Miami Car Accident Lawyer
Worldwide, over a million people die on car accidents every year, while tens of millions are injured. That’s one fatality every five seconds, 24 hours a day, every day, plus at least 20 times that many people injured. Along with the bodily injury caused by a car accident, major expense as well as significant psychological trauma often ensues.
When it comes to bodily injury, car accident victims seek out the services of medical professionals. When it comes to financial compensation from someone who caused the accident, a car accident attorney can help you win a lawsuit or negotiate a private settlement.
Types of Car Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents occur in a distressing variety of ways, including:
- Rear-end collisions: Read-end collisions occur when one car runs into the rear of the other one, usually because the lead vehicle stopped suddenly or because the trailing vehicle accelerated suddenly. The driver of the trailing vehicle is usually blamed for the accident, unless the lead vehicle was in reverse gear at the time of the accident.
- Side Impact collisions: Side-impact collisions occur when the side of a car is hit by another car or a stationary object. This type of accident is particularly likely to result in death or serious injury.
- Sideswipe collisions: A sideswipe collision occurs when the sides of two vehicles come into contact with each other while one or both of them are moving. In many cases this type of accident does not result in serious damage.
- Rollover accidents: Rollover accidents occur when a car flips onto its side or its roof. Cars with high centers of gravity, such as SUVs, are prone to rollover accidents. Fatalities occur frequently in rollover accidents.
- Head-on collisions: A head-on collision occurs when the fronts of two cars collide with each other while travelling in opposite directions. This is type of accident is one of the most deadly of all.
- Multi-vehicle pile-ups: Multi-vehicle pile-ups involve three or more cars, and they typically occur on freeways in conditions of low visibility. They are particularly dangerous because one vehicle may be hit multiple times, passengers are likely to be trapped inside, and even exiting the car can be dangerous.
- Single car accidents: Single-car accidents occur when a car hits a pedestrian or a stationary object such as a telephone pole. Intoxication and vehicle malfunction are particularly likely to cause this type of accident.
Each of these types of accidents results in a unique fact pattern that must be taken into account when crafting case strategy.
The Advantages of Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
Very few people would advise you to try to resolve a sizeable car accident claim on your own — and we are no exceptions. Following are some of the most important ways that DLE Lawyers can help you favorably resolve your claim:
Explaining the Law to You
The average trusts and estates lawyer, to use an example, doesn’t know all that much more about car accident law than the average plumber does. You are going to need a car accident lawyer with significant experience dealing with personal injury claims.
A good lawyer will also understand the arcane nuances of what constitutes admissible evidence, how to argue your case, etc. Ultimately, every major decision in the case will be yours to make, including whether or not to accept a particular settlement offer. The more you understand about how the system works, the better your decisions are likely to be.
Negotiating With the Insurance Company on Your Behalf
Since upwards of 90 percent of car accident claims are resolved out of court, a good personal injury attorney must be a crack negotiator. We highly recommend seeking legal assistance before negotiating with an insurance company for any sizeable claim.
Insurance adjusters are professional negotiators whose employer loses money with every dime of every insurance claim they pay out. And they know car accident law backwards and forwards. That’s OK, because so do we — and we won’t fall for any of their negotiating tricks.
Calculating the True Value of Your Claim
For obvious reasons, insurance companies and defendants just love car accident victims who don’t understand the true value of their own claims. If your accident was caused by someone else, you are likely to be entitled to compensation for a lot more than your medical bills — your compensation will likely include lost wages, pain and suffering and other components.
In fact, pain and suffering compensation alone could make up more than half of the total value of your claim. Under certain circumstances, such as a “road rage” accident, you might even be entitled to punitive damages on top of everything else. “Recovering compensation” shouldn’t mean settling for a pittance — it should mean bringing home every dime you deserve.
Helping You Draft a Complaint
Every personal injury lawsuit begins with the filing of a written complaint. A top-tier personal injury lawyer will understand all of the formal and informal requirements that go into drafting a persuasive complaint that will lay the groundwork for victory.
You may need to draft a complaint even if your case is ultimately settled out of court. The reason for this is that an insurance company is likely to drag its feet or offer a grossly inadequate settlement amount until you show them you mean business by filing an actual lawsuit. Remember, a settlement is still possible between the time a complaint is filed and the time a trial is actually held.
Representing You at Trial
Yes, it’s true that most car accident claims are settled out of court. Nevertheless, an Insurance companies might not be motivated to settle with you until you prove that you are able to beat them in court. Insurance companies know about our stellar trial record, and they are not eager to mess with us in court.
What a Personal Injury Lawyer 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 Florid state law, although federal law and Miami Dade local ordinances do figure in from time to time. A car accident lawyer in Miami 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 a 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 occurence unless the case involves a child of 8 years of age or younger.
Can I negotiate with the insurance company on my own?
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 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 lawyer to represent you in claims negotiations. Yes, you do need a 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 in Miami 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 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 ofrespondeat 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 I 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:
- 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)
Contact DLE Lawyers, Miami Car Accident Lawyers
The Miami car accident attorneys at DLE Lawyers serve car crash injury victims throughout South Florida. Our law firm also takes other types of personal injury cases, such as slip and fall accidents.
If you have been injured in a Miami car accident that you believe may have been someone else’s fault, contact DLE Lawyers today at (305) 363-7855, or fill out our online contact form, for a free initial consultation. Remember — if we don’t win, you don’t pay us. Let us help you take home the compensation you deserve.