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Understanding Permanent Injury


Personal Injury

The Gainesville Auto Collision Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. recognize that often time, victims have difficulty understanding the correlation between the extent of injury sustained, and a claimant’s entitlement to recovery for specific types of damages. However, through grasping some basic principles of Florida’s No-Fault Law, as it pertains to the ‘permanency threshold,’ car accident victims can gain a better idea of the availability of compensation for injuries and losses applicable to their unique claim.

As an initial consideration, it is important to know that compensation for medical bills and lost wages are available, despite the presence of a permanent injury, so long as an accident victim meets the requirements under Florida’s Revised PIP Statute. In other words, if a victim that is entitled to PIP benefits seeks treatment for an emergency medical condition, from one of the types of medical professionals provided by statute,  and does so within 14 days of the accident, then they can generally recover medical bills and lost wages extending from the crash.

Where the issue of permanency comes into play, is in cases where the victim of an auto collision, seeks recovery for damages other than medical bills or lost wages. Florida Statute 627.737(2) provides:

In any action of tort brought against the owner, registrant, operator, or occupant of a motor vehicle with respect to which security has been provided as required by ss. 627.730627.7405, 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.

(d)  Death.

Accordingly, in order for a claimant to recover compensation for losses other than medical bills and lost wages, such as pain & suffering or future damages, the accident victim must have suffered either permanent injury or fatality. This is often referred to as the “permanency threshold.” While a victim that suffers a fatality has clearly been permanently injured, where confusion often occurs for victims attempting to interpret the statute, is in understanding the manners in which an injury is deemed substantial enough such that it meets the statutory threshold. Providing an explanation to these concepts requires the consideration of several factors.

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In the majority of auto collision cases, the victim will receive initial medical treatment for their injuries, followed by continued medical treatment, which can often last anywhere from several weeks to several months. Upon reaching a point of recovery, in which a treatment provider determines that further treatment is no longer necessary or beneficial to the patient, referred to as “Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI),” the medical provider will typically compile such findings into a final report. In addition to recommendations for further treatment, such as maintenance therapy and surgical intervention, the victim’s final report may also assign a disability or impairment rating, generally based upon standards set forth by the American Medical Association.

To a large extent, the determinations reached by medical professionals, play a critical role in establishing whether a particular injury has met the permanency threshold requirement. While some injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury, are quite obviously permanent in nature, some injuries are more open to interpretation, both in the medical sense and legal context. In fact, the statute does not attempt to set forth a definitive list of all potential permanent injuries, but rather has left their interpretation to the testimony provided from experts and argument of the attorneys representing the victim.

In example, let’s say a collision occurs, and as a result the victim suffers full paralysis from the waist down. In this case, there is little question as to if a catastrophic injury of this nature is permanent, in terms of meeting the threshold. However, let’s say that the victim of an accident sustains injury to their neck and back injury, and is subsequently diagnosed with a herniated disc, as well as disc bulging in multiple areas. In this case, opposing counsel may attempt to negate the presence of a permanent injury—this is where expert opinion and attorney argument is critical.

When a victim to an auto collision sustains injuries in which permanency may be at issue, the benefit of having an experienced attorney, can make all the difference. However, victims should also consider that issues of permanency are not always evident at the time the victim secures legal representation. Consequently, selecting a well-qualified attorney can be essential to recovery on a claim. With several decades of combined experience, the injury team of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. remains dedicated to seeking compensation on behalf of the injured. Let us—Help you.