Under Florida law, if you have suffered bodily injury as a result of an accident due to the negligent or reckless actions of another party, you may be entitled to compensation.
To recover compensation in motor vehicle accidents, you may need to make a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault party or file a lawsuit.
Bodily injury liability insurance covers the injury expenses of a third party in an accident but it is not required by Florida law, meaning that if the at-fault driver has no insurance and refuses to pay for damages, you will need to explore other legal options.
Many accident victims are unsure whether to claim as they don’t know if their injuries are serious enough to warrant it. Others want to make a claim but don’t know how to begin the process.
Here we look at what constitutes bodily injury, what you can claim for if you are the plaintiff in such a case, and how to start the process of claiming fair compensation.
What constitutes serious bodily injury?
Are scratches and bruises enough to warrant a personal injury claim against the at-fault party or parties?
The answer is maybe.
According to the Florida Statutes 316.027, “serious bodily injury” means the following:
“…an injury to a person, including the driver, which consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.”
If your cuts and bruises are significant enough to cause serious disfigurement or there is a substantial risk of death, they are considered a “serious bodily injury”.
However, almost any injury may be “serious” enough to claim if it impacts your life significantly. Some common examples of accident-related bodily injuries are:
- Broken bones and fractures
- Cuts, abrasions, bruises, burns, and lacerations
- Impairment of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty
- Internal bleeding
- Physical pain
- Illness or sickness resulting from the injury
If your accident injuries have impacted your ability to work, quality of life, relationships, or anything else important to you, it’s advisable to check your legal options by discussing your situation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
It’s surprising how many people learn too late that they were due more compensation than they were offered by the insurance company after their accident.
What compensation can I claim for bodily injury?
In Florida, after a victim suffers injuries in any type of accident that was due to the negligence or recklessness of a third party, he or she may be entitled to several types of compensation.
Damages may be recoverable from the insurance provider who provides the bodily injury liability insurance — or you may have to sue the at-fault driver if he/she has no insurance.
Potential compensation includes the following:
- Medical expenses: all bills including emergency care and hospitalization
- Loss of wages: if you miss work because of your injuries
- Future lost earnings: if you will miss work or need to change your type of employment because of your injuries
- Property damage: e.g., repairs to a watch after a slip and fall accident
- Pain and suffering resulting from the accident
- Loss of companionship or reduction in the quality of life
Compensation for pain and suffering
Generally, non-economic damages like pain and suffering and quality of life issues are more difficult to recover than economic compensation (medical expenses, etc.).
The skills and experience of a personal injury lawyer may be required to negotiate this with the insurance company. Non-economic damages are often disputed by loss adjusters.
Sometimes, punitive damages may be awarded by a jury if a personal injury case goes to trial. This is compensation awarded for wrongdoing. However, punitive damages are only recoverable in Florida if particularly egregious behavior caused the personal injury.
How much is usually awarded in bodily injury cases?
The amount of compensation you can recover from your bodily injury case will depend on several factors:
- How bad your injuries are and how they have affected your life
- The type of insurance coverage possessed by the at-fault party
- Whether you hire a personal injury lawyer
- Whether you are prepared to take the matter to court or settle
In the case of car or motorcycle accidents, Florida drivers are required by law to hold certain auto insurance coverage:
- $10,000 for personal injury protection (PIP)
- $10,000 for property damage liability (PDL)
However, there is no law requiring a driver to have bodily injury insurance, which covers injuries to third parties. That could mean that you must sue the at-fault party in your accident to recover adequate damages or face having to pay out of your own pocket.
Even if the at-fault driver has bodily liability insurance, it may not cover the full compensation for your injuries. You may still need to take the matter to court.
An experienced personal injury lawyer will find out all of the necessary insurance coverage details of the at-fault party and advise you on your legal options accordingly.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can maximize your bodily injury claim
Whether you must deal with an insurance company to recover compensation or sue the at-fault party in your accident, claiming adequate compensation for accident injuries is rarely straightforward.
Insurance companies are out to protect their own interests rather than yours. And if an at-fault party has no insurance, how likely is it that they will be able to pay your costs out of their own pocket?
This can create difficult situations that are best handled by someone with the necessary legal expertise and your best interests at heart.
A seasoned personal injury lawyer can fight for the best possible result, i.e., the maximum compensation available from insurance or, if a lawsuit is required, a fair award from the judge/jury. Either way, your lawyer will manage the process while you recover from your injuries.
So, if you have suffered accident injuries that were the fault of a negligent or reckless party, speak to us before signing any paperwork. The proposed settlement may not be in your best interests.
Start by calling (941) 304-5003 for a free case evaluation with a personal injury lawyer from Gerber Law in Sarasota. If you are injured, we will come to the medical facility or your home for the initial consultation.