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How Serious Does an Injury Have To Be To File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Florida? 

How Serious Does an Injury Have To Be To File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Florida? 

Normally, you can file a personal injury claim any time you suffer an injury for which someone else is legally responsible. In a Florida car accident, however, most of the time, you cannot file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. 

Instead, you must rely on the limited compensation offered by Florida’s no-fault car accident insurance system. That said, there are exceptions that allow you to escape these no-fault rules and pursue a claim against the other driver.

How Florida’s No-Fault Insurance System Works

Under Florida’s no-fault regime, every Florida motorist must purchase $10,000 worth of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. In the event of an accident, the injured party must typically look to their own PIP insurance policy to pay for their injuries. 

What PIP Covers

PIP covers only a portion of your economic damages and none of your non-economic damages. In particular, it covers: 

  • 80% of your medical bills up to $10,000;
  • 60% of your lost earnings up to $10,000; and
  • $5,000 in funeral expenses if the victim dies in the accident.

The purpose of the no-fault system is to avoid inundating Florida courts with car accident cases.

The “Serious Bodily Injury” Loophole: When You Can File a Car Accident Lawsuit

Under Florida statutory law, you can ignore Florida’s no-fault system and file a personal injury claim if your injuries resulted in a substantial risk of:

  • Death, 
  • Serious personal disfigurement, or 
  • Protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ

Another exception applies if you die in the accident. In that case, the personal representative (executor) of your probate estate can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of your estate and your close family members. 

Note that there are other circumstances that might allow you to file a lawsuit as well, such as if your losses exceed your policy limits or if the other driver was under the influence of alcohol.  An attorney can help you evaluate your options during a free consultation.

Damages in Personal Injury Lawsuits: How Might They Exceed What’s Available for a PIP Claim?

You might receive far more compensation litigating your claim in court than relying on PIP insurance, assuming that you win your case. Even if you don’t go to trial, you can demand far more in settlement negotiations than you can hope to receive from PIP insurance.

Absent comparative negligence, you can claim 100% of your economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, etc.) instead of the 80% that PIP insurance offers. In addition to these economic damages, you can seek non-economic damages such as:

This is only a partial list of noneconomic damages. Non-economic damages typically add up to far more than economic damages.

Beware: Florida’s Liability Insurance Trap

Keep in mind that Florida, surprisingly, does not require automobile drivers to carry bodily injury liability insurance. Even with serious bodily injury, however, you can still file a PIP claim for your injuries, and you can collect compensation up to PIP policy limits.

If the at-fault driver carries no liability insurance and they cannot afford to pay your claim out of their personal assets, you might need to find a second defendant to sue for the portion of your claim that PIP won’t pay. 

Sometimes this is possible, and sometimes it isn’t. For this reason, it’s a good idea to carry uninsured motorist insurance, even though it’s optional under Florida law.

Special Case: Motorcycle Accident Injuries

Florida law does not require motorcyclists to carry PIP insurance. If a motorcyclist suffers injury in an accident with a car, they may still be covered under their own insurance or under the PIP coverage of the car driver if they do not have a PIP policy themselves. 

Out-of-Court Settlement in “Serious Bodily Injury” Cases

The ability to file a personal injury lawsuit gives you leverage to negotiate a private settlement with the at-fault driver. The at-fault driver is likely to negotiate if they believe that you will otherwise win a lawsuit against them.

A Florida Car Accident Attorney Can Help You Sort It Out

You might be wondering whether your injury is serious enough to allow you to bypass Florida’s no-fault system. If there is any doubt, there is probably enough ambiguity to justify hiring a car accident lawyer to help you prove your case. Remember, you don’t need to pay a dime upfront to hire a Tampa personal injury lawyer. 

Contact the Tampa Car Accident Law Firm of Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers for Help Today

For more information, please contact Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation with a car accident lawyer in Tampa today. We have five convenient locations in Florida, including Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, New Port Richey, and Lakeland.

We proudly serve Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, Polk County, and its surrounding areas:

Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Tampa Office
601 W Swann Ave, Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 223-6200

Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Clearwater Office
600 Bypass Dr Suite 224-D, Clearwater, FL 33764
(727) 493-4418

Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – St. Petersburg Office
111 2nd Ave NE Suite 350, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 314-5988

Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – New Port Richey Office
5006 Trouble Creek Rd Unit #200, Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 910-5060

Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Lakeland Office
1543 Lakeland Hills Blvd Suite 18, Lakeland, FL 33805
(863) 251-6196

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