Could you be held liable for a Florida traffic accident? About 650 traffic crashes are reported in this state every day – more than 4,500 each week. In 2016, more than 3,000 people lost their lives in accidents on Florida’s streets and highways. It’s a genuine concern. If you’re injured by a negligent driver, can you be compensated? How long does an auto insurance claim take? Keep reading, and you’ll learn answers that every Florida driver needs to know.
It is imperative for every Florida motorist to know what your legal rights and options are after a traffic accident. You should notify your auto insurance company about the collision at once, and if the only damage you sustained was damage to your vehicle, you’ll need to submit a damage claim – and a damage claim must be submitted to the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
However, if you are physically injured in an accident with a careless driver in Florida, rather than filing an injury claim first, discuss the case first with an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney who can represent your claim and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. If the insurance company will not compensate you adequately, your attorney may recommend proceeding with a personal injury lawsuit.
WHAT ARE FLORIDA’S AUTO INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS?
But if you’re not injured, or if your injuries are genuinely trivial – nothing more than the most minor scrapes and bruises – it may be more reasonable and expedient to submit a damage claim yourself and negotiate on your own. How does car insurance work in Florida? Every motorist in this state must have at least $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) coverage and at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
Florida has established a no-fault auto insurance system. Thus, each driver’s medical expenses are covered first by his or her own insurance policy, without regard to which driver was at fault in the collision. However, for property damages, you must pursue a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company (provided that you were not the at-fault driver).
If you are only claiming vehicle damages after a traffic accident, and if you are dealing with honest and ethical insurance professionals, you may receive a compensation payment in just several weeks – and sometimes just days. But if your claim is delayed or denied, or if an insurance company refuses to offer you the full amount that your claim is worth, don’t hesitate to seek legal help.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ACCEPT AN INSURANCE SETTLEMENT?
When you accept an insurance settlement, you give up the right to take any further legal action linked to the accident. An insurance company’s willingness to settle your claim – and the amount the company offers – will hinge to a great extent on your evidence for your claim. That makes the police accident report, photos of the accident scene and vehicles, eyewitness statements, and medical records extremely important.
If you’re injured in a traffic collision in Florida, you can’t take too many photographs, and you should try to get the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses. Ask the police when their accident report will be available and how you can obtain a copy. Your attorney won’t be at the accident scene to advise you, so you’ll have to remember what needs to be done. Don’t forget to exchange insurance information with the other driver.
If you are injured in traffic, your own PIP policy covers your first $10,000 of medical costs and lost wages. But what if you are seriously injured? Clearly, when injuries are catastrophic, $10,000 is not going to go far. But under this state’s no-fault system, the injured victim of a reckless driver cannot bring a legal action unless the victim has sustained what the law calls “serious injury.”
HOW DOES FLORIDA LAW DEFINE A “SERIOUS” INJURY?
Thus, if you’ve been injured in Florida by a negligent driver and your damages exceed $10,000, you’ll need to consult right away with an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney who will assess your accident and injuries and determine if you qualify to file a personal injury lawsuit. How does the law in Florida define a “serious” injury?
Injuries are that are considered serious are permanent injuries, substantial or permanent scarring or disfigurement, or the loss of a vital bodily function. You’ll need considerable medical documentation proving that your injury is “serious” under Florida’s legal definition if you hope to prevail with a personal injury lawsuit.
And even if you don’t believe that you’ve sustained any injuries, get a checkup in the first 24 hours after an accident. If minor injuries or latent injuries go untreated or entirely undetected, they can rapidly – or slowly sometimes – become serious medical conditions. Even if you don’t end up filing a lawsuit, it’s imperative to have a checkup after any traffic collision.
WHAT AMOUNT CAN YOU EXPECT IN A SETTLEMENT?
The circumstances and damages of each accident are unique, so when auto insurance companies determine settlement amounts, there’s no formula or computer program involved. Auto insurance companies take into account factors that include liability, property damage, personal injuries, lost wages, and the terms and conditions of each driver’s insurance policy.
Florida civil courts use the “pure” comparative negligence standard when awarding damages. What is pure comparative negligence? Here’s an example: You are speeding, but just slightly, at five or six miles per hour over the posted limit, when a driver stoned on pot slams into you while driving thirty-five miles per hour over the speed limit. What happens?
If your total damages from the accident come to $100,000, you might be awarded the entire amount by a Florida jury, but if the jurors in a civil trial determine that you have ten percent of the responsibility for the crash – you were speeding a little, remember – your compensation will be reduced by ten percent to $90,000.
Most personal injury cases in our state are settled out-of-court, so if you file a lawsuit, be represented a Florida personal injury attorney who is a skilled negotiator as well as a talented trial lawyer. And again, every case is different, so there is no way to predict how long it may take to resolve an injury claim, but an experienced personal injury lawyer will work ceaselessly and aggressively to bring the matter to a swift and just resolution on your behalf.