When you are injured through the negligence or wrongdoing of another, it can be a pretty traumatic event. Undoubtedly, your injury involved pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other terrible inconveniences. In Florida, if you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, a recovery for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience may be obtained. However, under Florida law, in the great majority of motor vehicle accident cases, in order to make a recovery for pain and suffering, the permanent injury threshold must be satisfied.
Specifically, Florida Statutes § 627.737, provides that in any tort action brought against a person legally responsible for his or her actions, a plaintiff may recover damages in tort for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of bodily injury … arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation, or use of such motor vehicle only in the event that the injury or disease consists in whole or in part of:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement;
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement;
Accordingly, in a great number of motor vehicle accidents, if a doctor or medical expert does not make a finding that your injury consists in whole or in part of one of the 4 (four) above-mentioned elements, then it is likely you cannot recover damages in tort for pain and suffering.
However, in the law, because everything always seems to “depend” on something else, it should be noted that you do not always need to have a permanent injury to recover pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience. Knowing as much could make a world of difference for your case.
In Utvich v Felizola, 742 So.2d847 (Fla 3d DCA 1999), a taxi driver (Felizola) was injured after being rear-ended by another car (Utvich). The tax-driver sued the other car for his injuries, and at trial, the jury awarded the taxi-driver damages for past lost wages, past medical expenses, past pain and suffering, and loss of future earning capacity. The attorneys for the other car argued that the taxi-driver could not recover damages for pain and suffering because the tax-driver did not prove a permanent injury.
The court, however, held that “taxis are definitionally excluded from the no-fault law,” citing Florida Statutes §627.733(1). The court went on to say that in Lasky v. State Farm Ins. Co., 296 So. 2d 9, 21-22 (Fla. 1974), taxis, motorcycles, buses, and commercial vehicles do not come within the provisions of the no-fault act. As such, such vehicles do not fall within the scope of the statutes requiring claimants to prove permanency.
For most involved in a motor vehicle accident, this caveat might not mean much. But when you have been injured in an accident involving one of these types of vehicles, knowing you may be entitled to pain and suffering damages regardless of proving permanency could go a long way for you and your family.
If you or a loved one has been injured through the fault of another we know that this can be a very difficult time. You do not have to deal with it alone, we would love to help.
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