If you have been injured or hurt from a car accident in Florida, you may want to hire a personal injury lawyer to fight for you. Here is some useful information that most clients will need to learn about their case:
Florida is known as the Sunshine State for a reason. Tourists flock to Florida from all over the world to enjoy Miami Beach,
Walt Disney World and Key West, among other attractions. All of this congestion brings with it a dark side of course – Florida roads are some of the most dangerous in the entire United States, with 12.5 road deaths per 100,000 people.
All told, more than 3,000 people lost their lives on Florida roads in 2017, and more than a quarter of a million people were injured. If you or your loved one are one of the people who make up these grim statistics, and if you believe that the accident was caused by someone else, you may have a financial remedy under Florida law—and you need a Florida car accident lawyer.
The Fine Art of Fighting Back
You might be surprised at how much money you might be eligible for if you were victimized by another person’s negligence or other misconduct. If you can prove your case, it may add up to a lot more than simple reimbursement for your medical bills. You might also be entitled to:
- Reimbursement for lost wages due to inability to work. According to this Florida Statue, up to 60 percent of any loss of income, and loss of earning capacity (if caused by the accident) is recoverable by the injured party. In addition, the injured individual may recover expenses incurred from services they require that if it weren’t for the injury, the injured would have performed for the good of his or her household. According to Florida law, these disability benefits must be paid at-least on a bi-weekly basis.
- Estimated future medical expenses.
- Pain and suffering (which often amounts to several times the amount of medical bills)
- Mental anguish
- Out of pocket expenses, such as child care while you are in the hospital
- Punitive damages, if the defendant’s conduct was outrageous (an intentional “road rage” assault or a DUI accident might qualify for punitive damages).
According to this Florida Statue, you may recover damages for mental anguish, pain, suffering, inconvenience for bodily injury, sickness, or disease arising out of ownership, maintenance, operation, or use of a motor vehicle only if the injury or disease ended with one or more of the following:
- Permanent or significant loss of an important function of your body
- Permanent injury other than scarring or disfigurement
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
Wrongful Death Claims in Florida
You might be wondering what happens to a personal injury claim if the victim dies from his injuries before the case is resolved. In Florida, the answer is for the personal representative of the victim’s probate estate to bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of both the estate and the victim’s surviving family members. A financial recovery is possible for:
- Loss of the value of services and support the victim provided;
- Loss of companionship, guidance, and protection;
- Mental anguish
- Medical or funeral expenses;
- Lost wages and benefits; and
- Lost “prospective net accumulations” of the estate.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What can I do if the accident was partly my fault?
Even if the accident was partly your fault, your claim will not necessarily be barred. Florida applies a “pure comparative negligence” system, whereby:
- Each party is assigned a percentage of fault for the accident (35% vs.65%, for example);
- Each party’s damages are reduced by that party’s own percentage of fault; and
- Damages are balanced, and whichever party ends up with a net loss pays damages to the other party.
Although it is theoretically possible to recover 1% of your damages even if the accident was 99% your fault, you would still have to pay 99% of the other party’s damages.
According to this Florida Statue, a defendant can also allocate any or all fault to a nonparty. In order to do this, the defendant must:
- Affirmatively plead fault of the nonparty
- Absent a showing of good cause
- Identify the nonparty, or describe the nonparty properly in accordance to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure
- Prove at trial, by preponderance of the evidence, the fault of the nonparty in relation to the plaintiffs injuries
I was hit by an 18-wheeler, but the driver’s insurance is not enough to cover my claim. Can I claim against the trucking company?
That depends on:
- Whether the truck driver was an employee or an independent contractor of the trucking company; and
- Whether you can prove that the trucking company itself was negligent.
If the driver was an employee of the trucking company, the trucking company is liable to you for damages caused by the driver’s own negligence. If the driver was an independent contractor, however, you can only claim against the trucking company if the accident was caused by the company’s own negligence (improperly loading cargo, for example)
According to this Florida Statue, In order to meet the definition of independent contractor, at least four of the following criteria must be met:
- The independent contractor maintains a separate business with his or her own work facility, truck, equipment, materials, or similar accommodations;
- The independent contractor holds or has applied for a federal employer identification number, unless the independent contractor is a sole proprietor who is not required to obtain a federal employer identification number under state or federal regulations;
- The independent contractor receives compensation for services rendered or work performed and such compensation is paid to a business rather than to an individual;
- The independent contractor holds one or more bank accounts in the name of the business entity for purposes of paying business expenses or other expenses related to services rendered or work performed for compensation;
- The independent contractor performs work or is able to perform work for any entity in addition to or besides the employer at his or her own election without the necessity of completing an employment application or process; or
- The independent contractor receives compensation for work or services rendered on a competitive-bid basis or completion of a task or a set of tasks as defined by a contractual agreement, unless such contractual agreement expressly states that an employment relationship exists.
Do I automatically win the case if I can prove that the defendant was breaking a traffic law at the time of the accident?
No, but it is very good news for your case. To win on this, you will need to convince a court (or the opposing party if you are negotiating a settlement) that the defendant’s violation of the traffic law amounted to negligence under the circumstances. You will also have to prove that the defendant’s traffic violation actually caused the accident.
According to this Florida Statue, there is an act called “Aggressive Careless Driving”, which is combined as committing two or more of the following in succession:
- Violating traffic controls and signals
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
- Unsafely changing lanes
- Exceeding the speed limit
- Improperly passing
- Tailgating (following another car too closely)
If you are cited for aggressive careless driving it will be an uphill battle to defend your personal injury case.
Can I claim against the automobile manufacturer if I was injured because my airbags failed to deploy during a car accident?
You can claim against the airbag manufacturer if you can prove that they were unreasonably dangerous and in a defective condition due to a manufacturing defect, a design defect or inadequate warnings. You can’t claim against the airbag manufacturer for the accident itself, but you can claim for the extent to which your injuries were increased by the failure of the airbags to deploy.
According to this Florida Statue, your airbag case would fall under a “product liability action”. This means that the defendant would have to sue due to negligence, breach of warranty, nuisance, or similar theories against the manufacturer, construction, design, formulation, installation, preparation or assembly of the airbag. In this situation, it is important to prove that the injuries incurred by the claimant where greater than the injuries that would have been if it weren’t for the defective product.
What do I have to prove to win? Do I have to prove my case “beyond a reasonable doubt”?
There are four formal elements of proof in a car accident lawsuit:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care (the duty to drive safely while on public roads)
- The defendant breached this duty (in other words the defendant behaved negligently by, for example, running a stop sign)
- The defendant’s breach of duty actually caused the accident; and
- You suffered damages (such as pain and suffering) as a result.
You do not have to prove any of these elements “beyond a reasonable doubt”, but you must prove each by a “preponderance of the evidence”, which means about a 51% likelihood.
You Probably Won’t Have to Go to Court
Your claim will probably be paid by an insurance company, and insurance companies don’t like to go to court. In fact, you are about ten times as likely to end up with a private settlement than with a court judgment.
You Only Pay If You Win
You may have heard horror stories about “billable hours.” My firm doesn’t use the billable hour system, however, because we believe in results. At my firm, you only pay if I arrange a court judgment or private settlement for you. Even then, you pay a percentage of your recovery, and you won’t owe me anything until your money arrives. If I don’t win your case, you will owe me nothing.
If you have been injured in a car accident in Florida, you are going to need a skilled Florida car accident lawyer. Contact DLE Lawyers today at (305) 363-7855 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation.