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How does the Florida Car Accident Threshold for Personal Injuries work?

Advice from Personal Injury Attorney, Warren Todd.

In 1971 the Florida Legislature passed legislation making Florida a hybrid no-fault state for purposes of automobile accident personal injury claims.  The law in its current version requires resident registered owners of operable vehicles to have No-Fault insurance to cover $10,000 of their own medical bills, lost wages, and some essential services.  These required benefits are payable regardless of who was at fault for causing the car wreck, meaning both the negligent party and the innocent victim are entitled to these benefits under their own respective insurance policies.  The purpose of the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law is to ensure injured people are able to promptly obtain some basic level of insurance without having to establish who was at fault which in some cases can take months or years to resolve.

As a tradeoff for the perceived benefit of having $10,000 of No-Fault coverage immediately available for most injured parties, the Legislature also adopted what has become known as the Florida No-Fault Threshold.  The statute as interpreted by decades of case law restricts an injured person’s ability to recover non-economic damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish, disability, and loss of the enjoyment of life unless the injured party can prove they sustained a “permanent” injury as a result of the car wreck.

Florida law recognizes the following as “permanent” injuries which entitle an injured party to recover for pain, suffering, mental anguish, disability, and loss of the enjoyment of life:  A significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function, a permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, and death.

While it may seem unfair for a car accident victim to submit claims for their medical bills and lost wages directly to their own insurance company, the prompt payment portion of the No-Fault system does usually benefit most injured parties.  However, the “permanent” injury threshold requirement restricts injured parties who had non-permanent injuries from making a full recovery to which they would have been entitled under a fault-based system.

Due to these legislatively imposed limitations, it is very important for injury victims to seek medical care from a competent physician who is familiar with the “permanent” injury threshold requirement and is willing to provide a written opinion when the patient has a “permanent” injury.  In my experience, many physicians shy away from treating car accident injury victims due to this proof requirement and others are often unwilling to provide record evidence of a “permanent” injury.  For this reason, if you have been injured in a car accident, you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can provide guidance on the type of physician or specialist who is willing and capable of providing the necessary written opinion for your case.