Being involved in a car accident is something that should never happen to anyone. Yet the reality is there are millions of car crashes across the country every year. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle (FHSMV) reported there were more than 400,000 motor vehicle accidents in Florida throughout 2018. More than 254,873 of those crashes caused some form of injury, and around 3,000 of them resulted in at least one fatality.
With so many people being hurt in car accidents in Florida alone, the amount of personal injury and wrongful death claims being filed each year is also staggering. Although despite the seemingly enormous data pool from which to draw, predicting an average settlement for a car accident claim remains difficult. A quick Google search might show you “averages” like $10,000, $15,000, or sometimes upwards of $20,000 paid to the plaintiff through a car accident settlement in Florida. But a deeper dive shows the math behind these averages is shaky.
Why is it so difficult to know what you can probably expect out of a successful car accident claim?
Florida’s PIP Insurance Rules
The first factor that makes predicting a car accident’s value tricky is Florida’ no-fault law, which requires every driver, with few exceptions, carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. After being in a traffic collision, your own PIP insurance will trigger and help pay for some of the damages you have experienced due to the crash, up to a cap. Liability is therefore not an immediate factor in most Florida car accident claims because PIP insurance should give you some coverage, even if it was your mistake that caused the accident.
The caps on PIP insurance policies are therefore factored into many car accident settlements because you might not be offered a settlement greater than your PIP insurance cap. If you want more than your PIP insurance cap, litigation may be necessary, which is where things can get quite complicated.
Here are the current minimum auto insurance coverage amounts in Florida:
- Personal injury protection - $10,000: No matter who is found liable for your car accident, your PIP will pay for your own medical treatments, lost wages, and other covered damages. There are exceptions and limitations to this. An experienced injury attorney should know these.
- Property damage coverage - $10,000 per accident: This portion of your insurance policy pays for property damage suffered by others in a crash you caused. It is most often used for car repair payments and total loss payouts.
You can also add bodily injury coverageat a minimum of $10,000 per person and $20,000 per accident to your policy. If you do, it will provide for bodily injury damages to others for a crash that you caused. It will also likely provide you with legal defense if you are sued by another party. Uninsured motorist coverage is also a recommended but waivable add-on to auto insurance policies in Florida. Read more about uninsured motorist coverage in our past blog.
For example, imagine the following scenario: You are hit by another driver and suffer injuries, but your car is luckily not badly damaged. The other driver has bodily injury damage coverage at a limit of $10,000 in their policy. Any settlement you are offered by the insurance company will cap at $10,000 because that’s the policy limits. If the driver had a higher policy limit, though, your settlement offer could also go up depending on the value of the case. Inversely, if they did not have any bodily injury damage coverage, then you might not see a settlement offer at all. You would essentially be left with no option other than pursuing the other driver or owner personally.
It is this varying nature of insurance limits that causes the average settlement for a car accident in Florida to fluctuate enough that predicting it becomes a fruitless effort.
Can You Still Sue If You Have PIP Coverage?
To its credit, Florida seems to actively try to keep its court systems free of unnecessary lawsuits, which means it can often be challenging for car accident victims to obtain money damages beyond what they get through their own PIP insurance. You have probably heard about people suing for their “pain and suffering” and being awarded fairly for it through a settlement or verdict. In most auto accident cases, in order to obtain these “non-economic damages”, you must establish that the auto accident caused a significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function, or, a permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement, or significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
Not Happy with a Settlement Offer? You Have the Right to Change Your Lawyer
You should also know that you are not entirely bound to your personal injury representation while your case is progressing. If your lawyer is trying to get you to accept a settlement amount that seems low under the circumstances, then it may be time to consider changing your attorney to someone who is more experienced and who will work harder to protect your best interests.
At Todd Miner Law in Orlando, we hear from car accident victims all the time who want to switch to our law firm because they are being rushed or bullied by not just an insurance company but also their own attorney. We are happy to consider their case and show them what a difference our firm can make. Led by the renowned Expert Injury Attorney Todd Miner, a former insurance defense attorney and former assistant state attorney, our law firm is ready to stand up for your rights, no matter the strength or stubbornness of the opposition and insurance company.
Call (407) 269-5877 for more information or to schedule a free no-obligation consultation.