In Florida, a person injured in a car accident can only recover compensation for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of the enjoyment of life, emotional distress, and loss of consortium, if their injury meets one of the following 4 requirements ( so let’s talk about the Effect of Florida’s Tort Threshold On Car Accident Case):
- A significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function (such as the loss of a kidney);
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement;
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement; and
This is commonly referred to as meeting the tort threshold (or no-fault threshold), but it is also referred to as having a threshold injury.
If you have been injured in a car accident in Florida, and your injuries meet any of the requirements listed above, you will be entitled to pursue compensation for non-economic damages if you can prove that the others driver’s carelessness was the cause of your injuries.
The purpose of Florida’s Tort Threshold is to limit less serious injury claims, since PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance should cover all economic damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses.
The tort threshold is the primary reason why, unlike some other states, it is difficult to obtain huge amounts of compensation for pain and suffering after a being injured in car accident in Florida (so lets discuss further why you should meet or know the effect of Florida’s Tort Threshold On Car Accident Case).
When Must You Meet The Tort Threshold?
You will typically need to meet the tort threshold in order to be compensated for non-economic damages when you have been injured in a car accident where the owner/operator of the other vehicle has PIP coverage.
If you are involved in a car accident in Florida where you need to have a threshold injury to recover non-economic damages, and you do not, a jury will be unable to award you even one cent for pain and suffering, mental distress, etc.
On the other hand, an injured person does not need to have a threshold injury to be compensated for economic damages such as medical bills, lost wages, property damages, and other expenses.
Furthermore, some types of vehicular accidents entitle an injured person to be compensated for economic and non-economic damages, even if they do not have a threshold injury. These include accidents in which a person was injured:
- on a motorcycle;
- In a taxi;
- On a public bus; and
- On a large moped or scooter.
In addition, when an injured person is suing for punitive damages, they do not need to meet the tort threshold. The most common claim in which one would be entitled to punitive damages is where the person who caused the accident was drunk (and possibly where they were on a cell phone) at the time they caused the accident.
If you are non-resident, meaning that you are from another state, and you are injured in a car accident in Florida, you may be required to meet the tort threshold if you are entitled to PIP, just as a Florida resident would.
Florida’s Tort Threshold and Settlement Offers
If the insurer believes that you do not have a threshold injury, you will often receive a smaller settlement offer. This is because they will offer you no money, or very little money, for the non-economic component of your claim.
For example, if you have sustained a soft tissue injury to your neck or back, and the insurance adjuster for the driver responsible for the accident, or the adjuster for your uninsured motorist insurance, thinks that your injury does not meet the tort threshold, they will slash the value of the non-economic portion of your claim accordingly.
So, if the adjuster believes that there is only a 50% chance of you meeting the tort threshold, he or she will reduce the value of the non-economic portion of your claim by 50%. He or she will not, however, devalue your claim for economic damages.
Damage to Your Car
In many cases, the amount of damage your car has sustained will have a huge impact on the offer you receive from an insurance company. This is because it is assumed that the more significant the damage to your car, the more likely your injuries are to meet the tort threshold.
Of course, a person can be injured very badly even though their vehicle has sustained very little damages. But, for insurance purposes, the insurance adjuster will assess the value of the damage to the car and adjust his or her offer accordingly.
This means that when an adjuster sees a vehicle that has sustained a tremendous of amount of damage, he will adjust his offer up significantly. Conversely, if there has been little or no damage to the vehicle, the adjuster will offer you far less, and you may need to go to trial in order to receive the compensation you rightfully deserve.
The Insurance Company’s Doctor
In Florida, the insurance company for the driver responsible for your injuries has the right to hire their own doctor to examine you and review your medical records. This doctor will often say that your injuries do not meet the tort threshold, even when your treating physician says that they do. It will then be up to the jury to decide which doctor to believe.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
Even when an insurance adjuster gives you a low offer and says that you do not meet the tort threshold, you may, in fact, have a case that does. Contact an experienced car accident attorney for help with recovering all of the damages you are entitled to receive after a car accident.