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Florida Car Accident: When You Can and Can’t Sue

When you get into a car accident in Florida, chances are most parties involved will report the damages to their insurance, and be on their way. Because Florida is a “no-fault” state, each individual’s insurance is financially responsible for damages to their client.

This includes damages to your property, as well as personal injury. However, an individual can seek additional damage compensation from the person at fault if the accident resulted in “serious injury.”

If your injuries qualify as “serious injuries,” legal action can be taken against the party at fault.

Florida “no-fault” auto insurance

Because Florida is a “no-fault” auto insurance state, each driver’s insurance pays for their damages. There is no need to designate a driver at fault, and disclosure in not required. This coverage includes out-of-pocket expenses like medical bills and income that was lost as a result of injury. This also includes the passengers of your car, where injury may or may not have occurred.

Because of Florida’s “no-fault” auto insurance, the likelihood of being sued for an auto accident is much less than that of other states. However, if your injuries qualify as “serious injuries,” legal action can be taken against the party at fault.

Understanding what “serious injury” means in the state of Florida

As mentioned, you cannot hold another driver liable for a personal injury claim, unless the accident resulted in “serious injury.” But what does the term serious injury include? The state of Florida describes serious injuries to a driver as involving.

Permanent injury

Significant and permanent scarring/disfigurement

Significant and permanent loss of bodily function

Because these terms are not extremely concise, the exact meaning is open to interpretation and debate. Therefore, part of your claim will be negotiating whether or not your injuries fall under the “serious injury” category, and if you can proceed with your claim.

What if the accident is partially your fault

In some personal injury claims, the person you are trying to receive compensation for may claim that you had a part in the fault for your injuries, or you are at fault for making your injuries worse. If you have a part in your injuries, this falls under the pure comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, the amount of damages that you are responsible for may reduce the amount of compensation you receive, equal to your percentage of fault in the accident.

If comparative negligence is brought up in your personal injury claim, contact a car accident lawyer to negotiate for you. Many insurance adjusters will try to leave you out of compensation by inflating your negligence percentage.

Statute of limitations in Florida

As with every state in the United States, Florida has a statute of limitations that provides a window of time that you have to file a civil lawsuit against another individual.

Per the state of Florida’s statute of limitations for personal injury cases, you have four years to file a personal injury claim after you have sustained your injuries. If you do not file your claim within the specified four year time limit, it is unlikely that a Florida court will hear your case.

On the other hand, some injuries that you suffer may take a significant amount of time to present themselves. For injuries like these, you may be provided an extension on the window of time you are allowed to file a lawsuit. It is important to not that the 4 year window provided in this text applies to most personal injury cases, but not all of them. Consult with a qualified car accident attorney to determine the accurate statute of limitations for your specific personal injury case.

Damage caps, and how they affect your settlement

Damage caps are put in place to set a limit on the amount of compensation you can receive for your case. Specifically, these laws normally limit the amount of non-economic damages an individual can receive, like “emotional trauma.”

In Florida, damage caps that pertain to personal injury are normally associated with punitive damages. In the state of Florida, the limit on punitive damages is three times the amount of compensatory damages, or $500,000 (whichever amount is greater).

Punitive damages are only given in a small amount of personal injury cases, and are reserved to punish the person at fault for extremely dangerous behavior.

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