Determining Fault and Liability After an Accident
The number of drivers on the road has seen a steady increase in the past years. Even as far back as 2009, over 200 million Americans were licensed drivers. With so many people jostling for space on roadways every day, it can be easy to lose sight of your own risk in the crowd. Many of us drive multiple times per day and still fail to recognize our risk of falling victim to a car accident.
The unfortunate truth is that even the safest of drivers are at risk on the road. Accidents can be (and frequently are) caused by circumstances outside of human control. Unpredictable weather and road conditions, for example, may lead to emergencies; and even if your accident does occur at the fault of another driver, there’s little chance of a guaranteed way to protect yourself.
Car accidents in Florida are more common than you may suspect. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in the time between January first of 2018 and December thirty-first of the same year:
- 401,851 total crashes occurred
- 3,150 fatalities occurred as result of 2,935 of the total crashes
- Over 250,000 injuries were received due to car accidents
- 166,628 total crashes lead to injury
There’s no denying that car accidents occur with staggering frequency. Many victims of these crashes are left fearful and concerned after the event occurs. They may wonder how to begin pursuing compensation for damage done to their property or person. Many struggle to understand who to turn to first for help and advice— but car accident victims should never feel alone in their experiences. Trustworthy car accident attorneys can help guide you through the legal processes of determining fault and seeking compensation.
Common Car Accidents
Car accidents can range significantly in severity. While plenty of people across America get into minor fender-benders every day, some accidents can prove to be life-changing events for the victims who experience them. Both minor and severe car accidents have the potential to cause injuries— and some minor accidents can even trigger medical issues that take days (or weeks) to surface.
Most types of car accidents can occur under varying circumstances. This means that, depending on the surroundings and drivers in question at the time of the crash, an accident could prove more or less dangerous. A rear-end collision with one car traveling at five miles per hour is much different than one where a driver is zooming down the highway.
- Rear-end collisions occur when a vehicle hits another vehicle from behind. They often occur at lower speeds— many drivers fail to brake in time at stop signs or traffic lights and collide with the vehicle in front of them. In some other cases, distracted drivers may be practicing negligent driving while looking at their mobile phones or other passengers in the vehicle
- Low-speed collisions refer to a wide variety of car accidents that happen at low speeds. Generally, these take place in heavy-traffic areas and tight spaces like neighborhoods and parking lots. Many low-speed collisions involve one stationary or idle vehicle
- Single-vehicle collisions may be minor or severe, but often prove relatively minor. They may occur as a result of hydroplaning or inattentive drivers. Single-vehicle collisions encapsulate everything from crashes caused by avoiding animals to vehicles barreling into commercial buildings
- Rear-end collisions that take place at high-speeds can prove tremendously dangerous. Many even end up fatal. Most victims of these accidents are unable to avoid the crashes that occur
- T-bone collisions take place when one party drives directly into the side of another vehicle. T-bone car accidents take place at intersections and other junctions and almost always indicate some party’s failure to yield. Most T-bone accidents occur as a result of failure or stop or yield
- Single-vehicle collisions, while often minor, can prove severe. Circumstances tend to dictate just how damaging these car accidents may be. If a driver crashes into a hard object or structure at high speeds, for example, it could prove catastrophic
Regardless of whether a car accident is minor or severe, it still has the potential to deeply impact an individual’s health and wellbeing. Categorizing car accidents based on severity helps experts like emergency responders and attorneys gain a quicker, clearer understanding of a situation— but it does not paint an entire picture.
For example: one common injury that many minor car accident victims experience is whiplash. While many of us understand that whiplash is traditionally caused by a forceful back-and-forth neck movement, it can be difficult to recognize what qualifies as forceful. Many victims of minor car accidents receive whiplash and don’t even know about their injury.
This, of course, leads to trouble. Generic neck pain and stiffness can be written off easily in the time following an accident. Some victims experience symptoms that increase in severity; others may actually have deep tissue damage, broken bones, or brain damage but write off their suffering because their crash was “minor“.
This example underscores the importance of taking every crash seriously regardless of severity. A legal expert will be able to help you fight for your rights in court even when the defense insists that a minor accident could not have lead to serious injury.
Car Accident Victims: Potential Injuries and Consequences
No matter how severe the car accident, virtually every crash has the potential to cause injuries and consequences for the parties involved. Injuries may range from shallow cuts and bruises to life-altering and brutal circumstances like paralysis or amputation.
Injuries Caused by Car Accidents
Some of the most catastrophic injuries that car accident victims experience include paralysis, traumatic brain injuries, and broken bones in the neck or back. Injuries like these have the potential to render an individual disabled for the rest of their life following a car accident. It’s crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible in circumstances like these.
Many people involved in car accidents also fall victim to chest and rib injuries. While not always as outwardly dangerous as the injuries listed above, these can and do prove incredibly dangerous for victims. It’s possible for a car crash to crush the larynx and trachea, which can lead to difficulties with critical bodily functions. Other individuals manage to escape car accidents with muscle sprains or whiplash.
If you were in even a minor accident, you could still face injuries due to the crash. Scrapes, cuts, and bruises— while not as outwardly intimidating as some other injuries— can still make it difficult to perform work or go about daily life. Some of these may even be severe. Deep cuts can prove life-threatening if not dealt with immediately after an accident.
Other victims suffer broken bones, lost teeth, and may even experience extreme difficulty performing basic tasks. Each car accident is different from the one that came before it— but almost all of them have the potential to negatively impact victims’ lives in ways like these.
Consequences of Car Accident Injuries
Car accidents that lead to injuries often bring about other consequences, too. If an individual elects to pursue legal compensation for damages after a crash, they may also be eligible to receive funds for consequences like these:
- Damage to physical property such as their vehicle or valuable items inside of it
- Pain and suffering or mental anguish caused as a result of the car accident or injuries received during the car accident. Damages like these often prove difficult to quantify or define. Pain and suffering damages are meant to compensate victims for physical pain they endure as a result of their injuries; mental anguish damages serve to repay victims for emotional pain caused by a crash
- Diminished earning capacity may come into play in severe car accidents, too. These damages are paid out to victims who are unable to work and earn the same amount of money that they could before the crash
How Is Fault Determined in Car Accidents in Florida?
Florida is known as a no-fault insurance state. Other states, known as tort states, have special laws written to assign fault to some party in an accident. This helps establish which party will be held liable for costs like medical bills. Some states even blend no-fault and tort guidelines.
In Florida, however, the initial rules that dictate which parties pay for which damages are clear-cut. Because drivers must have their own insurance policy in place to cover their own damages and injuries, that policy is utilized to pay for damage done to their vehicles and medical bills. Determining who is at fault for an accident is crucial if that party will be responsible for paying out damages— it’s a less imperative process if an injured party’s own insurance handles a payout.
Florida residents must carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (or PIP) alongside a minimum of $10,000 in Property Damage Liability (PDL). The Property Damage Liability coverage may be utilized to pay out damages to victims if an at-fault driver causes damage to property.
The Personal Injury Protection coverage is meant for us towards one’s own damages. If a party is injured during a car accident, for example, they should file a claim on their own Personal Injury Protection coverage to cover the costs of medical bills.
Can I Still Sue for Injuries?
Car accident victims in no-fault states can still sue for severe injuries, but only if their case meets certain requirements. These requirements are formally and legally referred to as “the tort liability threshold.” Some within the industry also refer to the limit as a no-fault threshold.
Florida Statues ss. 627.730-670.7405 dictate that victims may pursue compensation for damages caused by pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience in the instance of some bodily injuries. These injuries are relegated to those which cause:
- Significant and permanent loss of some important bodily function
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability
- Significant and permanent disfigurement or scarring
In many cases, those who are at-fault for car accidents make attempts to evade paying for such damages. One defense that many attorneys turn to relies heavily on the precise, deliberate wording of the law. The defense may insist that a plaintiff’s injuries are not truly permanent or aren’t really the source of significant and permanent loss of function.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
After ensuring the safety of yourself and others involved in a car accident, an attorney should be near the top of your list of professionals to contact. You’ll need to work with your insurance company to take care of certain aspects of your case, but a legal professional can help advise you on the best steps for moving forward.
Car accident cases fall under the general umbrella of personal injury cases. The reasoning is easy to understand: if you’re a victim of injuries sustained during a car accident, those are personal injuries caused by some party and should be treated as such. An attorney with extensive experience in personal injury and car accident cases could prove more crucial to your case than you ever expected.
Contacting a legal professionals understand what it takes to pursue compensation and maximize a plaintiff’s chances at receiving the funds that they deserve. Partnering with an attorney will allow you to build up a team of trustworthy experts who can back up your case and offer a court proof of damages. Attorneys may bring in doctors or other professionals to lend credence to your claims—and those resources aren’t available to everyone.