If someone’s negligence in a Florida accident caused your scarring or disfigurement, then you may be able to recover damages. Damages may include, but are not limited to, economic damages (e.g. medical bills, lost wages, etc.) and non-economic damages (e.g. pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, etc.). This article focuses on whether you can recover non-economic damages if your injury is scarring or disfigurement.
This article does not apply to workers compensation cases unless you’re injured while working in Florida and you can sue for personal injury. In that case, then this article only applies to the personal injury claim.
The level of scarring or disfigurement that you must have to be awarded damages in a Florida injury case depends, in part, on the type of accident. First, let’s take a look at Florida auto accidents.
1. Florida’s Tort Exemption; Limitation on right to damages from Scarring or Disfigurement in Certain Motor Vehicle Cases
Florida Statute 627.737(2) states:
“In any action of tort brought against the owner, registrant, operator… of a motor vehicle with respect to which security has been provided as required by ss. 627.730-627.7405, or against any person or organization legally responsible for her or his acts or omissions, a plaintiff may recover damages in tort for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation, or use of such motor vehicle only in the event that the injury or disease consists in whole or in part of:
(a) Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
(b) Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
(c) Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
This law is basically saying, in part, that in a Florida personal injury claim against certain individuals or organizations arising from “motor vehicles”, you can recover damages but you need to have at least one of the injuries listed in a through d above.
Warning! While the street definition of “motor vehicle” would include most vehicles that you can think of, under Florida law it does not. Find out what is considered a “motor vehicle” under Florida law.
There are many vehicles that are not considered “motor vehicles” in Florida and thus are not subject to the tort exemption and limitation of right to sue as mentioned above.
Since this article focuses on scarring and disfigurement, I will talk about letter ‘c’ which is “Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.”
The first thing to note is that this law only applies to certain types of motor vehicle cases. It does not apply to non-motor vehicle injury cases including, but not limited to, slip and falls, if you are hit by a motor vehicle while you’re on a motorcycle in Florida, or if you are hit by a motor vehicle in Florida while you are a pedestrian visiting Florida.
Limitation on Right to Sue is Only on Pain and Suffering
The above limitation is only on your right to sue for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience.
In Florida, your economic damages may be paid differently in certain Florida motor vehicle accident than in a non-motor vehicle accident.
For example, if you are covered under PIP, then your medical bills may be paid differently than if you are in a non-motor vehicle accident where PIP doesn’t apply. But in either case, you still have a right to sue for, at a minimum, part of your economic damages.
If Tort Threshold Applies, You May Need Significant and Permanent Scarring
If your auto accident is one to which the tort exemption applies, then you must have significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement in order to recover damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and inconvenience.
On the other hand, if you are in a non-motor vehicle accident then your scarring or disfigurement does not need to be significant and permanent in order to be able to recover for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and inconvenience.
Now Florida Statute 627.737 does not give a definition for significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement. Each judge in Florida can interpret it as he or she wishes. Gillman v. Gillman, 319 So. 2d 165, 166 (Fla. 1st DCA 1975).
Florida Courts Haven’t Defined Disfigurement
While Florida courts or law has not given a definition of “disfigurement”, there are other states that have defined it as “that which impairs or injures the beauty, symmetry or appearance of a person or thing; or that renders unsightly, misshapen, or imperfect, or deformed in some manner.” Gillman v. Gillman. This is still a very subjective definition.
The Gillman court cited to a North Carolina court which said the definition of disfigurement is a “blemish, a blot, a scar or mutilation that is external and observable, marring the appearance.” A permanent scar may be a permanent disfigurement in accordance with Florida Statute 627.737.
Not Every Scar is Considered ‘Disfigurement’
Florida courts have said that not every scar is considered disfigurement, but if you can establish that you have a permanent scar then it is up to a Florida jury to determine whether it is a disfigurement. The reality of this is that insurance companies generally pay more money if they think that your case can get to a jury.
This is because it may cost an auto insurance company $15,000 to $20,000 to take a “simple” car accident case through trial. So if you can establish that you have a permanent scar then your case will get to the jury.
In Florida, it is up to a jury to decide whether a facial scar is a disfigurement. Cohen v. Pollack, 674 So. 2d. 805, 806 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1996).
In Florida, if an “objective” observation can’t be made as to whether scarring is permanent, and has left some areas that are visible, an injured person cannot recover damages for “significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.” Geico Gen. Ins. Co. v. Cirillo-Meijer, 50 So.3d 681, 684 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2010).
2. When is there No Limitation on right to damages from Scarring or Disfigurement.
If you are injured in a non-motor vehicle accident including, but not limited to, a slip and fall then you do not need to have significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement in order to get compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, etc.
In a non-motor vehicle accident case it is also up to the jury to decide the amount of money that your scarring and disfigurement is worth. The ultimate settlement amount, if any, may be affected by over 86 important factors that affect the value of a Florida injury case.
Check out some of the many Florida injury cases that we have settled. These including, but not limited to, car accidents, slip and falls, and cruise ships accidents. We want to represent you if you were injured in an accident in Florida, on a cruise ship or boat. If you live in Florida but were injured in another state we may also be able to represent you.
Call us now at (888) 594-3577 to Get a Free Consultation. There are No Fees or Costs Unless We Recover Money. Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. We speak Spanish. We invite you to learn more about us.