Car accidents are common in the Sunshine State and affect hundreds of people daily, interrupting our lives, creating financial pitfalls, and at times, causing serious injuries and even fatalities. While at times, the responsibility for a car accident seems clear-cut. Perhaps you were hit out of the blue by a drunk driver going above the speed limit, or you were T-boned by someone who was texting and driving when their vehicle collided with yours. However, some cases are not so cut and dry, and determining fault may be a challenge requiring robust legal aid. If you’ve found yourself in a car accident in Florida, you may not be entirely clear about your liability share or legal options afterward.
We at Boohoff Law strongly urge you to consult a Tampa car accident lawyer to represent you, especially if you were at fault for your accident. An experienced car accident lawyer can help you understand your rights and options, help you navigate dealings with your insurance company, and maximize the outcome of your situation. Read on to learn more about some challenges you may encounter after a car crash and how a qualified car accident attorney can help.
Like a handful of states, Florida is a no-fault car accident state. This means that two drivers involved in a car accident must file claims with their respective insurance companies. Florida’s legislators created these no-fault laws to ensure that all injured drivers have an easier way of obtaining medical treatment for their injuries. Instead of being required to file a claim and argue for compensation through the courts, injured drivers can rest easier knowing that their medical costs and other expenses are covered.
Our car accident lawyers are adept at helping injured claimants like you recover compensation this way. We know that although this system is designed to help accident victims, insurance companies will often try to reduce your payout, leaving you financially vulnerable. We’ll work to help you navigate the process with your own insurance company.
Another benefit of Florida’s no-fault laws is that they restrict an accident victim’s ability to file claims for other damages related to the crash. For example, an injured driver’s ability to pursue compensation for pain and suffering through a car accident claim is limited. Drivers who want compensation for pain and suffering must meet an injury threshold to be eligible to file a claim.
Florida uses this injury threshold to determine whether a driver can file a car accident claim.
Florida law defines a serious injury as one that:
If an injury qualifies under one or several of these factors, victims have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other party responsible for the accident and vice versa. The other driver who endured severe injuries from your accident has the right to file a lawsuit against you to receive compensation for severe injuries. Fortunately, your insurance policy can cover the full extent of the other driver’s injuries and losses.
To ensure coverage for all injuries from a car accident for each driver, Florida drivers must carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Personal injury protection coverage is a coverage that drivers can use to cover any medical expenses related to their accident or any wages lost from their accident. Every driver has to carry a minimum of $10,000 coverage for their policy. One of the most significant benefits of this insurance policy is that it provides coverage for each policyholder, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
However, some limits are associated with this policy. As stated, PIP coverage only covers up to $10,000 of your medical expenses and lost wages. PIP may not pay any medical bills that exceed that limit. Victims can only receive coverage for up to that specific limit.
This coverage may be acceptable for drivers with minor or moderate injuries. However, if your injuries are catastrophic, PIP coverage will not be enough to cover the full extent of these injuries. PIP coverage can only cover at least 80 percent of a policyholder’s injuries. Catastrophic injury victims settle claims for an average amount between $20,000 and $75,000. You must consider filing a personal injury lawsuit or exploring other insurance policies to receive full compensation for your catastrophic injury.
Other insurance policies can provide additional coverage for your injuries. One of those insurance policies is bodily injury liability. This insurance policy can pay for the damages you caused the other driver. This insurance policy helps if the other driver files a claim against you for additional compensation. The only issue is that this type of coverage is not mandatory, unlike personal injury protection.
What if the other driver involved in your accident is not insured or underinsured? Or, perhaps the other party fled the accident scene. There is an insurance policy that can provide coverage for these scenarios. Uninsured motorist coverage can cover damages caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver. Drivers with insurance policies who do not carry enough damage coverage can take advantage of this insurance policy. However, this type of coverage is also optional.
In addition to personal injury protection coverage, Florida drivers must carry property damage liability insurance. This insurance policy covers up to $10,000 in property damage, like PIP coverage. However, Florida drivers can file a claim for any property damage resulting in a vehicle’s loss. The no-fault laws do not apply to property damage claims.
Although you live in a no-fault state, there are certain legal precautions you want to take when dealing with insurance companies. Do not leave the scene, and ensure you cooperate with law enforcement in the immediate aftermath of the crash. Take pictures and detailed notes about the scene of the accident if you’re able to. It’s also important to seek medical attention right away, as this is not only vital for your health and safety but also the strength of your car accident claim. Many people avoid seeking treatment after an accident, not knowing that the adrenaline rush may be masking silent but serious injuries.
Even if you are responsible for a car accident, you do not want to admit fault to an insurance adjuster. Contacting a lawyer and refraining from doing anything that may be used against you are two paramount steps you can take to protect yourself after an accident. Remember, you’re not obligated to speak to the other driver’s insurance company, even if you had a share of fault in an accident.
Additionally, even when you have been declared the at-fault driver of your accident, you can still seek compensation for your injuries. However, insurance companies hope you are unaware of your legal rights regarding your insurance policies. Many drivers may not know that fault does not result from consideration of evidence like police reports. It ultimately gets determined by the negotiation process between you and insurance companies or the courts. That is why seeking legal counsel from a lawyer is essential.
The other driver in your accident has a specific period to file a personal injury claim against you, called the statute of limitations. For car accident victims, the statute of limitations is four years from the accident to file a claim and recover compensation.
Another reason you will benefit from hiring a lawyer is if the insurance company does not want to cover the costs of your accident. Insurance companies can refuse coverage for a policyholder’s accident for legitimate reasons. Insurance companies will decide not to cover your accident to avoid paying for the other driver’s claim. You will be liable for the other driver’s compensation when this happens. Consulting with a lawyer will help you either avoid being placed in this predicament or prepare you for the next steps.
If you are the at-fault driver of an accident, you have the right to be represented by an experienced lawyer and have your legal rights protected. Having a lawyer can help you take full advantage of your legal protections.
A lawyer can help review your insurance policy and determine how other forms of coverage might work in your policy. Insurance companies use specific terms and phrases to confuse their policyholders. An experienced lawyer can review your policy and determine the total coverage you deserve.
Another way that a lawyer can assist you is by negotiating a fair settlement agreement on your behalf. One of the ways that an insurance company will try to resolve a car accident claim is by offering a settlement agreement.
A settlement agreement is a mutual agreement between you, your insurance company, and the other driver to pay a specific amount in compensation. The other driver accepts this settlement offer in exchange for waiving the right to pursue legal action against you in the future. Once the other driver accepts a settlement offer, they can no longer file a lawsuit against you.
A car accident settlement benefits not only you, but the other driver. The other driver can receive compensation for their accident in a faster time frame than if they decided to take their claim to trial.
One of your most significant benefits is that the other driver no longer has the right to file a lawsuit against you once you agree to a settlement. You and the other driver can move on from the accident once the settlement offer is accepted.
Before accepting the settlement, you and the other driver will have the ability to negotiate the amount of compensation. This process is where your lawyer comes in. Your lawyer can negotiate against the other driver’s lawyer and the insurance company. Lawyers have experience in the negotiation process and will convince the other parties involved to reach a mutual agreement that benefits you.
Some of the damages covered through a settlement agreement include:
Your lawyer can review your insurance policy and ensure that your accident meets the following requirements to be covered. Afterward, your lawyer can convince the insurance company to cover the accident or explore other legal options for you. Unless your accident was extremely egregious, there is no reason why an insurance company will not provide coverage for you.
If you were involved in a car accident in Florida, you have legal options. Contact a lawyer who knows about the no-fault laws and how insurance companies work.
Depending on the nature of your accident, you may have the opportunity to pursue compensation for your injuries from your PIP coverage or another driver’s policy if they share the fault. Speaking with a qualified lawyer can help bring the sense of clarity you need to succeed in your car accident claim.
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