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Navigating the Legal Process After a Car Accident in Florida: Your Rights and Options

02/16/2024
Car Accidents
BY

Being in a car accident can be a traumatic experience, particularly if there are serious personal injuries and/or significant damage to your car. Understanding the legal process in Florida is imperative to knowing your rights and options and securing fair compensation.

Steps to Take Immediately After an Accident 

Immediately following an accident, you should take these steps:

  • The first priority after an accident is to check yourself and others involved for injuries. If anyone is injured, call emergency services immediately and provide first aid if you are trained to do so. Do not attempt to move anyone who is seriously injured unless there is an immediate threat to their safety.
  • Even if you do not believe you are seriously injured, it is important to seek medical attention after an accident. Some injuries, such as whiplash or internal trauma, may not be immediately apparent but could worsen over time. Follow up with a healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation and documentation of any injuries sustained in the accident.
  • If it is safe to do so, move vehicles involved in the accident to the side of the road or a safe location to avoid obstructing traffic and reduce the risk of further collisions. Turn on hazard lights to alert other motorists to the presence of the accident scene.
  • The next step is to exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver or drivers who are involved in the accident. Such information should include names, addresses, phone numbers, insurance companies, and policy numbers.
  • If there are witnesses, obtain their contact information as well. 
  • Document the accident scene, including vehicle damage, road conditions, and visible injuries. Write down your recollection of what happened leading up to the accident, including the time, date and location.
  • In Florida, you are required to report a car accident to the police if the accident results in injury, death or property damage of more than $500. If the police do not report to the scene, you should file a report at the local police station or through the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website. 
  • Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Be honest and provide accurate information about what happened. Failure to report the accident promptly could result in a denial of coverage.
  • Keep detailed records of all expenses related to the accident, including medical bills, vehicle repairs, rental car costs, and any other out-of-pocket expenses. Maintain a log of all communications with insurance companies, medical providers, and other parties involved in the accident.
  • Avoid discussing fault or admitting liability at the scene of the accident, as this could potentially be used against you in insurance negotiations or legal proceedings. Stick to factual information when speaking to the other parties involved, law enforcement officers, and insurance representatives.
  • If you have been injured in an accident or are facing challenges in resolving insurance claims, consider consulting with a personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney can provide guidance, advocate on your behalf, and help you navigate the legal process to seek fair compensation for your losses. Taking the appropriate steps after an accident can help protect your safety, preserve evidence, and facilitate the resolution of any resulting issues. By following these guidelines and seeking assistance when needed, you can navigate the aftermath of an accident more effectively and ensure that your rights and interests are safeguarded.

Understanding Florida’s No-Fault Insurance System

What are your rights if you’re injured in a car accident in Florida? Florida is a no-fault insurance state, which means that your own insurance company is responsible for covering your medical expenses and lost wages. A claim is made under the policy’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. PIP will pay compensation for:

  • 80% of reasonable medical expenses incurred due to accident-related injuries.
  • 60% of lost income if accident-related injuries prevent the policyholder from working.
  • $5,000 in death benefits if a collision is fatal.(These death benefits will be paid to the estate of the deceased or to relatives of the deceased accident victim.).

However, you can pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver if the accident was not minor and you meet certain criteria. Here are the steps to take if the accident was not your fault.

  • As set forth above, first you must file a “No-Fault” claim with your own insurance company. This is a claim under your personal injury protection policy and covers lost wages and medical bills up to the policy limit. In most cases, the policy limit is $10,000. Regardless of who was at fault, your insurance company will likely make some payout under your PIP.
  • Next, you must determine whether the injuries you have suffered qualify as “Significant” or “Permanent.” Significant and Permanent injuries, as defined by law, include significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function, permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, significant scarring or disfigurement, and death. It’s best to make this assessment with the help of an experienced Florida car accident attorney. If the answer is yes, you may seek full compensation under the other driver’s policy.
  • Finally, you calculate and document your accident-related costs. It’s important not to let the insurance company do this for you. 

Whether you’re dealing with your own insurance company or the insurer of the other driver, it’s generally best to negotiate for an insurance settlement. If you’re not able to obtain what you consider to be fair compensation in the settlement process, you can take your case to court. 

If you were seriously injured in the accident or if you’re having trouble with the insurance company, it may be in your best interest to seek legal advice from a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer can help you understand your rights, negotiate with the insurance company, and represent you in court if necessary.

Pursuing a Lawsuit in Florida

If you decide to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, you must do so within the Florida statute of limitations, which is four years from the date of the accident. Your lawyer will file the necessary paperwork and guide you through the legal process. Pursuing a lawsuit after a car crash is a complex legal process that requires careful consideration of various factors. If you’ve been injured in a car accident due to another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses, including medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and property damage.

A critical question is how much you should seek in damages. Your attorney will help you determine an amount of compensation to request based on the costs of your medical bills and lost wages, as well as pain and suffering or emotional distress. Your attorney will also evaluate the facts of your case to determine if there is a reason to request punitive damages, which are designed to punish defendants whose behavior was particularly reckless or outrageous.

Before going to trial, you may be required to attend mediation, where a neutral third party will help you and the at-fault driver reach a settlement. If mediation is unsuccessful, your case will proceed to trial. Many car accident lawsuits are resolved through negotiation and settlement before trial. Your attorney will engage in negotiations with the defendant’s insurance company or legal representatives to reach a fair settlement that compensates you for your losses. If a settlement cannot be reached, your case may proceed to trial.

If your case goes to trial, a judge or jury will hear the evidence and make a decision about who is at fault and what damages should be awarded. It’s important to have a lawyer represent you at trial to ensure your rights are protected. At trial both parties will present evidence and arguments before a judge and jury. Your attorney will advocate on your behalf, presenting your case and cross-examining witnesses. The jury will then determine whether the defendant is liable for the accident and, if so, the amount of damages you are entitled to receive. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the trial, you may have the option to appeal the decision to a higher court. However, appeals are generally limited to errors in legal procedure or interpretation rather than disputes over the facts of the case.

Contact a Florida Car Accident Attorney Today

Automobile policies in Florida are complicated, and the no-fault laws in Florida are confusing. If you have suffered from severe and permanent injuries from a car accident, you will benefit from hiring a capable and experienced Florida car accident attorney. At Searcy Denney, we have the resources and skills to help you obtain fair compensation and maximize your settlement or lawsuit. Contact us today at 800-780-8607 for a free consultation. 

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