Fiol Law Group|Posted in Lawsuits on June 24, 2020
During a personal injury claim in Florida, you might hear the phrase, “serious injury threshold.” This is an important element that could determine your rights in terms of seeking compensation as the victim of an accident. Under Florida’s no-fault car insurance laws, victims may only be able to hold at-fault parties accountable if their injuries meet the serious injury threshold. Otherwise, they may have no choice but to seek compensation through first-party insurance claims.
What Is a Serious Injury?
A serious injury is one that significantly impacts the victim’s life. It is an injury that could affect a victim for months, years or life. A nonserious injury, on the other hand, is one that will heal quickly and completely without a great deal of pain, suffering and medical expenses. In Florida, Statute 627.737 gives a specific definition for serious injuries in terms of tort liability. This statute gives the state’s serious injury threshold.
- Substantial and permanent loss of a bodily function
- Permanent injury, with a reasonable degree of medical certainty
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
Only an injury that meets this definition will fulfill Florida’s serious injury threshold. Serious injuries can give a victim different rights than he or she would have with minor injuries in Florida. Examples of serious injuries include broken bones, burns, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and internal organ injuries.
How Does Florida’s Serious Injury Threshold Work?
The serious injury threshold in Florida provides parameters for when an accident victim can seek compensation outside of the state’s no-fault insurance system. If a victim has serious injuries after an auto accident, he or she will bear the right to file a personal injury cause of action for medical bills, property repairs, pain, suffering, mental anguish, legal fees, inconvenience, disabilities and other losses related to the life-changing injury. This cause of action will be against the party allegedly at fault for causing the injuries. If the injuries do not meet Florida’s threshold, however, the victim will only be able to file a claim for benefits through his or her own insurance provider.
Serious Injury Threshold and Florida’s No-Fault Laws
Florida is one of a dozen no-fault states in the US. Under Florida’s no-fault insurance law, fault may not be relevant in obtaining compensation for a victim’s injuries after an auto accident. Unless the injuries meet Florida’s serious injury threshold, the victim will not have to prove fault to qualify for insurance benefits. Instead of filing a third-party claim against the insurer of the at-fault party, a victim with minor injuries will file a first-party insurance claim. All drivers in Florida must carry the required amounts of insurance.
- $10,000 in bodily injury liability insurance per person
- $10,000 in personal injury protection insurance
- $10,000 in property damage liability insurance
- $20,000 in bodily injury liability insurance per accident
A Florida driver’s personal injury protection (PIP) insurance will cover his or her damages regardless of fault for the collision. PIP insurance is a type of first-party insurance that covers the policyholder’s injuries in the event of an auto accident. PIP has limits, however, according to the maximums on the policy. A serious injury enables a victim to seek compensation through the other driver’s insurance coverage. This could lead to better compensation for the victim’s damages.
Proving Serious Injury Threshold in Personal Injury Cases
It is the injured party’s burden of proof to establish the seriousness of his or her injuries. A defendant in a personal injury claim may file a motion with the courts questioning whether the plaintiff meets Florida’s serious injury threshold. The courts will then examine the plaintiff’s claim and supporting evidence to ascertain whether the plaintiff can meet the burden of proof. If the courts find the plaintiff does not have enough evidence of a serious injury, it might dismiss the claim. Evidence of a serious injury can vary.
- Medical records
- X-rays and scans
- Test results
- Letters from physicians
- Treatment plans
- Medical expert testimony
- Photographs and videos
Proving that a serious injury meets Florida’s threshold may take assistance from a car accident lawyer. An accident attorney can work with experts and investigators to help gather evidence proving the serious or permanent nature of an injury. If your lawyer succeeds in proving the serious injury threshold, you could receive compensation beyond what you would receive from a first-party insurance claim. You could obtain compensation for your pain and suffering and punitive damages, for example, instead of only economic damages and lost wages.
Thresholds Are Unique in Each Case
Although Florida’s injury threshold has parameters for what makes a serious injury, the language is vague. It does not list specific injuries that qualify. Instead, it leaves the definition open to interpretation. Each personal injury case has unique factors. The same type of injury may have a minor impact on one claimant but a serious impact on another. What qualifies as a serious injury can change depending on the case and client.
How to File a Personal Injury Claim
The serious injury threshold is an important aspect of a personal injury claim. It can decide if the client will have a first-party insurance claim or grounds to file a third-party lawsuit. It could change the amount of compensation available to the victim as well as the legal process necessary to recover. Whether you have serious or nonserious injuries, however, you could file a claim in pursuit of benefits in Florida.
- Collect information. The early stages of your personal injury claim will focus on information gathering. Obtain as much information about your accident and injury as possible, including police reports, pictures, medical records and eyewitness statements.
- Go to the hospital. Never delay medical care, even if you do not think your injuries are serious. Failing to go to the hospital could exacerbate a minor injury. It could also give your insurance company a reason to deny benefits.
- Hire a Tampa personal injury attorney. Working with a lawyer can ensure you protect your rights from the beginning. Your lawyer can help you with the steps involved in filing a claim, such as submitting paperwork to the Hillsborough County civil courts.
You only have four years from the date of your accident to file a personal injury claim in Florida. Delaying filing could hurt your claim and diminish your chances of recovering fair compensation. File your claim with help from an attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can force your insurance company to treat the first-party claim fairly. If your injuries meet Florida’s serious injury threshold, your lawyer can assist you with filing a third-party suit against the at-fault party instead.