If the driver of a vehicle in Florida causes your injury, and you want to get paid for your medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, mental anguish and inconvenience, then you need to know which Florida motor vehicles have a limited tort exemption and limitation on the right to sue.
Understanding which motor vehicles, in Florida, are entitled to a limited tort exemption and right to sue, will help your case evaluation. There is a two step process to determine whether someone injured in a vehicular accident will need to have a threshold injury in order to recover damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience for the injury.
To keep it simple, we will assume that the word “caused” implies that the driver who caused your accident was careless. Let’s take a look at step one.
1. Step 1
As to the vehicle whose driver’s negligence caused your injuries:
In order to understand the meaning of this question, we need to know the definition of “motor vehicle” as it applies in a Florida personal injury case. For purposes of this question, “Motor vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle with four or more wheels which is of a type both designed and required to be licensed for use on the highways of Florida and any trailer or semitrailer designed for use with such vehicle and includes:
(a) A ‘private passenger motor vehicle,’ which is any motor vehicle which is a sedan, station wagon, or jeep-type vehicle and, if not used primarily for occupational, professional, or business purposes, a motor vehicle of the pickup, panel, van, camper, or motor home type.
(b) A commercial motor vehicle, which is any motor vehicle which is not a private passenger motor vehicle.”1
So for purposes of the tort exemption and limitation to sue as described above, Florida says that a “motor vehicles” include the following:
- a trailer
- private passenger motor vehicle which is a sedan, station wagon, or jeep type vehicle. This includes most cars in Florida.
- if not used primarily for occupational, professional, or business purposes, a motor vehicle of the pickup, panel, van, camper or motor home type.
- a commercial motor vehicle, which is any vehicle which is not a private passenger motor vehicle. This includes most trucks.
If You Answer No to Question 1
So if you answer No to the above question, then your accident was not caused by one of the motor vehicles listed above. Therefore, you do not need a threshold injury in order to recover damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of your bodily injury…”
This is true even if you receive Personal Injury Protection (PIP benefits) as a result of your injury. The ability of the injured person to show that he or she has a threshold injury is also referred to as “piercing the tort threshold.” A threshold injury is most commonly, but not always, a permanent injury, or significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
The full value of your case is generally higher for certain injuries which include, but are not limited to, a soft tissue injury, a herniated disc, bulging disc or many other injuries if you do not need to pierce the tort threshold.
The injured person may still be entitled to PIP benefits if he or she is covered by PIP. If you have a larger injury, it is much easier to overcome the tort threshold.
If You Answer Yes to Question 1
2. Step 2
Assuming the answer to the question in Step 1 is Yes, then the injured person should answer Question Two.
“Are the benefits described in s. 627.736(1) payable for such injury, or would be payable but for any exclusion authorized by ss. 627.730–627.7405, under any policy or other method of security complying with the requirements of s. 627.733, or by an owner personally liable under s. 627.733 for the payments of such benefits?”
In most situations, this question can be simplified to mean:
“Are PIP benefits available to the injured person, or would PIP be available to the injured person if the host vehicle owner, injured person or resident relative complied with the PIP law?”
“Host vehicle” is a term used to describe the vehicle within which the plaintiff was an occupant at the time of the crash.
If You Answer Yes to Question 1 and Question 2
If the answer to both question 1 and question 2 are yes, then the injured person must show that he or she has a threshold injury in order to sue for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience from the bodily injury. Even if your answer is Yes, you do not need a threshold injury to make a claim against the careless driver and otherfor, at least, some of your economic damages (e.g. medical bills, lost wages, etc.).
If You Answer No to Question 2
If the answer to this question is No, then the injured person does not need a threshold injury in order to sue for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience from the bodily injury. If the answer to this question is No, the full value of the case is generally higher because the injured person’s medical bills and/or health insurance lien (or Medicare lien, Medicaid lien or other first party coverage lien), if one exists, will be higher.
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