Who’s at Fault for Your Car Accident?
The sudden and traumatic impact of a car accident can leave you dazed and confused. Understanding what just occurred is one thing—understanding the how and the why of the accident is best left to law enforcement. The officers who arrive at the scene are responsible for determining who is at fault. The documentation of a police report can serve as important evidence when it comes to possible litigation.
While Florida’s no-fault law may cover some of your expenses, it will not cover them all, especially in cases involving catastrophic injuries. Seeking the advice of a Florida auto accident attorney is one way to determine your next course of action. No matter what type of accident you experienced, consulting with an attorney can help you understand the legal process.
Five Scenarios of Car Accidents
All types of vehicles surround you as you travel busy Florida highways and city streets. No matter how defensively you drive, not all drivers have an interest in sharing the road. Cars and other types of vehicles can come at you from various directions, resulting in a serious crash that leaves you with personal injuries. Here are 5 scenarios of the most common types of car accidents:
Scenario One: Head-on Collisions
Perhaps one of the most deadly types of accidents is a head-on collision. Sometimes referred to as a frontal crash, this type of accident occurs when two vehicles strike one another while traveling in opposite directions. When the fronts of two vehicles collide, it is often at high speed.
Survival may depend upon the stretch of road, the reaction time of one or both drivers, and the type of vehicles involved. With the front end of the car receiving the brunt of the impact, larger and heavier vehicles protect occupants better than smaller, lightweight cars. Consider the weights of the following vehicles and the force of the impact when they meet, head-on, at high speeds:
- Car (SUV): 3,778 pounds
- Pickup truck: 5,217 pounds
- Minivan: 4,485 pounds
Examples of how head-on collisions occur are when another driver crosses the centerline or drives the wrong way on the interstate.
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Scenario Two: Side-impact Accidents
Intersections top the list of places where most side-impact crashes occur. When a driver fails to yield the right-of-way or races through a red light, the result is often a “t-bone” or side-impact collision. A t-bone collision is so-called because of the front of one car striking the middle of another, resulting in a serious crash.
Another type of side-impact crash is an angle crash when another car strikes you at an angle. Studies show that rear-seated passengers are typically more vulnerable to injury than front-seated passengers. This is due, in part, to the availability of safety technology that better protects the driver and a front-seat passenger.
A speeding, drunk, or distracted driver can easily run a stop sign, causing a serious crash that results in life-changing harm for your passengers.
Scenario Three: Rear-end Accidents
A read-end collision is often the result of another driver simply not paying attention to the traffic in front of them. By the time a distracted driver realizes stopped traffic is ahead, it is too late. Depending upon the speed and weight of the vehicle, a rear-end collision is catastrophic for those hit by the sudden force against their gridlocked vehicle.
Scenario Four: Chain Reaction Car Accidents
The force of an initial rear-end accident can push your car into the car in front of you, creating a “chain-reaction.” Three or more cars become involved due to the actions of one driver.
Scenario Five: Rollover Car Accidents
An accident with a rollover tends to involve a truck, such as a semi-truck or a tanker truck. For a truck carrying hazardous material, the danger of fire or poisoning is real.
If a truck driver takes a turn too fast and their load shifts, everyone around them is at risk for serious harm. Tanker trucks that leak upon impact may delay first responders from reaching you due to dangerous conditions.
Determining Fault of a Car Accident
Defensive driving is always a good idea, however, drivers who participate in reckless behavior surround us every day. No matter how careful you are, someone near you chooses to operate their vehicle in one or more of the following dangerous ways:
Distracted driving-As smartphones and texting continue to make distracted driving headlines, other behaviors cause distraction too. The CDC describes distracted driving as:
- Visual – Taking your eyes off the road
- Cognitive – Taking your mind off driving
- Manual -Taking your hands off the wheel
Texting and driving encompass all three components of distracted driving: visual, cognitive, and manual. Distracted driving also includes such actions as reaching for an item, eating while driving, or applying makeup.
Drunk driving; Despite numerous public safety campaigns, people continue to drink and drive. Florida is home to an average 5,000 alcohol-related crashes a year.
Road rage: Aggressive driving ranges from running red lights to changing lanes without signaling. This type of dangerous driving quickly escalates to road rage when one driver forces another driver off the road or throws objects at a car. According to estimates from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, millions of drivers participated in the following behavior within the past year:
- Purposely tailgating: 104 million drivers
- Yelling at another driver: 95 million drivers
- Honking to show annoyance or anger: 91 million drivers
- Making angry gestures: 67 million drivers
When a driver loses their cool to the point of running a red light, there is a high probability of a side-impact collision. No one should suffer extreme physical, financial, and emotional stress due to another driver’s anger and reckless actions.
Drowsy driving: Sleepy drivers can drift across center lanes and through intersections. Whether a driver fell asleep behind the wheel is hard to prove. The fact that they ran a stop sign or crossed the line is usually obvious to law enforcement based upon evidence at the scene and witness statements.
When someone drives in a negligent matter, they do so with no regard for the safety of other drivers. The responsibility of fault typically lies with the driver who is drunk, who crossed the line or ran the red light. Let law enforcement do their job and provide your statement based upon what you experienced.
Understanding Florida’s No-Fault Law
Florida is one of several states that has a no-fault policy when it comes to car accidents. Florida law requires residents to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage. This insurance pays for covered medical expenses for injuries from a vehicle accident for the insured, regardless of fault. Coverage typically includes the policyholder, passengers, and relatives residing in the policyholder’s household. Failure to have PIP coverage can result in the suspension of the driver’s license and vehicle registration.
PIP coverage, at best, will pay a minimum of $10,000 toward your recovery. If a loved one dies due to their injuries, PIP coverage pays an average of $5,000. Additionally, the insured must file PIP claims within 14 days of the accident—a strict timeline when dealing with painful injuries and grief.
These amounts do little to cover your need for extended medical care and to pay for funeral expenses. Florida law allows victims to recover damages for “pain and suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation or use of such motor vehicle only in the event that the injury or disease consists in whole or part of:”
- Significant or permanent loss of important bodily function
- Permanent injury with a reasonable degree of medical problems other than scarring or disfigurement
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
The no-fault law is complex and requires the skills of a highly experienced personal injury attorney. While Florida law allows car accident victims to recover damages, each case is different. Don’t settle for what PIP coverage pays. If you suffered a catastrophic injury, your need for ongoing medical care can reach thousands, if not millions, of dollars a year.
The Continuing Costs of Serious Injuries
The sudden impact of a car accident can change your life forever. Depending upon the type of injury, you may face a lifetime of expensive medications, future surgeries, extended rehabilitation, costly medical equipment, and personal care. The following injuries and their associated expenses are just a few examples of why planning for your future medical needs is vitally important:
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) – The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines a TBI as a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury that disrupts normal brain function. Vehicle accidents are second only to falls in causing TBIs. There are 4 major areas that a TBI can affect:
- Cognitive function (memory, attention)
- Motor function (impaired coordination and balance)
- Senses (vision, hearing, taste)
- Behavior (changes in emotions, signs of aggression/anger)
The sad reality is that your loved one may never return to the person you remember. A severe TBI may cause damage that results in the need for private care. Nursing home costs in Florida average more than $8,000 for a semi-private room and $9,000 for a private room per month. The money paid by a no-fault policy does little to cover beyond a one month’s stay.
Spinal cord injury – According to data from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCIS), vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. About 30 percent of patients face rehospitalization one or more times in any given year. In addition to frequent hospital stays of an average 19 days, patients often need expensive power chairs along with home and vehicle modifications. The NSCIS list estimated costs, depending upon age and severity of the injury, in the millions of dollars.
Broken bones – A violent crash has enough force to break more than just one bone. When broken bones affect your extremities, you may need extensive physical and occupational therapy to regain use of your legs and arms.
Neck and back injuries – Extreme cases of whiplash from a rear-end collision can have serious consequences. Whiplash injuries can affect the bones and discs in your back, in addition to severe neck pain.
Medical costs continue to rise, making your need for financial security essential. When law enforcement determines that someone else is at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, there is no wait and see when it comes to pursuing litigation. The time to act is now, immediately after the accident. Time is of the essence due to the statute of limitations for filing your case. The sooner you contact an auto accident attorney, the sooner they can review your case and decide upon the best course of action for you.
What to Do Immediately After a Car Accident
The most important step immediately after a car accident is to seek medical attention. Even if you feel fine, accept transport to the nearest hospital. Internal injuries are often invisible to the naked eye while causing serious harm to your organs. Only a medical professional can determine the true extent of your injuries.
Do provide as much information as you can to law enforcement. If possible, take pictures of the accident scene and if you are too injured to do so, ask a witness to take them for you. Collect the contact information for witnesses and most importantly, try to remain calm. Do not approach or talk to the other driver.
In the days following your accident, aggressive insurance company representatives may offer you a settlement. Their goal is to settle the case quickly and their best interest is the company’s bottom line and not you. No matter how attractive the settlement offer may appear, do not accept it and reach out to a Florida personal injury attorney instead.
Never admit fault following a car accident. Always allow the investigation to run its course. While each case is different, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. When a reckless driver causes you serious injury, hold them accountable for their actions. By doing so, you stand a better chance of protecting your financial future.
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Clearwater, FL 33765
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