Clay County Personal Injury Attorney is a law firm that advocates for car accident victims as a result of negligence and other causes of car accidents. Our firm is compassionate and ensures that our clients receive the compensation they need, both monetary and psychological support to ensure a quick and full recovery. Our lawyers are committed to guiding our clients, helping them understand their legal options and protecting their rights. Our services are available throughout the Clay County, Florida area.
Florida No-Fault Law
The state of Florida has a “no-fault law.” This means that the claimant does not have to sue another driver for the accident caused, that is, the courts have nothing to do with car accidents unless the injuries were too severe, for example, causing paralysis. Instead, the law requires all drivers to have a Personal Injury Protection coverage for the insured. Regardless of a driver’s fault, they must have a Personal Injury Protection coverage for the minimum limit of 10,000 dollars.
Causes of Car Accidents in Florida
Florida state drivers experience almost 1,000 car accidents daily. Annually, the state experiences nearly 3,000 deaths on car accidents alone and injuries sustained as a result of the accidents exceeds 165,000. The most common cause of the above statistics is driving under influence (DUI). There are other causes including negligence and distracted driving as discussed below.
- Driving Under Influence (DUI)
Driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances is a criminal offense, and this can be proven by impaired normal faculties and blood alcohol content exceeding 0.08%. The penalties for this offense are as follows:
- Fine of between $500 to $1000 for alcohol level of .15% or higher, or a minor in the vehicle
- Community Service of up to 50 hours
- Probation period of more than a year
- A compulsory minimum jail term of at least nine months for BAC exceeding 0.08%
- Distracted Driving
In the state of Florida, talking on your mobile phone is a secondary offense, meaning the police cannot pull you over. Unfortunately, it is a major cause of accidents that claim lives daily.
Negligence is when someone is responsible for carelessly causing harm to another person. When a motorist causes an accident because of negligence, he/she is equally punishable by law and the plaintiff will have to convince the court that the defendant was careless and as a result, caused both physical and psychological harm.
A lawsuit on negligence car accident refers to the legal process whereby the injured party can recover their damages.
There are four major elements that the plaintiff will consider in pursuing a lawsuit on negligence:
- Duty: The plaintiff has to prove that he or she owed his or her duty to care and to be mindful by the defendant
- Breach: The defendant was careless and never minded the safety of the plaintiff
- Causation: Lack of the defendant’s action or his or her actions caused the injuries on the plaintiff
- Damages: The plaintiff was actually harmed by the defendant's action or inaction
Precautions to Take After an Accident
When a car accident happens, one gets disoriented and they are not aware of what to do. Some may abandon the scene of the accident in fear of authority or maybe just a quick reaction to “flee”. There are important things to do at the scene of the accident and soon after. Here’s what to do in case of an accident.
- Stay at the accident scene
It is always safe to stay at the accident scene until the police show up; never leave the scene until it's appropriate. If you leave the scene, especially when a person has sustained injuries, you may end up facing hit and run charges. Hit and run is an offense that may be punished as a felony depending on the circumstances of the accident.
- Check on all drivers and passengers
Immediately the accident happens, it is wise to check on every person involved, whether they are injured or not. This includes getting medical attention for injured victims by calling for emergency medical services. Also, don’t remove people who require expert medical attention from their vehicles, such as those with serious back or head injuries; wait until a paramedic arrives at the scene.
- Inform the police
In cases where there is a loss of life, physical injuries or property damage, always call the police. The police officers will document all the details and they will file the report concerning the accident. This report is critical in determining the amount of compensation that a driver should receive.
- Exchange information
After checking on everyone and making sure they are fine, get their telephone numbers, names, driving license numbers, vehicle registration numbers, and the drivers’ insurance information. If there are passengers, obtain their names, addresses, and phone numbers.
Remain cordial with all the people involved regardless of how guilty or pitiful you might be feeling. Also, don’t be apologetic to anyone since you may be viewed as the driver at fault, and what you say might be used against you when you are seeking compensation. The fault isn't determined by which insurer will pay for any loss. Therefore, try not to admit guilt.
- Talk to witnesses
After the accident, try talking to eyewitnesses. Ask them what they saw and if possible, record it on your phone. Finally, get their full names and addresses.
- Inform your insurance company
Inform your insurance company immediately after the accident. Do not wait for the day to end as they might not pay for your claim. At this point, you tell the events as they unfolded and how serious your injuries are. Do not leave out any details even if you feel they are minor or might not make a difference. If you lie and the insurance company finds out, it might not pay you and they might actually sue you.
- Keep track of your medical treatment
After seeking medical attention from any practitioner, ensure you keep an account of treatment or medication. Request for medical reports and their copies. This way, you can claim for a refund later on.
After an accident, lives are affected due to the severity of the injuries, one might be forced to forego a few things like miss work, fail to run some errands and so forth. It is always advisable to keep a journal of what you are not able to do as a result of the accident. This will be helpful when you are claiming for compensation.
- Take pictures
Pictures act as evidence of what happened in case you missed disclosing a detail. Before towing the car or allowing the accident scene to be contaminated, take as many pictures as you can in all angles. It would be best if you would have pictures of your car before and after the accident. This would help the insurance company and also the courts to determine whose fault it is and how much you should be compensated.
- Watch out for early settlement
Ensure all your injuries have been treated. Sometimes due to shock, some injuries may appear later. As a result of this, be careful in case an insurance company comes to you asking for a settlement. Consult a lawyer and get all the legal advice needed before you finally settle.
- Hire an attorney
Most attorneys work on a contingency fee, meaning, they will get their pay once the damages have been awarded. You can consult a lawyer and ask for some free legal advice and if the case needs to go to court, they will take your case.
- Create a journal form after the accident
After an accident, it is always advisable to have a journal whereby you can record what you feel, what you are unable to do that previously was a daily routine. This journal would help in determining how much you should be compensated and to some extent, the medical attention you might require during rehabilitation.
This journal can be downloaded from the Internet and it is a PDF document, meaning no one can add or delete information that you already entered.
Examples of Car Accident Injuries
There are several injuries that a person may get as a result of a car accident. They include brain injuries, back pain, born fractures, shoulder injuries, and whiplash.
Brain injuries are among the most severe forms of car accidents. These injuries lead to permanent mental impairments, and in some cases, excessive bleeding could lead to death. Born fractures, on the other hand, could lead to permanent physical impairments. This is because the bones tend to dislocate or fracture after a car accident impact. Born fractures are usually common in legs, hands, arms, and ribs.
A car accident can also result in whiplash or sprain strain injuries. These are injuries caused by the violent shaking of the car after an accident, which makes the vertebrae to bang into each other and stretching of the spinal ligaments.
These are just a few injuries that an accident can cause, and as you can see, both of these examples are serious injuries that may result in long-term impairments. Thus, it is advisable to seek proper medical attention after a car accident and hire a personal injury attorney to help you in getting proper compensation.
The Process of a Personal Injury Claim
This is a formal process whereby an injured party, in this case, the plaintiff, seeks compensation from another party that they feel is liable, in this case, the defendant. The process starts with a letter whereby the plaintiff requests for payment for the damages caused by the defendant. It is always wise to have an attorney to help you in the personal injury claim.
The state of Florida is a “no-fault” state, and as a result, many lawyers prefer assault and battery cases as they are assured of a case. It is advisable to have a background check on the attorney you might be interested in bringing aboard. Also, be sure to know the estimated duration of the case and everything that you need to do to ensure you get the most compensation.
What is Pure Comparative Negligence System?
In the state of Florida, the “pure comparative negligence system” means dividing damages between the parties depending on the percentage of fault. What it means is that a victim can recover damages even if he or she is the one at fault. You can get compensation for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are paid from one's pocket, for instance, medical bills, lost wages etc.
Non-economic damages are intangible costs such as the loss of parental guidance, mental anguish, suffering, pain, loss of consortium, or humiliation.
Compensation for Suffering and Pain
In general terms, it is hard to equate pain or suffering. Before a court of law, a plaintiff would find it hard to illustrate the pain or suffering. Florida has paved the way for the injured victims to get compensation for the suffering caused.
It is difficult to calculate the amount to be paid when it goes beyond medical bills. Part of an overall negligence claim comes into the act when one is compensated against pain and suffering usually against a person or a corporation.
Pain and suffering can be grouped into two; physical and mental.
- Physical: Physical pain is the kind of pain that a person experiences during rehabilitation and the recovery process. The pain also encompasses any physical pain that a person might experience in the future while performing their usual physical activities such as rock climbing and cycling;
- Mental: The victim may experience fear, depression, anger humiliation, embarrassment, and other emotional pain. Usually, mental pain affects a victim’s future life.
Pain and suffering fall under “general damages” claim. The state allows for an injured victim to bring forth strong evidence in this area and allows the claimant some flexibility.
There are a variety of factors to be considered when calculating general damages. They include the medical expenses for the victim, recovery length, the severity of the injury, and the impact of the injury to the life of the plaintiff.
Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Accidents in Florida
Most of the drivers only carry the legal minimum insurance which is required by the state. When one gets into an accident, the insurance which is about $10,000 is not enough to cover the injuries. What do you do in such a scenario? You need to consider uninsured or underinsured motorist cover which Florida State does not require.
Florida requires two different kinds for your car to be on the road. Should you own a four-wheel motor vehicle, you must carry at least $10,000 worth of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and a minimum of $10,000 worth of property damage liability insurance.
If a driver is in an accident, no matter who is at fault, the drivers would turn to their own insurance policies to cover the damage instead of filing claims. As a result, the courts had lesser personal injury cases to hear that otherwise would be settled by the insurance companies
There are three types of damages in personal injury cases; these are special, general, and punitive damages. Special and general damages are meant to compensate the plaintiff for economic loss, suffering, and pain. On the other hand, the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for their recklessness or negligence.
Civil Liability in Florida Cases
The are three major types of wrongful acts i.e. torts that could lead to legal liability:
- Negligence torts such as car accidents
- Intentional torts such as battery and assault
- Strict liability such as products liability
Negligence torts are the most common types of wrongful acts. They are non-deliberate and mostly careless. As earlier mentioned, drivers in Florida can be on phone and they will not be pulled over, as a result, an accident happens.
Criminal negligence happens when a negligent act such as DUI or distracted driving causes an accident that severely injures a person. On the other hand, civil negligence happens when the injuries are not as serious as those experienced in criminal negligence; for instance, minor injuries resulting from slip and fall accidents on a wet floor would be civil negligence.
Which Courts Hear Personal Injury Cases?
First, it is important to have a look at the Florida Court System.
Florida court system’s administrative arm (Office of the State Courts Administrators) was established in 1972. The court system has five district appeal courts, 20 circuit and 67 county courts, and the supreme court.
- County courts: Each of the 67 Florida Counties has a county court. The courts handle minor disputes like traffic claims and monetary claims that are less than 15,000 dollars;
- Circuit courts: They hear appeals from county courts and they also have a general trial jurisdiction. Some of these circuit courts comprise of different counties;
- District courts of appeal: These are located in Miami, West Palm Beach, Daytona Beach, Lakeland, and Tallahassee. The final verdict of District courts of appeal represents final case reviews, sometimes some of the cases may go up to Supreme Court of Florida if the particular court chooses to hear and or look at the case;
- Florida Supreme Court: In the United States of America, the Florida Supreme Court happens to be one of the oldest appellate courts that has really shaped the national law.
After you were involved in an accident and your medical bills are more than $15,000, your hearing goes straight to the circuit courts. You will file in the county where the accident took place, this is referred to as state law. Personal injury laws are state-based meaning they vary from state to state. Where the accident occurs, that state automatically takes precedence.
Once your claim is in the circuit court, a docket number will be assigned to you meaning you get a hearing date and your case is now a state matter.
How to Find a Good Lawyer
Ask friends and family: Your family or friends might have dealt with a personal injury attorney before. Thus, inquire from them to get a good lawyer;
Research online: This is the most common way of getting a lawyer; review the website to find how the lawyer can help you, and how you can contact them;
Find out their expertise: If you can’t find all the information online? Call them. Ask questions that you felt were not included in the websites. These questions will help you and the attorney to understand more about your case and the appropriate steps to take:
- When you get to hear my case, will you handle it from beginning to end or will you transfer it to another associate?
- How long have you been in practice?
- Do you go to trial often?
- What is your settlement rate?
- What are your rates and how do you expect to be paid, hourly or after the case is over?
- What is your specialty abuse, car accidents or pharmaceutical cases?
The Statute of Limitations for Filing a Car Accident Claim
If you’ve been injured in the state of Florida, the statute of limitations is four years in which to file a claim and three years if you are filing a claim against the government.
Some accident victims fail to file their cases within the period mentioned. As a result, the court will likely refuse to hear the claim unless there is circumstantial evidence such as brain tumor or impaired vision that one never noticed immediately after the accident.
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you are involved in any car accident no matter who is at fault or lost a loved one due to negligence or otherwise, you can contact the Clay County Personal Injury Lawyer at 904-494-8242 immediately. Schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced attorneys to learn more about how we can help you. Our firm handles cases on a contingency basis, meaning you don’t pay anything unless we win your case. Contact us to let our attorneys learn more about your case. Remember, seeking immediate help is paramount, but we can organize how to meet you if you are unable to visit our offices due to serious injuries.