Florida is one of a handful of U.S. States that uses a no-fault system to resolve many vehicle accident claims. The basic concept is that all drivers buy insurance that pays for their own damages in the event of an accident regardless of who is at fault.
However, there are some notable exceptions. If you’ve been in a Florida car accident, you need to know about the serious injury threshold. Although your Tampa car accident attorney can best explain how this applies to your situation, you may want to understand the basics of this Florida law.
What Is the Florida Serious Injury Threshold?
The Florida serious injury threshold is an exception to Florida’s no-fault law. Florida’s serious injury threshold allows victims of car accidents to recover pain and suffering damages when their injuries meet the threshold.
Car accident victims are typically limited to recovering economic damages through their PIP no-fault insurance policies. However, when a victim meets the threshold standards, they can go outside the no-fault system and bring a tort legal claim against the responsible driver.
What Is the Florida No-Fault Serious Injury Threshold?
Florida law 627.737 is Florida’s no-fault serious injury threshold. You meet the threshold if you have any of the following injuries:
- Significant permanent loss of a bodily function
- Permanent injury (to a reasonable degree of medical probability)
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
You need to meet only one of the qualifying standards to bring a claim for non-economic damages. It’s up to the jury to decide if you meet one of the qualifying conditions to bring your case.
How Does Florida’s Serious Injury Threshold Work?
Typically, when you’re in a car accident in Florida, you look first to your own insurance policy to pay for your damages. You must seek medical care quickly after the crash for your PIP benefits to kick in. You submit your damages to your own PIP insurance provider. The insurance company pays you 80 percent for your medical expenses, and 60 percent for lost work, up to the policy limits. Under Florida law, you must have at least $10,000 in PIP benefits, but you may buy more substantial amounts to extend your PIP coverage.
If your injuries meet one of the qualifying thresholds in Florida law 627.737, Florida’s no-fault limitations don’t apply. Instead, the rules of negligence and traditional tort laws apply. The victim may bring a lawsuit against the responsible party. If you meet the standards to bring a claim under Florida law 627.737, your claim can include non-economic damages. You aren’t limited to compensation for only economic damages and lost wages. Instead, you can bring a lawsuit to fully compensate you for all of your damages under Florida tort law including pain and suffering.
The Florida Serious Injury Threshold Is Unique to Each Person
There’s not a lot of guidance when it comes to determining whether an injury meets the threshold. The same type of injury may be more and less serious in different cases. Likewise, an injury that significantly impairs a bodily function for one person may not have the same effects for another person. For example, a 25-year-old athlete may have different limitations from a whiplash injury than an elderly person.
How Do You Prove the Serious Injury Threshold Under Florida No-Fault Law?
Proving the serious injury threshold under Florida no-fault law most often requires using an expert medical witness. The witness can explain medical information to the jury. They can show the jury how your injuries meet one of the qualifying legal standards. Your attorney can help you question the witness effectively and gather the medical information that you need to present an effective case.
Florida Court Cases Interpreting Florida No-Fault Laws
Smiley v. Nelson (District Court of Appeal of Florida, Second District 2001) – The Florida Supreme Court overturned a verdict for non-economic damages. The appeals court said that the complainant didn’t meet the threshold, so the jury couldn’t award non-economic damages. The lower court allowed the jury to consider and award certain types of non-economic damages that aren’t explicitly listed in Florida law 627.737. The appeals court said that Florida’s no-fault law is meant to be an exhaustive bar of non-economic damages when the victim doesn’t have a qualifying injury.
Meyer v. Hutchinson (District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida, 2003) – If a driver has an insurance policy from another state that includes similar no-fault language, their policy is enough to apply. When a driver has a comparable no-fault policy from another state, the threshold standards apply.
Auto-Owners Ins. Co v. Tompkins (1995) – An award for economic damages may include future economic losses when the damages are reasonably certain to occur. A permanent injury is not a prerequisite to recovering for both past economic damages and future economic damages.
Florida No-Fault Law and the $10,000 PIP Limitation
Florida’s no-fault laws are complex. Many people misunderstand the requirements and options under Florida law 627.737. It’s important not to make assumptions about how the law applies to your case without speaking to an experienced Florida no-fault attorney. Here are just some of the lesser-known but important facts about Florida no-fault law:
- You may purchase more than $10,000 in PIP insurance. If you have more than $10,000 in PIP insurance, you can receive benefits up to your policy limit regardless of fault.
- It’s possible to have economic damages above the $10,000 PIP limit even without meeting the threshold for a traditional tort claim. You may be able to bring a claim to recover your economic damages including projected future economic damages. However, unless you meet the threshold, you can’t claim non-economic damages.
- The qualifications for meeting the threshold depend on your individual case. Even if someone else’s situation doesn’t qualify, the jury makes a personal determination for you by applying the law to your case.
- If the defendant doesn’t think you meet the threshold, they can ask the judge to make a decision 30 days before the trial or pre-trial. If the judge agrees, they may dismiss the case. You can work with a medical expert to present evidence that you meet the threshold.
- Florida PIP law doesn’t allow the victim to recover the PIP deductible from a negligent driver.
Tampa Injury Attorneys for No-Fault Threshold Cases
Have you been hurt in a car accident? Do you wonder if your case meets the threshold to bring a traditional tort claim? Let our team of skilled personal injury lawyers explain all of your options under Florida law. Over the years, Jack Bernstein and his team have helped hundreds of accident victims. Our fully equipped car accident law firm can help you pursue all avenues to win you the compensation that you deserve. Your call is confidential. Call us today.