Finding a Car Accident Lawyer in Stuart
A serious car accident can result in catastrophic injuries that cost a veritable fortune to treat. There may also be miscellaneous expenses to consider such as transportation, child care, and domestic assistance. If you are unable to work during recovery, the loss of income can quickly spiral into financial turmoil.
Fortunately, auto accident victims may be able to recover both economic and non-economic damages. In some cases, punitive damages are also available. The kinds of damages you may be able to obtain will depend on the facts surrounding the crash, the severity of your injuries, and several other factors.
Because Florida is a no-fault state, all drivers are required to carry no-fault insurance called “personal injury protection” (PIP). If your case does not meet the serious injury threshold, you would be required to bring the claim against your PIP coverage rather than the at-fault party or their insurance carrier.
If, however, your case meets the serious injury threshold, you can bring the claim against the at-fault party or their insurance company. This distinction is important because PIP does not cover certain non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and loss of life enjoyment, but these damages may be recoverable in a third-party insurance claim.
To meet Florida’s serious injury threshold, the accident must have resulted in one of the following:
- Permanent or significant loss of a bodily function,
- Permanent injury other than scarring or disfigurement,
- Significant and permanent disfigurement or scarring, or
If you’re not sure whether your case meets the serious injury threshold, you should speak with a car accident lawyer in a free consultation. A seasoned attorney can review the facts of your case and help you determine how best to proceed with your claim, and you won’t have to pay anything to get this advice.
Read on to learn about the kinds of damages available after a car accident in Florida:
Damages Available in a Personal Injury Protection Claim
Drivers in Florida are required by law to carry property damage liability (PDL) and personal injury protection (PIP). Property damage liability will cover the costs to repair or replace other people’s property that is damaged in a crash that you cause. PIP coverage pays for certain injury-related expenses regardless of who caused the accident. That means even if you were at fault, you may still be able to obtain compensation by bringing a claim against your PIP policy.
Damages that may be available in a PIP claim include medical bills and lost income. In the event of wrongful death, PIP may pay for funeral costs and loss of consortium.
Damages Available in a Third-Party Insurance Claim
As previously mentioned, you can only bring a third-party auto insurance claim—i.e. a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance provider—if your case meets the serious injury threshold. And again, these claims allow for the recovery of certain non-economic damages that are not available in a PIP claim, so it is certainly worth finding out if your case qualifies.
Potentially recoverable damages include:
1. Medical Bills
Any healthcare costs resulting from the accident might be available. These include emergency care, surgeries, physical therapy, prescription medications, diagnostic images, and any other reasonable and necessary healthcare expenses.
If you are expected to incur medical costs in the future, they can be included in the settlement calculations, as well. It is sometimes necessary to consult with medical and financial experts to approximate a fair figure for future medical bills. A well-credentialed car accident lawyer will have access to such experts, and if your case proceeds to discovery, the deposition of these experts might play an important role in determining the outcome of your case.
2. Loss of Income
If your injuries are preventing you from working, the lost income can be accounted for in the settlement calculations. Some injuries can diminish a person’s income-earning capacity, resulting in significant loss of wages throughout their lifetime. If this applies to your case, it may be possible to obtain compensation for loss of future earnings and benefits.
As you might suspect, approximating a fair value for loss of future income can be challenging without the help of an attorney. Here again, it may be necessary to bring in a financial expert as well as a vocational specialist to assist with the calculations and to provide deposition.
3. Property Repairs and Replacement
You shouldn’t have to pay for repairing or replacing your vehicle due to a collision that someone else caused. Fortunately, these costs can be included in the settlement figure.
4. Other Economic Damages
There are all sorts of expenses that might arise after a serious injury. For example, it may be necessary to hire an in-home nurse during the first few weeks or months of recovery. You might also have to pay for child care, transportation, and other services. As long as these costs are necessary, reasonable, and a result of the accident, they might be recoverable.
5. Pain and Suffering
Some injuries cause tremendous physical pain and mental suffering. If you have severe scarring or permanent disfigurement, or if you’ve been diagnosed with a permanent injury, it may be possible to collect damages for pain and suffering.
6. Loss of Consortium
The effects of a catastrophic injury can be felt by the entire family. In some cases, the spouse of the injured party is entitled to damages for loss of consortium, which is the loss of fellowship, sexual relationship, affection, society, solace, companionship, and comfort.
7. Emotional Distress
Have you experienced significant fear, anxiety, anger, grief, irritability, or depression as a result of the accident? If so, it may be possible to obtain damages for emotional distress.
8. Loss of Enjoyment in Life
It goes without saying that debilitating injuries can greatly diminish a person’s quality of life. If you were diagnosed with a permanent disability, you may be entitled to these damages.
9. Punitive Damages
All of the above-mentioned damages are categorized as “compensatory damages.” They are intended to make accident victims “whole” again. Another category of damages is “punitive damages.” These damages are intended to punish a defendant for egregious behavior and to deter similar misconduct in the future.
Not all car accident claims warrant punitive damages; however, they may be recoverable if the defendant acted with intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Scenarios when punitive damages may be awarded include:
- The accident was caused by a drunk driver,
- The driver who caused the crash fled the scene,
- The accident was caused by a vehicle malfunction that that was known to the driver such as faulty brakes, or
- The at-fault driver intentionally caused the accident.
What Evidence Might Be Needed to Prove Damages After a Car Accident?
The answer depends on the kinds of damages you intend to pursue. Generally speaking, the following evidence is often used by car accident attorneys to prove damages:
- Medical Documents: Any records from your healthcare providers may be used to prove the severity of your injuries as well as your diagnosis and prognosis.
- Financial Documents: Your financial records may be necessary to prove the value of lost income and loss of earning capacity.
- Invoices and Receipts: If you intend to include any miscellaneous costs in the settlement calculations—such as transportation or domestic assistance—you will need records of such expenses to prove their value.
- Expert Witness Deposition: If the opposing party disagrees with the settlement calculations and your case proceeds to discovery, your car accident attorney might depose various experts to corroborate the proposed settlement figure. Medical, financial, and vocational experts may all be deposed depending on the circumstances.
- Pictures of Injuries: Photos of visible wounds might be used to demonstrate the severity of injuries, which may help your lawyer prove the extent of non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
- The Victim’s Personal Injury Journal: It’s a good idea to write daily journal entries about how the injuries are impacting your personal wellbeing. You should also document the kinds of symptoms you experience and their severity.
- The Police Report: If you want to seek punitive damages, the police report could play an important role in proving that the defendant acted with particularly egregious behavior.
What Factors Could Impact the Settlement Calculations?
A multitude of factors could impact the kinds of damages you are able to pursue and their value. Examples include:
- The types of injuries you sustained;
- The severity of your injuries;
- The permanence of your injuries;
- Whether you played a role in causing the accident;
- Whether you have taken reasonable steps to mitigate the damages;
- Whether you were left sidelined from work;
- How the injuries will impact your future income-earning capacity;
- Whether the defendant acted with intentional misconduct or gross negligence;
- Whether you suffered significant scarring, permanent disfigurement, or a disability; and
- The cost to replace or repair damaged property.
Call Us Today for a Free Consultation with a Car Accident Lawyer in Stuart
Our car accident attorneys in Stuart are passionate about helping the injured and their loved ones fight for the compensation they need to get their lives back. Call 772-266-5555 or send us a message to arrange a free consultation.