“I’ve been in a car accident. What damages can I claim?”
Motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) are a common occurrence, especially here in Florida. Thankfully, most collisions are minor and cause no serious injuries. But when you’re involved in a car accident, regardless of how seemingly minor, it’s important that you see a medical provider soon after.
Some injuries aren’t readily apparent at the site of an accident. When an MVA does lead to harm or damage, it may be necessary to pursue a personal injury claim to receive the compensation you deserve.
Florida car accident law
Florida personal injury laws cover accidents that involve negligence. Negligence refers to careless behavior or inaction that leads to harm or injury to another person, their property, or both. By identifying negligence, the law assigns some fault to a responsible party because they failed to demonstrate reasonable care. In these cases, these parties are usually liable for the damages they have caused.
Under the law, liability refers to legal responsibility. Personal injury law holds these negligent parties accountable by requiring them to pay monetary compensation. This is often the result of a successful lawsuit or claim. In these situations, the responsible parties must pay an award or settlement. Often, an insurance company pays the compensation.
Florida law treats most auto accidents a bit differently than other personal injury cases. Like other states, Florida has adopted a no-fault system for car accidents. Therefore, after a collision, you must seek damages for your minor injuries and property losses from your own insurance carrier.
But there are exceptions.
You can sue an at-fault driver when you suffer a serious injury. Under the law, this includes permanent harm, significant disfigurement and permanent physical disability. You can also sue if your loved one was fatally injured in a Florida car accident. When filing these claims, you are usually seeking compensatory damages. In extreme cases, you can pursue punitive damages, as well. Learn more about these forms of compensation below.
Compensatory damages are exactly what they sound like. They compensate you for the losses you have suffered due to the other party’s negligence. These losses are categorized as either economic or non-economic.
Economic compensatory damages
These losses are financial in nature. They are the easiest to identify, quantify and support with documentation. Some examples include:
- Medical bills for the care you received due to your MVA injuries
- Costs for prescription medication
- Future medical bills related to your car accident injuries
- Vehicle damage repair or replacement costs
- Car rental fees
- Wage losses due to your injuries
- Reimbursement for personal services (such as childcare or yard services) that your injuries prohibit you from performing
- Loss of future wages due to permanent disability
Non-economic compensatory damages
These types of losses are commonly known. Yet, they are more difficult to measure. Think of non-tangible things, like pain and suffering. Many MVA victims may become anxious or depressed due to their injuries. They no longer engage in the activities they used to before the accident.
Long-term or permanent disability may cause chronic pain that inhibits and inconveniences you and your family members. You may no longer be able to enjoy intimacy with your spouse or partner. Physical impairment and scars can also detrimentally impact how you live, work and play.
All these issues play a role in determining what non-economic compensatory damages you can receive. It’s very difficult to assign a dollar amount to the pain and loss you may suffer due to a serious car accident injury. Courts and legal professionals use various methods to help make this determination. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney can help you understand how they make this assessment.
Punitive damages are designed to punish the at-fault parties for their actions and to act as a deterrent to others. Therefore, their behavior must have been particularly bad. The bar is set high, and deliberate harm or intentional extreme recklessness must be demonstrated. These types of awards in personal injury cases are extremely rare in Florida.
Personal injury damage caps
Florida damage caps apply to punitive damages, not compensatory. With some limited exceptions, the maximum award allowable for punitive damages is either 3 times the total compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever amount is greater. An exception to this is purposeful harm. If your attorney proves that the person at-fault harmed you on purpose, the cap may be removed.
A cap exemption may also apply when the at-fault party’s actions were especially dangerous. In those cases, the negligent individual understood the danger of their behavior and the likely harmful outcome. Yet, they behaved irresponsibly anyway for financial gain. When this is proven, punitive damages are capped at 4 times the compensatory amount or at $2 million, whichever amount is higher.
Many factors affect the type and amount of damages you may be eligible to receive after a car accident. Speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss the circumstances of your case for a more accurate appraisal of what your claim may be worth.
Call today for your free consultation.