Car accidents in Florida are, unfortunately, all too common. Each year, there are over 400,000 motor vehicle accidents (MVA), many of which result in significant injury and sometimes even death. Even those with mild to moderate injuries can be left with severe mental trauma and chronic pain. Further, a significant number of people remain disabled after a serious motor vehicle accident, recovery can be prolonged and one may not be able to work. Worse, the medical bills for serious injury can be exorbitant.
For these reasons, if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident you should get in touch with an experienced personal injury lawyer so that you can explore your options. Sometimes litigation may be necessary to hold the individual responsible for your injuries accountable. Here is what you should know about car accidents in Florida and when to sue.
The Florida Car Accident Laws
Before you decide to pursue compensation for any injuries you sustained due to the negligent actions of another driver, you should be familiar with Florida car accident laws:
Florida is a no-fault insurance state. Your insurer will cover your injuries according to the terms of your policy.
In Florida, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and decide to sue, then the state uses a comparative theory of liability to apportion fault and to determine responsibility and compensation.
No-Fault Insurance State
Florida has a no-fault insurance system which means that the individual must first file a claim with his or her insurer to receive compensation. Most car insurers will usually quickly agree to compensate you (the injured party), but the amount of money offered usually leaves much to be desired. You may be struggling to make ends meet as you contend with medical bills, loss of work, property damage, etc.
To get the maximum amount of compensation for your injuries, you should first contact an attorney who specializes in motor vehicle accidents. Most lawyers offer a free initial consultation and will guide you through the legal process. The lawyer will then act on your behalf in negotiations with the insurance company.
The Comparative Fault Rule
When an MVA occurs, Florida courts use a comparative fault model to determine who is mostly at fault before awarding the damages. For example, you are speeding at 40 mph in a 25 mph zone. Suddenly a drunk driver goes through a red light and causes an accident with your car. In court, the jury may feel that you were partially at fault for driving above the speed limit but the other driver was at much higher fault because he was driving drunk. They may deem that you were 10% at fault and the driver was 90% at fault. If the jury awards $20,000 for your injuries and damage, you will get $18,000 (90% of $20,000).
When to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident
To determine when you can sue for damages that occur following an MVA, you need to consult with a personal injury attorney. The attorney will review the case of your accident and make recommendations. In general, in Florida you may be able to sue in the following scenarios:
If your insurer tries to settle the motor vehicle claims ASAP for a minimal amount that will not cover all your medical bills, lost wages, or other damages. In such cases, the policyholder will struggle to pay for all his remaining expenses. Thus, in such scenarios, the policyholder should not accept the settlement offer by the insurer and speak to an attorney.
Florida law requires that all drivers carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance but unfortunately this insurance usually only covers 80% of the total costs. For example, if you have been involved in an MVA and suffer serious injuries and are not at fault, personal injury protection insurance will not cover all the costs of your injuries. If the other party is responsible for your injuries, then you can sue the ‘at-fault party’ to cover the rest of your expenses. These expenses may include lost income, all medical costs, future earning capability, pain and suffering, and the cost of rehabilitation.
If the cause of the MVA is due to a defective auto part or poor design of the car, the lawyer may recommend initiating a lawsuit against the manufacturer. All car manufacturers have to operate within strict liability laws. In this case, you may file a product liability claim against the manufacturer. You may also file suit against a third party that manufactured the defective car part that contributed to your injuries.
Other Scenarios Where You Can Sue:
Drunk driving. If the other party was driving drunk (blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher) and causes an accident that causes injury and damage, then you may be able to sue this person.
Distracted driving: Distracted driving has become common these days and may be due to using a smartphone while driving, eating, checking google maps, or texting. If the distracted driver causes an accident that results in an injury, speak to an attorney ASAP.
Fleeing the accident scene. In Florida, all parties involved in an accident are required to remain at the scene until cleared and released by law enforcement. Depending on the severity of injuries the fleeing driver causes, the penalties may vary from a monetary fine and/or incarceration. These individuals can also be sued if they injured you.
Ignoring traffic laws. Many people speed, drive erratically, don’t stop at a stop sign or a crosswalk. If they cause an accident due to a violation of the traffic laws, you may have a strong case for compensation.
If you have been injured in a car accident due to the negligent, reckless, or careless actions of another party, speak to an attorney specializing in car accidents. Because there is a statute of limitations on filing claims after an MVA, it is important to contact a lawyer asap.
Get in touch with the team at Clayton Trial Lawyers. We provide aggressive representation to ensure your rights are upheld.