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Were You In A Car Accident?
In July 2019, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Agency announced that Florida had experienced nearly 100,000 traffic crashes that resulted in 838 deaths and over 63,000 injuries in that year alone. Since death and injuries are the most common outcomes of car accidents, knowing what to do to ensure you get compensated is essential. Many victims do not follow the correct procedure after an auto accident, which could cost them later when seeking compensation. Therefore, let’s tell you the mistakes you should avoid following your car accident and the type of damages you can claim with the help of a car accident attorney.
Common Mistakes Made after Car Accidents
Failing to Contact the Police
You might be tempted not to call the police because the other driver is very apologetic for his actions, and none of you seem to have suffered any pain. However, regardless of how minor the accident appears, calling the police is always in your best interests. Besides enabling you to determine if the other driver was at fault, maybe due to driving under the influence, police gather evidence that could be in your favor.
In Florida statutes section 316.066, you have to provide a written police report if your car crash involves:
- Any of the drivers driving under the influence
- Any of the vehicles being towed or completely wrecked
- A commercial motor vehicle
- A fatality at the scene
- Someone complaining of pain
Even if you believe that probably you are the one who was going a little too fast, never start showing guilt by being apologetic. There is a reason why police advise anyone that anything said will be used against them in court. The moment you say “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t see you there,” you are already admitting fault. Rushing to admit guilt will hinder the chances of you getting the compensation you are entitled to when investigations rule that the other person was at fault. The best thing you can do is wait for your car accident attorney; until then, keep your answers very brief and to the point when cooperating with the police.
Agreeing to a Quick Settlement
Treating the insurance company like your best friend is the worst mistake you can commit when involved in a car accident. They are in it for the money, and every chance they can get to make higher profits, they will take it, which means offering you low settlements. You might be desperate and want the money to do some repairs and pay the hospital bills, but usually, the first offer from an insurance company is never fair.
They will try to settle quickly to avoid reimbursing you for the accumulating medical bills and compensating you for lost income. This is especially true if you did not seek medical attention immediately after the accident. Having a personal injury lawyer build your case will ensure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries.
Types of Damages in Car Accident Claim
After a car accident, there is a likelihood of you missing out on your salary, depending on how severe the injuries are. You are entitled to lost wages and lost earning capacities. Lost wages are calculated as actual out-of-pocket expenses, and the resulting figure is what you are entitled to be compensated. While lost wages are calculated based on what you would have earned had you been able to continue working, lost earning capacity is based on future losses.
For instance, if, due to the injuries, you cannot work for a certain number of years, then your calculations will depend on the future income you would have received, including the promotions you are likely to have gotten in that period. Florida is a no-fault insurance state, and according to the Florida Statute 627.736, policies must pay 60% of lost earning capacity and income damages up to the insurance policy limits. However, as discussed above, insurance companies will likely offer you low compensation amounts; hence it is crucial to hire a lawyer.
As a no-fault insurance state, you are supposed to submit your medical expenses to your insurance provider even if the accident was caused by someone else. Under PIP (Personal Insurance Protection) coverage, the party that caused the accident will pay your medical bills that exceed your PIP policy. In Florida, PIP insurance intended to offer the injured party $10,000 for immediate medical coverage instead of waiting for the court system to establish fault. PIP insurance covers 80% of reasonable and necessary medical bills, 100% of household services, and 60% of lost wages up to a limit of $100,000.
However, for you to qualify for the $100,000 compensation, you must be diagnosed with an emergency medical condition. An emergency medical condition is one in which failure to seek immediate medical attention will result in severe impairment of bodily functions, dysfunction of organs, and put your health in jeopardy. If the condition is not an emergency medical one, you are entitled to $2,500 in PIP benefits,
Pain and Suffering
There is no clear monetary value for pain and suffering; hence it is considered non-economic damage. Physical pain and suffering refer to the pain experienced in recovery and after treatment because you can no longer perform certain activities you used to do before the accident. Mental pain and suffering refers to the fear, stigma, embarrassment, anger, or any other negative emotions resulting from the car accident and still plague you later.
Florida law classifies these as general damages, and the amount of compensation you receive depends on:
- Length of recovery
- Impact of injury on your life
- Severity of injury
- Type of medical treatment you receive.
To collect damages under the Florida Statutes 627.737, the claimant must have:
- Suffered significant permanent disfigurement and scarring
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability
- Died, and his estate is seeking compensation on his behalf.
An ideal example of a successful personal injury lawsuit detailing compensation for the loss of wages, medical costs, and pain and suffering damages has to be Gloria Estefan’s lawsuit against a truck company. Although the legal team sought only about $50,000 in damages, the court awarded a settlement of $8.95 million.
When Do You Need a Car Accident Attorney?
Once an accident occurs, it can be hard to find who is at fault when there lacks enough evidence. In such a case, a dispute will arise, and the only way to ensure that you are not left with a heavy financial burden is to engage the services of a competent attorney. Suppose you submit your insurance claim to the insurance company, and they deny payment. In that case, an attorney will review if you have any valid claim disputes against the insurance provider and advice on the best course of action.
Settlements involve negotiating until you can agree. Without legal experience, it can be challenging to know which amount is fair to compensate you for the damages considering that the insurance company will do anything to keep the amount low.
Since you also don’t want to be tricked into settling too quickly, the back and forth can take months before you come to agreeable terms. Sometimes, you may not even agree, and you will have to go to trial. Having a car accident lawyer who knows all the tactics that insurance companies will use to make you settle quickly is vital to avoid being lured into accepting an unfair amount.
Time Has Passed
In Florida, there is a statute of limitations in car accident lawsuits. For personal injury lawsuits, you must file your claim within four years after the accident; otherwise, the courts will not hear your case. If you are filing a wrongful death lawsuit of your loved one, then you only have a window of two years after their death. If you are filing a product liability lawsuit because a faulty auto part caused the car accident, you are limited to filing within four years.
However, there are exceptional circumstances that would have the court to hear your case even after the time has passed:
- Catastrophic injuries – if the injuries make it impossible to file the case, for example, if the victim is in a coma.
- Delayed discovery – if injuries are discovered later
- Defendant availability – the clock stops until the defendant is available
- False misrepresentation – if the defendant assumes a false identity to avoid a lawsuit, the time will be extended until s/he is found.
Hiring A Car Accident Attorney
Unless a personal injury lawyer assesses your case’s circumstances, you will likely be on the losing end because you do not have the legal knowledge. Luckily for you, Shiner Law Group has an expert team with experience in various practice areas, including personal injury and car accidents, among many more. We understand that accidents can happen at any time and are therefore available 24/7 to help you make your claim as soon as possible. You don’t even have to come to our offices; our services are available 100% online for your convenience. Do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.