A motor vehicle collision can change your life in an instant. Not only is the victim left to deal with the pain and discomfort of injuries suffered in a crash, but they must also cope with the economic impact of medical bills and lost income. In addition, the victim is left to deal with the complicated set of laws relating to motor vehicle crashes, including the Florida No-Fault law.
Florida’s No-Fault law requires that every automobile owner carry Personal Injury Protection, also known as “PIP” coverage, on their vehicle. Regardless of who is at fault, PIP insurance pays 80% of reasonable and customary medical expenses and 60% of lost earnings incurred due to injuries from the collision. Your own insurer must pay these benefits, even if the other driver was at fault. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for insurers to try to limit or deny PIP benefits – even when the victim is clearly entitled to these benefits.
In addition to out of pocket medical expenses and lost wages, Florida’s No-Fault law allows the innocent victim of an automobile crash to collect compensation from the at-fault driver for certain non-economic damages. These are often referred to as “pain and suffering” damages, and aside from pain and suffering, includes such things as mental anguish, emotional distress, inconvenience and loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, both in the past and into the future. In order to qualify for these benefits, however, Florida’s No-Fault law requires the injury victim to prove that they have significant scarring or a permanent injury as a result of the crash. If a case cannot be settled, the other driver’s insurance company can require the injury victim to be examined by a doctor of its choice. Unfortunately, these physicians are often predisposed to minimizing the injury victim’s problems, and if the case goes to trial, the jury is often provided with conflicting testimony regarding the extent of the injury. It is up to the jury to decide whether the injury is permanent or not. Aside from the testimony of the treating physician and the insurer appointed physician, the jury is usually provided photographs of the damage to the vehicles involved in the crash, as well as testimony from friends, family or coworkers of the injury victim regarding the impact the injury has had on the injury victim’s life. In addition, x-rays, MRIs and CT scans will often be introduced into evidence to show the nature of the injury.
Of course, an injury victim must also establish that liability for the crash rests with the other driver. An experienced lawyer will know how to develop the evidence necessary to prove that the other driver caused the accident. An expert in accident reconstruction may need to be retained to assist the lawyer in determining who was at fault in causing the crash. These experts are often engineers, but there are also a number of retired police motor vehicle homicide investigators who are qualified to provide an opinion regarding liability for the accident. It is critically important to retain an attorney and, if necessary, an accident reconstruction expert as soon as possible after the crash. The reason for this is that certain evidence, such as skid marks, can change or disappear if too much time passes. In addition, witness statements need to be obtained as soon as possible, when the witness’ memory is fresh in their mind. Sometimes surveillance cameras in the area will capture images of the crash, and frequently these recordings are deleted within days or weeks after they are made, so it is important that a prompt investigation begin as soon as possible after the accident.
In my 32 year career, I have handled hundreds of auto accident cases and tried many to verdict. If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, please feel free to call me to discuss your case. The initial consultation is free, and you will speak directly with me, Eric Luckman, about your accident and your rights.