Have you been injured in an auto accident and want to know what types of damages you can claim? This article will help you understand what types of damages you may be entitled to recover, and what you need to support your claim.
No-Fault Insurance State
It is important to note that Florida is a no-fault insurance state. This means if you have been in an accident, you will need to file a claim under your own personal injury protection insurance coverage first. This will provide compensation for medical bills and other financial losses, no matter who caused the accident. If your injury claim meets certain criteria, such as a claim for permanent harm, significant disfigurement, permanent physical disability, or if a loved one was fatally injured, you can then bring a claim against the at-fault driver. The information provided below is applicable in those situations where the criteria has been met and you are able to submit a claim against the at-fault driver.
Pure Comparative Fault
Florida personal injury laws cover accidents that involve negligent behavior. Negligence is careless behavior that leads to harm or injury to another person, their property, or both. By determining negligence, the degree each party is at-fault, or liability can be assigned. Legally speaking, liability refers to legal responsibility. Personal injury law holds these negligent parties accountable and makes them pay compensation for damages that arise from their actions (or inactions). Often, an insurance company pays the compensation.
Types of Compensation
There are two different categories of compensation that an injured party can claim for their damages. The first is for Compensatory Damages and the second is for Punitive Damages. Compensatory Damages are divided into two types – economic damages and non-economic damages.
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 grouped into two types as either economic or non-economic.
Economic compensatory damages
Economic compensatory damages are financial losses, things that cost money to replace, repair, treat or cover expenses that you incurred as a result of your injuries. Economic damages are easy to identify, quantify and support with documentation. Some examples include:
- Vehicle damage repair or replacement
- Car rental costs
- Medical costs, such as:
- Hospital and doctor bills to treat your injuries
- Prescription medication
- Transportation to/from medical appointments
- Physical therapy
- Adaptive equipment
- Future medical care, including ongoing treatment, future surgeries, and long-term care
- Compensation for home renovations for accessibility devices, such as wheelchair
- Loss wages, including:
- Time missed from work due to doctor appointments, treatments, recovery time
- Future wages due to permanent disability or inability to return to work
- Reimbursement for personal services (such as childcare, housekeeping, or home maintenance that you previously did) that your injuries prohibit you from performing
Non-economic compensatory damages
Non-economic compensatory damages compensate the injured party for physical and emotional distress incurred as a result of the car accident, also referred to as pain and suffering. Florida Statute (627.737) defines this as:
- Significant or permanent loss of important bodily functions.
- Permanent injury with a justifiable degree of medical probability.
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement.
Non-economic damages compensate the injured party for less tangible losses that impact a person’s dignity and enjoyment in life. Several variables contribute to what you can recover for non-economic damages. Some considerations are:
- The severity of a person’s injury,
- the amount of pain,
- how long the pain is expected to last (long term, ongoing),
- mental anguish, (depression, fear, PTSD, etc.).
Additional considerations include disabilities sustained, disfigurement, inconvenience, and loss of consortium. Loss of consortium is compensation for the non-injured spouse for the loss of support, companionship, comfort, affection, and sensual intimacy.
These types of losses are commonly known but are much harder to attach an exact dollar amount to their value. Long-term or permanent disability may cause chronic pain that severely limits your ability to enjoy life, spend time with family members or continue to take care of your loved spouse and children in the manner that you did previously. This can also include the inability 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. There are various calculators you can find online that may give you an estimate of how much compensation you may be able to recover for non-economic damages. But they are just estimates and are not always accurate for your situation. It is wise to speak to an attorney experienced in cases similar to yours. A knowledgeable attorney can help to determine what your claim may be worth.
Punitive damages are a financial penalty available to the courts to punish the at-fault parties for their actions if they were grossly negligent. Punitive damages are intended to deter other people from behaving in a similar manner. Your claim must be able to demonstrate that the other party acted to cause deliberate harm, or that their behavior was extremely reckless. These types of damages are not awarded frequently in Florida, as the liable party must have behaved particularly badly. Some examples of gross negligence include:
- driving under the influence,
- texting while driving,
- recklessly driving
- speeding through a school zone
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.
Contact Us Today
Having a knowledgeable, trusted personal injury attorney working for you can make the difference in ensuring your legal rights are protected, and you get full compensation for your injuries and other losses. When you contact Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., we will take the time to get to know you and understand all the ways your life has been affected by your accident. We will be there with you, fighting for you and helping you to navigate through what can be a complex, difficult, and emotionally challenging time. We are dedicated to making your life easier. From start to finish, we will promptly answer all your questions and provide the best legal advice, so you can make informed decisions about your future.
Contact us today and we will fight to get the results you deserve.