Have you suffered a car accident injury that was someone else’s fault? Maybe they ran a red light, maybe they pulled out in front of you, or maybe they stopped suddenly. Now you want to file a personal injury claim.
What expenses should you claim? Obviously, you should claim reimbursement for your medical expenses. You can also claim compensation for many other kinds of damages, including any lost wages you suffered during your recovery period.
How Does Florida’s “No-Fault” Auto Insurance System Work?
More personal injury claims arise from auto accidents than from any other form of personal injury. Unfortunately, Florida’s compensation system for serious auto accidents leaves much to be desired. Florida applies a “no-fault” system, which means that in most cases you must look to your own personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to satisfy your claim, rather than suing the at-fault driver or filing a third-party claim against their insurance policy.
Florida requires you to purchase $10,000 in PIP insurance. If you only purchased the minimum amount, PIP will cover 80% of your medical expenses and 60% of your lost income, up to the policy limits. Any lost wages you claim will count will against this $10,000 limit.
Florida law allows you to sue the at-fault driver or file a third-party insurance claim if you suffer a “serious injury”, as that term is defined by Florida law The problem is that Florida doesn’t require motorists to purchase auto accident liability insurance. This could leave you facing an at-fault driver with no money to pay your claim.
Are There Any Loopholes?
Yes, there are potential loopholes, depending on the specific circumstances of your case. Following are some examples:
Workers’ Compensation Claims
Workers’ compensation claims cover lost wages, and they apply to work-related injuries. Was your car accident work-related? It probably is if:
- Driving is your job (you are a food delivery driver, for example);
- You were making a work-related delivery, even if you don’t generally drive for a living;
- You were running an errand for your employer;
- You were transporting a client or a co-worker; or
- You were traveling for work (on a business trip, for example) and your employer was paying for your travel time.
Certain limitations apply. You must be an employee, not an independent contractor. Most commercial truckers, for example, cannot file workers’ compensation claims. Additionally, under most circumstances, you cannot file a workers’ compensation claim for a car accident that occurred while you were commuting to work.
Interstate Commercial Truckers
Federal law requires interstate commercial truckers to carry generous liability insurance policies. The minimum required trucking accident insurance coverage depends on the type and weight of freight the driver is carrying. Minimum coverage limits range from $300,000 to $5,000,000. In most cases, you can’t sue the trucking company, but that shouldn’t matter with coverage limits as high as they are.
On-Duty Uber/Lyft Drivers
Uber and Lyft provide generous auto liability insurance to their drivers (and to third parties who claim against their drivers’ policies). If the app is turned off at the time of an Uber or Lyft accident, you are stuck with claiming against their personal liability insurance, if they have any. Coverage increases dramatically if the app is on and the driver is waiting for a ride request. It increases further to $1,000,000 if the driver is carrying a passenger or on the way to pick one up.
At-Fault, On-Duty Employees
If the at-fault driver was an on-duty employee at the time of the accident, and if they were acting within the scope of their employment at the time (they were not on a joy ride, for example), you can probably hold the employer liable for your damages, including your lost wages. This rule applies even if the at-fault driver was driving their own vehicle.
You can always sue the at-fault driver directly. The problem is that if you have a sizable claim, the driver probably lacks the financial resources to pay it. Florida law exempts certain income from lawsuit claims. If the defendant is wealthy enough, however, exemptions don’t matter.
Drivers Who Purchased Optional Bodily Injury Liability Insurance
You are lucky if the at-fault driver purchased optional bodily injury liability insurance. Take full advantage of this option if you have it.
If the at-fault driver was an on-duty government employee acting within the scope of their employment, you can file a claim against the government (either the federal government or the State of Florida, depending on who the driver was working for). Both Florida and the federal government apply a damages cap of $200,000, or $300,000 if you sue more than one government entity. You cannot get punitive damages.
The Manufacturer of a Defective Product
If a defective auto part caused your car accident, you can sue the manufacturer of the product. As you might imagine, Ford Motor Company is likely to be able to pay any damages claim that a court might award you. You can also sue any party in the product’s chain of distribution, including wholesalers and retailers. Once you prove that the product is defective, you don’t even need to prove fault.
Contact a Fort Walton Beach Personal Injury Lawyer Today
When you suffer lost wages due to a car accident, you have two problems: (i) calculating the amount you lost, and (ii) figuring out who to claim against to get your compensation. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you with both of these concerns.
At Brannon & Brannon Personal Injury Attorneys, we’ve been fighting for clients just like you for over 30 years now. There’s not much that can happen that we haven’t seen before. Call us at 850-407-6635, or contact us online.