Florida Car Accident Claim Basis
You're driving down the road, careful not to get too close to another vehicle, when suddenly someone slams into you. Maybe you were rear-ended, maybe you were T-boned. But regardless of how someone hit you, you're suffering serious injuries as a result—injuries that left you in pain and prevent you from returning to work. What can you do?
Fortunately, Florida law allows you to pursue compensation when someone else's carelessness injures you
. But Florida law is fairly complicated, so read on to learn how you can sue for a car accident.
Florida's No-Fault Insurance Law
To stem the tide of frivolous lawsuits, Florida adopted a no-fault insurance system that requires you to get a payout form your own insurer if you are in an accident. It doesn't matter who's at fault—you contact your insurer regardless. Check your policy for the personal injury protection coverage, which will provide you with benefits. Typically, you can receive anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 to cover medical expenses and lost wages as a result of the accident.
However, you can't sue for intangible injuries like pain and suffering
or lost earnings capacity unless you have a serious injury. Florida's statute identifies four types of injuries
- A permanent injury
- Significant, permanent scars or disfigurement
- Significant, permanent loss of a bodily function (such as the ability to walk)
In these situations, you can sue the driver at fault for the accident and obtain compensation for all of your injuries, including pain and suffering. Because permanent injury is a little vague, however, you should meet with a Clearwater, Florida, personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your situation. You may need to meet with a different doctor who can look at you with fresh eyes and determine if you sustained a sufficiently serious injury to warrant a lawsuit.
Negligent Driving—What You Need to Prove
If you suffered a serious injury
, you will need to show that the other driver caused it. Generally, you'll need evidence to establish the following elements of a negligence lawsuit:
- The driver owed you a duty of reasonable care. This is fairly easy since drivers owe this duty to the people around them on the road.
- The driver failed to provide this duty of care by driving carelessly or recklessly. Typically, you can establish this by showing that the driver broke a traffic law, such as by speeding or swerving.
- You suffered a serious injury.
- There is a close connection between the injury and the driver's negligence.
Many types of evidence can establish the other driver's negligence: police reports, eyewitness testimony (including your own), medical records, and any surveillance videos. The key is to show that the other driver's reckless or careless driving caused the collision—and your injuries.
A note of caution
: Don't delay getting to the hospital after an accident. Florida law requires that you receive medical treatment within 14 days of the accident
if you want to claim personal injury protection benefits. If you wait too long, your insurer can deny you.
Negligent Hiring—Trucker Cases
If a commercial truck driver injured you, then you might also sue the trucking company for hiring an unqualified driver. Federal law requires that trucking companies closely screen all new hires and:
- Confirm the driver has passed a physical exam
- Check that the driver has the appropriate commercial driving license
- Give new hires drug and alcohol tests
- Review the driver's prior employment and previous driving history
To find out whether a trucking company has performed any of these tasks, your personal injury attorney will request records and ask the trucking company representatives questions under oath. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA is experienced at suing trucking companies for negligent hiring and obtaining the evidence necessary to make your case.
If a trucking company fails to perform necessary background checks, then it has negligently hired someone who isn't qualified to work as a truck driver. You can then sue the company for compensation—which is ideal, since companies tend to have deeper pockets than individual drivers.
Accident victims who suffer serious injuries through no fault of their own will see their medical expenses mount up. Debilitating mental and physical pain may also prevent people from working and earning a living. If you win your negligence case, you can typically recover compensation for :
- Past and future medical and rehabilitation expenses
- Past and future lost income
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
Fortunately, Florida law won't prevent you from suing if your own negligence contributed to the accident. For example, you might have ignored a traffic sign or exceeded the speed limit yourself when an accident took place. Florida is a pure comparative negligence state
, meaning that the court will reduce the amount of compensation you receive by your degree of responsibility for the accident. If the jury awards you $50,000 but finds you 20 percent responsible for the accident, then you'll receive 80 percent of the jury award (in this example, $40,000).
Florida doesn't give you forever to bring a traffic accident lawsuit. Instead, the state imposes a four-year statute of limitations on negligence lawsuits for car accidents. If a loved one died in the accident, you only get two years to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you wait too long, then the court will probably dismiss your lawsuit, which means you won't get any compensation—even when someone else caused your injuries.
Car accident victims need help getting back on their feet, and they need a personal injury attorney
who is focused on getting clients the compensation they deserve. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we've helped countless clients hold negligent drivers and trucking companies responsible for their carelessness. We also help accident victims obtain personal injury protection benefits from their own insurers. Call us today at (727) 451-6900
or fill out an online contact form
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
Personal Injury Lawyer
This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.