Threshold Injury

Help! I’ve fallen, but I can’t get up…

We have all seen this television advertisement before, but just how extensively does a person need to be hurt to collect damages under Florida’s No-Fault Personal Injury Statute? Does a black-eye constitute a sufficient injury; that is, is it a Threshold Injury? Probably not. Do torn ligaments or tendons? Possibly. Note, Florida’s “No-Fault” law does not apply to property damage.

If a person’s injuries satisfy one of the following requirements, only then may she file suit against a negligent party for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering:

(1) Significant and Permanent loss of an important bodily function
(2) Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement
(3) Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
(4) Death (Florida Statute §627.737(2)). 

Florida’s No Fault law went into effect on January 1st, 1972.  Originally, this law was intended to eliminate “soft tissue/whiplash” cases, as well as the “ambulance chasing” attorney. In return, the law provides those persons with minor injuries immediate money for lost wages and medical expenses…from their own insurance policy. 

Florida’s No Fault law requires that all automobile owners carry Personal Injury Protection “(PIP)” benefits.  The law requires insurance companies to provide PIP benefits to the following persons whenever they are injured in an automobile accident, regardless of how severely:

(1) The named insured.
(2) Relatives residing in the same household as the named insured.
(3) Operators who have consent to drive the insured vehicle.
(4) Passengers in the insured vehicle.
(5) Pedestrians struck by the insured’s vehicle
(Florida Statute §627.736(1)). 

If these people are injured in an automobile accident, the insurance company must provide the following benefits up to a limit of $10,000 and subject only to the amount of the deductible:

(1) 80% of all “reasonable” medical expenses
(2) 60% of lost income and lost earning capacity.
(3) Funeral, burial or cremation expenses not to exceed the lesser of $5,000.00 per person or the remainder of PIP benefits for individuals (Florida Statute §627.736(1)).

Note, an injured person may be able to sue a negligent party to recover the 20% of her medical bills and 40% of her lost wages which were not recovered by PIP.

Under certain limited circumstances, a person may sue a negligent party and recover all damages traditionally permitted by Florida law regardless of whether or not she can satisfy the requirements of Florida Statute §627.737(2).  These circumstances include:

(1) When the defendant is an out of state resident whose insurance policy does not satisfy the minimum requirements under Florida Law,
 (2) When the defendant is not required to carry “no fault” insurance;
(3) When the vehicle that the defendant is operating does not satisfy the definition of “motor vehicle” under Florida Statute §627.732(1). For example, a motorcycle is not a “motor vehicle.” Neither is any vehicle used in mass transportation as a bus or public school transportation.

If a person’s injury is permanent, within a “reasonable degree of medical probability,” and involves only some loss of bodily movement, even so little as 3% of the movement of her knee, wrist, neck, lower back, etc., she may be entitled to compensation under Florida’s No-Fault Statute.

COURTESY OF SOKOLOFF & WEINSTEIN, P.A., ATTORNEYS AT LAW, IN ROYAL PALM BEACH.

(561) 790-6788 / 790-4505