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Who Pays Car Accident Compensation in Florida?

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Car accidents happen all the time in Florida, and they can impact the lives of victims in many ways. A crash can result in damages that add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars or even more. This includes medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. 
If you were injured in a car accident, you have the right to seek financial compensation. But the process can be lengthy and complicated. Before you file an insurance claim or a lawsuit, it’s important to understand how the system works.

Florida is a “no-fault” state. 

In short, that means if you are in a car accident, you must first file a claim with your own insurance company. They would initially be responsible for paying the damages you suffered. It’s important to notify your insurance company about your accident as soon as possible, ideally within one or two days. 

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What are the insurance requirements in Florida?

Under Florida law, all drivers are required to carry two types of insurance coverage:

  • A minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP). This covers medical expenses and loss of income due to accident-related injuries. It applies to you, your children, and other household members. It may also apply to passengers that were in your car if they do not own their own vehicle and do not have their own insurance coverage. 
  • A minimum of $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL). This covers the damage to another person’s vehicle or other types of personal property in an accident that you caused. Conversely, if you are in a crash caused by another driver, that person’s PDL insurance will cover your property damage. 

Note that these are the minimum amounts of coverage required. You can choose to buy higher amounts of coverage, which is usually recommended. For example, medical expenses after a serious injury can easily exceed $10,000, especially if more than one person was injured in your car. 

There are also optional types of coverage you can add to your policy that apply to injuries. These include: 

  • Bodily injury liability (BIL) – If you cause an accident, this covers the injuries or death of another person in the crash, up to the policy limit you choose. Likewise, if you were seriously hurt in a crash caused by another driver, you would be covered by their BIL coverage, if they have it on their policy. Drivers who have a history of serious accidents or who have been convicted of certain traffic violations may be required to carry this type of coverage.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist protection (UM/UIM) – This type of coverage kicks in if the other driver in the crash does not have liability insurance, or not enough to pay for your injuries. UM coverage also applies if you are hurt by a hit-and-run driver who is never identified. While this type of coverage is optional, insurance companies are required to offer it to you.
Can I sue after a car accident in Florida?

In all cases, you can file a claim or a third-party suit for damage to your vehicle and any other personal property. In some cases, you can go outside the no-fault system and file a claim or take legal action against an at-fault driver for injuries you suffered. This can occur in accidents where you meet the “injury threshold.” Basically, you can sue if:

  • You suffered an injury that resulted in scarring or disfigurement.
  • Your injury resulted in the loss of a bodily function.
  • You suffered other permanent damage that meets the injury threshold.

Family members of an injured motorist can also take legal action if the injury was fatal.
 
Florida uses a “pure” comparative negligence system when determining compensation. In short, it means that each party involved in the crash is responsible for paying the share of damages that is equal to their percentage of fault. For example, if it is determined that you were 20% at fault for the accident, any compensation you are awarded will be reduced by 20%. Pure comparative negligence means you can recover compensation even if you were more than 50% at fault – in theory, even if you were 99% at fault, you can sue for the remaining 1% (although this usually isn’t practical). 

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What types of damages can I be compensated for in Florida?

There are two types of damages in a car accident – economic and non-economic. Economic damages are losses that have a specific dollar amount. Examples include:

  • Medical expenses for treating your accident-related injuries, both now and in the future. These expenses can include ambulance fees, lab tests, imaging tests, surgery, hospitalization, medication, physical therapy and other types of therapy, and required follow-up visits with doctors. 
  • Lost wages if you could not work for some time because you were hurt. 
  • Lost future income if your ability to work and earn a living was impacted by your injuries.
  • Replacement services to handle responsibilities you could not meet because of your injuries. Examples include childcare, home maintenance, and yard work. 
  • Modifications to your home or vehicle if you were left with a disability due to injury.
  • Property damage to your vehicle or other personal property caused by the crash.

Non-economic damages are very real, but more difficult to link to a dollar value. They include:

  • Pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Loss of consortium (this includes loss of intimacy and other damage in family relationships).

In some cases, it may also be possible to pursue punitive damages, if it is determined the other driver engaged in “intentional misconduct or gross negligence.”

Under Florida law, you have four years from the date of your accident to take legal action against another party. 

What is the value of my car accident claim?

There is no simple answer to that question, as the amount of compensation you can recover will depend on many different factors. These factors include the severity of your injuries, the impact on your life, and insurance policy limits. 

Is it important to get legal advice as soon as possible following a car accident in Florida?

Insurance companies will try to minimize your compensation and they have the advantage. An experienced car accident attorney can protect your rights. A lawyer can:

  • Review the details of your car accident
  • Assess the value of your claim
  • Investigate the crash and gather evidence
  • Build a strong case for compensation
  • Negotiate with insurance companies to reach a settlement
  • Pursue legal action if a settlement can’t be reached
  • Answer any questions you have
  • Keep you informed of the progress of your case.

Don’t delay. While the statute of limitations for taking legal action is four years, the sooner a lawyer can start working on your case, the better. Evidence can be lost over time and witnesses can forget important details about what they saw. 

If you’ve been hurt in a Florida crash, contact an experienced car accident lawyer today to schedule a free consultation. There’s no cost and no obligation. 

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