There are hundreds of rules of the road that Florida motorists are required to follow, but often do not. And when drivers don’t follow the rules, people get hurt. That’s why you found us.
Are you a driver, or a family member of one, who was seriously injured in a car accident in Tampa? You probably want to understand your options for getting compensated for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Florida is a no-fault car insurance state. That means you typically need to file a claim under your own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to get compensation for medical bills and other losses, regardless of who caused the crash. However, no-fault does not mean no accountability. If a driver endangers others by their negligence or recklessness, they should be held responsible.
Pursuing a personal injury claim in Tampa is complicated. Only if your injury claim meets certain conditions can you “step outside of” the no-fault system and bring a lawsuit against the at-fault driver’s insurer.
As you begin your search for a Tampa car accident lawyer, please consider contacting Jonathan Drake. I’m a Tampa car accident lawyer with nearly a decade of experience representing clients for all their injury needs, including car accidents.
Common Causes of Car Accidents
Even though cars are designed to be safer than ever, driving is still one of the most statistically dangerous things you can do. That is especially true in Florida, a heavily-traveled state with a large and growing population. Florida is the second most statistically dangerous state for drivers, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports.
Certain types of accidents happen more often than others. These are some of the common causes of accidents we see as Tampa car accident lawyers.
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Reckless driving
- Defective auto parts
Human error is responsible at least 94 percent of car accidents, according to the latest NHTSA crash stats. Though no driver is immune to making mistakes, they have a responsibility to mitigate their mistakes and avoid collisions. When someone fails to drive safely and causes a crash, they should be held responsible for their failure.
As we mentioned above, Florida is one of a handful of states with a no-fault car insurance system. Bringing a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver in Florida is definitely possible, but only in certain scenarios. Read on for more details.
Florida's No-Fault Car Insurance Laws
The procedure for submitting an insurance claim after an accident in a no-fault state is simple. Rather than filing your claim to the negligent driver’s insurance company, you submit your claim to your own insurance company (assuming you were insured at the time of the accident). In Florida, your PIP coverage pays up to $10,000 in compensation for your car accident damages, regardless of who caused the accident.
In making a no-fault claim you don’t have to worry about the insurance company denying your claim because of a dispute over liability. You don’t have to prove to your insurance adjuster that the other driver caused the accident. On the other hand, a no-fault claim doesn’t guarantee a favorable settlement. Florida puts limits on the amount of medical bills and lost earnings you can recover. Insurers can still refuse certain claims, and dispute the medical necessity or cost of treatment. If the bill is too high, they may not pay it.
Can I Bring a Car Accident Lawsuit In a No-Fault State?
There are several scenarios where the no-fault system does not sufficiently compensate the victims of serious car accidents, allowing them to step out of no-fault and bring a personal injury lawsuit. For example, under the current PIP system, a driver who sustains $20,000 in medical costs and lost wages may only recover a maximum of $10,000 through PIP.
No one would argue that the required $10,000 in PIP coverage has kept up with today’s medical costs, and PIP only covers 80% of medical bills and 60% of lost wages. Moreover, if your injuries are not deemed an “emergency medical condition”, you won’t be able to receive more than $2,500 in benefits. If you don’t get treatment within 14 days of the accident, PIP won’t cover any medical bills.
For PIP to provide coverage for follow-up services, they must be related to the diagnosed emergency medical condition. We often handle cases where the insurer claimed that the medical treatment the injured person received after they returned to work was unnecessary, or that the bills were too expensive in the first place.
The no-fault system does allow motorists to bring a personal injury claim against the insurance company and the driver who caused your accident under two circumstances:
- If the driver or passengers sustain a permanent injury, or someone died as a result of the crash
- If the injured party’s medical bills surpass $10,000
Comparative Negligence in Florida Car Accident Cases
What happens if you meet the threshold for bringing a personal injury claim directly against the at-fault driver, but you were partly at fault for the accident? Don’t worry. You are still entitled to bring a personal injury claim. However, your damages award will be reduced by a percentage equal to your share of the fault.
Should your car accident case go to court, the jury will be asked to evaluate the evidence and then calculate two things: the total dollar amount of the plaintiff’s damages, and the percentage of fault that belongs to each party. For example, the jury decides to award the plaintiff $50,000 in damages (including medical bills, lost income, vehicle damage, and pain and suffering). But the jury also finds the plaintiff 20% responsible for the accident because they were speeding. Under the comparative fault rule, you are entitled to 80% of $50,000, or $40,000.
Most personal injury claims are settled through informal negotiations or a formal mediation process before they go before a jury. That said, the other driver’s claims adjuster makes decisions based on what is likely to happen in court, and they will factor in a jury’s likely comparative negligence decision in negotiating a pre-trial settlement.
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Injury Claim in Florida?
As with other types of personal injury claims, there is a strict deadline on when you can file an injury claim. In Florida you have four years, starting from the date of the accident, to get the ball rolling on your car accident case. Failure to meet this legal deadline almost always results in your case being dismissed.
Contact a Tampa Car Accident Lawyer
Don’t let the complicated rules of the no-fault system prevent you from pursuing a car accident settlement or lawsuit. Instead, talk to an attorney about your situation and your best course of action. As a Florida motorist and a citizen, you have certain rights afforded to you under state and federal laws.
If you or a passenger have been seriously injured in a car accident, don’t risk your settlement by relying solely on your PIP coverage and the generosity of the insurance companies. Let a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer help assert your rights. Contact Jonathan Drake today to schedule an initial consultation.