After serious injuries in an auto accident, many passengers are left with considerable financial concerns as well as questions about the recovery process. If your medical bills keep mounting, you may find yourself in desperate need of financial assistance. Talking to a car accident attorney and filing a personal injury claim may be an option to help you recover some of the funds you lost during your auto accident. As a passenger in a car accident, how much money can you really get for your injuries?
When considering the possibility of a personal injury claim, you must start by understanding the limitations offered by the average insurance policy.
When You Can File a Personal Injury Claim
In Florida, you cannot file a claim for bodily injury from another driver’s insurance company until you have exhausted the limits of your own personal injury protection insurance plan. Personal injury protection insurance provides a minimum of $10,000 of coverage for immediate medical bills and lost time at work following a serious auto accident.
If you carry personal injury protection insurance, you can use it to provide coverage for your immediate medical bills. If you do not carry personal injury protection coverage, the coverage carried by the owner of the vehicle you were in at the time of the accident may extend to cover you. All vehicle owners in Florida are legally required to carry personal injury protection insurance.
Bodily Injury Limits
The limits of the responsible driver’s bodily injury coverage can pose significant problems for passengers with severe bodily injuries following an auto accident. In Florida, drivers must carry a minimum of $10,000 in bodily injury coverage per individual and $20,000 in bodily injury coverage per accident. If the vehicle you were in was carrying multiple passengers and those passengers all suffered serious injuries in the accident, these relatively low coverage limits may not take care of everyone’s medical bills.
Increasing the Minimums
Some drivers must carry more than the Florida minimum liability insurance. Commercial drivers, especially truck drivers, must carry higher-coverage insurance policies, which can provide vitally-needed coverage for your medical bills. Some drivers also choose to carry higher than minimum coverage, especially if they have expensive vehicles or must drive frequently for work. If multiple parties bear responsibility for your accident, you may also have grounds to file a personal injury claim against each responsible party, which can substantially increase the available funds you may recover after your accident.
Who and What Caused the Accident?
If another driver caused your accident, you must contend with the limitations of that driver’s insurance policy. Some auto accidents, however, involve more than one responsible party. Identifying all responsible parties can allow you to file a personal injury claim against each one, which ultimately can significantly increase the results through your case.
Some mechanical failures occur due to driver error. The driver might, for example, choose to put off routine maintenance, including oil changes or tire replacement, until this lack of maintenance poses a serious danger. In other cases, however, mechanical failure might occur due to circumstances beyond the driver’s control.
Some possible scenarios include:
- Manufacturer defect. Manufacturer defect occurs when a vehicle or needed vehicle part leaves the factory with some issue that makes that vehicle or part unsafe. For example, a tire that blows out in spite of the driver taking all necessary precautions, including avoiding overloading the vehicle and keeping the vehicle away from potholes and obstacles in the road, could mean that the responsibility may lie with the tire manufacturer. When a defect causes an accident that leads to serious injuries, the vehicle or part manufacturer might share responsibility for your injuries. Going after a big company for compensation for your medical bills may substantially increase the funds you may seek after a serious auto accident.
- Mechanic error. Sometimes, the driver does the right thing when the vehicle starts having problems, taking it straight to a mechanic to check on the problem. Unfortunately, not every mechanic effectively fixes a vehicle’s issues. If the mechanic gives the vehicle back to the driver with the assumption that the vehicle was fixed, but the mechanic failed to properly repair the vehicle, the mechanic may bear responsibility for any damage to the vehicle in an accident. The mechanic may also bear responsibility if they failed to notice a serious problem with the vehicle that led to the accident. If another mechanic would reasonably have noticed the problems that may have led to your accident, you may want to consult with an attorney. The mechanic may also bear liability for the accident if improper repairs led to the accident.
A drunk driving accident can leave everyone in the other vehicle suffering from serious injuries and reeling from the severity of the accident. Drunk drivers ultimately bear responsibility for any injuries caused by their actions, including the decision to drink and drive. In addition, if the drunk driver visited a bar or restaurant that continued to serve them despite their evident drunkenness and the knowledge that they planned to drive, the bar or restaurant may share liability for any injuries that occurred during the accident.
Many drivers on the road drive for a living. Uber and Lyft drivers, delivery drivers, and even drivers simply making a run to acquire vital supplies for their business spend long hours on the road taking care of those important job responsibilities. In many cases, the driver directly causes an accident through no fault of the company that employs them. Sometimes, however, the company may share responsibility for an accident that occurs while the driver is on the clock. Situations in which a business may be liable for a driver’s actions can include:
A company that continues to employ a driver with a known history of tickets or accidents. A driver with an unsafe driving record should have their position terminated or their job responsibilities changed to keep them off the road as much as possible. If a driver causes multiple accidents, especially on the clock, or receives repeated tickets for speeding, distracted driving, or other reckless behavior, the company may share responsibility for any accident that driver causes.
The company has unsafe driving requirements. In some cases, the company that employs the driver may have unrealistic or dangerous expectations of that driver. Truck drivers, for example, can only legally drive eleven hours out of each fourteen-hour shift, after which they must spend a period of time away from the wheel before resuming driving. If the company requires or expects its drivers to exceed those limitations, the company may bear liability for any accidents their drivers cause. Unsafe policies may include:
- Forcing a driver to spend too many hours behind the wheel;
- Forcing a driver to drive while ill;
- Requiring a driver to continue working in unsafe weather conditions; and/or
- Requiring a driver to come in when the driver recently consumed alcohol or took medication.
The Cost of Your Injuries
To determine the funds you may receive following an auto accident, most insurance companies will look at the extent of your injuries and how the accident has impacted you financially. Most people who have suffered severe injuries in an accident seek compensation, if relevant, for medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning potential, and pain and suffering. The greater your medical expenses following an accident, the more compensation you are likely to receive. Consider these common injuries and the expenses associated with them:
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can permanently change the shape of a person’s life. Most spinal cord injury victims with incomplete spinal cord injuries make the bulk of their recovery within the first six months after the accident. Victims with complete spinal cord injuries may never recover movement or sensation below the site of their injury. Spinal cord injury victims with high tetraplegia may see medical costs totaling as much as $1 million in the first year after the accident alone. Victims with incomplete motor function after the accident may see costs as high as $347,000.
When calculating their expenses following a spinal cord injury, victims should include:
- Physical and occupational therapy;
- Wheelchairs and other durable medical equipment; and
- The cost of modifications to the home following the accident.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Victims who suffer traumatic brain injuries in an accident may lose the ability to work long-term as they recover from their accidents. Many traumatic brain injury victims struggle with emotional regulation, including depression and anxiety. They may also struggle to focus, maintain concentration, or complete complex cognitive tasks.
These symptoms can leave victims unable to work and struggling financially during this very difficult period of their lives. Not only that, but medical treatment of a traumatic brain injury can cost between $85,000 and $3 million. Due to problems with emotional self-regulation and memory, victims with a traumatic brain injury may also need ongoing care to prevent them from injuring themselves, wandering off, or creating other severe issues for their loved ones to deal with.
Following an amputation, many accident victims have to relearn how to perform common tasks, including walking or self-care. A medical amputation performed due to crushing damage costs an average of $30,000 to $60,000 in initial medical expenses. Over the next three years, a victim may owe as much as $60,000 in further medical expenses.
Not only that, amputation victims may choose to use prosthetic limbs to aid in independence. Prosthetic limbs can cost between $5,000 and $50,000, depending on the complexity of the limb and the functions it must perform. Most victims must replace prosthetic limbs every three years, depending on how much they use the limb and its design. Many victims must also replace the limb within the first year after the amputation, as the shape of their stump changes.
Broken bones can leave many accident victims with limited mobility and decreased independence long after the accident. Victims who suffer broken bones in a serious auto accident may face an average of $2,500 in medical costs to simply set a broken bone. Surgical treatment for a broken bone can substantially increase the costs: the average surgery, depending on its complexity and how long the victim must remain in the hospital to monitor their recovery, can cost as much as $35,000.
Broken bones can also prevent an immediate return to work, leaving many victims with decreased ability to pay their bills even as medical expenses mount. In some cases, broken bones that do not heal well can cause complications long after the accident itself.
Often medical bills are a car accident victim’s largest expense. However, if you are considering filing a personal injury claim, you should also compile evidence of other expenses associated with the accident and assess how they have impacted your finances in the aftermath of the accident.
Many injuries can prevent you from working for weeks or even months after an accident. While some employers can work with you to allow you to work in spite of your injuries, others lack the ability to rearrange your schedule or change your work responsibilities. Whether your employer offers sick time to allow you time to recover or you lose your source of income immediately, it does not take long for that lost income to start adding up. Seeking lost wages may help you recover some of the financial damages you face after an accident.
Pain and Suffering
Many accidents cause substantial pain and suffering—and not just physical pain. Your accident can leave you unable to participate in activities that you once enjoyed or suffering from a sense of social isolation, especially if those injuries require a long-term recovery.
If you suffered injuries of any kind in an auto accident, especially as a passenger, you may need a car accident attorney on your side to help you seek the full compensation you deserve. Contact a car accident lawyer as soon after the accident as possible to get a better idea of the compensation you may recover for your injuries.
Orlando, FL 32814