Motor vehicle accidents can prove stressful and overwhelming, and they can leave your whole world turned upside down in an instant. Victims of this horrifying accident and their families often must deal with devastating injuries, debilitating pain, and extensive medical bills.
Even worse, many times these victims don’t know how to pursue compensation following their automobile crash or how they can claim bodily injury after an accident, especially since the process of recovering compensation after a collision often proves complicated in Florida.
That is why, to get you the help you need, we have prepared this blog post. In it, we will go over bodily injury claims, how to file them, the financial recovery that you may qualify to pursue, and the actions you need to take to ensure that you pursue compensation for the full cost of your injuries, including future costs.
Filing a Bodily Injury Claim Following an Accident
If you sustain an injury in a car accident in Florida, you need first to file a claim with your own insurance company, since Florida has no-fault insurance laws. No-fault means that in the event of a car crash, both parties will have to turn to their own auto insurance policies to make claims, regardless of who caused the accident. To cover their damages, all Florida drivers must also have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance included in their motor vehicle insurance policy.
In situations where you do not have enough insurance to cover all of your injuries, you can file a claim against the liable driver’s insurance. However, if both insurance policies don’t amount to enough to cover the harm you’ve sustained, you should file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for the bodily injury and losses you’ve endured.
In addition, another common issue that may arise involves the liable motorist not having enough insurance coverage to pay your injury claims. Furthermore, the insurance company may offer you a settlement amount that does not reflect the true value of your claim or deny your claim altogether. Because of the complexities involved with a motor vehicle accident claim, you should speak to a skilled motor vehicle accident attorney as quickly as possible. These lawyers can promptly go over your case, determine your legal options, and help you pursue compensation for the full cost of your injuries.
Florida’s Serious Injury Threshold
In Florida, the serious injury threshold constitutes an exception to Florida’s no-fault laws. Generally, motor vehicle accident victims must recover economic damages through their PIP no-fault insurance policies. However, when car accident victims meet the serious injury threshold, they can go outside the no-fault system and bring legal action against the responsible driver. This serious injury threshold allows victims to recover pain and suffering damages as well when the involved injuries qualify as serious under the law.
Meeting the Serious Injury Threshold
According to Florida law, for your injuries to meet the serious injury threshold, they need to show:
- A significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;
- A permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, outside of disfigurement or scarring;
- Significant and permanent disfigurement or scarring; or
How Does the Serious Injury Threshold Work?
Typically, if you’ve suffered injuries in an automobile crash in Florida, you need to work with your own insurance policy to pay for your damages. You will submit these damages to your own PIP insurance provider, and your insurer will often pay you 80 percent for your medical expenses and 60 percent for lost work, up to the policy limits. Generally, you will have at least $10,000 in PIP benefits, but you can extend this coverage to obtain a higher amount.
However, if you suffered injuries greater than this amount or if your injuries qualify as serious, you can step outside the no-fault system and file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. Pursuing a lawsuit against the at-fault party means you are not limited to compensation for only lost wages and economic damages. Instead, you can seek non-economic damages as well.
Recoverable Damages Following a Motor Vehicle Accident
If you can pursue legal action following your car accident, you may qualify for certain compensation to cover your losses. In Florida, this compensation may include economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages: These damages refer to the actual and measurable losses that result from the accident, including:
- Past, present, and future medical bills such as surgeries, doctor visits, assistive devices, hospital stay, emergency room visits, and prescription medication
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Rehabilitative therapy, such as physical and occupational therapy
- At-home nursing care
- Replacement at-home services, such as grocery shopping services or child care services
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
Non-economic damages: These damages cover subjective losses that may prove difficult to quantify.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Permanent disfigurement
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of reputation
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Punitive Damages: In addition, in limited cases, injured individuals may also qualify to pursue punitive damages. Unlike economic and non-economic damages, which compensate a victim for accident-related losses, courts award punitive damages to punish the wrongful party for particularly egregious actions and to deter others from committing similar acts in the future.
However, to go after punitive damages, you must show with clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions qualify as intentional or grossly negligent. Gross negligence often means that the defendant’s conduct was so wanton in care or reckless that it constituted a conscious disregard for the victim’s life, safety, or rights.
The Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Claims
The statute of limitations dictates the maximum amount of time you have to file a claim following an alleged offense. If you do not file your claim within this allotted time, you may miss out entirely on pursuing compensation for your injuries. In Florida, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim stands at four years from the date of the accident. However, various exceptions to this rule may apply that can impact the amount of time you have to file.
In addition, although you may have years to pursue a lawsuit for a car accident, insurance companies often require you to start a claim much sooner. In fact, often within 30 days, but some insurance companies may give you even less time. You should notify your insurance company following an accident as quickly as possible, even if you are waiting for a lawyer to help file your claim.
You should still contact an experienced car accident attorney as quickly as possible following your accident. These lawyers can not only help you determine how much time you have to file your claim, but they can also ensure the adequate preparation and timely filing of your legal documents. Plus, since negotiations with the insurance company can take some time, you want to make sure you file your claim early enough to ensure that you have plenty of time to pursue your case properly.
Actions To Take After a Motor Vehicle Accident
Following a car crash, you should take immediate action—not only to remain safe after the accident but also to protect your legal rights. For these reasons, following a collision, you should:
After a motor vehicle crash, you need to contact 911 as soon as possible. This will get your accident on record and notify the police and emergency medical services if you or someone at the scene needs medical help.
Once the police arrive, they can investigate this collision and write down their findings in their police report. If you decide to pursue legal action for your injuries, this report can provide you with valuable evidence regarding what happened and whom the police determined caused the accident.
Get to a Doctor as Soon as Possible
Even if your injuries appear relatively minor, you still need to see a doctor as soon as you can following your accident. Often, serious injuries, such as head and brain trauma, can take days to weeks to manifest. The longer you wait to get treatment, the more deadly the injuries can become. For these reasons, you shouldn’t delay; a medical professional should examine you promptly after the car crash.
Additionally, getting to a doctor can also help your legal claim. Insurance companies will look for any reason to deny your case or withhold money for which you qualify. By not getting prompt medical attention, these companies will often try to argue that you did not suffer serious injuries or that your injuries resulted from a subsequent event. Fortunately, when you head to the doctor immediately after your collision, your doctor can document your injuries in a medical report, providing you with evidence of a direct link between the harm you sustained and the accident.
If you feel safe following your accident, you should try to take as many pictures and videos of the accident scene and damage as you can. You should include photos of your visible injuries, the vehicles involved in the crash, the placement of these vehicles on the road, the weather conditions at the time of the accident, skid marks on the road, traffic signs near the crash, and any other evidence that can help show what happened.
Get Driver Details
Make sure you exchange information with all the other drivers involved in the accident, including their names, driver’s license numbers, insurance information, and contact information.
Obtain Witness Contact Information
If bystanders at the accident scene saw what happened, make sure you get their names and contact details. Witness statements can often provide you with relevant information regarding the crash and help back up your claims. However, if these individuals do not want to offer you their information, do not force them. The experienced car accident lawyer that you retain can try to obtain this information for you.
Watch What You Say
Following the crash, make sure you watch what you say. This means you want to avoid making any definitive statements, taking the blame for the accident, or apologizing for anything that happened. These types of messages can end up hurting your claim and reducing the amount of money you ultimately receive.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Today
Claiming bodily injury after an accident can prove difficult in many situations. In truth, to obtain all the money you need to cover the full cost of your injuries, you may need to provide detailed evidence and sound legal arguments justifying your harm and the losses you suffered. Fortunately, you do not have to do this alone. Once you retain an experienced car accident attorney, these lawyers can handle this whole legal process for you and provide you with the help you need.
Specifically, an attorney can:
- Evaluate your legal claim, go over your legal options, and help you determine which option you should pursue.
- Answer all of your questions and concerns and provide you the legal support you require during this time.
- Investigate your accident and secure the evidence needed to show damages and liability.
- Hold all the liable parties accountable for your harm.
- Handle all the negotiations with the insurance company and make sure to go after a fair settlement amount on your behalf.
Bring in the experts, such as accident reconstructionists, engineers, and doctors, to substantiate your claims and ensure that you know the true value of your case.
- Take your case to trial, if needed, and pursue maximum compensation on your behalf.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries because of a motor vehicle collision, do not wait any longer to seek legal help. Contact an experienced car accident lawyer today for a free case review, during which you can discuss the details of your accident, ask questions about your legal options, and determine your eligibility to pursue compensation. Don’t wait any longer to retain legal counsel and get started on your claim.