Those hurt in accidents often believe that the negligent party’s insurance will cover the cost of their injuries and damage. Florida law, however, does not require motorists to have bodily injury liability coverage when operating private passenger vehicles. Commercial vehicles, depending on their size, may be required to have this coverage. Considering the complexities with these cases, those affected are often deterred from seeking legal assistance because they do not realize the benefits that they can receive through legal action.
Damages Awarded in Personal Injury Cases
There are three types of damages that a victim can recover from a filing a personal injury claim: compensatory, punitive and nominal damages. Compensatory damages offer a financial reward to the victim for past and future economic losses as well as non-economic expenses. Economic loss can be itemized with an expense report and replaced with the monetary value of the items. For example, your car, medical bills and lost wages are all expenses that have an exact monetary value and therefore, can be compensated for. You may even be able to recover for your lost earning capacity if such a loss is due to the injuries sustained from the accident.
Non-economic losses are tricky since they involve factors where monetary value is hard to determine. These losses can include emotional issues such as pain and suffering. In accordance with Florida Statutes, Section 627.733, these special damages can only be awarded if there is a permanent injury and the owner of the vehicle was required to have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. PIP coverage is required of drivers of passenger vehicles.
Punitive damages are a large sum of money intended to punish the liable party. You can only be awarded punitive damages in cases where the court finds that the guilty party acted in a grossly negligent manner. This behavior can include, but is not limited to, driver incompetence, excessive speed and violation of safety or traffic laws.
Nominal damages are a small amount of money that can simply be awarded after you bring a cause of action, but they are less desirable by victims as they do not provide much help during this difficult time.
Reduction of Damages
The purpose of Florida tort law is to make the victim of an accident “whole” by enabling the victim to recover for any losses suffered. To be fair, the law prevents these victims from recovering for their own negligent acts or from being compensated twice.
Since Florida is a “comparative negligence” state, the amount that the victim can recover in damages can be reduced if the victim was also at fault. As long as the victim somehow contributed to the cause of the accident, he or she will not be precluded from seeking damages altogether but the amount of damages will decrease by the percentage of fault. This percentage will be determined in court. The amount of damages awarded to you, as a victim, can also be reduced by the amount you may have collected from other sources. For instance, the guilty party’s insurance company may have paid you to cover the cost of repairs for your vehicle. If you are awarded damages later on and they include the cost of repair, that amount will be subtracted from your award.
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