When you get seriously injured in a vehicle collision, building collapse, or other catastrophic accident, one of the most important things you need to know is how much you are entitled to recover. Once you know the extent of your long-term financial and non-financial losses, you can make informed decisions, and you can work alongside your attorney to maximize your financial recovery.
In a personal injury case, the losses you are entitled to recover are called “damages.” Following serious accidents, victims will often be entitled to substantial damages under Florida law. In this article, our lawyers provide a comprehensive overview of the types of damages that victims can recover, the evidence used to prove victims’ legal rights, and the steps you can (and should) take to protect your claim.
Types of Damages Available to Accident Victims in Florida
We’ll start with the types of damage that are available. To be clear, when you have a personal injury claim, the damages you are entitled to recover depend entirely on the circumstances of your case. This applies with respect to both: (i) the types of damages you can recover; and, (ii) the amount you are entitled to receive. With that said, following vehicle collisions, building collapses, and other major accidents, most victims will be entitled to damages in the same categories.
Financial Damages in Florida Personal Injury Cases
Financial damages are those that impact your bank account. They could impact your bank account now, or they could impact your bank account years (or even decades) down the line. In a typical catastrophic injury case, the financial damages available will include:
1. Medical Expenses
Florida law allows accident victims to recover full compensation for their current and future medical expenses. This covers all medical expenses resulting from the accident—from initial diagnosis and emergency treatment to future surgical procedures, rehabilitation, and therapy.
2. Medical Equipment, Supplies, and Prescriptions
Accident victims are also entitled to financial compensation for their other medical costs—including the cost of purchasing medical equipment, medical supplies, and prescriptions. As with accident victims’ other costs, this includes costs they incur through the date of their claim, costs they incur while their claim is pending, and costs they will incur in the future.
3. Other Out-of-Pocket Costs
Along with medical costs, accident victims may incur a variety of other out-of-pocket costs as a result of their injuries. In Florida, accident victims can recover damages for these costs as well. Some common examples include transportation expenses, home cleaning and landscaping expenses, and the cost of making home and vehicle modifications.
4. Loss of Income and Benefits
Beyond out-of-pocket costs, accident victims in Florida can also recover damages for their loss of income and benefits. No matter how long you are unable to work, you are entitled to just compensation for your lost earnings and/or any paid time off (PTO) you use during your recovery.
5. Loss of Future Earning Capacity
If your injuries will prevent you from working in the future, you are also entitled to damages for your loss of future earning capacity. This is true whether you will be unable to work for years, months, or the rest of your life.
Non-Financial Damages in Florida Personal Injury Cases
Non-financial damages are those that impact your life in ways other than having a negative impact on your bank account. While some states place a cap on the amount of non-financial damages accident victims can recover, Florida does not. As a result, in addition to recovering full compensation for their financial losses, accident victims in Florida can also recover full compensation for their:
1. Emotional Distress
In many cases, individuals who live through traumatic accidents will suffer from severe emotional distress. This is categorized as a type of “loss” for which accident victims can recover financial compensation under Florida law.
2. Pain and Suffering
Accident victims can also recover financial compensation for their pain and suffering under Florida law. “Pain” refers to the physical effects of trauma, while “suffering” refers to the emotional impacts of living with painful injuries on a daily basis.
3. Scarring and Disfigurement
When accident victims experience scarring and disfigurement as a result of bone fractures, burns, loss of digits and limbs, and other injuries, these are additional losses for which they can (and should) recover just compensation. Scars resulting from surgery are compensable as well.
4. Loss of Companionship, Consortium, Services, and Support
For many accident victims, the psychological impacts of their physical and emotional trauma make it difficult to maintain meaningful relationships with their family members. Some accident victims will experience sexual dysfunction as a result of their trauma as well. When accident victims are no longer able to enjoy spending meaningful time with their spouses, partners, children, or parents, these losses add to the non-financial damages they are entitled to recover.
5. Loss of Enjoyment of Life
Finally, accident victims in Florida are entitled to damages for their loss of enjoyment of life. Whether due to physical disabilities, anxiety, depression, or other effects, many individuals will find it difficult or impossible to resume the life they once knew. This is a tragic outcome, and it is an outcome for which victims deserve to recover the maximum financial compensation available.
Documenting Your Damages After a Vehicle Collision or Other Serious Accident in Florida
No matter how much you are entitled to recover, to recover anything at all, you must be able to prove the costs of the accident. Proving your damages requires multiple forms of evidence—some of which your lawyer will be able to obtain for you, and some of which you will need to provide. For example, to assist your lawyer with pursuing your personal injury claim, it will be helpful if you can supply records such as:
- Medical Records – If you have scans, x-rays, test results, prescriptions, or any other medical records related to your injuries, you should keep these in a file to share with your lawyer. If necessary, your lawyer can obtain your medical records from your healthcare providers as well.
- Medical Bills and EOBs – You should also get in the habit of keeping copies of any medical bills and explanations of benefits (EOBs) you receive from your healthcare providers or your insurance company. These will help with proving the total cost of your medical care and ensuring that you receive reimbursement for any costs you pay out of pocket.
- Receipts – Along with your medical bills and EOBs, you should also keep your receipts for any expenses you incur, especially if you pay in cash. This applies not only to medical bills, medical supplies, and prescriptions, but any other out-of-pocket costs as well.
- Employment Records – If you miss work as a result of the accident, you should be sure to keep any records you receive from your employer that document the days or hours you miss. While your lawyer should be able to obtain these records from your employer, it can be helpful to have your own copies for verification.
- Photos and Videos – As you work to move on from the accident, you can take photos and videos to document your injuries, your treatment, your recovery, and your injuries’ day-to-day effects. These will assist with proving your pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-financial losses.
- Your Daily Log or Journal – Keeping a daily log or journal is a good way to document your non-financial losses as well. You can either take written notes or record yourself talking. Some key details you will want to include are your daily pain levels, whether your pain worsens with activity or prevents you from performing certain activities, and any other ways your injuries interfere with (or negatively impact) your daily life.
Additional Evidence Your Lawyer Will Use to Prove Your Damages
In addition to relying on these forms of documentation, your lawyer will need to use various other forms of evidence to prove your total damages. For example, to prove your future financial losses and the “value” of your pain and suffering, your lawyer will most likely use additional forms of evidence such as:
- Expert Reports – Your lawyer will need to work with medical and financial experts to evaluate your long-term financial needs and calculate your lost future earnings. These experts will prepare reports that your lawyer can present in court if necessary.
- Expert Testimony – Along with preparing reports, these experts may also provide written or oral testimony in support of your claim for damages.
- Testimony from Friends and Family – Testimony from friends and family can serve as powerful evidence of the non-financial impacts of an accident victim’s injuries. In most cases, friends and family members will be more than happy to do whatever they can to help their loved ones recover just compensation.
5 Steps You Can Take to Maximize Your Financial Recovery After a Serious Accident in Florida
With all of this in mind, if you have been seriously injured in an accident, there are some steps you will want to take promptly to maximize your chances of securing a full financial recovery. Some examples of these steps include:
1. Make Sure You Understand Your Doctor’s Treatment Recommendations
Now is the time to make sure you thoroughly understand your doctor’s treatment recommendations. If you have any questions about what you need to do to facilitate your recovery, you should ask your doctor.
2. Start a Claim File
To help yourself keep track of your medical records, employment records, receipts, and other accident-related documentation, you can start a claim file. Keep all of these records together in a safe place until you can share them with your lawyer.
3. Set Reminders in Your Phone
You can set reminders in your phone to make sure you don’t miss any doctor’s appointments. You can also set reminders for when you need to take your medications and change your bandages, and you can set a daily reminder to add information to your journal or log.
4. Prioritize Your Physical and Psychological Recovery
One of the most important steps you can take to protect your legal rights after a serious accident is to prioritize your recovery. If you do everything you can to get better, the insurance companies won’t be able to blame you for any of your financial or non-financial losses.
5. Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer
Finally, to give yourself the best chance of recovering the full damages you deserve, you should talk with a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. At most personal injury law firms, your initial consultation is free, and you pay nothing out of pocket for your legal representation.
Speak with a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer at Silva & Silva
If you need to know more about seeking financial compensation after a serious accident in Florida, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with a personal injury lawyer at Silva & Silva, call 305-445-0011 or tell us how we can reach you online today.