Florida Personal Injury Law
Under Florida’s personal injury liability law, you are not liable for another person’s personal injuries – even if you caused the car accident – unless those injuries meet a certain medical threshold. If the injuries do not meet this threshold, then the injured person may not recover for the injuries themselves or the pain, suffering, mental anguish, or inconvenience experienced as the result of those injuries. Such thresholds are generally applicable only in no-fault states such as Florida, where drivers are required to carry $10, 000 in personal injury coverage to pay for medical expenses that arise out of car accidents. This coverage is “primary” regardless of who is at fault for the accident. The no-fault insurer is required to cover all your medical expenses up to the limits of your selected policy, but it will also reimburse you for lost wages, travel expenses, and other out-of-pocket expenses, such as childcare for doctor’s appointments. Even if you do not have medical insurance, no-fault insurance will act in its place after a car accident.
Unfortunately, the downfall of no-fault states is that your recovery for injuries is often limited, as Florida assumes much of your compensation will be covered by your no-fault policy. Because states with larger populations, such as Florida and New York, are inundated with personal injury claims from car accidents, the no-fault law is designed to reduce litigation by “guaranteeing” you some form of compensation regardless of who is at fault for the accident. As a result, if you wish to recover damages beyond mere economic damages incurred, e.g., medical bills, lost wages, and transportation expenses, your injury has to be serious enough to merit recovery for “pain and suffering.”
There are four categorizations of injuries in Florida that meet the “threshold” standard that would allow you to seek compensation above that to be 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
Florida courts have provided some insight into which injuries do and do not meet these thresholds. For example, broken bones will generally push you over the threshold, while a sprained ankle or bruised elbow will not, even if it causes you great pain. This is because a broken bone, no matter where it is located, will generally seriously impair an important function, such as walking, writing, lifting, or carrying. It does not have to permanently disable that function, but impair it for an extended period of time. However, a bruised elbow will likely not cause significant or permanent impairment of your daily functions, even if it causes you discomfort and pain.