As an Orlando car accident lawyer, new potential clients who call my office often want to know how much for which they could sue for a car accident in Florida. That answer depends on many factors related to the accident, but probably the biggest factor doesn’t relate to the accident itself. One thing is for sure — car accident case values range from zero to millions of dollars, depending *mostly* on how badly injured you were, and the amount of the insurance coverage of the at-fault driver.
So the short answer is, literally, anything from zero, to multi-millions of dollars, depending on the UNIQUE facts of your case. MOST cases are limited in value by the insurance coverage amount of the at fault driver. More on that dilemma below.
(If you are searching for the best Orlando car accident lawyer, we hope you will read more about our experience and background.)
So you’ve been in an accident. I’m sorry that happened to you (or your loved one). Accidents are traumatic, and absolutely life-altering (or ending) when they are bad. You and your loved ones may never be the same. Driving on the road will never feel the same, if your accident was really bad. You absolutely, fairly, and rightly, should recover some money, if another driver either was totally to blame, or at least shared some fault.
But how much money can you recover in a car accident lawsuit? The answer, like most things in the law, is complicated, and depends on many factors. I’m going to try to outline some of the key factors in this article. But you should call our office if you want an in-depth analysis of your particular case. Every case is different — and I can’t write every conceivable factor into a simple blog post. Still, here’s my best attempt to summarize the main factors, and possible amounts you might recover:
There are three key questions to every car accident case, when assessing potential value. The first is whether you were injured, along with how badly, and what treatment you might need going forward. The second is whether another driver was at-fault in the accident. And the third is whether that other driver had bodily injury coverage on his or her car insurance policy, and the limits (amount) of that coverage. Those are the three prongs of analyzing the likely value of any car accident case. So let’s break those down, one by one.
Again, the first question is whether you are injured, and, if so, how badly, AND what treatments you are likely to need. Assuming you didn’t cause the accident AND the other driver has sufficient insurance coverage, your injuries AND treatments drive the value of any personal injury / car / truck accident case.
Minor injuries that heal completely within a few days or weeks are worth almost nothing. Most good lawyers will only take these cases “just in case” you realize a few weeks later that your injuries are actually more serious. (This worsening of injuries actually happens quite often — because people think, for example, that a neck or back injury is minor, but the pain gets worse, and they realize they have a serious condition with lots of pain that will require surgery to get better.) Even with unlimited insurance coverage, these cases might be worth a few hundred or thousand in your pocket at the end of the case.
Then there are moderate injuries. These might require less invasive surgeries. Again assuming there is enough insurance coverage, these may leave you with tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands (depending on the severity of your injuries, and impact on your life & work) in your bank account at the end of the case. (One thing to know is that your medical bills and attorneys fees are subtracted from your initial settlement amount. This is just the way the law works in Florida.)
Finally there are catastrophic injuries, or wrongful death (death accident cases are pursued by legal “survivors,” defined in a very limited way by statute in Florida to include spouses, children under 25, or, if there was no spouse or minor children, then parents).
Catastrophic injuries, again assuming unlimited insurance coverage (which is a gigantic assumption — most drivers do NOT have unlimited coverage — more on that issue below), are the highest value cases. These cases routinely settle for multi-millions of dollars. Catastrophic injuries involve life-altering, totally disabling conditions, such as amputations, paralysis, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, severe burn injuries, blindness, and the like. The reason these cases have the highest value is because Florida law allows car accident victims to recover three categories of damages: (1) medical bills related to the accident, including future anticipated medical bills, (2) lost wages related to the accident, including future anticipated lost wages, and (3) pain and suffering caused by the accident, including future likely pain and suffering. With catastrophic injuries, ongoing medical bills are likely to be very high, and may last a lifetime. For example, someone with a brain injury, or paralysis, might need a lifetime of care, changes to their home, and medical equipment. They also may need to replace their wages for life. (Because catastrophic injury cases often include estimated life span calculations, catastrophic injuries in a young person are worth more than catastrophic injuries in an older person — although both young and old catastrophic injury victims can recover a very high amount of money if the other driver has enough insurance coverage.)
In car accident cases, we do have to prove all of your damages with solid evidence. So we have to prove your injuries with extensive medical records. And we have to prove your lost wages with documentation regarding your wages before the accident. And that sort of thing.
Wrongful death cases *with sufficient insurance coverage* often settle for an average of one million dollars, but that number can be higher or lower, depending on a variety of factors. For example, we settled a semi-truck accident / wrongful death case for 2 million dollars, which was the insurance policy limit, partly because the driver had a drunk driving record, and was intoxicated during the accident. Aggravating / worsening fault factors can increase the value of any settlement or verdict.
As Orlando car accident lawyers, our main job is to help you gather the necessary evidence to prove whatever level of damages you have. This includes helping you find excellent doctors, who are also experienced with the litigation process (so they will not be a newbie on the witness stand if testifying in front of a jury and tank your case). With moderate injury cases, we usually rely on testimony and evidence from your treating doctors. With catastrophic injury cases, we hire experts in various fields to prove the extent of your injuries, and likely lifetime needs going forward.
As mentioned several times above, all of those estimated values rely on a BIG assumption, and that is that there is enough insurance coverage. Unfortunately, to be blunt, Florida’s car insurance laws are pathetically bad for car accident victims. This is why some of the best Orlando car accident lawyers (including myself) refer to Florida’s car accident “lottery.”
In Florida, drivers are NOT required to carry one PENNY of bodily injury insurance (with limited exceptions for some leased vehicles, and semi-trucks). Bodily injury insurance, or “BI” coverage, is the only coverage that pays you, someone injured by another driver on the road. Florida only requires drivers to carry 10K in PIP coverage. PIP coverage does NOT pay any money to other drivers on the road. Drivers MUST have entirely optional BI coverage, for you to recover one penny from an at-fault driver for your injuries. (Big qualifier — you can also recover if you carry uninsured motorist coverage, or UM coverage, on your own vehicle, or a qualifying vehicle in your household carries UM — you case value limit then would be the limits of the at-fault drivers BI coverage, combined with your UM coverage.)
This coverage limit really, really sucks for Florida car accident victims. (For this reason, there has been a push for years for Florida to expand BI coverage. 2021 might be the year that something finally gets passed by our state government. We shall see.) Because many drivers are on the road with the minimum coverage, about ⅓ of all accident victims recover zero from an at-fault driver, regardless of the seriousness of their injuries.
If someone has BI coverage, then the next question is how much? BI policies might be 25K, 50K, 100K, 300K, 1 million, or more. MOST non-commercial BI policies are 100K or less. A few enlightened non-commercial drivers have 300K to 1 million in coverage, but not many.
The highest auto insurance policy amounts are those covering commercial vehicles, like semi-trucks, or 18 wheelers, or commercial trucks like Fed Ex or UPS. Those vehicles usually have at least 1 million in coverage, and sometimes many millions.
So the highest value cases, valued at multi-millions of dollars, usually involve catastrophic injuries, AND they were hit by a commercial vehicle or semi-truck.
The last major issue in determining the value of any case is fault. That is, who caused the accident? If you caused the accident, then we can’t sue someone else for your injuries. The reason is that we are suing someone for negligent driving. That’s the only way to recover any money. But there can be mixed fault (or what the law calls “comparative fault”) in Florida. We look very carefully in serious to catastrophic injury cases for arguments regarding fault of any other potential driver, because Florida law allows us to prove that they shared some percentage of the blame, so should bear some percentage of the liability.
There are many other factors that can affect the value of a car accident case in Florida. For example, if you delayed treatment for a long time, then the value of your case would go way down. On the other hand, if the other driver was drunk, and received a citation for driving under the influence, then the value of your case would increase. And there are many other factors. But this article discusses the big three — and these three factors are the focus of most Orlando car, truck and Florida semi-truck accident lawyers at the outset of any lawsuit.
The most important things that you can do to increase the value of your case are: (1) call us IMMEDIATELY if you were injured in an accident, so that we can start right away helping you create and gather necessary evidence to prove your case (if you wait, we can’t help the same — for example, we can’t talk to witnesses, and we can’t explain how your early medical treatment will affect your case) and (2) get medical treatment ASAP.
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