Should I Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident That Wasn’t My Fault?
Get a lawyer after a car accident, whether or not it was your fault. Doing so can improve your chances of obtaining compensation for any damages you may have suffered, including property damages and accident injuries.
An experienced Florida car accident lawyer
can handle all the legal elements of your car accident claim so you can focus on your recovery.
Who Pays for My Car Accident Injuries in Florida?
Florida is a no-fault car insurance state. That means if you are in a car accident in Florida, you would first file a claim with your own insurance company regardless of fault. Florida law requires all drivers to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance, which covers your medical expenses and loss of income related to your auto accident. This coverage also applies to any other family members. It may also apply to passengers of your vehicle during the accident who lack insurance coverage.
You can add other coverage to your insurance policy to help pay for your injuries, including bodily injury liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist protection.
Under certain circumstances, you can file a claim against the at-fault driver for the injuries you suffered if the accident resulted in:
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Loss of bodily function
- Permanent damage that meets the injury threshold
Family members of someone killed in a fatal car accident may file a wrongful death claim to recover compensation for damages such as lost income from the deceased, lost companionship, and funeral and burial costs.
What if I Contributed to the Accident?
Florida follows a modified comparative negligence rule that reduces the damages you can recover in an accident based on your percentage of fault.
However, modified negligence has a threshold limit. If a person contributed more than 50 percent of the fault for their injuries in an accident, they cannot collect any compensation.
How Do I Prove Negligence in a Car Accident Case?
To determine fault in a car accident case, you need a car accident lawyer who can show the four elements of negligence:
- The other driver owed you a duty of care. In a car accident case, all drivers owe a duty of care to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians to operate their vehicles safely and responsibly.
- The other driver breached their duty of care. You need to show that the other driver failed to exercise reasonable care in their driving behavior, such as speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failing to signal, or failing to yield the right of way.
- The other driver’s breach caused the accident. You need to show that the other driver’s failure to exercise reasonable care directly caused the accident.
- You suffered damages in the accident. You need to show that you suffered actual damages, such as physical injuries, property damages, lost income, or medical bills.
To prove these elements, you can use evidence such as witness testimony, police reports, photographs of the accident scene and damage, medical records, and expert testimony.
What Damages are Available to Car Accident Victims?
Car accident victims in Florida may collect monetary awards to compensate them for the damages they suffered due to another person's negligence. Florida allows plaintiffs to recover three categories of damages economic, non-economic, and punitive:
Economic damages result from accident-related injuries. These include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Loss of earning capacity
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Property damage
Sometimes called general damages, non-economic damages are more subjective. These include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Scars or disfigurement
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Loss of companionship
In rare circumstances, Florida law will grant punitive damages where the at-fault driver acted with deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of others. To prove this, you must establish that the at-fault driver knowingly or intentionally disregarded the high probability that their actions would harm others.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Florida Car Accident Claims?
Florida has a strict two-year time limit for filing car accident claims. If you miss this deadline, you cannot recover compensation for your injuries. Florida’s statute of limitations makes some exceptions. If you have questions about this deadline, consult a Florida car accident attorney.
The statute of limitations applies to legal actions and not car accident claims made to your car insurance company. You should notify your insurance provider within a day or two after an accident. If you fail to report an accident to your insurance company in a timely manner, your insurer may deny your claim or cancel your policy.
How Can a Florida Car Accident Attorney Help Me?
You could deal directly with the insurance company
if you suffered injuries in a car accident that wasn't your fault. Insurance adjusters are notorious for offering quick low-ball settlements hoping you don't realize the full scope and value of your damages.
Once you accept an offer from an insurance company, you cannot go back and ask for more compensation even if you discover that your injuries require more medical treatment or they prevent you from returning to work as quickly as you anticipated.
When you hire a lawyer to handle your car accident claim, they can:
- Determine the extent and value of your damages
- Establish negligence on the part of all other drivers involved
- Negotiate with insurance companies for full compensation
- File your case before the statute of limitations if negotiations fail
What Should I Do After a Car Accident?
After a car accident:
- Check for injuries: First, check yourself and others for injuries. If the crash injured anyone, call for emergency medical help right away.
- Move to a safe location: If possible, move your car to the side of the road or a safe location to avoid blocking traffic or causing another accident.
- Call the police: Even if the accident seems minor, call the police. They can document the accident, create an accident report, and help with any disputes that may arise. You’ll need the police report when you file your car accident claim.
- Exchange information: Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver(s) in the accident. Write down their names, phone numbers, insurance company and policy numbers, license plate numbers, and the makes and models of their cars.
- Take pictures: Take pictures of the damage to both vehicles, the accident scene, and any injuries you or others may have sustained. Your car accident lawyer can use these pictures as evidence later on.
- Report the accident to your insurance company: Call your insurance company to report the accident and provide them with the information you collected. Keep your conversation brief and never admit fault even if you think you’re partially to blame. Your insurance provider may use your words against you.
- Seek medical attention: Regardless of how minor your injuries may seem, seek medical attention right away. Even if you don't feel injured, get checked out by a doctor to ensure you have no hidden injuries. Sometimes injuries don’t present symptoms until days or weeks after the accident.
- Consult an attorney: An attorney who specializes in car accidents can help you accomplish most of the above tasks and seek compensation for your injuries.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney Today
Contacting an attorney after an accident that wasn’t your fault will greatly improve your chances of recovering the full compensation you deserve. An experienced car accident lawyer can determine the extent and value of your damages, establish negligence on the part of the other driver or drivers, negotiate with insurance companies for full compensation, and file your car accident lawsuit before the statute of limitations if negotiations with insurance providers fail.
Contact an experienced personal injury law firm in Florida today for your free case evaluation and learn more about your legal options.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Today!