Clay County Personal Injury Attorney is a highly rated and well-reputed law firm that is dedicated to helping victims receive compensation for their injury. The skilled attorneys in the firm routinely handle personal injury cases, which involve interviewing witnesses, reviewing medical reports, analyzing evidence, and consulting with experts to get the best possible outcome according to Florida law. This law firm handles all forms of car/auto accident cases and helped their clients receive fair compensation for the damages caused as a result of the accident. From dealing with insurance companies to representing the client's case in the court, the attorneys help their clients in every possible way from start to end. With personalized attention and trial-ready approach, be assured of first-class legal representation in Clay County, Florida by your side.
Auto Accidents in Florida: An Overview
Auto accidents are terrifying experiences and can cause life-changing injuries with fatalities.In 2017, Florida witnessed an alarming rate of auto accidents, totaling 402,385, averaging out to nearly 1,098 crashes per day. 42.13% of the car crashes led to some kind of injury that needed medical attention. Around 3,116 people lost lives in those fatal car accidents, and 20,380 individuals endured incapacitating injuries.Unfortunately, the rate of accidents and injuries in the Sunshine State is on the rise each year.
If you are one of those who have suffered such a fate and been in a car accident where the other driver was at fault and looking to pursue a legal action for damages, then you must know about the relevant auto accident injury compensation laws, settlement process, and the statute of limitations that are applicable in the state of Florida.
Statistically, DUI is the most common cause of car accidents in Florida and is taken as a serious criminal offense by the law. Talking or texting on a mobile phone while driving causes unwanted distraction and is another major cause of auto accidents in Florida. Unfortunately, being considered a secondary offense, the police can't pull the driver over for using a mobile phone. Some experts believe that this is resulting in even more number of car accidents in Florida.
Determining Liability and Negligence in an Auto Accident Case
Most auto/car accidents are a result of negligence, meaning the carelessness of one driver causing harm to another person. A negligence claim requires an in-depth analysis of the situation and various circumstances leading up to the accident. Under Florida law, accidents happening due to negligence are punishable,but require the plaintiffs to prove the defendant’s careless driving on the road, and that the carelessness was the cause of the injury. If a fault of negligence is determined, the negligent driver (or his insurance company) may be held liable for the damages caused due to the accident.
The legal standard for negligence in a Florida car crash lawsuit are:
Duty of Care: All Florida drivers owe a simple duty towards other passengers, pedestrians, and vehicles or property, which is to drive their vehicle with reasonable care on the road so that it does not cause any potential harm to others.
Breach of Duty:If a person drives in a manner that could potentially harm other people or property on the road, he or she has committed a breach of duty which they owe to others, and hence should be considered negligent. In cases where the element of breach of duty includes a traffic law violation or receiving a citation from a police officer, this may contribute significantly while proving a claim of negligence.
Causation: When providing a negligence claim for injury or damage compensation, it is essential to prove that the defendant’s breach of duty was the primary reason for the plaintiff’s injuries or damage to the property. Causation can be divided into direct (cause-in-fact) and indirect (proximate) causes leading to the accident and/or injury.
Damages: The plaintiff must be able to express the losses and associated accident- or injury-related costs in monetary value, or else the claim could be reduced if not denied.
Other common causes of car accidents in Florida may include medical conditions, such as strokes, seizures, heart attacks, falling asleep, etc., being unfamiliar or unaware of the local laws, mechanical failures, such as brake failure, Inclement weather conditions, faulty traffic lights, or unexpected animals crossing a road.
The cause of the accident is important to determine the party at fault. While the police have a legal liability, the insurance company needs to decide who should receive a claim's payment and how much.
Do You Need to Report an Auto Accident in Florida?
If you are one of the two parties involved in a car accident in the state of Florida, you have some obligations to follow under the Florida law.According to the Florida Statutes section 316.065, you must immediately report the accident to the local police or the Florida Highway Patrol if any of the following applies: (i) an injury or death of any person, including a pedestrian, passenger, driver, etc. (ii) a hit and run accident, (iii) an accident by an intoxicated driver, or (iv) an accident causing vehicle or other property damage of a minimum of $500.
If a police officer is called to the scene and he/she writes a report on your accident, then it is not required for you to separately file a car crash report with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Florida. In any other condition, you must report a car crash with the DMV within ten (10) days of the accident. If you don’t report a car accident in Florida, you are liable to a non-criminal, non-moving traffic infraction with a fine of $30.
Florida No-Fault Car Accident Law: How it Works?
Anyone living and driving in Florida must be familiar with the phrase "no-fault state." Florida is one of the few states that follow no-fault insurance laws.
In Florida, the no-fault law requires every person driving a car or motor vehicle to carry a minimum of $10,000 coverage in Property Damage Liability (PDL) and $10,000 coverage in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) as part of their auto insurance. The purpose of no-fault insurance law is to provide injured accident victims with easy recovery of their financial losses for payment of their own medical bills. It is important to note that no compensation for “pain and suffering” is permitted under the no-fault insurance scheme.
Under the Florida’s no-fault rule,both parties involved in the accident will need to file a claim with their own auto insurance companies to cover some or all of their medical bills, lost earnings, and other out-of-pocket damages after a car accident, disregarding the fact whether you or the other driver was responsible for the car collision.In other words, no matter who is at fault, both parties turn to their auto insurance policies first.
A driver's personal injury protection coverage is applicable for injured pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as children injured on school buses, and covers the driver's 80 percent of medical bills and 60 percent of lost wages, regardless of who caused the crash. In the case of wrongful death, personal injury protection insurance will also provide coverage for loss of consortium and funeral expenses.The insurance companies can themselves handle small claims related to non-permanent injuries, such as a broken nose or arm. So, most minor accidents fall under the no-fault umbrella.
Although you can’t ordinarily make a claim or sue the at-fault driver with a personal injury lawsuit after the accident in Florida, in some cases, you can step outside the restrictions of a no-fault insurance system. If your injuries qualify under the state’s threshold as permanent, debilitating, or serious enough, you have the right to bring a claim against the at-fault driver. Such serious injuries may include permanent paralysis, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain damage. If you suffer only minor injuries that don't qualify to as serious under Florida's threshold, you can only claim under your personal injury protection coverage. The “serious injury” threshold is a little vague, or at least open to interpretation, which makes way for negotiation as part of your claim.
Under Florida’s no-fault law, if you have PIP coverage, you can immediately seek medical help.This no-fault insurance system was intended to get claims paid out faster without waiting for the insurance companies to figure out who is at fault. At the same time, no-fault systems intend to streamline injury damage claims without clogging up the legal system.
The no-fault system only applies to injuries and does not apply to property damage claims, like damages to your car or other property in the accident. A claim for property damage should be pursued with the other party’s insurance carrier.
Furthermore, if you get into an accident in Florida, the state law would require you to work in cooperation with your insurance company as the policy may need you to provide a recorded statement to the insurer as well as to appear for a medical check-up with a medical doctor designated by the insurance carrier. Unhelpful or disobliging behavior during the process may give the insurance company arguments to deny your claim.
Comparative Negligence Rules in Florida Car Accident
In the event of a car accident where the other party is entirely at fault, the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier will pay the compensation for your medical bills, lost income, and other damages. However, what happens when you are partly responsible for the crash? Deciding fault in a Florida car crash can be tricky and complicated.
In such cases, Florida follows the“pure comparative negligence” doctrine to determine fault. When both involved parties are found to share the blame for an accident, it is the responsibility of the court and juryto apportion losses between parties based on the percentage of fault.
Firstly, the jury calculates the total damages award for the plaintiff’s losses and then the percentage of fault of each party involved in the auto accident. Based on the percentage of the plaintiff’s share of fault, the total damages award is reduced by that percentage.For instance, in a car accident claim, Florida’s jury decides the total damages award of $10,000 to a plaintiff. However, the jury also determines that the plaintiff is 40 percent negligent in connection with the accident for speeding. Under Florida’s pure comparative fault rule, the plaintiff is still entitled to receive 60 percent of the grand total $10,000, i.e., $6,000. Although it diminishes the total sum in the proportion of the plaintiff's fault, he or she still manages to get a share of the sustained damages.
The comparative negligence doctrine in Florida is also applicable in compensation cases where the plaintiff is found to be the major contributor to the cause of an accident. For instance, if the jury calculates your fault to be 90 percent in the crash, you are still officially entitled to 10 percent of the total damages. However, don’t be surprised if an insurance adjuster, when dealt with outside the court, raises the comparative negligence rule while determining a mutually-acceptable settlement offer.
In Florida, you, the plaintiff, can claim compensation for economic and non-economic compensatory damages. The former includes damages paid from one’s pocket, such as medical expenses, lost income, vehicular repairs, property losses, etc. while the latter includes intangible costs, for instance, pain, suffering, humiliation, mental anguish, loss of consortium, or loss of parental guidance caused by the car accident.
Consulting with a Florida auto accident injury lawyer about your case can give you a better idea of how strong your case is and what damages may be available if you file a lawsuit.
Seeking Damages for Pain and Suffering after a Car Accident
The term "pain and suffering" has a specific meaning in the realm of law. In the car accident cases, which caused personal injury, compensation for pain and suffering refers to claim for a specific type of damages (beyond medical bills) experienced by the injured victim. Such damages, which cause physical, emotional, and mental trauma, as a result of the car accident, may be compensated. The broad category of pain and suffering would include the pain a victim experiences as part of the rehabilitation and recovery process as well as pain due to physical injuries like broken bones, aches, burns, bruises, etc. In addition to that, pain and suffering damages could also include mental or emotional pain, such as embarrassment from deformities or scars, depression, fear, or sadness. It is noteworthy that the physical pain of being injured is independent of medical expenses.
These kinds of damages may be temporary or permanent, and sometimes show their effect on the victim years after the accident. Pain and suffering compensation in an auto accident is categorized under the "general damages," which are recoverable in a lawsuit or from an insurance company settlement. However, Florida law puts a strict limit on the maximum possible recovery amount for non-economic damages, like pain and suffering. In the case of car accidents causing punitive damages, state law restricts punitive damages to three times the compensatory damages, or $500,000, whichever is more.
There is no exact formula for computing a car accident compensation amount in Florida since it depends on the severity of the damages and circumstances of each accident case. However, factors that may affect your car accident compensation may include: severity of injuries, loss of past and future earnings, costs of medical expenses, your share of fault in the pure comparative negligence doctrine, types of insurance coverage obtained by both parties, evidence and documentation provided to support your case, as well as your attorney's experience and ability to put up an aggressive argument for your case.
How Much Time Do I Have to File an Auto Accident Lawsuit in Florida?
According to Florida’s statute of limitations, you can file your personal injury case in Florida’s civil court within four (4) years from the date of the accident. On the other hand, if you don’t file a personal injury lawsuit within this time frame, the court may refuse to hear it all together, and you lose your right to ask a court for compensation for the losses sustained as a result of the auto accident.Only in those rare instances where you find out about the injury or harm for some amount of time after the accident that caused the injury can this lawsuit-filing window be extended.
For lawsuits related to car accident injury where either a city, county, or state government vehicle causes an accident, or defective roads lead to a car accident, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the government too. Under Florida law, you have three (3) years to take legal action from the date of the accident against a government entity.
Why Do You Need a Lawyer in Handling Your Florida Auto Accident Case?
Sometimes, the injured person agrees to settle for an offered payment amount by the insurance firm or other party involved in the accident. In exchange for accepting the settlement offer, the victim gives up their right to be engaged in any further legal action related to the same accident. However, it is not a wise move to deal with the insurance company or settle a claim without the assistance of a personal injury lawyer. Although it is up to the victim to accept or deny the settlement offer, a dedicated lawyer can let them know the strengths and weaknesses of the case. A dedicated personal injury lawyer can help you decide whether the settlement offered is fair, and if required, negotiate with the other driver’s insurance company to receive a better compensation that covers all the potential losses, including expenses for future medical treatment.
Also, if you talk to the other driver’s insurance carrier on your own, there is a good chance that the lawyers or adjusters get you to say certain things that will help them to settle the claim for less money if not deny it altogether. The best way is to let your lawyer deal with the insurance company lawyers, so you will have the best chance of receiving the full compensation. Sometimes, only after you file a personal injury lawsuit, the liable insurance company raises the settlement amount for the damages.
If both the parties tried but failed to reach an agreement of settlement amount even after guidance from a mediator, the auto accident case makes way to the trial where the injured victim’s lawyer files a personal injury lawsuit. A car crash case can take time to go all the way to trial, and hence the insurance companies typically resolve such injury or vehicle lawsuits before trial.Most cases are resolved as the case moves toward the start of a trial as it is in the interest of all the involved parties to avoid a long-term and expensive court trial.However, if the victim’s case looks strong enough, and the insurance company’s settlement offer is too low, then filing a lawsuit is recommended.
Working with an experienced Florida car accident lawyer may mean the difference between receiving a substantial settlement as compensation and not knowing where to begin.
Find a Clay County Personal Injury Attorney Specializing in Auto Accident Compensation Cases Near Me
If you have suffered serious injury or lost a family member due to another person’s carelessness, you can seek relief for the emotional, physical and financial challenges in the form of monetary compensation and other benefits, which may help you move on in life. A wise move in such a situation is to find assistance from a dedicated personal injury law firm like the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney. Our team of attorneys with diverse experience in personal injury cases provides the highest level of legal representation to get you the compensation you need and deserve. We have been able to successfully negotiate settlements out of court and pull our knowledge and experience to consistently provide the best outcomes for our clients injured in auto accidents. You can be assured of getting all your questions answered and guided about your legal rights and procedures throughout the case from start to finish. Call our Clay County car accident attorney at 904-494-8242 and speak to one of our personal injury lawyers for a free, no-obligation consultation regarding the compensation you may be able to receive.