Palm Beach Gardens Civil Trial Specialist Answers Frequently Asked Questions about Florida Personal Injury Law
If you’ve been injured in a car accident or suffered a personal injury because of someone else’s negligence, you probably have a lot of questions about how you’ll get compensation for your injuries, especially if the driver who hit you was uninsured or if you’re being blamed for causing part of the accident. As a Florida Bar Board Certified civil trial lawyer, Palm Beach Gardens personal injury attorney Scott B. Smith has the answers to your questions and can help you get the compensation you need and deserve. See below for answers to some frequently asked questions about personal injury law in Florida, and contact Scott Smith Injury Law if you have other questions of your own or need help pursuing a claim for damages in Palm Beach County.
What does it mean to be Board-Certified as a civil trial specialist?
Florida Bar board-certified attorneys must have at least five years of experience in the practice of law, including devoting 50% or more of their practice to their field of specialty (like civil trial law) in the past three years. A civil trial specialist must have handled at least 15 contested civil cases, including conducting cases before juries as lead counsel. Specialists have also completed 50 hours of continuing legal education in the field of specialty and completed a peer review process. Finally, a certified specialist in trial law must pass a seven-hour written exam covering topics such as litigation skills, knowledge of rules of evidence and civil procedure, and ethics.
About five percent of Florida attorneys are certified as specialists by The Florida Bar.
What happens if the driver who hit me is uninsured?
This is not just an academic question. Florida has the highest rate of uninsured drivers in the country, with more than one in four drivers on the road driving without insurance to cover their liability if they hit and injure someone in a crash.
If you’re injured in a crash, even if the driver was uninsured, you can still recover some compensation for medical expenses from your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. However, PIP may only cover $10,000 in damages, or as little as $2,500 if your injury did not qualify as an “emergency medical condition” under the law.
Beyond PIP benefits, you can also apply for Uninsured Motorist benefits from your insurance coverage, assuming you opted for UM coverage when you purchased bodily injury liability. If this is the case, you can recover compensation for more types of damages than PIP allows (pain and suffering, lost wages and disability, loss of enjoyment in life, etc.) and at much higher policy limits. The insurance company may try to limit their exposure to you by disputing who was at fault or how extensive your injuries are, so it’s wise to have an experienced car accident attorney negotiate on your behalf to ensure you receive full value for your claim.
Can I get punitive damages?
Punitive damages are monetary awards aimed more at punishing the wrongdoer than compensating the victim for a direct economic loss. Punitive damages are also sometimes called exemplary damages, as they can be used to make an example out of the wrongdoer to deter others from engaging in such conduct. Under Florida law, punitive damages are limited to cases of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.
“Intentional misconduct” means the person knew the conduct was wrong and highly likely to cause injury but intentionally did it anyway. “Gross negligence” means the person was so reckless or careless that it showed a conscious disregard or indifference to another person’s life or safety. For example, punitive damages could possibly be appropriate for injuries caused by the following:
- Drunk driving
- Street racing
- Drunk boating
- Running a bicyclist off the road
- Choosing not to recall a known dangerously defective product
Intentional misconduct or gross negligence must be proven by “clear and convincing evidence,” which is a tougher standard than is required for other elements of a personal injury case. Nevertheless, Scott Smith Injury Law invests the time and effort to pursue punitive damages in appropriate cases, in order to hold responsible parties fully accountable and to maximize the compensation for injury victims.
What if I was partly to blame in causing the accident?
Florida personal injury law follows a rule of “pure comparative negligence.” What this means is that any percentage of blame assigned to you will result in a proportionate reduction in the amount of compensation you can recover, but it does not keep you from pursuing a claim against another negligent party. So, if your damages are $100,000 but you are ten percent to blame, you’ll only recover $90,000. If you are 40% at fault, you’ll only recover $60,000, and so on.
Insurance companies like to tell you how much of an accident was your fault, and juries like to compromise. At Scott Smith Injury Law, we apply years of experience negotiating personal injury settlements and litigating personal injury jury verdicts to make sure you are not unfairly assigned any portion of the blame for an accident. We’ll defend you against unwarranted claims of negligence while proving a strong case for the other party’s liability to you.