Florida Car Accident Lawyer
At Fairway Law Group, we believe in educating our clients so that they can make confident decisions about their cases. We are also skilled investigators, and we work hard on new cases to obtain the evidence we need to help prove our clients’ cases. Finally, we fight hard for our clients litigating their cases in and out of court to make sure they get the damages payment they deserve. When it comes to car accident cases, we: (1) Educate, (2) Investigate, and (3) Litigate. Our experienced legal team has recovered millions of dollars in compensation for Florida car accident victims.
This article will provide Florida car accident victims with an overview of the claims and compensation system. This article is written and curated by Florida car accident attorneys, Matthew S. Waring, Esq. (J.D. 2013, University of Florida) and Brian T. Dunmire, Esq. (J.D. 2012, Florida State University).
Time Limitations On Florida Car Accident Cases
What a car accident victim does after a car accident is critical to the outcome of their case. While no lawyer can guarantee any specific outcome in a personal injury case, most lawyers agree that the sooner you get a car accident lawyer involved the better.
The critical deadline is the statute of limitations. Effective March 24, 2023, the Florida Legislature reduced the statute of limitations on car accident cases from four years to two years. That means injury victims only have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit to recover damages for car accident-related injuries. If an injury victim misses this filing deadline, they will be forever barred from making a claim.
The second most important deadline is the 14-day Personal Injury Protection cutoff. In Florida, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits are only available to injury victims who are seen by a doctor within fourteen (14) days of the accident. If a car accident victim does not see a medical professional with 14 days, they will forfeit up to $10,000.00 in insurance coverage that pays for their medical bills. To qualify for PIP payments, car accident victims must see one of the following “medical professionals” within 14 days of the accident:
- A Medical Doctor (such as an orthopedic surgeon, primary care physician, neurosurgeon, etc…)
- A Dentist
- A Chiropractic Physician
- A Physical Therapist
- A Hospital
- An Urgent Care
- A Paramedic
- A Teledoc
Common Causes Of Car Accidents In Florida
There are many factors that lead to car accidents in South Florida. This includes drivers who are simply not paying attention, violating traffic laws, or failing to maintain their vehicles. Some of the most common causes of motor vehicle accidents in South Florida include:
- Disregarding Traffic Signs
- Driving Too Fast For Conditions
- Failure To Stay In Lane
- Failure To Yield Right Of Way
- Failure To Watch For Motorcycles
- Failure To Yield To Pedestrians
- Following Too Closely
- Improper Passing
- Reckless Driving
- Running A Red Light Or Stop Sign
- Wrong Way Driving
- Texting And Driving
- Drowsy Driving
- Drunk Driving
- Driving Under The Influence Of Drugs
- Overweight Trucking Loads
- Defective Vehicle Parts
- Hazardous Road Conditions
Common Car Accident Injuries
There were more than 254,000 injuries from all crashes in Florida in 2018. Injuries range from minor scrapes and bruises to permanent and life-altering injuries. Common auto accident injuries for drivers and passengers can include:
- Broken Bones
- Internal Injuries
- Head Injury
- Back Injury
- Neck Injury
- Nerve Damage
- Burn Injuries
- Eye Injury
- Cuts And Scrapes
- Puncture Wounds
- Loss Of A Limb
What To Do After A Car Accident In Florida
We are lawyers, not doctors, so we will not provide medical advice. That said, car accident victims and those around them should take steps to get medical attention depending on the severity of their injuries. There is no rule that says that a car accident victim must be treated by a paramedic or taken to the hospital by ambulance to make an injury claim. Many car accident injuries affect soft-tissues, and the symptoms appear hours or even days after a car accident. Car accident victims must make a judgment call of whether they feel they need emergency medical treatment after a car accident.
Car accident victims should not confront other people involved in the accident. Instead, car accident victims should call 911 and provide their side of the story to the investigating police officer. The police officer will provide car accident victims with an Exchange of Information report at the scene which can be used to open and pursue claims against the at-fault driver and their insurance.
After assessing injuries and dialing 911 to report the accident, car accident victims should move their vehicle off the roadway if it is still operable. It may take a while for the police to arrive on scene and an accident victim should get their vehicle to place of safety to avoid secondary collisions. If an accident victim reports an injury to 911, a police officer and ambulance will be dispatched right away. If an accident victim does not report an injury to 911, the call will be a lower priority. This means that it could take a very long time for the police to show up to the scene of the accident.
Hit and run accidents account for almost one-third of all accidents in Florida. There is always a real possibility that an at-fault driver will speed off and attempt to flee from the accident scene. If an accident victim believes that another driver involved in the accident is attempting to flee, the accident victim should take a photo or at least write down the license plate number of the other vehicle. We can find out who the owner of the vehicle is based on their license plate. An accident victim should never chase down a fleeing hit and run driver. The best practice is to capture the license plate number and report it to law enforcement during the 911 call.
What Happens After A Car Accident In Florida
Car accident victims will receive telephone calls from insurance companies and medical-legal referral companies. The insurance companies involved in the accident will call car accident victims to gather information right away that they will use later to deny or short-pay an injury victim’s claim. Typically, these insurance companies have claims adjusters who call victims and appear to be very concerned for their wellbeing. The adjusters may say that they are just trying to find out what happened in the accident to help get an accident victim’s car fixed. Injury victims should be careful not to give any insurance company a recorded statement (if the adjuster says the call is being recorded, pay attention to what they are about to ask). While insurance company adjusters are in fact trying to get information to help fix cars and provide other insurance benefits, they are also trying to get evidence to use against injury victims in the future if they decide to make a personal injury claim.
Accident victims will also receive calls from medical-legal referral agencies. We do not know how these agencies get accident victim’s telephone numbers or whether they obtain them legally. The agencies will try to convince injury victims to get treatment with one of their medical providers who then refers the victim to a lawyer. Fairway Law Group does not participate in referral agencies, and we will never call an accident victim unless they ask us too.
How Medical Bills Get Paid After A Car Accident
After a car accident you may incur large medical bills because of your injuries. In an ideal world, you would not be responsible to pay these medical bills because you did not cause the car accident. This is where insurance should kick in and cover the cost of medical bills. There are several types of insurance coverage that may cover all or part of an accident victims’ medical expenses: personal injury protection, medical payments coverage, health insurance, bodily injury coverage, and uninsured motorist coverage.
PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION (PIP) IN FLORIDA
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance is “no fault” coverage for auto accidents. Drivers in Florida are required to carry PIP insurance, (and Property Damage Liability (PDL) insurance). PIP provides no-fault coverage regardless of who is at fault for causing the accident.
PIP pays for part of your medical bills if you are injured in an accident, whether the accident was caused by you or another driver. PIP covers the driver under the policy and also covers relatives who live in your home, others who drive your car with your permission, pedestrians, and bicyclists. PDL is supposed to cover damage to another’s property caused by the at-fault driver.
Drivers in Florida must have a minimum of $10,000 in PIP. After an injury accident, PIP will cover 80% of all necessary and reasonable medical expenses, up to the coverage limit (generally $10,000). PIP may also cover up to 60% of lost wages caused by the accident. However, the $10,000 coverage limit is for both medical expenses and lost wages together. Once the $10,000 amount is paid out, the injury victim may be responsible for any further medical bills.
Unfortunately for many accident injury victims, the cost of medical bills, continuing treatment, and lost wages will exceed $10,000. In a personal injury lawsuit, the injury victim can seek damages from the person responsible for causing the accident to get any medical expenses and lost wages over the $10,000 limit, and also seek other damages, including pain and suffering.
MEDICAL PAYMENT COVERAGE IN FLORIDA
Medical payments coverage is optional in Florida. Medical payments coverage is an add-on coverage to an accident victim’s car insurance policy. Medical payments coverage will cover medical bills in addition to PIP however an injury victim is required to pay back their insurance company for any medical payments made under the medical payments coverage if they receive a settlement on their case. Injury victims do not have to pay back their insurance companies for PIP payments but they must pay back their insurance companies for payments issued under the medical payments coverage if the victim gets a settlement.
USING HEALTH INSURANCE TO PAY FOR CAR ACCIDENT INJURIES
Health insurance can be a big help after a car accident. There is the possibility that the health insurance may cover some of the medical expenses. If you do have health insurance, it is very important to provide this information to the hospital or urgent care if you see one.
Health insurance will help to reduce the amount of out-of-pocket expenses that you are required to pay for your injuries after a car accident. Like medical payments coverage, any payments made by your health insurance company will be subject to subrogation. In layman’s terms, this means that the health insurance company will want to be paid back for the claims that it pays. If your health insurance company pays $100 towards your medical bills, they will want to be paid back that $100 from your settlement. If this seems complicated, it is but we deal with it all the time.
If you were injured in a car accident and do not have health insurance, then you will be responsible for the medical bills more than any PIP payments. This means that you might need to pay out-of-pocket for the medical treatment. That can leave you with large bills that were not your fault.
BODILY INJURY COVERAGE IN FLORIDA
In Florida every motor vehicle is required by law to have insurance. However, this does not mean that every motor vehicle has full insurance coverage. Many automobile insurance companies sell what they call “full coverage.” Full coverage in the State of Florida means that you have $10,000.00 in PIP benefits and $10,000.00 in collision coverage. Collision coverage pays for the property damage to the other vehicle. Since bodily injury coverage is not required by the State, there is a possibility that the person who hits you does not have insurance coverage that will compensate you for your injuries.
What does this mean for your medical bills? Even if you did not cause a car accident, you are liable for the medical bills incurred. Of course, the person who caused a car accident is still legally responsible for your medical bills, but you are the one who could be sent to collections. Many times, people are “judgment-proof.” This means that any judgment entered against them is not worth the paper that the judgment is written on. This is why it is so important for every single driver in Florida to carry uninsured motorist coverage.
Assuming the driver that caused the accident did have bodily injury coverage on their policy, a Florida car accident attorney can make a claim for you and pursue cash compensation. At Fairway Law Group, we believe that clients have a right to know the available bodily injury limits as soon as possible. That’s why we move quickly to investigate accidents and find available sources of insurance and then open claims and demand policy disclosures. In the state of Florida, a person is required to disclose their insurance coverage within 30 days of a request pursuant to Florida Statute 627.4137 but we can obtain the policy disclosures quicker in most cases.
This means that if the person who hit you does have bodily injury insurance, we can make a claim against them. Essentially, we will argue that they should be responsible to pay the medical bills and lost wages that you incurred after your car accident. This is what is referred to as making a claim.
Simply put, the value of your claim is based on the severity of your injuries, your past and future medical bills, and your past and future wage loss. Other factors include liability, preexisting injuries, and whether the accident caused your injuries.
UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE IN FLORIDA
So what happens if the person who hit you does not have bodily injury coverage as we discussed above? Then we start to look at your automobile insurance policy. We want to know if you have uninsured motorist coverage (also referred to as “underinsured motorist coverage”).
Uninsured motorist coverage is the last line of defense that may provide you with compensation after a car accident. UM covers you when the at-fault driver does not have any insurance, or they have too little insurance to fully pay for your injuries. Uninsured motorist coverage works in two different ways.
First, we find out what insurance the at-fault driver has and what the coverage limit is. We also see what insurance you have and whether you have uninsured motorist coverage. This means that there could be two levels of insurance to cover the injuries from your accident. You can buy an insurance policy that steps in the shoes of the person who hits you that can cover your injuries. This means that when at-fault driver does not have enough insurance coverage, your insurance coverage can step in their place. This provides you with insurance coverage for the injuries that you sustained. Unfortunately, many Florida drivers reject this coverage because they assume that the person who causes a car accident will have bodily injury coverage. This is false. This is why uninsured motorist coverage is the most important insurance coverage that you can buy for yourself.
To put this in perspective let’s say that you have a catastrophic collision and have surgery on your shoulder and your lower back. The at fault driver only has $10,000 in coverage which is not enough to pay for the surgery. If you have uninsured motorist coverage in an amount of $500,000, you can place that coverage on top of the $10,000. This makes a total of $510,000.00 in insurance coverage.
Similarly, if the at fault driver does not have bodily injury coverage, you can make a claim directly against your insurance company. This is why uninsured motorist coverage is the most important insurance for you to have. It covers you in the instance that you are hit by somebody who does not have insurance or enough insurance.
If you are reading this and have not been involved in a car accident, you need to immediately check your insurance policy and make sure that you have underinsured motorist coverage. If you do not have underinsured motorist coverage, call your insurance policy immediately and add it. You do not want to drive without that coverage.
How To Get Your Car Fixed After An Accident
Florida requires that all drivers have a policy with $10,000.00 in property damage coverage. If you are hit by a driver who has insurance, then the insurance company for that driver should pay to repair your vehicle.
However, working with the at-fault driver’s insurance company can become very difficult. This is because the at-fault driver’s insurance company does not have an incentive to treat you well since you are not a customer. They have no incentive to because you are not a policyholder. A good option is to go through your own insurance company to get your car repaired or replaced because they may treat you more fairly.
After your insurance company fixes your vehicle, they will go back and try to get paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The downside of going through your insurance company is that you may be responsible to pay for your deductible. However, you will most likely get that back when your insurance company gets paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance.
Dimunition Of Value Claim In Florida
After a car accident you can make a claim for diminution in value of your vehicle. These types of claims have become very popular in the last couple of years. There are companies out there that will help you with a diminished value claim. I would stay away from these companies as I believe that you can handle the claims on your own. Check out our blog post here for more information on how to file a diminished value claim on your own.
Essentially you make a claim against the insurance company for the decreased value in your vehicle. This applies if your vehicle is not a total loss, and you own the vehicle or are making payments on it. A diminution in value claim states that because your vehicle was damaged in a car accident, it is not worth as much as it was before the car accident.
Will My Insurance Rates Go Up After A Car Accident?
The honest answer is that your insurance rates may go up after a car accident even if the accident was not your fault. Only the insurance companies and their underwriters know how they adjust premiums. It is very hard to know whether your rates will go up immediately after an accident.
The insurance company will be aware that you were in an automobile accident even if you do not report a claim directly to them. This is because the insurance carriers are in tune with one another and know when various claims are reported. Because of this there is no reason for you to not report a motor vehicle accident to your insurance carrier.
Additionally, as discussed above there is a coverage where you can have up to $10,000.00 in medical bills paid by your automobile insurance carrier. If you do not timely report your automobile accident to your insurance company, they may try to void the $10,000.00 in medical bills.
What Is A Florida Car Accident Case Worth?
There are four different case values to understand. First is the full value of a case. Second is the fair value of a case. The third is the compromised value of a case. Fourth is the limited value of a case.
WHAT IS THE FULL VALUE OF YOUR CASE?
We determine the full value of a case by disregarding fault and liability and just focusing on the severity of the injuries, the amount of medical treatment needed to heal your injuries, the lasting disabilities as a result of the injuries, and other damages such as pain and suffering and mental distress. We cannot estimate the full value of your case until you have completed your treatment and been given future care recommendations and a permanent impairment rating. The full value is an unrealistic valuation of your case because it does not consider comparative fault or the risk of losing at trial.
WHAT IS THE FAIR VALUE OF YOUR CASE?
The fair value of your case is the full value of your case minus any comparative fault and adjusted for the risk of losing at trial. This is a difficult number to determine. Since it is based on the full value of your case, and we cannot estimate the full value until after you are completely done with your treatment, we cannot estimate the fair value until treatment is done as well. However, when we discuss the fair value of your case, it is the amount we think a fair jury will determine after hearing all the evidence at trial.
WHAT IS THE COMPROMISED VALUE OF YOUR CASE?
The compromised value of your case is the least amount of money you are willing to accept to settle your case. This number is based on the fair value of your case but also considers the time and expense it will take to get to trial and the probability of winning at trial. This number will be less than the fair value of the case and represents a compromise with the insurance company. The trick is to not settle your case for much less than the fair value but also understand that you will get less than fair value for the benefit of skipping a year or two years of litigation and the risks and expenses that come with it.
WHAT IS THE LIMITED VALUE OF YOUR CASE?
A case’s value is often limited by the available insurance coverage. Even if the full value of your case is $300,000.00, if the defendant only has $100,000.00 in coverage and you do not have any UM coverage, your case will only be worth the BI coverage limit, i.e., $100,000.00. There are some caveats to that. There is something called bad faith and you can also refuse to accept the limits and sue the defendant individually but those are both rare instances and we would discuss those if they become relevant. What is important to understand about the limited value of your case is that even if your case is valued higher than the available coverage, the value of your case will most likely still be limited by the amount of insurance coverage.
Will I Have To Go To Court After A Car Accident In Florida?
The bodily injury claim process has two phases: (1) pre-suit and (2) litigation. During the pre-suit phase, we make a claim against the insurance companies. It is always our goal and is usually in everyone’s best interest to attempt to settle the claim amicably in the pre-suit period. The reason for this is because costs should be lower than litigation and the time frame moves a lot quicker when a claim proceeds to court.
If we are not able to successfully resolve your automobile accident claim with the insurance companies, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit should be the last resort, however this does not mean that you need to be afraid to file a lawsuit. A lawsuit is filed when we are not able to agree upon an amount and to settle with the insurance companies. At that point we file a lawsuit and proceed to court.
Once a case is in litigation, it is very likely that an accident victim will need to testify at a deposition, possibly undergo a compulsory medical examination, and be available to testify at trial. That said, most cases settle well before trial.
How Long Does A Car Accident Case Take In Florida?
From my internal statistics, the average length of a personal injury case is nine months. Some cases resolve as quickly as three months while others take a year or longer.
First, when we talk about how long cases take, we are referring to the entire time the file is open. After a case settles, it could take another four to eight weeks for the case to be ready to be closed. Once a case settles, we still need to execute releases, obtain the settlement check, negotiate reductions with medical providers, obtain final health insurance liens, communicate with Medicare, etc. The closing process takes time and cannot be rushed as we are largely dependent on the speed of other businesses.
The length of time a case takes to resolve depends a lot on the amount of insurance coverage available and the severity of the injuries and the amount of medical treatment a client receives.
Case values affect the length of your case. If the fair value of your case greatly exceeds the available coverage limits, then your case will settle quickly because the insurance company realizes it does not have enough money to fully compensate you for your injuries so they pay out the limits quickly.
However, if the fair value of your case is $50,000.00 and the insurance company has a bodily injury limit of $1,000,000.00, then they have plenty of money to play around with to try and avoid settling your case. So when there is a lot more insurance coverage available then the fair value of your case, your case will generally take longer to resolve.
The length of time the case takes to resolve also depends on the speed in which you complete medical treatment and your injuries are fully healed. Since we do not know the value of your case until you have completed all recommended medical treatment, the length of time it takes to complete the treatment affects the total time your case is open. However, it is important that injury victims do not rush their medical treatment. Your medical treatment is between you and your doctors. While we like to get cases resolved as quickly as possible for our clients, we do not want you to cut short your treatment or rush your treatment just to end the case faster.
If we demand your case but the insurance company is not offering a compromised settlement value that we can live with, we will have to file a lawsuit to get them to pay more money. We will discuss filing a lawsuit in more detail in later updates, but filing a lawsuit can greatly extend the lifespan of your case but it is necessary sometimes to get a fair settlement.
When everything comes together in one case, the case can be resolved in as little as three months. Otherwise, you can expect the average, which is around nine months. However, it could take as long as one to two years.
In sum, the length of your case depends on the insurance coverage, the severity of your injuries, the medical treatment you need to fully heal, and whether the insurance company negotiates the case fairly.
What Damages Can You Claim After A Car Accident In Florida?
After a car accident in Florida, injury victims can claim the following damages:
- Past medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Medical expenses that you are reasonably expected to incur
- Loss of services of a spouse
- Future lost wages
- Past lost wages
- Future loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Aggravation of a preexisting injury
- Reactivation of a preexisting injury
- Nursing carE
How A Florida Car Accident Attorney Can Help
It’s important to understand that personal injury claims are different from property damage claims. This means that your property damage claim will be handled by a property damage adjuster and your personal injury claim will be handled by a bodily injury adjuster.
Most of the time there’s no reason why you would need an attorney for the property damage portion of an automobile claim. In our experience most individuals are able to resolve the property damage portion on their own.
It pays to have a lawyer when it comes to pursuing bodily injury claims in Florida. The insurance company for the at-fault driver will look at your medical bills, records, and possibly your previous medical records to figure out how much they’re going to pay for the claim. They will also look at any surgery notes or recommendations that you have received. An attorney’s job is to gather all that information, bundle it up in a nice neat package, and send it to the insurance company for them to review. The goal is to show the insurance company for the at-fault driver the extent of the injuries that you sustained.
Although you can certainly try, we would counsel against doing the personal injury claim on your own. By trying to handle a personal injury claim on your own you may fall victim to one of the many pitfalls inherent to the bodily injury claim process. The same is true if you hire an attorney who is not equipped to handle personal injury claims or only handles personal injury claims “on the side.”
Additionally when you use an attorney to handle your personal injury claim, they should do their best to identify the bills and liens that you are responsible for after a car accident. Although attorneys cannot change the amount of insurance coverage available after a car accident, hiring the right attorney can help you maximize your recovery.
Hiring A Florida Car Accident Lawyer
We believe that it is very beneficial for anybody involved in a car accident to reach out and speak to a personal injury attorney about their claim. If you suffered catastrophic injuries and there is a low insurance policy, you might be able to get the full amount of the insurance policy. However, you are still liable for the subrogation interest that insurance companies or medical providers may have.
An attorney can bring value to a case and identify the subrogation interest and liens asserted against the claim. An attorney can also file a lawsuit if needed to maximize the value of the claim.
After calling the police and after being seen by a doctor, you will want to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. We have had many clients who called us directly from the scene of the accident before they even called the police or an ambulance.
Speaking with an attorney as soon as possible after a car accident can help make a successful claim. This will also protect your rights as an injury victim. Fairway Law Group does not charge any fees or costs to speak with an attorney after an automobile accident. If you have been involved in an accident, call Fairway Law Group to speak with an attorney about your case.