Medical care and recovery are the first things most people think about when they are injured in an accident in Florida. Considerations about the costs of medical care and the potential monetary impact of lost wages, physical therapy, childcare, property damage, and other unexpected expenses arising from the accident soon follow.
Florida laws can help alleviate some of these financial concerns when the accident was caused in whole or part by another party. Navigating the complexities of the state’s personal injury laws can prove difficult, especially when you are trying to recover from the physical trauma caused by the accident.
Thus, if you have been injured in an accident caused by the negligent actions of others, you should contact a skilled personal injury lawyer, such as those at Tallahassee’s Akbar Thomas Law. Experienced personal injury lawyers can investigate the accident in-depth to determine fault and appropriate compensation. They then strategize a personal injury claim approach designed to secure maximum compensation, whether through negotiations with insurance companies or in court.
What Kinds of Compensation Am I Eligible For?
Injured parties who consult with our Tallahassee law firm are often confused about what compensation they might be eligible for. You’ve likely heard mention of the personal injury terms of “compensatory” and “punitive” damages, but what exactly do they mean, and what do they cover?
The short answer is that compensatory damages cover distinct economic costs that can be quantified and non-economic costs that do not have a specific value. Economic costs can include medical care, lost wages, and property damage, while non-economic expenses might be applied for a lost limb, disfigurement, or pain and suffering. Victims can seek punitive damages when the party causing the accident had acted intentionally, recklessly, or criminally. For example, a personal injury caused by a drunk driver is generally eligible for punitive damages.
Compensatory Damages That Cover Economic Losses
Recovering your costs for medical care, lost wages, and property damage is the primary focus of compensatory damages, but plenty of other tangible costs can be included. Medical care costs go beyond the initial treatment, surgery, and hospitalization and should cover physical therapy, medications, in-home medical devices, and recovery care. Compensation for lost wages can go beyond what was lost while recovering from the accident and might include future losses if the injuries are disabling and cause a change in employment and future earnings. Compensation from other economic losses might consist of:
- Transportation costs for medical care and recovery.
- Costs of carrying out regular household duties (housekeeping, lawn mowing, grocery shopping, etc.).
- Costs of bills and other items left unpaid due to the injury and recovery.
- Car rental costs as needed when the victim’s vehicle is permanently or temporarily disabled by accident
Non-Economic Losses That May Fall Under Compensatory Damages
While non-economic losses are difficult to quantify, there’s no dispute that losing a limb or otherwise getting disabled or disfigured is emotionally traumatizing and will likely cause a victim economic hardship. Pain and suffering are also emotionally traumatizing and recognized by the state as eligible for compensatory damages.
Your personal injury lawyer will use historical legal precedents and a formulaic approach to estimate the value of your non-economic losses. In general, the approach is designed to assess how the pain, suffering, and/or disablement affected your life in the shorter term during recovery and how it will affect it going forward. Any short- and long-term impacts on your quality-of-life warrant inclusion, and generally speaking, the amount of damages is linked to the severity of the trauma.
Punitive Damages Designed to Punish Wrongdoing
Florida courts interpret Florida Statute 768.72 to be applicable more as a form of punishment for misconduct than a means of providing further compensation for victims. The statute addresses punitive damages differently than compensatory damages in that victims cannot seek punitive damages in their initial claim. Instead, courts will consider punitive damages if the victim can provide evidence showing a “reasonable basis for recovery of such damages.” By requesting punitive damages from the court, victims can initiate a discovery of evidence process that can uncover whether the defendant has the means to pay such damages.
Once such means to pay can be positively established, the courts will award punitive damages if “clear and convincing evidence” proves that the defendant “was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.” Under the statute, intentional misconduct means that the defendant knew the conduct of his actions was wrong and that there was a high probability that pursuing them could cause injury or damages, yet still initiated the actions. Gross negligence means that the defendant’s actions were so reckless that they represented a “conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights” of anyone exposed to them.
Damages Can Be Sought for Partial Blame Accidents
Florida laws allow for comparative negligence claims, which means that even if the victim was partially to blame for an accident, they could still seek damages. When considering comparative negligence claims, courts will reduce the amount of compensation by the comparative level of fault for the accident caused by the victim. This means that if the court determines that your actions contributed to 30% of the accident, the compensation awarded will be decreased by 30%.
Secure Your Personal Injury Claim with Akbar Thomas Law
If you or a loved one are injured in an accident, you should always seek out the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer to secure the full extent of compensation allowed for by the law. The personal injury lawyers at Akbar Thomas Law are known in the Tallahassee area for putting their clients first and always keeping them proactively involved in their cases. They also have a stellar record at securing maximum compensation for their clients through negotiations or, when needed, in court. To learn more, contact us today at 850-383-0000.