Florida welcomes over 100 million tourists every single year to the Sunshine State. This number is nearly 5 times the number of residents who actually live in Florida. Disney World, Universal Studios, the Florida Keys, hundreds of miles of beaches, and numerous other attractions draw tourists in every day. Florida’s pleasant weather that lasts all year long is appealing as well. Millions of tourists use Florida’s public roadways when they visit the state. If they are involved in an accident, what are their rights to recovery? Will they have to pursue medical care in Florida? Will they be entitled to compensation?
All Florida drivers, whether or not they call Florida home, have a duty to operate motor vehicles in a manner that is reasonable under the circumstances. Drivers must follow traffic laws and take precautions while traveling. Obeying the speed limit and traffic signals, reducing speed in inclement weather, and paying careful attention to the road are all necessary. If an individual fails to drive in a reasonable, cautious manner and causes a motor vehicle accident, that individual may be liable for injuries he or she causes.
If you are visiting Florida and you are injured, you may be entitled to compensation. Florida follows a no-fault model for car accidents. This means that, in most cases, a driver’s own insurance will typically cover medical bills and other types of expenses. Liability does not have to be proven in these situations, which speeds up the resolution of the claim. This is especially beneficial for Florida tourists, as it allows them to return to their homes and put the accident behind them sooner rather than later.
In some instances, however, the no-fault system does not apply to motor vehicle accidents. If, due to your accident, you suffer disfigurement, permanent injury, or major scarring, you may be able to file a claim against the at-fault driver.
In this case, a careful review of your medical records will be required to determine if your injuries meet the “serious injury” threshold under Florida law. You may seek medical care at any facility that you like. Photographs, expert medical reports, and other types of evidence may also be examined.
Damages in a Florida motor vehicle accident claim
If you must file an accident claim under the state’s no-fault system, you will be limited to claiming your economic damages. These include your medical bills, and perhaps your lost wages from any time you missed from work. Economic damages may also include expenses you endured due to a longer stay in Florida than you anticipated (additional hotel room expenses, for example).
If your injuries fall into the “serious injury” category, you may also be able to claim non-economic damages. Pain and suffering is one of the most commonly awarded types of non-economic damages. Pain and suffering damages seek to reimburse an accident victim for the physical and emotional trauma that an accident caused. Since a specific number cannot be placed on these types of damages, they are referred to as non-economic.
It may take several months to obtain damages if they are pursued outside of the no-fault system. In many cases, a lawsuit must be filed. The parties must negotiate with each other in an attempt to finalize the case. If they cannot reach an agreement, they may need to go to trial. Fortunately, most cases settle long before a court date becomes necessary. By the time a trial is scheduled, witnesses may have forgotten important details of the claim. Therefore, it is wise to negotiate settlements when possible.