Even the most cautious and skilled drivers can suffer injury in an automobile accident through no fault of their own. According to Florida’s Integrated Report Exchange System, there have been more than 35,000 vehicle crashes involving injuries in the first three months of 2016 alone. Here, we offer some helpful information about Florida’s laws for those who may have a personal injury claim resulting from a car accident.
Florida’s no-fault insurance law
First, it is important to know that Florida is a no-fault insurance state. Florida is one of only about 11 states to hold this status. It means that under Florida law, a person who suffers injury or property damage in a car accident must first obtain reimbursement from his or her own insurance company. According to the statute, the reason behind this law is to provide for medical, surgical, disability and funeral benefits regardless of fault, and to limit the right to claim damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience. State law requires drivers to carry insurance providing personal injury protection (PIP) benefits.
However, an individual who suffers serious bodily injury is not precluded from bringing a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault driver or that driver’s insurance company. The law expressly permits someone injured in a lawsuit to recover damages if he or she has suffered an injury consisting of:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability;
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfiguring; or
Statute of limitations
A statute of limitations establishes the period of time during which an injured individual must file a lawsuit to claim damages. In Florida, the statute of limitations for negligence actions is four years. Car accident cases are negligence claims based upon the fault of one of the drivers. Thus, in Florida a plaintiff must file a car accident case within four years of the date of the accident.
Florida’s comparative negligence rule
The term “comparative negligence” (also known as “comparative fault”) refers to a rule apportioning fault to both parties in a lawsuit. By statute, Florida is a “pure” comparative negligence state. This means that the judge or jury in a trial will determine what percentage of fault each party bears for the accident. If the plaintiff is found to be partially at fault, any award will be diminished by the percentage of fault attributable to the plaintiff. For example, assume the jury decides that the plaintiff’s damages total $100,000, but that the plaintiff was 25 percent responsible for the accident, while the defendant was 75 percent responsible. Plaintiff’s award would be reduced by 25 percent; therefore, plaintiff would recover $75,000 instead of $100,000.
Consult a West Palm Beach auto accident lawyer
If you have been injured in an auto accident, it is important to contact an experienced auto accident lawyer familiar with Florida’s statutory scheme as soon as possible. Much of your case may turn on an investigation of the accident – examining the vehicles, viewing the scene, and talking to witnesses, for example – and the sooner your lawyer can start this process on your behalf, the better. Contact the dedicated auto accident lawyers of Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith PLLC today for a free consultation.