A Personal injury case in Florida is a civil claim intended to help victims attain financial compensation for injuries and other damages. In Florida, they are the most common civil litigation seen in courts. These claims are settled before trials, but they remain on the court’s calendar, leading to judicial caseload. As a result, Florida’s government has come up with a way to limit the number of personal injury cases filed in courts and keep the voluminous filings down.
To do this, they have introduced the “serious injury threshold law,” which states that, for you to sue a car driver for causing an accident, your injury must meet some set standards. Under this law, superficial injuries such as a bruised knee will not hold waters in a court of law, while damage to knee tendons, demanding extensive physical therapy, may.
How Does Serious Injury Threshold Work?
In Florida, a perpetrator of an accident is not liable for your injury unless there is substantial medical evidence indicating your injury’s impact and how badly it will affect your normal activities. Your injury meets the severe injury threshold rule, if:
- You suffer permanent or significant loss of an essential bodily function.
- You suffer a permanent injury within a rational degree of medical probability.
- You suffer permanent and significant disfigurement or scarring.
- You suffer a total or partial disability for more than 90 days or,
- In the case of death.
If you meet any of these conditions, you are allowed by the law to file a lawsuit or a third-party claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company and be compensated for your losses and damages.
The injuries or damages must be directly related to the accident that the defender caused. In contrast, if your injuries do not meet the set standards, then the at-fault party will not compensate for your pain, mental anguish, suffering, or other inconveniences caused by the accident.
How Do They Judge Whether An Injury Meets The Threshold Standards Or Not?
The written law doesn’t give more in-depth information about how your injury qualifies to be serious other than the stated conditions. However, past cases have shed more light on the kind of injuries that do and do not pass the threshold test. Each case is decided on its own merits whether or not there’s a legal precedent to file a personal injury case in Florida.
Broken bones will automatically push you over the threshold while a bruised or sprained ankle will not, however much pain and discomfort it causes to you. The reason is, a broken bone, no matter the location, will most probably impair a crucial daily function in your body and daily life. Even if it does not cause permanent damage to your body, it may bring essential functions such as walking, carrying, writing, or lifting to a halt for a prolonged time.
On the other hand, spraining or bruising your ankle may cause you pain and discomfort after the accident, but will less likely bring your essential bodily functions to a halt. Most people who suffer serious injuries go through a lot of emotional and physical pain, mostly due to the permanent and significant changes. That’s why, unlike the in PIP, serious injury threshold allows you to be compensated for emotional distress, pain, and suffering you experienced as a result of the accident.
Same Injury — Different People
Yes. Florida’s rule doesn’t serve all injury claims equally, since a similar injury may affect two individuals very differently. Take, for example, a trained 24-year-old boxer experiencing a car accident; he may not even get whiplash injuries. However, a pregnant woman may experience a lot more trauma from the force of the impact and even how the seatbelt crosses her unborn child.
This same judgment applies to many threshold standard cases. The bottom line is looking at all aspects of a case to accurately decide whether or not the injury is severe and impair the victim’s life.
How Do I Get Justice If I Don’t Meet The Threshold Standards?
Like many other highly-populated states (e.g., New York) in the United States, Florida gets overwhelmed by personal injury claims. As a result, they have enacted the serious injury threshold and no-fault laws to control the number of such cases litigated in courts, while guaranteeing some compensation regardless of who contributes to the accident. The no-fault law requires all drivers to have a $10,000 personal injury cover, to pay for their medical and other financial expenses arising from a car accident.
The coverage is primary and applies to both parties, the victim, and the at-fault individuals. After an accident, the law requires a no-fault insurer to cover all your medical expenses up to your policy limit. It will also reimburse you for your travel expenses, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses you incur due to the injury. Whether you have a medical cover or not, the no-fault insurance will perform in its place in case you get into an accident. As a passenger, the no-fault insurer of your driver should take care of your expenses. Most minor injuries that require less medical attention fall under the no-fault umbrella.
Due to the no-fault law, recovery for injuries is often limited since the state assumes that your no-fault policy will cover a more significant part of your compensation. As a result, your injury must be severe enough to merit pain and suffering for you to recover damages beyond the financial losses and medical expenses.
How Do I File For A Personal Injury Case in Florida?
Florida has no law requiring at-fault parties to automatically or fairly compensate for your losses due to an injury. As a result, you must take the initiative of filing a claim either in court, with your insurance company, and a third party claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company to get compensated. The first step to file a personal injury case in Florida should be to contact a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney to help you evaluate your case and determine if you meet the threshold standards.
If the case clearly has merits, like in case of physical damages, you can contact your lawyer to help you press charges in court. On the other hand, you can also file a claim with your insurance company and a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance and negotiate. However, things may not go well for you on the negotiation table, and if this happens, you can consider filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party(s).
Under all circumstances, an experienced personal injury attorney will help communicate with the at-fault party’s insurance and negotiate your case. The charges of hiring a personal injury attorney shouldn’t hinder you since, in most cases, these services are offered on a contingency basis. Under this arrangement, you pay nothing at the beginning and during your case’s preceding and agree to pay the lawyer a portion of final compensation.
How Do I Argue A Threshold in Florida?
After an injury, a skilled Florida personal injury attorney files a case in court even if it’s still unknown whether you meet the threshold standards. The defendant may ask the court to examine whether your injuries meet the standards before the trial. The court then examines the defendant’s evidence to ascertain whether you can provide enough evidence to support your claims. If the court establishes that your evidence stands a chance, the case continues into the trial. In contrast, if it discovers no substantial evidence, then the case can be dismissed without prejudice. All this process is required to take place at least 30 days before the trial date.
Whether your injury meets threshold standards or not sometimes narrows down to the sufficiency of evidence you present in court about how it affects your personal life and functions. This is why it’s essential to file your case with a knowledgeable attorney who understands the law’s requirements and not by yourself. However, serious issues such as paralysis, coma, and broken bones clearly qualify. In cases where your injury’s seriousness is questioned, presenting an expert medical testimony will save the day.
Like other states with threshold and no-fault laws, Florida exhibits a system of personal injury litigation that is different from all other states of the US. Therefore, it’s essential to seek a local personal injury attorney’s services when filing for personal injury cases. The advantages of having a knowledgeable local lawyer to help you walk the path are that they are familiar with such cases. They know the injuries that meet the Florida threshold and the judges handling the cases.
It would help if you also remembered that time is a significant factor in pursuing justice for personal injury cases. As a result, avoid wasting time with your case by being taken in rounds just because of your lawyer’s less experience. Hire Alpizar Law, and we’ll maximize your time, package your case into the desired way, and diligently address your concerns in court.
Contact a Brevard County Personal Injury Attorney at Alpizar Law today for a free consultation.