After a car accident in Florida, most people worry about whether they will heal fully from their injuries and how they can afford the mounting medical bills.
If the accident damaged your car, you may need to consider how to get to school, work, and other places.
If you are working with a Florida car accident lawyer to file a claim for your losses, you have already made a big first step.
Your car accident claim should be enough to cover your medical bills, repair or replace your vehicle, cover lost wages from the time you missed work due to the accident, and even include consideration for your pain and suffering. But how much should you ask for? How are car accident claims valued in Florida?
Valuing Your Florida Car Accident Claim
After a car accident, one of the most-asked questions victims have of their car accident lawyer is, “How much is my car accident claim worth?”
No two car accident cases are alike; therefore, no two settlements will be alike. There is not really an accurate average settlement for car wrecks. When your Florida car accident lawyer values your case, they consider your actual, quantifiable losses and ensure you have enough to cover that, plus the legal fees for your representation.
Your Florida car accident settlement award depends on:
- The severity of your injuries and their impact on your life
- The dollar amount of property damage you incurred
- The insurance coverage of the other party
- Whether the other party was a private driver or a commercial driver
There could be other details that affect the amount of your claim, too, but a knowledgeable and experienced car accident attorney gathers all the information necessary to complete a proper valuation of your claim and collect evidence that gives them a better understanding of what you can recover.
Compensatory Damages You May Be Eligible for in Florida
Florida drivers must carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance with at least $10,000 in coverage. This insurance must cover up to 80 percent of the medical expenses you suffer from your accident, no matter who caused the crash.
You must also carry property damage liability (PDL) insurance, which covers damage to another person’s vehicle if you caused the accident that hit them or damages your car if someone else is driving it.
Many people carry optional additional insurance beyond PIP.
Florida permits car accident victims to seek compensatory damages from a car accident against the at-fault party.
For example, if you suffered catastrophic injuries after another driver hit your car and you require surgery or ongoing in-home or nursing home care, the medical bills would likely be more than your PIP. You and your car accident lawyer can file a claim against the other driver for your medical treatment.
Economic damages are losses that you can calculate.
These damages include:
- The damage to your vehicle
- Replacing your vehicle
- Other property damage, like if you had a laptop or cell phone in the car and those were damaged
- Medical bills, both emergency treatment and ongoing or after-care
- The total wages you didn’t earn because you were unable to work due to your injuries
- Loss of earning capacity, if your injuries preclude you from working in your current job
You may have other economic losses, too, which your car accident attorney will ask you about. Make sure to keep all receipts from medical appointments, hospital stays, and physical or occupational therapy sessions.
Your PIP carrier may direct you to a particular body shop to repair your car, or you may be able to select your own; keep all receipts from repairs to the car, too.
Our representation includes expert valuation of your losses, so we can properly calculate the economic damages for your suit.
Non-economic damages are most commonly known as “pain and suffering” and intend to provide you compensation beyond those easily calculated economic damages. Car accident injuries hurt, and many people experience physical pain as they heal and recover.
Beyond that, many victims suffer mental and emotional anguish from the event. An example of this would be the fear or anxiety related to the traumatic event or the development of a phobia or situational anxiety about driving.
You may feel grief over being unable to do the activities you once could with ease because your injuries have compromised your physical abilities. Loss of independence and a reduction in stamina and strength or your ability to complete activities of daily living also contribute to the pain and suffering you may feel after the accident.
It is difficult to place a dollar value on your degree of pain and suffering; however, you are entitled to seek a certain sum that covers these losses. In Florida, non-economic damages are often calculated in relation to the total economic damages. Insurance companies and civil judges use several methods to calculate your award.
The “multiplier method” is one of the most common ones, and it works like so:
The court determines (or both parties agree to in mediation) a number between 1.5 to 5, based on the severity of the victim’s injuries—5 being the worst. Then, the court (or your car accident lawyer) multiplies the total economic damages by that number.
If your case goes to trial, the judge will instruct the jury to calculate your non-economic damages as they decide on the settlement award. Your attorney must also build a case for your non-economic damages and may ask you to log how your injuries and pain affect your everyday life.
Punitive damages punish defendants who act with egregious and reckless disregard for the safety of others. Few car accident cases will award punitive damages.
If the other driver was drunk when they hit you and have a history of DUI charges, the jury might assess punitive damages.
Factors That Affect Your Car Accident Claim’s Value
Your Florida car accident attorney may wait to file your claim or issue a demand letter until you fully healed or reached your maximum medical improvement (MMI). An MMI is when doctors expect no further recovery or healing.
Some people may have an MMI that leaves them essentially physically and mentally the same as before the car accident, while others may be left with chronic pain or impaired capabilities.
Waiting until a physician determines MMI is common in collisions where the victim suffers moderate to severe injuries, so if you are wondering, “Why is my car accident claim taking so long to settle?” this could be the reason.
Other factors that affect your claim could be the impact your injuries have on your job and ability to make a living. You are entitled to recoup wages you did not earn because you missed work to heal from your car accident injuries.
If your treating physician cleared you for light work duty and you are now working in a position earning less than you did before the accident, you may be able to claim the difference between that wage and your prior one.
If you are injured to the extent that you can no longer complete your job duties, your attorney may seek compensation for your loss of earning capacity.
For example, if you suffered partial paralysis, but your job was in construction, you may no longer be able to return to your previous job. You could face career limitations or have to look at an entirely new career path.
In some cases, your car accident settlement may cover the cost of vocational training to prepare you for a new job that you can do, including skills training or paying for your education so that you can do a different job.
How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You?
Right after the car accident, your first thought probably is not, “Do I need to hire a lawyer after my car accident?” but it is a question that needs to be answered sooner rather than later.
It is true that you do not need an attorney to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company for the damages you suffered. However, do not be surprised if the insurance carrier undervalues your claim or denies it outright.
If the facts of the case are unclear, or if the other party’s insurance company refuses to pay a valid claim, consulting with a Florida car accident lawyer may help you better understand your options. Your lawyer understands the legal obligations insurance companies have if their clients are at fault in a collision.
As your car accident attorney, we help you understand your legal options for filing a suit against an at-fault driver or their insurance company. We can send a demand letter to the other party and their insurance company, stating the dollar value of your losses and asking them to pay. If that does not work, we can file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Often, we can settle the suit through mediation, which is a negotiation supervised by a neutral third party, without going to trial. However, we are fully prepared to argue your case before a judge and jury to get the resolution you deserve.
Once you hire one of our experienced Florida car accident lawyers, you can leave the entire legal matter to us and concentrate on resting and healing from your injuries. We handle all communications with the other party, including their insurance company, so you can refer any contact attempts to our office.
We also take care of filing the right paperwork, complete and on time so that your case is filed within the Florida statute of limitations (you can file a car accident lawsuit up to four years after the accident ).
You do not have to worry about coming up with a figure to list on the demand letter or lawsuit either; our lawyers take care of properly valuing your claim and accounting for all the compensatory damages you’re entitled to.
Do You Need Help Filing a Car Accident Settlement Claim?
If you have been in a car wreck that was not your fault, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the other driver to cover your losses. An experienced attorney in Tampa can help you learn about your legal options, file the initial claim, and handle the legal negotiations for you.