As a passenger involved in a car accident, you have as much right as the driver to recover compensation for your injuries and losses. It is important to understand these rights so that you are adequately compensated for your medical bills, lost wages, and other accident-related expenses.
No Fault Insurance
Florida is one of a dozen states that follows no-fault auto insurance laws. What this means for injured drivers and passengers involved in a car accident is that they must first file a claim with their own personal-injury-protection (PIP) coverage to receive compensation for medical bills, lost income, and any other out-of-pocket expenses incurred after the crash. Both passengers and drivers must pursue this claim from their own PIP coverage regardless of who caused the car accident. However, in the event the injured passenger’s claim meets certain conditions, he or she can file a claim directly against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Certain situations allow for injured passengers to pursue a liability claim against the driver who caused the accident. In Florida, for a passenger to pursue a claim, the injuries must qualify as “serious,” which means one of the following must be experienced by the accident victim:
- Bone fracture(s);
- Significant disfigurement;
- A permanent limitation of the use of your body organ or member(s);
- A significant limitation of the use of one of your bodily functions or systems; or
- Being on substantially full disability due to your injuries for 90 days.
If the passenger’s injuries meet one of these qualifications, a claim can be pursued against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This requires you show that the driver was negligent, meaning that he or she breached a duty of care while operating the vehicle, resulting in your serious injuries. In these cases, passengers can be compensated for all categories of non-economic losses, including pain and suffering, as well as those damages not covered by the injured person’s PIP coverage.
In situations where only one of the drivers involved was entirely at fault for the accident, it can be relatively simple to prove. However, fault is not always so black and white. If another party was partially responsible for the accident, under Florida’s law of comparative negligence, the distribution of fault and who pays for the injured party’s damages may be split between two different parties. If the injured passenger played any role in the cause of the accident, this could also result in his or her claim being reduced by the percentage of blame the passenger played in the causing the accident.
Statute of Limitations
Florida’s statute of limitations sets a time limit on how long you have to file your claim. In most cases, you, as the injured party, have four years from the date of the accident, to file a legal claim for your injuries. If you are past that time limit, you may be barred from pursuing a legal claim for your injuries.
It is important to seek immediate medical treatment and speak with an experienced Orlando auto accident attorney as soon as possible after the crash, particularly if you have suffered serious injury as a result. Many people believe you should call the insurance company first before speaking with an attorney, and while it is important to report the accident to your insurance company- insurance companies do not have a duty to act in your best interest (even your own insurance company). Only an attorney must act in your best interest. By contacting an attorney, you can make sure you get compensated fairly for your injuries and damage sustained to your vehicle.
Wooten, Kimbrough, Damaso & Dennis, P.A. is based in Orlando, FL and was founded in 1966. The firm is comprised of award-winning trial lawyers who have obtained significant verdicts and settlements for the injured and their families throughout the State of Florida. We provide free consultations to all families suffering from wrongful deaths or injuries caused by car accidents or catastrophic injuries. If you are not sure where to turn following a serious car accident, call us today at (407) 843-7060.
Virtual sign-ups available. To learn more, visit https://www.whkpa.com/.
A civil trial attorney with the firm Wooten, Kimbrough, Damaso & Dennis, P.A., Mr. Damaso concentrates on cases involving personal injury and wrongful deaths and solely represents individual victims and consumers. He takes his clients' cases personally and is committed to their best possible outcome. His strong sense of community has led to his support of numerous charities in the Orlando area.