Florida Car Accident Attorney
We Fight for Accident Victims and Their Families
The effects of an auto accident can last a lifetime. If you were seriously injured, the physical limitations, chronic pain and medical bills resulting from your injuries are likely to represent just a portion of your accident-related losses. From loss of income to loss of enjoyment of life, accident victims often experience far-reaching implications, and moving on without unnecessary consequences requires the experienced legal representation of a Florida car accident attorney.
The lawyers at Searcy Denney have decades of experience and a proven record of success in insurance settlements and litigation. For more than 40 years, we have been helping accident victims and their families win the compensation they deserve. If you are entitled to financial compensation, we can help – we can help you avoid costly mistakes, and we can deal with the insurance companies for you so that you can focus on your physical and emotional recovery. To learn more about our services and how we can protect your rights, contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
Seeking Compensation After a Collision
If your life has been turned upside down by a car accident, or if you are facing the constant aggravation of trying to get answers from someone else’s insurance company, it is important that you speak with a car accident lawyer about your situation. You may be entitled to compensation – and, if you are like most people, you probably need that compensation to move on – but the reality is that most accident victims are unable to protect their legal rights on their own.
Why is this the case? Why is the process so much harder than it has to be? The answer is simple. For the insurance companies, protecting their profits is their sole priority. The insurance companies want to pay as little as possible, and they will go to great lengths to try to get accident victims to settle for less than they deserve.
At Searcy Denney, our attorneys help car accident victims in Florida seek maximum compensation for their accident-related losses. We have recovered millions of dollars for drivers, passengers and their families – most often through negotiated settlements, but in many cases at trial. We are passionate about what we do, and all of our attorneys and legal professionals are committed to providing outstanding client service. We not only want to win your case, but we want to make sure you feel confident and informed every step of the way.
The Truth About Car Crashes
Most Americans have experienced auto accidents only as crashes and explosions on the movie screen or virtual collisions in action video games. Dozens of television shows and popular movies feature high-speed car chase “entertainment” that results in crashes with “pretend” fatalities and injuries. And best-selling car crash video games reward players with the highest number of crashes and the most people killed.
But the adrenaline rush from a movie screen or video game is a far cry from the actual death and devastation caused by auto accidents in the United States each year.
Preliminary estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that deadly car crashes rose by as much as 9.5 percent in 2015. The final tally could mean the most car-related deaths since 2007 and the largest rate of increase in fatalities for 50 years.
The NHTSA’s early estimate of motor vehicle traffic fatalities for the first nine months (January through September) of 2015 indicates that 26,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes – an increase of nearly 10 percent from the first nine months of 2014.
Many experts were both surprised and alarmed at this news, because fatalities were on the decrease from 2006 through 2014. The number of people injured in vehicle crashes in 2014 rose from 2.31 million to 2.34 million, but there were 219 fewer people killed than the previous year.
Florida Car Accident Statistics
Florida has one of the highest auto accident rates in the nation. This includes serious and fatal accidents involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, SUVs, golf carts, bicycles and pedestrians. Slightly under half of these accidents result in some form of personal injury, with many accidents having multiple victims. On average, there are more than 1,000 car accidents in Florida every single day. Tragically, close to 3,000 Floridians lose their lives in car accidents every year. Victims must take aggressive legal action with the help of an experienced Florida auto accident lawyer in order to avoid paying for others’ mistakes for decades to come.
While the majority of these accidents involve collisions between passenger vehicles, large numbers of accidents involve commercial vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians as well. According to Florida’s Integrated Report Exchange System (FIRES):
- In 2016, there were 395,494 car accidents in Florida, resulting in 254,175 injuries and 2,931 fatalities.
- Of these accidents, 41,082 involved commercial vehicles (such as large trucks), 9,091 involved pedestrians and 6,665 involved bicycles.
- Aside from bicycle accidents (which declined slightly), all of these figures represent modest increases over the numbers from 2015.
Distracted Driving Killed 3,179 People in 2014
Before cell phones and texting became widely popular, distracted driving behaviors meant eating or drinking while driving, dozing at the wheel, reading a map, combing hair, or putting on makeup. All of these remain significant driving hazards: Results of a 2011 HealthDay poll show that 86% of respondents admitted eating or drinking while driving at some point in their lives; 36% have read a map while driving; and 14% said they have put on makeup while at the wheel.
The widespread ownership of smartphones made texting while driving a hazard on our streets and highways. Now, mobile apps for interactive communications such as Snapchat and games like Pokemon Go are proving to be safety risks, as well.
- Snapchat, which is especially popular with teenagers, allows drivers to send photos and videos that automatically disappear just seconds after they are received. The system also includes a messaging app and live video chat capability.
- Pokemon Go, which since its July 2016 launch has been downloaded more than 75 million times, uses a smartphone’s GPS to provide maps of real – not virtual – locations where Pokemon figures may pop up. Although the game includes a lock-down procedure if a vehicle is moving more than 20 miles an hour, drivers are still able to catch Pokemon and use other applications. Just recently, a New York player crashed his car into a tree while searching for Pokemon characters.
Texting and hand-held cell phones remain the major culprits in vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving. The NHTSA’s statistical findings for 2014 indicate:
- 10% of fatal crashes, 18% of injury crashes, and 16% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2014 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
- In 2014, there were 3,179 people killed and an estimated 431,000 more injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
- 10% of all drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 years old who were involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. Not surprisingly, this age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the crashes.
According to Fortune Magazine (September 15, 2015), there were 585 fatal crashes in 2014 attributed to the use of cell phones, where a driver was talking or listening to someone, texting, face-timing, taking selfies or posting on Facebook.
- Previous NHTSA studies indicate that someone who is texting is 23 times more likely to crash than a driver with hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
- The US Department of Transportation says that texting means 4.6 seconds of eyes off the road, the equivalent of driving across a football field at 55 miles per hour while wearing a blindfold.
- Even though most state laws ban texting while driving and many cars are equipped with hands-free technology, distracted driving is still a major cause of vehicle accidents.
Common Types of Car Accidents
Car accidents occur for numerous reasons. Some of the most common types of auto collisions involve the following types of crashes:
- Failure to Yield Accidents
- Hit and Run Accidents
- Head-On Collisions
- Intersection Accidents
- Chain Reaction Accidents
- Multivehicle Accidents
- Rear-End Collisions
- Side Impact Crashes
- Unsafe Lane Changes
- Low-Speed Accidents
- Merging Accidents
- T-Bone Collisions
To Our Lawyers, Clients Are Not Just a Number
The Florida car accident attorneys at Searcy Denney understand that, whether the total number of car accidents increases or decreases, even one death is one too many.
If your family member is one of the thousands killed, or you are one of the more than two million injured, you know that these numbers have human faces and human consequences. In addition to the grief of a loved one’s death or the pain of serious injuries, unanticipated medical expenses and lost wages can empty your bank account.
Whether you are a disabled single mom worried about caring for your children, a businessman unable to support your family, or parents of a child who faces a lifetime of expensive and painful medical treatments, we know you will have questions about how your family can recover from the tragedy. But no case is too complex, and each experience is different. So our attorneys listen to you and help you sort out your options for recovery from those responsible for the harm.
What Our Law Firm Can Do for Collision Victims
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident, what do you need to know? What do you need to do? What can you expect over the weeks, months and years to come? How can you make sure the insurance companies do not take advantage of you?
These are all important questions, and they do not have simple answers. Protecting your rights after a car accident is not easy. While many people choose to deal with the insurance companies on their own, the decision to do so is often based on common misperceptions about the insurance claims process and the costs involved in hiring an attorney. Despite what they say on television, the insurance companies are not on your side. They do not have your best interests in mind. They want you to settle quickly – before you know the extent of your losses, and before you get help to recover the compensation you deserve.
At Searcy Denney, we take the uncertainty of the insurance claims process out of the equation. We use our extensive experience to handle the process for you, and we make sure you do not make any decisions until you have all of the information you need to feel confident in the outcome of your case. Our law firm also has unique resources to pursue recovery on your behalf.
When we represent you, we bring to your cause:
- A team of 29 lawyers who for more than 40 years have helped clients obtain settlements or verdicts in car crash cases similar to yours;
- Medical professionals who analyze the cause of death and/or the prognosis for recovery from injuries;
- Investigators and paralegals whose skills have been honed in the field, sorting out auto accident details;
- A record of going head-to-head with insurance companies and other powerful corporations to fight for our clients;
- The financial resources to withstand long-term investigation and lengthy trials if necessary;
- Our pledge to keep you informed, to tell you the truth, to offer straightforward advice, and to exhaust every avenue for seeking justice.
In addition, we handle all car accident cases on contingency. This means:
- Your initial consultation is free and without obligation;
- We do not charge retainer fees or hourly rates;
- You pay nothing out of pocket while your case is pending;
- We only retain a portion of your settlement or verdict if we help you win just compensation;
- If we do not achieve a recovery for you, you pay us nothing.
Sample Case Results Achieved by Our Attorneys
$1 Million-Plus Settlement for Student Injured in Traumatic Accident
Our firm represented a 15-year-old high school student who suffered severe head and spinal cord injuries when her friend’s car was T-boned by a tractor-trailer. While the defense claimed that our client was able to make a full recovery after coming out of her coma, our car accident lawyers in Florida used expert testimony to prove that she continued to face numerous severe challenges on a daily basis. Based on the evidence and arguments presented by our attorneys, the defense agreed to settle the case for a sum in excess of $1 million.
$10 Million Jury Verdict for Senior Injured in Multi-Vehicle Collision
Attorneys Chris Searcy and Jack Scarola represented a 68-year-old man who was diagnosed with partial quadriplegia after being rear-ended in a multi-vehicle collision. After rejecting the defense’s original settlement offer of $100,000, attorneys Searcy and Scarola presented Mr. Simms’ case in a two-week trial. Upon hearing the evidence, the jury awarded Mr. Simms compensatory damages in the amount of $10,096,567.
When Can You Seek Financial Compensation for an Auto Accident in Florida?
Most car accident cases involve the law of “negligence.” In Florida, if one driver (or some other party) is negligent in causing another driver’s or passenger’s injuries, the negligent driver is legally responsible for all of the victims’ accident-related losses. Since most drivers have insurance (although Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers in the nation), in most cases, victims receive their compensation through the at-fault driver’s insurance company. However, as we discussed above – and as you may already know all too well – getting compensated by the insurance companies is easier said than done.
Some of the most common forms of negligence involved in Florida auto accident cases include the following:
- Distracted Driving – Including talking, texting, setting GPS directions, and eating or drinking behind the wheel.
- Fatigued Driving – Including driving without adequate rest and falling asleep behind the wheel.
- Impaired Driving – Including driving under the influence of alcohol, prescription medications, over-the-counter sleep aids, or illegal drugs.
- Reckless Driving – Including following too closely (tailgating), weaving through traffic, running red lights and stop signs, and merging without looking or signaling.
- Speeding – Including exceeding the posted speed limit and driving too fast for current traffic, weather or road conditions.
Other common causes of accidents for which compensation will typically be available include vehicle defects, inadequate vehicle maintenance, road defects, inadequate warnings about road construction, and safety violations by commercial truckers and trucking companies.
What to Do After a Car Accident
After being injured in a car accident, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. For many people, the stress that comes with being injured and trying to deal with medical bills and the insurance companies can be paralyzing. It is important to remember that countless people have been through the process before, and there is help available to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.
Below are some important steps that all car accident victims should try to take at the scene of the collision (assuming they are physically able to do so):
- Try to Stay Calm – Your first priority is to get immediate help. If you have a cell phone, dial 911. Or flag down a passing vehicle or pedestrian and ask them to call 911.
- Assess the Condition of Other Passengers in Your Car – After you have called for help, look around and try to determine if others are badly hurt. Tell your companions to stay calm and assure them that help is on the way. If you are in a position to provide first aid, do so. But, generally, it is dangerous to move anyone who may have a serious injury.
- Notate the Details of the Accident – If you can, make notes on the circumstances of the accident, such as the time, the place, and exactly what happened. Identify not only participants – the drivers of other vehicles, for example – but also witnesses who can corroborate your story. Be sure to get license plate numbers, names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
- Cooperate With Paramedics and Law Enforcement Officials – When EMS personnel arrive, do not assume that you were not injured; follow their instructions. When the highway patrol or police arrive, tell them the facts. Do not move your car or any other potential evidence.
- Seek Medical Attention – Go to the hospital, even if you think you feel fine. You need a physician to diagnose your medical condition, and your medical records will be key evidence in your claim for compensation.
- Notify Your Insurance Carrier – If you are in a car crash, insurance companies require you to file with them in a timely manner. But you are not required to accept any offers they make for reimbursement or settlement of potential accident claims.
- Avoid Talking to the Insurance Companies – While it is ok to report your claim (and we recommend that you do this at the scene of the accident), you should not provide any additional information to the insurance companies. Your legal team will handle this for you to ensure that you do not provide a damaging recorded statement or get pressured into accepting a low-value settlement.
- Avoid Discussing the Accident – In addition to avoiding the insurance companies, you should also avoid discussing the accident in general. You do not want your family members or neighbors to be asked to testify, and you do not want your social media posts to be used against you.
- Get a Copy of the Police Report – If you are to pursue any claim against the person at fault in your accident, you will need the police report to substantiate what happened.
- Contact an Experienced Florida Car Accident Attorney – Choosing an attorney is a critical step, because you are putting your future, and your family’s future, in his or her hands. You want a firm you can trust to protect your interests and represent you aggressively as you seek the justice you and your family deserve.
- Rest and Recuperate – When seeking compensation after a car accident, it is imperative that you follow your doctor’s advice. Some insurance companies will monitor claimants to see if they are going to work or engaging in strenuous activity when they should be resting, and it is important that you attend all follow-up appointments and therapy sessions to help your recovery as much as possible.
- Keep a Journal – In addition to medical bills and lost income, your claim will also include compensation for non-financial losses. One of the best ways to document these losses is to keep a diary or journal. When do you feel pain each day? Was it worse today than yesterday? Did you have to miss a child’s game or a social event because you were too sore to go? These are all key details that can help maximize your financial recovery.
Contact a Florida Car Accident Attorney to Discuss Your Auto Crash Case
If you or a family member has been injured in a vehicle accident and you want to discuss a potential claim, schedule an appointment with an experienced Florida car accident lawyer. Just fill in our Contact Form or call us at 1-800-780-8607 to arrange for your free, confidential consultation. No recovery, no fee.
- Driving Safety, in Fits and Starts
- Uniform Guidelines for State Highway Safety Programs
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Attorney Cam Kennedy — Texting & Driving? You may as well be drunk driving.
- Do You Know Which Are the Most Dangerous Intersections?
How long do I have to file a car accident claim in Florida?
In most cases, the statute of limitations for car accident claims in Florida is four years. If you do not file within four years, you could lose your rights entirely.
However, much shorter delays can jeopardize your case as well. For example, if you wait too long to seek legal representation, your lawyers may not be able to collect certain key evidence (such as skid marks) from the scene of the accident. Without legal representation, you also run the risk of saying something you shouldn’t to the insurance companies. As a result, while you may technically have four years to assert your rights, we strongly recommend that you speak with a Florida car accident attorney as soon as possible.
What if I was at fault in the accident? Can I still file a claim?
If you were partially at fault in the accident, you may still be able win your case under Florida law. This is because Florida follows a rule known as “pure comparative fault.” Under this rule, even if you were 90 percent at fault in the accident, you would still be entitled to recover 10 percent of your losses. Or, as is more common, if you were 10 percent at fault, you would be entitled to 90 percent of a full recovery.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Establishing fault requires a thorough investigation and reasoned legal analysis, and it is one of the most common issues leading to car accident litigation. While you may think you were at fault, the evidence may suggest otherwise, and you should not rush to judgment until you have discussed your case with an experienced attorney.
What if the other driver is from another state?
Here in the Sunshine State, we have a lot of out-of-state drivers. If you were injured by an out-of-state driver, your case will largely be similar to one involving a claim against a Florida resident. There may be some additional steps involved if your case goes to trial, but it is much more likely that your case will settle long before that comes into play.
What if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?
If the driver who hit you was uninsured, you will need to discuss the specific facts of your case with an attorney to determine what options you have available. While one option is certainly to file a claim against the driver personally, if the at-fault driver was uninsured, he or she is unlikely to have the financial resources to pay just compensation for your losses.
As a result, in most cases involving uninsured drivers, we need to explore alternative sources of compensation. One of these sources may be your own auto insurance policy. If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, then in addition to your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, you may also be able to collect the compensation that you would have been paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Another option is to identify another party that is responsible for your losses. This could be the case if, for example, your brakes failed or you were injured when one of your airbags deployed improperly. If a hazardous road condition (such as a pothole, blind curve or low shoulder) played a role in the accident, then the highway authority may be responsible for your losses as well.
An insurance company is offering me a check. Should I take it?
No. If you have received a settlement offer without legal representation, the offer is almost certainly for far less than the true value of your claim. The insurance company is trying to get you to settle before you have had the opportunity to make an informed decision. In addition, by accepting the check, you could be waiving your right to seek additional compensation. Before accepting any money for your injuries, it is critical that you find out exactly what your case is worth from an experienced attorney.
What if the insurance company is refusing to pay for my injuries?
If you have been unsuccessful in securing payment from the insurance companies, you will need to hire an auto accident attorney to help. The insurance companies routinely deny unrepresented accident victims’ claims for compensation; and, when they offer payment, it is usually because they are trying to settle for less than the full amount owed. It is not too late to seek help, but you do not want to wait any longer than necessary to seek legal representation.
Will my insurance rates increase after an accident?
It depends. If the accident was 100 percent someone else’s fault, your rates should not increase. On the other hand, if you were partially at fault, or if you need to file a UIM claim, then your accident could affect your premiums. This is yet another issue you will want to discuss with an attorney so that you can make an informed decision about protecting your legal rights.
Am I entitled to financial compensation for my future medical expenses?
Yes. After an accident resulting from someone else’s negligence, in addition to compensation for your outstanding medical bills, you are also entitled to compensation for your future medical expenses. In many cases, these future expenses will far exceed the costs incurred to date. You are entitled to financial compensation for your lost future earnings as well, and these are losses that we can calculate for you before you settle your claim.
Am I entitled to financial compensation for my pain and suffering?
Potentially, yes. In cases involving serious traumatic injuries with long-term or permanent effects, accident victims will often be entitled to financial compensation for the non-financial impacts of their injuries. This includes pain and suffering, as well as losses such as:
- Emotional trauma
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of society, support and services
- Loss of companionship and consortium