Despite a decrease in car accidents overall in 2018, a study still ranked Florida drivers among the worst in the nation. The state earned this unfortunate distinction due to a low percentage of insured drivers–only 73 percent of the drivers who were involved in Florida accidents had insurance–as well as one of the highest traffic-related death rates in the nation, with 1.47 deaths per 100 million miles driven. If you’ve been involved in a car accident in Orlando due to someone else’s negligence, an experienced car accident lawyer can help you understand your legal options.
How Florida’s No-Fault Insurance Works
Florida is one of ten states in the nation that has a no-fault insurance system in place, under which all motor vehicle owners who register their vehicles in the state are required to purchase a personal injury protection (PIP) policy with a limit of at least $10,000.
The expectation with this requirement is that drivers who suffer injuries in an accident can file for compensation for medical expenses and lost wages due to their injuries through their own insurance carrier, regardless of who was at fault in the accident. The insured vehicle owner’s policy should cover expenses for the driver, as well as family members named on the policy, and passengers who do not have their own PIP policy. Coverage generally covers the insured person in bicycle or pedestrian accidents as well.
The following expenses are covered by PIP in Florida:
- 80 percent of medically necessary costs in emergency cases, up to the policy’s limit. Allowable medical expenses include necessary medical treatments and medication, surgical and hospital expenses, rehab costs, diagnostic services, and ambulatory services.
- $2,500 worth of medical costs in non-emergency cases.
- 60 percent of wages lost due to accident-related injuries, up to the policy’s limit, as well as payment for household services that the injured person used to do but can no longer complete because of their injuries, such as laundry, house cleaning, or yard services.
- Up to $5,000 in death benefits for the family of a policyholder who is killed in an accident.
The following items are not covered by PIP:
- Medical or economic expenses that exceed the policy’s limit or that the insurer determines are not medically necessary.
- Property damage.
- Bodily injuries to occupants of the other car.
- Damages such as pain and suffering or emotional distress.
Those who wish to claim medical treatment coverage must seek treatment within two weeks of the accident. The insurance company must pay out the claim within 30 days, even if they have a suspicion that the claim is fraudulent. They have 60 days to investigate the claim if they believe that it was made under suspicious circumstances.
If an accident victim suffered a permanent injury in an accident that was someone else’s fault, they have the option to file a personal injury lawsuit. In addition to medical and wage benefits, the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit may also seek compensation for property damage, loss of future earning capacity if they are no longer able to work in the position they previously held or at all, and damages for pain and suffering. To prevail in a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff’s injuries must cause:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement;
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement; or
What Happens if Your PIP Runs Out?
Florida’s no-fault insurance laws were initially designed to reduce the number of lawsuits arising from accident-related injuries, while allowing the insured to get needed compensation quickly through their own insurance provider. However, many accident victims find that their expenses exceed their PIP policy’s limits.
When the PIP coverage runs out, the injured person has the option to file a personal injury lawsuit against either an at-fault party or the at-fault party’s insurance company if the other person happened to have bodily injury liability coverage at the time that the accident occurred. As with cases that surpass the permanent injury threshold, cases in which expenses exceed the PIP policy limit may also be eligible for pain and suffering-type damages.
To successfully obtain compensation through a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident, the plaintiff must be able to prove the other party was negligent in causing their injury. The plaintiff may establish the other party was negligent by showing that:
- The at-fault party owed the plaintiff a duty of care. In car accident cases, other drivers owe everyone else on the road a duty of care to obey traffic laws and drive safely.
- They breached the duty of care.
- This breach caused the accident, which resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.
Once a plaintiff establishes negligence in a personal injury case, they must also show proof of the damages they’ve incurred due to their injuries. Some ways car accident victims can show damages include presenting a court with medical or property damage bills, statements from their employer showing the wages they earned before the accident and the amount of work they’ve missed, and expert witnesses such as medical professionals who can speak about their long-term prognosis.
In many car accidents, there are multiple liable parties. Florida’s joint and several liability rules allow car accident victims to sue more than one at-fault party for their injuries, with the following provisions:
- Anyone who is less than 10 percent responsible for the accident is not required to pay any damages.
- If a person or entity is found to be at least 10 percent responsible but less than 25 percent responsible, they will be held liable for up to $500,000 in damages.
- A person or entity that is deemed between 25 to 50 percent responsible for the injuries may be liable for up to $1 million in damages.
- If a person or entity is found to be more than 50 percent responsible for the injuries, their liability may be up to $2 million.
Florida allows accident victims to file personal injury lawsuits even if the victim was partially responsible for the accident that caused the injury. This is called the “comparative fault” or “comparative negligence” rule. How it works is that, if you are partially to blame, any award you receive will be reduced by the percentage of blame you bear. For example, if you were found to be 25 percent responsible for the accident that caused your injuries, your damage award would be reduced by 25 percent.
Types of Car Accidents
Here is a look at some of the most common accidents:
- Rear-end collisions: About 40 percent of all traffic crashes in the United States are rear-end collisions. Rear-end collisions generally occur when one car is following another too closely, which is also known as tailgating. When the lead car comes to a sudden stop or slows down, the following car crashes into the back of it.
- T-bone collisions: These accidents generally occur at intersections, often when one car is trying to make it through an intersection during a yellow light and another car going in the opposite direction is attempting to make a left-hand turn at the same time. The car going straight collides with the side of the car that is turning. Also known as a broadside accident, this type of accident may cause severe injuries to occupants of the turning car who are sitting on the side of the car that is struck.
- Head-on collisions: While the number of head-on collisions in the U.S. is relatively low when compared to other types of crashes, this type of accident results in a disproportionately high number of traffic fatalities, particularly if the accident occurs at high speed. Low visibility in fog or heavy rain increases the likelihood of a head-on collision.
- Multiple vehicle collisions: Also known as a multi-car pile-up, this type of accident can also result in serious or fatal injuries as at least some vehicles are subject to multiple impacts. Pile-ups are often caused by drivers who are distracted and/or driving in low visibility conditions that make it hard to see and react to a crash up ahead.
- Single vehicle collisions: This type of accident is particularly common among inexperienced drivers. Single vehicle crashes normally involve a driver running off the road due after failing to successfully negotiate a curve or swerving to avoid a collision with another car or object in the roadway. Single vehicle collisions often involve the vehicle rolling over, or striking a median, curb, or animal but remaining on the roadway.
Car Accident Causes
Just as there are many types of accidents, there are many reasons that accidents occur. Some common car accident causes include:
- Distracted driving: Driver distractions include anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the roadway, their hands off the wheel, or their attention away from the task of driving. Texting is a particularly dangerous driver distraction as it involves all three types of distraction. Other common driver distractions include other cell phone use; eating or drinking while driving; messing with vehicle controls like the stereo system, air conditioning, or on-board GPS; talking with other occupants in the vehicle; applying makeup while driving; or external distractions such as a previous accident on the roadway, occupants in other vehicles, or a construction zone.
- Impaired driving: Impairment from alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription or over-the-counter medications can lead to reduced reaction times, a loss of vigilance, poor decision making and other impairments to the skills a driver needs to safely operate a motor vehicle.
- Speeding: Speeding is a major accident cause as it shortens the time in which the driver must spot and react to hazards on the roadway and control the vehicle, and the ability for the vehicle’s protective features–such as seat belts and airbags–to work properly.
- Aggressive driving: Aggressive driving behaviors not only pose a risk to the driver who is engaging in them but also to others on the roadway. Some forms of aggressive driving include speeding, tailgating, running red lights, careless lane changes, and failure to signal or to yield the right-of-way.
- Night driving: Not only does the risk of encountering other drivers who may be impaired or fatigued increase in the nighttime hours, but visibility is much lower at night. Night driving is particularly dangerous for new drivers who don’t have experience driving in darkness, but also for older drivers who are experiencing natural vision loss with age.
- Defective products: Cars are made up of dozens of different manufactured parts. If any of these parts malfunction or are installed improperly, they can be dangerous to everyone on the roadway. Some common examples of parts that may be defective include steering mechanisms, tires, accelerator controls, brakes, tires, and wiring systems.
- Poorly maintained vehicles: If a vehicle owner fails to properly maintain their vehicle, parts can fail. Common maintenance issues that lead to car accidents include a failure to maintain the vehicle’s tires, brakes, or brake lights.
- Construction zones: Work zones can create many dangerous conditions for drivers, including unfamiliar or confusing road alignments, cones and lights that distract the driver, reduced speed limits, and traffic back-ups.
- Teenage drivers: Young drivers are more likely to make errors while driving simply due to their lack of experience. One of the most common errors teens commit is failing to scan the roadway or intersection ahead for potential hazards. Teens may also be easily distracted by texting or having friends in the vehicle with them, and are more likely to engage in risky or aggressive driving behaviors.
- Fatigued driving: Driving while drowsy effects a person in the same way as driving with a blood alcohol concentration of close to the legal limit. Shift workers, long-haul truck drivers, and those with sleep disorders are at particular risk for driving tired.
If a Car Crash Injured You, Call Our Car Accident Lawyers Today
With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) or contact us online.