A Car Accident Claim Is Essentially About Money
Most car accidents, fortunately, do not result in hideous life-altering injuries. Ultimately, then, what they care about is recovering sufficient money to cover the losses caused by the accident.
As with all negligence cases, there is a four-year time limit during which a victim must be able to prove that:
- The other driver owed the victim a duty to drive carefully.
- The other driver breached that duty.
- The breach caused the victim’s injuries.
- The other driver is liable for making the victim whole.
Florida is also what is called a “comparative negligence” state. This concept means that if you are even partially at fault in the accident, your recovery can be reduced. An experienced car accident attorney will be able to work with you to obtain the best possible settlement or award to help you recover your damages resulting from the car accident.
Damages for an Auto Accident
Damages in an auto accident come from many issues:
- Medical expenses
- Disability and physical impairment
- Lost wages
- Vehicle damages
- Non-economic damages, including
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- The loss of capacity to enjoy life
Florida is a no-fault insurance state, which means that each driver’s medical bills and related expenses are covered first by that driver’s own insurance.
Common Auto Accident Causes and Injuries
Car accidents happen all the time and for many of the same reasons. Some of the frequent causes are:
- Distracted driving– Distractions abound in your car. They include in-car noise, eating while driving, reaching for something in the vehicle, glare from sunlight or oncoming cars, and simple daydreaming. But in today’s digital world, the single most common (and most preventable) distraction is the use of digital devices while driving. While many people, especially those 18 to 34 years of age, think they can drive safely while texting, virtually none of us can. Even hands-free devices, while somewhat safer, are still a distraction.
- Driving under the influence– You do not have to be drunk to be impaired. Even the first drink reduces your ability to drive safely. The current “legal limit” for blood alcohol is 0.08%. Yet, drivers with higher blood levels are still involved in about one-third of all US traffic fatalities each year. Other causes of impaired driving include drugs (prescription and over-the-counter), which can cause drowsiness, reduced reaction times, and affecting judgment and motor skills.
- Fatigue – According to the National Sleep Foundation, about half of US drivers consistently drive while drowsy. One-fifth of them admit to falling asleep behind the while during the last year, and more than 40% say it has happened to them at least once. Even without falling asleep, drowsiness can have a significant impact on your driving:
- Reaction times are slower.
- The ability to pay attention lessens.
- Awareness of hazards decreases.
- Driving after 20 hours or more without sleep is the same as driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% (the legal limit).
- Your likelihood of being in a crash triples.
- Aggressive or reckless driving– According to the Insurance Information Institute, aggressive driving plays a role in more than half of traffic fatalities. Aggressive or reckless driving occurs, according to the NHTSA, when a driver commits a mix of traffic offenses so as to endanger others.
- Speeding– According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than two-thirds of all vehicles speed. Speeding significantly increases the likelihood that a collision will result in injury or death. Simple physics says that the force of impact increases with greater speed.
- Weather conditions– Weather conditions impact the potential for an accident in many ways. Visibility can be affected, and roads can become slippery when wet or iced over. Flooding can impact breaking and the ability to see the roadway. These create a situation in which roughly one in five auto crashes is weather-related, leading to an average of more than 5,000 weather-related fatalities per year.
- Ignoring traffic signals – A study by the NHTSA found that more than one-fourth of all traffic accidents involved those at an intersection where one of the drivers failed to follow the traffic signs or signals.
Car Accident Injuries
- Minor bruising and contusions– Even a minor accident can result in bruising. Usually, no medical attention is required, and healing time is short.
- Whiplash– The speed at which a car starts and stops in an accident can cause your body to move in ways it was not designed to do. This movement, known as whiplash, can cause pain and strain to various muscles and ligaments. The injury does not usually cause permanent damage unless there are other complicating factors.
- Neck and back injuries– Neck and back injuries are more serious because their consequences can be severe and long-lasting. The same physics that causes whiplash can cause injuries to your spine and result in pain, ruptured disks, or even paralysis. There can be an extensive recovery period that may involve surgery or physical therapy.
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)– Hitting your head on parts of the car is not uncommon in a collision, and can cause bruising, a concussion, or even a traumatic brain injury. While bruising and concussion can have some effects, traumatic brain injury can be life-altering, affecting cognitive and motor skills. For these reasons, all head injuries should be treated as soon as possible.
- Broken bones & internal bleeding– The impact of a collision can result in broken bones, organ damage, and internal bleeding. Broken bones usually are not life-threatening, but even they can injure other body parts causing internal bleeding and more dangerous conditions. A fractured rib can, for example, puncture a lung. Again, because of the range of effects of these types of injuries, it is crucial to seek medical care quickly.
- Psychological trauma– A harder to discern auto accident injury is the psychological trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder that may result. This kind of damage may not be immediately apparent but should be looked for soon after the event.
What Are Some of the First Things You Should Do After a Car Crash?
Check to see if you or your passengers need medical care.
As discussed above, the number and seriousness of injuries resulting from a car accident may not be immediately apparent. For this reason, and because some injuries can have life-changing consequences, you should be sure to get medical care as quickly as you can, even if it was not provided at the immediate accident scene. The same applies to your passengers, especially if there are infants or children aboard.
If possible, get to safety.
You should not stay in the vehicle if it is likely to catch on fire or explode, and you want to make sure that you are not endangering yourself or others by being in the roadway. Try to stay out of the way of any law enforcement or emergency medical personnel as well.
Call for help.
If law enforcement or medical help is not already on the scene, call for it. You can use your cell phone or your car’s emergency contact system (such as On-Star®) for this. However, you call for help, do so quickly.
Make your statement to the police.
Florida is somewhat unusual because it makes accident reports made by a person involved in a crash, and any statement made by such person to a law enforcement officer to make such a report, privileged. This privileged status means they cannot be used in court to prejudice the person who made the statement. So, you can speak entirely honestly with the officer on the scene without being too concerned that it will cause trouble later. Obviously, however, you still need to be as truthful and accurate as you can be about what actually happened.
Tests are not privileged.
Unlike your statements to the officers on the scene, however, any breath, blood, or urine tests you take that are correctly administered are not privileged and will be admitted in court.
Exchange information with other involved parties.
You or your insurance company or lawyer will need to contact the other parties to the accident soon, so now is the best time to get that information. One way to do so is by using your cell phones to text one another the information. This way, you will be less likely to lose it in the chaos of the accident scene. Try to obtain the same contact information from any witnesses if you can.
Document the accident.
When convenient, make sure to document your recall of the accident. You may be able to do this while you are at the emergency room, storing your thoughts on your cell phone or at home on your computer. But, in any event, you should put down what you recall as soon as possible because stress and injury can affect your ability to remember. You can also use your cell phone to take pictures at the scene, which may be helpful later on.
Also, be sure to get copies of any statements or tickets you received and preserve any dashcam data you might have.
Contact your professionals.
Make sure to contact your insurance company as soon as you can. You may even have a mobile app for this on your cell phone. If you think there is likely to be litigation or a dispute about the accident, you should also start thinking about contacting a car accident lawyer.
Should I Contact a Car Crash Lawyer Before an Insurance Adjuster?
Florida has a four-year statute of limitations on a car accident, so you will not want to wait too long to contact a lawyer if you think litigation is imminent. However, given that Florida makes your crash scene statements to the officers privileged, it may not need to be your first step. On the other hand, your insurance company will want to have heard from you at your earliest ability to contact them.
Should I Accept the Insurance Company’s Settlement After My Auto Accident Injury?
The short and simple answer is No. First, you will not know the full extent and severity of your injuries for some time after the accident. How much are you going to heal? Will you need ongoing care? How much work will you miss? You may never be able to return to your old life, and all that needs to be factored into your settlement.
On the other hand, the insurance company spends less the sooner it settles, so its interests are not the same as yours. If the injuries and potential settlement are significant, you should consult with a lawyer before accepting any settlement offer. Initial consultations and case evaluations are often free, so you are not at risk by speaking to the attorney.
How Long Do You Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit?
As noted above, Florida has a four-year statute of limitations on car accident negligence cases. On the other hand, if you plan to have a wrongful death count in your case, the statute is only two years. For these reasons, you should at least seek a case evaluation relatively quickly after an accident occurs.
What Information Do Car Accident Lawyers Need From Me?
Your prospective attorney will want to receive and review all the documentation you have put together about your accident. You will want to give the attorney any statements or accident reports made to the officers at the scene, copies of any citations you received. Documents demonstrating any expenses you have already suffered, including medical bills, physiotherapy bills, counseling fees, lost wages, vehicle repairs, etc., should also be given to your attorney. You should also provide the attorney with any accident scene photos or dashcam records and the contact information for the other drivers and any potential witnesses. You should also be prepared to provide the attorney with your insurance policies and proof of premium payments.
Why and When Should I Hire a Lawyer for My Car Accident?
You will want to consider retaining an attorney if you think it is likely that litigation will result from your accident. If it looks like your Personal Injury Protection coverage will not be sufficient for your injuries, you are likely to need to consider litigation. If you have serious injuries, you may be able to file a third-party claim. At that point, a car accident attorney can help evaluate your claim.
What Does a Car Accident Lawyer Do?
Car accident lawyers have significant experience and concentrate their practices on car accidents and similar personal injury matters. This knowledge is particularly important in states like Florida, where the statutes of limitations and other laws relating to car accidents and negligence have some unique features compared to other states.
Talk about the process.
Your car accident attorney will assist you with putting together your file and evaluating your case. If the attorney finds it likely that you can receive some recovery, they will initiate the process of setting up a contingency fee agreement with you so that the attorney can take your case.
Most car accident cases are handled on a contingency fee basis. This arrangement allows the attorney to accept a case knowing that they will be compensated for his time only if there is a win or favorable settlement in the case. In other words, the contingency is victory. The fee agreement must be in writing, must state whether expenses are to be paid net or gross of the settlement, and outline the maximum percentages to be paid to the attorney, depending upon the stage of litigation at which the case terminates. With a positive outcome, the attorney will receive fees in an amount not to exceed 40% of the award. That limit goes down as there is less time spent on the case or the award exceeds $1 million.
Assist the client every step of the way.
Your lawyer, if a good one, is not just there to process your case. Good attorneys know that clients are not familiar with the system, can be intimidated by it, and shaken by the accident they have just experienced. Therefore, a good attorney will be available to the client when and as needed to answer questions and explain to you how your case is going. Your attorney is a resource, and you should make good use of that resource.
Negotiate with insurance firms to get the maximum compensation.
Your attorney is also far more familiar than you with the insurance process. Unlike the attorneys representing the insurance companies, your attorney is bound by law to act in your interests. The attorney knows the law, understands your policies, and has become familiar with your case. They have possibly even dealt with negotiations with the other side on earlier matters and understand how that company approaches settlements. Your experienced car accident attorney knows how to do this and is good at it. Take advantage of that resource.
Contact Iscoe Law Firm After Your Car Crash
It should be clear from the above that car accidents and their results are complicated and potentially life-changing. You should not try to navigate these complex waters on your own contact the Iscoe Law Firm. Our experienced car accident attorneys can evaluate your case and help you, if appropriate, bring it to a happy ending through litigation or settlement.