Florida traffic accident

Being injured in an accident can place your life on hold as suddenly, you’re recuperating from injuries and possibly staring at the damaged property to deal with. You hope receiving compensation for your pain and suffering is a relatively easy process, after all, it’s a primary reason for paying your monthly insurance premiums on time. While I am not a lawyer - I can speak to this very real situation based on an accident that I had while visiting Florida just before the pandemic.

I can't get into too many details as we ultimately decided to settle with the other party but Florida operates differently than a lot of other states and so it is important to know your rights here ... not what you think your rights should be in California, Texas, or wherever you might be visiting from. We ultimately got lucky in this situation but we should have engaged legal help to make the personal injury claim process go more smoothly under the law in Florida.

Getting adequate compensation can be tricky in the state, and part of the issue for many people who are seriously injured may be due to Florida law. However, a solid understanding of how Florida law impacts your claim can make the process go more smoothly. Let's take a quick look and some of the key elements that you need to understand if you get injured here.

There’s a Timeline

Florida has a statute of limitations to file a personal injury claim. Before March 24th, 2023, you had four years from the accident date to file a claim. Accidents occurring on or after March 24th, now only have a two-year statute of limitations, which should be more than enough time to decide if you want to seek financial compensation and file the necessary paperwork.

This statute applies to all injury cases involving car accidents, injuries occurring on private or public premises, and medical malpractice suits. Wrongful death lawsuits also have a two-year filing deadline.

Florida Ranks #3 In Car Accidents!

There were 381,156 total crashes across the state. 242,622 injuries from all crashes. 3,292 fatalities from all crashes in Florida during 2022.

- Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

However, if the accident involves injuries to a minor, the statute of limitations can be extended to around 7 years. If the defendant leaves the country or cannot be located by law enforcement, the statute can also be extended. Medical malpractice and product liability complaints further add to the confusion—the two-year deadline may also be extended to allow for discovery.

In other words, the filing deadline can be flexible but it’s also best to work within the original two-year statute.

You May Not Be Able to Sue the Government

If you’re injured in an accident involving a government-owned vehicle, Florida has a sovereign immunity law. While the law protects government entities from most types of lawsuits, there are exceptions, and Florida has a specific tort to address these exceptions.

If the government employee’s actions resulted in injury, property damage, or death, you may be able to file for financial compensation. However, don’t get too excited. The tort has very specific caps. For example, you can’t be awarded more than $200,000 from a government agency. Also, if your lawsuit involves multiple agencies, your lawsuit is automatically capped at $300,000.

What About Shared Negligence

Florida also has a comparative negligence statute, and don’t forget about the modified comparative negligence law. This directly affects the amount you receive when you’re partially at fault for the accident.

These laws allow the court to reduce your judgment according to the percentage of blame you share. For example, if you’re awarded $500,000 in damages but are 49% at fault, your judgment is reduced by 49%.

Something to remember is you can’t be found to be more than 51% at fault to seek compensation. In other words, if the accident is 51% your fault, you’re responsible for paying all of your expenses. You’re also liable for the other involved party’s damages.

Florida Is a No-Fault Insurance State

Under Florida’s no-fault insurance law, all drivers must carry $10,000 in personal injury protection and the same amount for property damage. This means you must file a claim for any damages with your insurance company. Yes, this leaves you with outstanding medical expenses and property repair/replacement costs.

However, there is a loophole in the no-fault insurance law. If you meet one of the following criteria, you can file a personal injury claim:

  • Your disability lasts longer than 90 days
  • You are suffering from significant loss or limitation of a bodily function or system
  • You have a permanent injury
  • The accident resulted in fractures or broken bones

You may also be exempt from the no-fault insurance statute if the accident results in permanent and significant disfigurement. For example, severe scarring or the loss of a limb.

How Florida Law Affects Compensation

The Sunshine State defines damages as either economic or non-economic. Economic damages are tangible and typically include medical expenses and property repair/replacement bills.

You may also be able to claim lost wages and even future loss of income, though every case is different so talk with an attorney. Non-economic damages are harder to place a value on, which can include things like pain, suffering, and mental anguish.

To make it a little easier to determine the damage amount, Florida has another cap. Along with the cap on government agencies, your punitive damages cannot exceed 3x $500,000 or the total amount of your compensatory damages.

Let An Attorney Guide You Through the Various Statutes

Florida's statutes governing compensation in personal injury accidents are complex and laden with plenty of potential exceptions that can be challenging to navigate.

Rather than attempting to decipher these legal intricacies yourself, it’s far more advisable to entrust your case to a skilled accident attorney who is well-versed in navigating these complexities and can maximize your chances of a favorable outcome.