No Recovery, You Owe Us Nothing
As you begin to contemplate your legal claims in the wake of a car accident, it’s worth considering how your lawsuit will be influenced by the particular circumstances of the accident scenario that led to your injuries. Having a car accident lawyer who is both interested in understanding your experience and familiar with the intricacies of Florida laws and procedures will help you to better navigate an otherwise overwhelming process.
In Florida, for example, if you can show that the defendant violated a statute, then you may not have to face the challenge of proving that the defendant acted negligently. Stated simply, Florida law will give you an opportunity to establish the defendant’s negligence automatically, as long as you can show that the defendant violated a penal statute, such as the prohibition against intoxicated driving. Though not as decisive, the defendant’s violation of a civil or traffic statute will allow you to use such violation as “evidence” in support of a negligence claim, but not as conclusive proof thereof.
Here at Searcy Denney, we are deeply committed to the provision of client-oriented legal representation. We know that our car accident clients are suffering through incredibly frustrating times — after all, it is challenging to balance one’s physical and psychological recovery with attempts to secure financial compensation. As such, we strive to make ourselves available to clients throughout the litigation process and to keep their goals and preferences at the forefront.
Want to learn more? Contact us to arrange for a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced Florida car accident lawyers today.
In Florida, injury claims in rental car accidents are actually governed by the federal Graves Amendment, which provides rental car companies with a liability shield against claims borne out of injuries that are caused by the driver’s negligence. For example, if you slam into a tree due to oversteering on a sharp turn, then you cannot bring an action against the rental car company for damages.
Importantly, however, the federal Graves Amendment does not prevent you from securing damages in scenarios where the rental car company independently contributed to your injuries. Rental car companies owe a duty of reasonable care, which means they must ensure that the vehicle is in working order and is reasonably safe for its intended purposes. Failure to do so could expose the rental car company to liability. For example, if you are injured in a rental car accident, and you find that the accident occurred due to airbag failure from inadequate maintenance conducted by the rental company, then – with the help of a Florida car accident lawyer – you could bring an action against the rental company for damages.
School zone accidents are particularly dangerous, given that most pedestrians (and reasonable drivers) in school zones do not expect to encounter drivers who operate their vehicles recklessly, such as by speeding.
School zone accident liability is interesting in that — if the defendant-driver violated a traffic law pertaining to the school zone — then that violation can serve as supportive evidence of their negligence. For example, if you can prove that the defendant-driver was driving in excess of 20 miles per hour (i.e., the speed limit in most Florida school zones), then you will have a much easier time of proving their negligence, and therefore their liability.
In some cases, the school district or even the city may be held liable if they fail to protect students, drivers, and others from dangerous conditions, such as road hazards. If a school district implements an unsafe crosswalk with poor visibility from either side, then that may be a dangerous condition of property that could expose pedestrians (and motorists) to an unreasonable risk of injury. If you’re injured in such a crosswalk, you might have a claim against the property owner in Florida.
If you are injured in a car accident with a company vehicle, then you may be entitled under Florida law to impose the defendant-driver’s liability on the employer pursuant to the doctrine of vicarious liability.
How does this work?
Suppose that you are injured in a car accident where the defendant-driver was negligent in causing the accident. You investigate the facts further and discover that the driver was delivering food for their employer as part of their job (using a company vehicle). Given the circumstances, you could ostensibly sue and recover damages from the employer for the negligence of their employee.
In Florida, vicarious liability requires that you prove that the employee was acting in furtherance of a legitimate business purpose (i.e., for the company’s benefit, perhaps as part of their normal job duties) and within the course and scope of their employment. If the employee is using a company vehicle at the time of the accident, then it’s easier for a Florida car accident lawyer to prove that they were acting within the course and scope of their employment.
Insurers are best avoided until you secure the assistance of a qualified attorney who will speak on your behalf — in the car accident context and otherwise. If you have been injured in a car accident, it’s important not to speak to your insurer or the defendant’s insurer. Any statements you make to insurers will be recorded (or otherwise documented) and used against you. For example, if you speak to a representative of the defendant’s insurance carrier, and you casually admit that you may have been at least partially at-fault for the accident, then they will argue that your potential recovery is limited.
Uninsured motorists are quite common in Florida. If you have been injured by an uninsured motorist, you may find that your options for recovery are somewhat limited because the defendant-driver lacks the insurance coverage (and likely the personal assets) necessary to cover your various losses. First-party insurance coverage can account for your losses under such circumstances, but if you lack such coverage, then you may want to investigate the possibility of other liable third-parties, such as the defendant’s employer, a property owner (who created a road hazard), or even the auto manufacturer if a part was defective.
Studies conducted by the Insurance Research Council indicate that about 13% of U.S. motorists – or one in every eight – are uninsured. The end result is costly in terms of lives and money: More than 12% of vehicle accidents involve uninsured drivers, and the cost of damage nationwide each year is estimated at $28 billion. Drivers of older cars are especially negligent: A whopping 40% of vehicles older than 15 years are driven by uninsured drivers.
If you live in Florida, your odds of encountering an uninsured driver are even greater than the national average. That’s because 3.2 million motorists – about 24% of Florida’s licensed drivers – do not carry bodily injury insurance. What’s more, many drivers are underinsured, because Florida law does not require motorists to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
What does it mean for you and your family when every fourth driver you pass on the street or highway does not carry sufficient coverage to fully compensate you if he or she should cause a crash in which you suffer devastating injuries?
It means that when you buy new auto insurance or renew your current policy, you should say “yes” to Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage.
If you or a family member is involved in a car crash with an uninsured driver and you don’t have UM coverage, you lose your ability to recover for future medical expenses, lost wages, and non-economic damages such as lifelong disability and pain and suffering. Your health insurance and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) only pay the bills you have received for the extent of your injuries today, not for any future losses attributed to this accident.
That’s why many insurance companies will try to discourage you from buying UM coverage – it forces them to pay for the full extent of your losses.
Buying automobile insurance is a confusing and frustrating process, one for which you should be thoroughly prepared and armed with specific questions to ask your insurance agent.
Under Florida’s hybrid no-fault insurance system, the law requires drivers to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which compensates the insured driver and household members for medical treatment regardless of who is at fault in an accident. PIP covers the costs of medical treatment, lost wages, and incidental costs associated with medical care – but not pain and suffering or future medical care, future loss of earnings of loss of future earning ability, or disability. PIP coverage is usually limited to $10,000 in medical and disability benefits and $5,000 in death benefits resulting from bodily injury or death stemming from ownership, maintenance or use of the insured motor vehicle.
Bodily injury liability coverage provides coverage for claims made against you for the accidental bodily injury of other parties injured in a crash involving an insured motor vehicle. The named insured and family members are excluded from this coverage. Florida law does not require that bodily injury liability coverage be purchased or carried. Accordingly, a great many Florida drivers are uninsured or underinsured if they cause an accident resulting in bodily injury to another person. So if you are injured in a traffic accident with one of the 24% of Florida drivers who do not carry this bodily injury liability insurance, your recovery is limited to your own PIP coverage, unless you yourself have an Uninsured Motorist policy.
Ask your insurance agent whether his or her company offers both “stacked” and “non-stacked” UM coverage. The difference between stacked and non-stacked coverage can affect whether or not you or family members will be able to collect UM at all.
In Florida, if you elect to carry bodily injury liability insurance, the law requires that the insurance company also provide Uninsured Motorist coverage unless you expressly reject it. Florida Statute 727.727(1) reads:
No motor vehicle liability insurance policy which provides bodily injury liability coverage shall be delivered in this state with respect to any specifically insured or identified motor vehicle registered or principally garaged in this state unless uninsured motor vehicle coverage is provided therein or supplemental thereto for the protection of persons insured thereunder who are legally entitled to recover damages from owners or operators of uninsured motor vehicles because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease, including death, resulting therefrom. However, the coverage required under this section is not applicable when, or to the extent that, an insured named in the policy makes a written rejection of the coverage on behalf of all insured parties under the policy.
By law, insurance consumers must be fully advised of the nature of UM coverage, and further notified that the coverage will be equal to the insured’s bodily injury liability limits on a stacked basis unless lower limits are requested or the coverage is rejected. Stackable coverage means that the uninsured motorist coverage on multiple vehicles covered under one policy can be increased by stacking the coverage. For example, if the policy provided stacking uninsured motorist coverage of 100 per person /300 per incident, on each of three vehicles, then the total coverage available for injury caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist would be 300 per person / 900 per incident.
You may reject this coverage entirely, reject just the stacking feature, or choose lower limits, as long as your rejection or selection of lower limits is made on an approved form.
Stacked UM insurance usually costs more, but it provides broader coverage. Most insurance companies offer both versions, but they may not tell you that – or explain the similarities and differences.
The bottom line is, you should carry stacked Uninsured Motorist coverage to make sure that you and your family have the broadest protection – anywhere, anytime, in any vehicle – if you are injured in an accident with an uninsured motorist.
Our legal team considers your full range of possibilities for recovering damages. Often, in addition to the driver, other parties may be at fault. For example, another driver may also have contributed to the accident by cutting off the uninsured driver. A construction company may have left debris on the roadway that caused the uninsured driver to swerve or punctured the driver’s tire.
In limited circumstances, a liquor store or bar may also be responsible for an uninsured drunk driver who ran into you. This sort of out-of-the box thinking has helped us recover compensation for injured drivers who might otherwise have few options.
If you have sustained injuries in a car accident due to the negligent or wrongful conduct of another individual or entity, then you may have a right to sue and recover damages pursuant to Florida law. Many injured plaintiffs mistakenly believe that their case will be relatively simple to litigate. In reality, however, there are a number of different legal issues that can complicate your lawsuit. You’ll benefit a great deal from working with a qualified car accident attorney who understands how to navigate the ups-and-downs of such litigation.
Here at Searcy Denney, our team has decades of experience representing injured claimants in a wide range of car accident lawsuits, including those that involve complex legal issues, such as public entity liability and the vicarious liability of an employer. We are relentless advocates for our clients, and we investigate the facts thoroughly to develop a strategy that is uniquely tailored to the particularities of the case. This comprehensive approach to litigation has served us well over the past four decades — we have obtained billions of dollars in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our injured clients.
Interested in learning more about your car accident injury claims?
Call 1-800-780-8607 or request an appointment online to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our skilled Florida car accident lawyers. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t pay until and unless we assist you with obtaining compensation for your injuries.