Miami Car Accident Lawyer
Should you hire a Miami car accident lawyer?
If you were involved in a car accident in Miami or nearby counties you may want the help of a car accident lawyer. The following info will help answer some of the more common questions that car accident victims usually need answers to.
Miami is often thought of as the home of some of the most dangerous drivers in the United States, in a state that already sees more than its fair share of traffic accidents. Statistics don’t bear this out, however – Mami drivers are no more likely to die or be seriously injured in a traffic accident than other Florida drivers.
Nevertheless, due to the high population of the Miami metro area, traffic accident numbers pile up quickly. In fact, Miami-Dade County sees more than 50,000 accidents a year, including around 300 fatalities. If the odds have caught up with you, you have my condolences. If you believe that the accident was someone else’s fault, however, I might be able to do far more than sympathize with you
What DLE Car Accident Lawyers Can Do for You!
Civil claims do not enforce themselves – they must be asserted forcefully on the basis of applicable law. Personal injury law is based primarily on Florida state law, although federal law and Miami Dade local ordinances do figure in from time to time. A car accident attorney can assist you by:
- Gathering admissible evidence. In a lawsuit or in settlement negotiations, the truth only matters to the extent that you can prove it with admissible evidence!
- Combine evidence with legal principles to formulate a coherent legal claim on your behalf.
- Calculate the true value of your claim, so that you cannot be taken advantage of.
- Negotiate a private settlement with the insurance company, backed by a carefully drafted settlement agreement.
- File a lawsuit if necessary. Filing a lawsuit alone might just motivate the opposing party to offer more reasonable settlement terms.
- Litigate in court until a decision is reached. A settlement can take place at any time before the court reaches a final decision.
Can I still win my claim if the driver was acquitted of DUI in a criminal court?
Yes, you can, because the standard of proof for a personal injury claim (“preponderance of the evidence”) is lower than the standard of proof for a criminal charge (“beyond a reasonable doubt.”). The O.J. Simpson case is a famous example of how you can win a civil lawsuit even against a defendant who was acquitted in a criminal case alleging the same conduct.
According to this Florida Statute, a person is driving under the influence if they meet one or more of the following descriptions:
- When the persons normal faculties are impaired by alcoholic beverages or possess with intent to breathe, inhale, or drink, any compound, liquid, or chemical containing toluol, hexane, trichloroethylene, acetone, toluene, ethyl acetate, methyl ethyl ketone, trichloroethane, isopropanol, methyl isobutyl ketone, ethylene glycol monomethyl ether acetate, cyclohexanone, nitrous oxide, diethyl ether, alkyl nitrites (butyl nitrite), or any similar substance for the purpose of inducing a condition of intoxication or which distorts or disturbs the auditory, visual, or mental processes.
- The person has a blood-alcohol level of .08 or more per 100 milligrams of blood
- The person has a great-alcohol level of .08 or more grams per 210 liters of breath
Is there a deadline for filing my car accident claim?
Yes. A personal injury lawsuit must usually be filed within four years of the date of the accident, while a wrongful death claim must usually be filed within two years of the date of death of the victim. Be careful – exceptions apply under certain circumstances.
According the this Florida Statute, here are the deadlines for filling these different type of personal injury related claims:
- Negligence (involves car accidents): 4 Years
- Medical Malpractice: Within 2 years of the incident or within 2 years since the incident was discovered (or should have been discovered). Medical Malpractice claims shall not be claimed past 4 years from the date of the occurrence unless the case involves a child of 8 years of age or younger.
Can I negotiate with the insurance company without an auto accident attorney?
Yes, you can, but it’s not a very good idea unless you negotiate auto accident claims for a living (as I do). Insurance company executives rub their hands with glee when they manage to convince a claimant that they “don’t need a car accident lawyer for this claim”. It’s not just whether you win or not – it’s how much compensation you walk away with.
Insurance adjusters walk into any claim negotiation with a bag of 1,000 “dirty tricks” (all of which I am familiar with). Following is a very abbreviated sample of ten of these tricks:
- The stonewall approach: Since an insurance adjuster may be handling more than 100 claims at a time, it’s not surprising that you claim is not the adjustor’s top priority. Nevertheless, stonewalling is a common tactic. The tactic here is psychological, and the idea is to get you so frustrated and impatient that you will either give up or readily accept their lowball offer.
- The fishing expedition: Tricking you into signing over access to your complete medical records so that the insurance company can “go fishing” looking for an old wound to blame for your current injury.
- The interview: Taking a recorded statement from you and then eliciting a statement from you that can be taken out of context to suggest that the accident was your fault or that your injuries are not that serious (“How are you feeling today?” “I’m fine” “Oh, you’re fine….? But aren’t you claiming…”).
- The trick question: Pressing you for the exact time of the accident down to the minute, for example, and then claiming that you caused the accident because you were checking the time instead of watching the road.
- The sympathy trap: Eliciting an apology from you could be twisted from an expression of condolence into an admission of liability.
- The bluff: Issuing a low settlement offer and then setting a phony deadline that they have no authority to enforce.
- Clandestine surveillance: Monitoring your social media accounts, looking for a way to discredit your claim. Be especially careful about uploading photos of yourself at social gatherings.
- The “good neighbor” ruse. Never forget that the insurance company’s interests are adverse to yours. It is in their interest to minimize the value of your claim or deny it altogether, which means that they are not your friend, no matter what they may say.
- The lullaby strategy: Lulling you into complacency with a series of small delays, hoping that you will forget about the statute of limitations deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
- The lone wolf appeal: Convincing you that you don’t need a car accident attorney to represent you in claims negotiations. Yes, you do need a car accident lawyer, even if you know all of the foregoing tricks. Remember, there are 990 more to go, and space limitations prohibit listing them here.
Is Florida still a “no fault” auto insurance state?
Yes, Florida is still a no-fault auto insurance state, although a strong effort to repeal this system was recently defeated by the state legislature and the no-fault system will likely be challenged again. At present, however, the no-fault system work like this:
- All Florida drivers are required to purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance with limits of no lower than $10,000 for personal injury and $10,000 for property damage liability.
- In the event of an accident, each driver will first look to his own PIP insurance for compensation, regardless of whose fault the accident was. Compensation does not include damages for “pain and suffering.”
- If your injuries are serious enough to meet the legal “injury threshold”, you can go ahead and sue the other driver for your damages, including non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. An experienced car accident lawyer can help you establish that your injuries meet the legal threshold.
What is the Florida legal injury threshold that will allow me to exit the no-fault system, file a claim against the other driver’s insurer and claim compensation for pain and suffering?
If your injuries do not meet Florida’s litigation threshold, you will probably be stuck with relying on your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance to cover all of your losses, including medical bills and lost earnings, and you will not be eligible to be compensated for your pain and suffering.
In Miami, the litigation threshold is defined by Florida car accident law. You may file a claim against the at-fault party or his insurance carrier if your injury causes:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability;
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement; or
The foregoing wording is the exact text of the law; and Florida statutory law itself says nothing more about how to determine whether a given injury meets the litigation threshold. Although “death” is unambiguous, the other three criteria are subject to interpretation, which requires a look at previous court decisions.
Under previous court decisions, for example, mere bruises will not meet the litigation threshold, while broken bones usually will. “Permanent” does not mean literally for the rest of your life, but for a significant period of time. In borderline cases, the decision of whether an accident victim’s injury crosses the litigation threshold depends primarily on the skill of his attorney more than the nature of his injury.
If someone died in the accident, the personal representative of the victim’s estate can file a lawsuit on behalf of the victim’s estate as well as his close relatives. This is known as a wrongful death lawsuit. The personal representative is the person named in the victim’s will or, if the victim has no valid will, a person appointed by the probate court. Wrongful death compensation can be substantial and can include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost financial support
- Lost companionship and guidance
- Mental and emotional pain (if the victim was a child)
- Lost wages
- Other amounts.
If I was injured by an on-duty commercial driver, can I use an injury lawyer to sue the company he works for?
Yes, you can, as long as the driver was an actual employee of the company. A private company is responsible for the negligent acts of its employees under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. If the driver was an independent contractor rather than an employee (as most commercial truckers are) you cannot win a lawsuit against the company unless you can prove that the company itself was negligent. The company might have been negligent if it, for example:
- Hired an unqualified driver or a driver with a bad driving record (a previous DUI, for example, if the accident that injured you involved alcohol)
- Overloaded the vehicle in a manner that caused the accident
- Overworked the driver in a manner that violated federal trucking regulations on minimum rest for truck drivers.
I was injured in a collision with an ambulance that ran a red light. Is my claim barred simply because the vehicle was an ambulance?
Not necessarily. Although Miami-Dade ordinances on traffic and motor vehicles allow an ambulance to run a red light when responding to an emergency call, the ambulance driver is still required to “drive with due regard for the safety of all persons” and is not protected from the “consequences of his reckless disregard for the safety of others.”
Can my accident attorney sue the City of Miami or Miami Dade County for the negligent acts of one of its employees (an ambulance driver, for example)?
Yes, you can. The local government is responsible for the negligent acts of its employees in the same way that a private company is. Special rules apply to lawsuits against a city, county or state government, however. You must notify the government first, and then wait at least six months to file a lawsuit.
Certain limitations apply to claims against a state or local government:
- You cannot win damages against an individual government employee, only against the government itself.
- There is a cap of $200,000 in damages in most cases.
- Punitive damages cannot be awarded.
- Sometimes even more onerous limitations apply, such as when the lawsuit is against a law enforcement agency.
How to Calculate the True Value of Your Miami Car Accident Claim?
It is critical that you understand the true value of your Miami auto accident claim, because the insurance company you are seeking compensation from almost certainly does. Your claim might be worth more than you think – which means, of course, that you might have more to lose than you think by underestimating its value.
To properly calculate the value of your claim, you need to break it down into its components, including:
(Talking to a Miami car accident lawyer can help you better understand this process)
- Medical expenses
- Anticipated future medical expenses
- Lost earnings
- Anticipated future lost earnings
- Out of pocket expenses arising from your injury, such as child care while you were in the hospital
- Damaged property (a totaled car, for example)
- Permanent disfigurement or disability
- Pain and suffering (physical pain, anxiety, depression, etc.)
- Punitive damages (in rare cases, such as an intentional “road rage” car crash)
What is the relationship between PIP insurance and personal injury lawsuits?
In Florida, Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance is required for all Florida motorists. PIP insurance offers a maximum of $10,000 worth of protection no matter whose fault the accident was. PIP also covers medical costs and lost earnings, but not pain and suffering. If your losses exceed $10,000, you might be able to sue the at-fault driver for the remainder.
How are commercial truck accidents different from ordinary car accidents?
Commercial vehicles are much heavier than most vehicles and cause a corresponding increase in damages. Even low-speed accidents can cause serious injury. Commercial truckers, however, are subject to strict federal and state regulations, and violating one of them can subject the trucker to liability. A good Miami truck accident lawyer knows these regulations inside and out and can help you use them to win your personal injury lawsuit.
What is a release of liability?
A release of liability is a form that you sign once you reach an out-of-court settlement with a defendant or (more likely) an insurance company. It releases the defendant and the insurance company from any liability for the accident once the amount stipulated in the form is paid to you, meaning that once you sign it, you can no longer file a personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim over your injuries.
Since once you sign a release form you are stuck with the amount stated on the form, do not sign it without consulting your lawyer first. Do not even state verbally that you agree with its terms until you are ready to sign it. If necessary, your lawyer can help you negotiate and draft a formal settlement agreement that will include a release of liability clause.
What is an “Emergency Medical Condition”?
You must be diagnosed with an Emergency Medical Condition (EMC) arising from the accident to receive PIP compensation of more than $2,500 (but no more than $10,000 in any event). To obtain this diagnosis, a qualified medical practitioner must examine you within two weeks of the accident. The diagnosis itself can be issued later than two weeks after the accident, however.
A “qualified medical practitioner” includes a physician, osteopathic physician, dentist, physician’s assistant, or advanced registered nurse practitioner. The longer you wait to seek medical assistance, the easier you will make it for the insurance company to claim that your injuries were caused by something that happened to you after the accident.
Florida personal injury law defines “Emergency Medical Condition” as
…a medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity, which may include severe pain, such that the absence of immediate medical attention would reasonably be expected to result in any of the following:
- Serious jeopardy to patient health
- Serious impairment of bodily function
- Serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.
Notice how general that language is. What does it mean for an injury to be “serious”, for example? A good Miami car accident lawyer can help you argue that your injuries are, indeed, “serious.”
What are lost earnings?
Lost earnings refer to money that you would have earned, but didn’t because of the accident. Take the amount of money that you would have earned had there been no accident, and subtract the amount of money that you actually did earn during that period (if any), and that is the amount of your lost earnings. You may need a lawyer to help you calculate and establish exactly how much you would have earned. For example:
- Suppose you normally earn $1,200 per week, and suppose you spent two weeks recovering from the accident. Your compensation would be $2,400 absent complicating circumstances..
- Suppose you are permanently disabled and you are forced to retire 30 years early. Your compensation could be immense.
- Depending on the circumstances, you might also be eligible for compensation for lost promotions, fringe benefits, commissions, bonuses and/or pension benefits.
- You might be able to win compensation for the difference in pay between two jobs if your new job pays less, or for your living expenses during the amount of time you spent searching for a new job.
What are gap insurance claims?
If your car is totaled in an accident that was not your fault, gap insurance covers the difference between what you owe on your car loan and its actual cash value (ACV). If you owe $4,000 on your vehicle and its ACV was only $2,500 before the accident, for example, you could file a gap insurance claim for $1,500.
What is a “loss of use” claim?
A loss of use claim is a claim for loss of use of your car as a result of an accident. It may take time to have your car repaired, for example. If your car is totaled, it may take time to get another car. Meanwhile you need to drive to work, school etc., and renting a car costs money.
If you are fully covered, you can file a loss of use claim against your own insurance company and receive $30-$40 a day for up to 30 days. If the accident was another driver’s fault, you can file a third-party loss of use claim against his insurance company.
Do I need an MRI after an accident?
Maybe, maybe not, The insurance company will almost always say no, but you shouldn’t listen to them — in all likelihood, they are reacting to the fact the MRIs are expensive. An MRI can be used to determine whether you have whiplash or a herniated disk from the accident.
What causes whiplash and what are its symptoms?
Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs when your neck is “snapped” (not broken) like a whip due to G-forces that occur in an accident. When whiplash occurs, it usually affects a victim sitting in the front vehicle in a rear-end accident Common whiplash symptoms include:
- Pain in the neck, shoulders, shoulder blades and lower back;
- Numbness or pain in the arms or hands;
- Headaches, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, irritability, difficulty sleeping, fatigue and drowsiness.
Recovery from whiplash can sometimes take years even with treatment. Moreover, whiplash symptoms often do not arise until 24 hours or more after the accident.
What areas of Florida do you serve?
- Miami-Dade County including Aventura, Miami, Coral Gables, Doral, Fontainebleau, Hialeah, Homestead, Kendall, Key Biscayne, Miami Beach, Miami Lakes, North Miami, Tamiami, Westchester, and North Miami Beach;
- Broward County including Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Cooper City, Coral Springs, Hallandale Beach, Oakland Park, Pembroke Pines, Plantation, and Weston; and
- Palm Beach County including West Palm Beach
Even if you don’t live in any of these locations, we might be able to help you if your accident occurred in one of them.
My legal services are free unless you win!
I don’t charge by “billable hours” – my legal fee is based on a percentage of the amount of compensation you eventually receive. Additionally, your fee will not become due until your case is won and the defendant has already paid the compensation. If I don’t win, you don’t pay – it’s just as simple as that.
Now is the Time to Start Pursuing Your Claim. Let our car accident lawyers help you before its too late.
If you have been injured in an auto accident in the Miami Dade area, you are going to need a skilled Miami car accident lawyer. Contact DLE Lawyers today at (305) 363-7855 or fill out my online contact form, for a free initial consultation where I can answer your questions.