added emotional stress compound the pain you experience from your injury and recovery. Filing a lawsuit after your car accident, when it was caused by another party’s negligence, can alleviate some of that stress. Money will not erase the accident, or undo any injuries, but compensation can help give you the resources you need to recover.
Florida is a no-fault insurance state, so this affects the amounts of some types of compensation, sometimes referred to as damages, you might receive for your injuries. This blog post provides information about Florida’s no-fault insurance requirements, discusses the types of damages you might recover after your car accident, and explores the legal issues in some unusual car accident circumstances.
If you need immediate legal assistance after a car accident, then call the skilled car accident attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH).
Florida’s No-Fault Insurance Requirements
Florida law requires that drivers who register a vehicle have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and property damage liability (PDL) coverage with minimum policy limits of $10,000. PIP insurance serves as your “primary,” or first, source of funds to pay for costs associated with an injury you sustain in a car accident.
PIP insurance provides the following benefits:
- Medical benefits. Your PIP coverage will pay 80 percent of “all reasonable” necessary medical expenses, as long as you seek medical attention within 14 days after your car accident.
- Disability benefits. PIP coverage pays 60 percent of income loss from injuries. This includes lost wages as well as loss of earning capacity when an injured person cannot work. Disability benefits also include all expenses for replacement services, which includes the cost of hiring others to perform tasks that “the injured person would have performed without income for the benefit of his or her household.”
- Death benefits. If you are a surviving family member, filing a claim under the deceased person’s PIP policy will pay $5,000 in death benefits in addition to medical and disability benefits.
In Florida, you can only sue the other driver for damages resulting from a car accident if your costs exceed the limit of your PIP policy and your injuries or losses meet requirements for severity under Florida law. The remainder of this article discusses the types of compensation you could possibly recover in an action against the other driver (or some other party) for damages.
Compensation for Economic Losses After a Car Accident
Your economic losses are the foundation of the compensation you can ask for in your car accident claim. Many of these are the same or similar to what PIP insurance pays, but you can only ask for amounts beyond what’s covered by your PIP policy. Here is more in-depth information for the kinds of compensation you might receive for economic losses related to your car accident and injury:
- Medical costs including ambulance and emergency services, hospital stays, surgery, radiology, nursing services, and prescriptions.
- Rehabilitation expenses including physical therapy, assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, canes, and artificial limbs, and assistive technology for those who suffer catastrophic injuries that eliminate body sensory functions, such as speech or hearing.
- Future medical costs might be awarded for two reasons. First, a car accident claim might be settled or go to trial before a victim fully recovers, so medical experts must place a value on the remaining costs needed for a complete recovery. This might include future surgeries, follow-up visits, and continued physical therapy. In other unfortunate cases, injuries are so severe that the likelihood of full recovery is slim to none. Some victims might suffer lifelong chronic pain, some might suffer partial or full paralysis, and others might be in a permanent vegetative state. In any of these cases, experts place value on extended medical treatment or long-term healthcare which need to be included as future medical expenses.
- Lost wages from missing time from work because of a car accident and associated injuries. A full recovery requires complete rest so a person’s body can heal. Brain injuries also require mental rest. Depending on the nature of the injury, accident victims might not be able to return to work for weeks or months. Those who must engage in large amounts of manual labor in their jobs still may have work restrictions when they return, sometimes resulting in lost wages because of reduced hours or reduced duties.
- Lost earning capacity refers to future lost income as a result of a catastrophic injury or permanent disability. Employment benefits are also included in lost earning capacity. When car accident victims cannot return to work, it devastates families who relied on that income. Injury victims who are below working age also might be able to ask for compensation because a permanent disability might prevent them from gaining meaningful employment when they are adults.
Compensation for Non-Economic Losses After a Car Accident
When you file a car accident lawsuit, you can also ask for compensation for non-economic damages. This is one of the most important reasons to enlist the help of a qualified attorney. Placing a value on non-economic losses is not an easy task; your lawyer most likely has a network of experts such as life care planners and medical experts who can help. A Florida court might award compensation for a variety of non-economic losses. Here are three common types of non-economic compensation.
- Pain and suffering includes the physical pain and psychological challenges following an injury. Victims physically experience pain from their injury that continues during recovery, and maybe even for life. On an emotional level, a temporary or permanent disability might cause a victim to feel anxious, depressed, embarrassed, inconvenienced, scared, or to feel some other emotion caused by their injury. For a court to award damages for pain and suffering, Florida law requires that the victim has an injury that medical professionals believe to be likely permanent.
- Scarring and disfigurement is a type of pain and suffering that is addressed separately under Florida law. Car accident victims who have suffered extensive burns, deep lacerations, or amputations often receive compensation for scarring and disfigurement. These types of injuries require extended recovery that might last for months or longer and often include multiple surgeries or other treatment. Victims must live with permanent loss of a limb or other body part or scars which cause emotional suffering, humiliation, anger, and other negative emotions.
- Loss of consortium refers to the effect an accident has on a person’s relationship with their partner. In Florida, loss of consortium only applies to victims who are married. Many times, serious injuries cause decreased intimacy, both emotional and physical, affecting a marriage on many different levels.
Compensatory versus Punitive Damages in Florida Car Accident Cases
The previously listed economic and non-economic damages are most often referred to as compensatory damages. If the court rules in your favor, you will most likely be awarded these damages, which intend to help you recover losses related to your accident and injuries. Another type of non-economic damages, punitive damages, deserve a special explanation because of their intention and the likelihood of a court awarding them to you. Florida law entitles you to seek punitive damages, intended to punish the defendant; however, some special limitations apply. For the court to award punitive damages in your car accident case, Florida law requires that the defendant be guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.
- Intentional misconduct refers to a defendant choosing to take a particular action to cause damage or injury when he or she knew that action would cause harm to the plaintiff.
- Gross negligence refers to careless conduct that was so reckless that it was a conscious disregard for “life, safety, or rights” of people exposed to that conduct.
If you request punitive damages in your car accident claim, you are subject to the following limits under Florida law:
- Florida caps punitive damages at three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever amount is greater.
- If liable parties were negligent as a result of their motivation for financial gain and those in charge knew about an intentional action that caused injury, punitive damages are capped at the greater of four times the amount of compensatory damages or $2,000,000. This might come into play if your accident was a result of a defective automobile or car part.
- When intentional harm occurs, Florida law removes all caps on punitive damages.
Compensation for Property Damage After a Car Accident
You can also seek compensation to recover losses related to property damage from your accident; however, this is a separate claim from your personal injury claim. The other driver’s property damage liability (PDL) may cover you for these damages, depending upon the circumstances of the accident. Discuss property damage with your lawyer, who will advise you on the best course of action for your circumstances.
Compensation for Family Members Filing a Wrongful Death Car Accident Claim
If you bring a car accident claim in connection with the death of a loved one, the compensation for which you ask in a wrongful death claim will differ from compensatory damages in a personal injury claim. Florida requires that a personal representative file suit on behalf of survivors and the estate of the deceased. Compensation for the following types of damages might be part of a wrongful death claim:
- Lost support and services for each survivor, with interest, and including future loss, based on the relationship between the survivor and the deceased
- Loss of companionship and protection for a spouse
- Mental pain and suffering for the spouse, minor children, and parents, when the deceased is a minor child
- Loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance for minor children
- Medical and funeral expenses paid by a survivor
Under Florida law, the personal representative of the estate of the deceased might also recover the following damages:
- Lost earnings from the date of the car accident to the date of death
- Loss of reasonably expected net accumulations of an estate when survivors include a spouse or a minor child
- Medical and funeral expenses that were charged against the estate.
Wrongful death car accident claims are complex cases that require the expertise of a skilled personal injury attorney. If you are a survivor seeking compensation after the death of a loved one, a lawyer who understands how Florida’s wrongful death laws apply to your case will tell you about the specific procedural requirements and the types of compensation that apply to your case.
Contact an Experienced Florida Car Accident Attorney Today
We understand the financial burden and undue stress that a car accident can inflict on injured victims and their families. If you are seeking compensation after a Florida car accident, you need to take legal action before the statute of limitations runs out—four years for personal injury claims and two years for wrongful death claims.
The skilled legal team at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, has secured millions of dollars in compensation for car accident injury victims while serving clients on both Florida coasts. Our experienced car accident attorneys can investigate your accident, gather necessary and relevant documents, and uncover as many facts as possible to support your case, while you focus on healing and recovery.
Call Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or write to us for a free consultation to discuss the details of your case and determine your eligibility for compensation after your car accident. We don’t charge you upfront. If you choose us to represent you, we handle personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis, deducting attorney fees from any compensation we secure for you in the form or a settlement or verdict in your favor.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765