Auto accidents happen within a split of a second. To make matters worse, the occurrence is one that can have long term effects on your life. Brain, back, neck, and spinal cord injuries are some of the injuries that you may be battling. In Jacksonville, the odds are higher due to the increasing population and the high-density driving environment. In this regard, Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney law firm is at the forefront of seeking to help you receive the duly warranted compensation for your injuries. We are available for to help you with a personal injury claim in and around Jacksonville, Florida.
Majority of car accident cases involve the negligence of one or both parties. The perpetrators who are liable for causing these accidents have a duty to pay compensation damages to the victims for any kind of losses incurred. A successful claim is usually possible with the aid of a personal injury attorney that is skilled in the area of car accidents.
The Various Car Accident Laws in Florida
In any car accident, there are standard laws that have to come into play: fault, liability and insurance laws. Understanding these laws will help you fight for your rights and awards. Below is an in-depth analysis of the various car accident laws:
- Fault or No-Fault Rules
When it comes to auto accidents, Florida is a no-fault state. This simply means that in Florida, you do not have to go far and beyond to verify the fault of the accused party so as to receive your insurance compensation dues. Regardless of who is at fault, you are permitted to go to your car insurance company for compensation. Afterward, you can proceed to the insurance company covering the perpetrator to claim for other damages. The no-fault system allows you to file a claim for compensation from the other drivers’ insurer when there is disfigurement, permanent injury, or incapacitation.
- Time Limits for Filing a Claim
According to the Florida state laws, car accident victims have a maximum of four years to have filed a claim for personal injury. This is from the date when the accident occurred. Failure to stick to the time frames will definitely bar you from instigating any legal proceedings.
- Punitive Damages Cap
According to the Florida Statutes Chapter 768.73, there is a limit as to the amount of money compensated to punish or deter the accused. Punitive damages are mostly when there is a case of gross negligence such as the one that leads to death and demise. According to the Cap, punitive damages are covered with a maximum of 500,000 dollars or three times the amount of compensatory damage. Depending on whichever is higher, that is the amount that should be awarded to the plaintiff in the respective lawsuit.
- Comparative Fault Rules
Comparative fault is a common ruling for most traffic and car-related accidents. This is to say that when you file a lawsuit, the jury is likely to share the percentages of fault between you and the other party. Depending on the share percentage of fault assigned to you, so is the award reduced proportionately to the share. Here is an example. Assume that the award is set at 100,000 dollars and the court finds you at a 30% fault rate for texting while driving. On the other hand, the defendant is found to be at a 70% fault rate for driving under influence. In the long run, the compensation damage you get will be less by 30%, amounting to 70,000 dollars.
A Synopsis of The Common Car Accident Injuries
Human spine has a soft pillow-like material in between the vertebrae referred to as discs. A car crash comes with a trauma that may cause the discs to rapture or herniate. This ruptured disc causes the nerves in the body to react, thus, triggering pain through the arms or legs.
Injury to The Shoulder
The first instinct of a driver during a car crash is to hold on to the steering wheel so tightly. During the time of impact, all the energy travels from the steering wheel to the arms all the way to the shoulders. Eventually, you suffer either of the following injuries: labrum tears, bicep tendon tears, and rotator cuff tears.
Fractured and Broken Bones
Auto accidents come with different degrees of impact. Depending on the nature of the accident, the body tends to hit the inside of the vehicle from all angles and thus, causing broken and fractured bones. Hands, legs, ribs, and arm bones are the most commonly affected body parts.
The violent nature of motion and collision in any car accident is what causes whiplash. Often, one is not in control and thus, the body shifts back and forth in the process. The commotion causes a strain on the back and neck, consequently instigating the vertebrae to bang into each other. Additionally, muscles also tear apart and the spine ligaments stretch beyond what the body is able to handle. Such stretching is what doctors call sprain strain injuries and can have far-reaching effects for the rest of your life.
In the case where the impact is too strong, the brain may slam into the skull bones. The effect of the brain slamming is swelling and, in the worst case scenario, hemorrhaging. The brain is very central to optimal functioning. As such, when it encounters such an injury, a lot of functioning is affected including memory loss and personality changes. Brain damage can cause you to be a totally different person.
What You Must Do After an Auto Accident
An auto accident comes with a lot of confusion and tension. This can sometimes make it hard for you to figure out the next cause of action. Focus on things that will help your case and pave way for healing both emotional and physical.
- Recording and Documenting Evidence
Depending on the nature of the injury, it is advisable that you try to document some evidence. If you are in the right state of mind and are able to move around, then be sure to take some photos. Take snapshots of your vehicle as well as that of the other driver(s). Take care not to leave out any details such as the position of the vehicle on the road, a conspicuous landmark, and most importantly, the injuries sustained. It will help your case if the snapshots of the injuries are those that are visible. Having such a record of evidence will go a long way in backing up your case when initiating legal proceedings.
As a matter of protocol, police have to take a statement from the victims. Take heed to watch what you say. Stick to the truth and to the facts of the case only. You do not want the police construing admission of fault just from what you express. The police officers should give you a copy of the report of the accident after you have received medical attention. As usual, you should wait for the first responders to arrive at the scene if the wounds are rather serious. But if you are able to move around on your own, ensure that you go straight to your personal doctor for a proper checkup.
To prove the negligence of another, it is wise that you document the testimonial accounts of eyewitnesses if there is any. Seek to get a hold of their personal information. This will give you an easy time tracing them when the time comes. Otherwise, having the testimonial accounts of one or two eyewitnesses is discredited without their personal information. Reason being, in a court of law, they would probably need to take a stand and testify about the validity of the case, and having the means to contact them would help in your case.
- Seek Medical Attention Immediately
It does not matter whether you feel injured at the moment or not, a trip to the hospital is a must do. It is risky for you not to get checked since you may end up aggravating issues later on. Conditions such as internal bleeding, concussions, and whiplash do not manifest or show the symptoms right away. Besides, the medical attention you get can help your case when settlement time comes. On the other hand, when you delay treatment, it is likely to be overruled that your injuries were nothing to worry about or that you did not sustain any at all. Your doctor should supply you with a detailed report of the injuries sustained together with a treatment plan. With such a report, the jury should have an easier time reviewing the facts of a case and offer the best compensatory award. The police and medical reports are crucial documents for a personal injury suit as a result of an auto accident.
- Consulting with an Auto Accident Attorney
Before filing an insurance claim, you may want to secure the services of a qualified attorney specializing in personal injury cases that are as a result of car accidents. Or else, the insurance company may take advantage and low ball you or deny your claims altogether. When it comes to reporting a car crash incidence to your insurance company, ensure you do it as soon as possible. Different insurance companies have different policies in regards to reporting a car mishap. There are some that will require that the report is made a few hours after the incident while others after a day or two.
All the same, it is better safe than sorry. Report the occurrence as soon as possible, but ensure that you consult with your attorney first. When you wait for a long period of time, there are two possible outcomes. First, you stand the chance of forfeiting your insurance cover. Secondly, you could face fraud charges. Fraud charges, here, mean that the insurance firm could rule that you are simply looking for an opportunity to embezzle money from them. A personal injury attorney will help you navigate through the legal options available for you every step of the way.
Negligence -- The Major Cause of Car Accidents in Florida
The number of licensed drivers on Florida roads is approximately 15 million. Given the number, it is more or less inevitable to encounter car crashes now and then. Truth be told, some accidents can be avoided only if drivers are more careful. Another distinguishing case scenario is that of a driver driving safely but then meets with negligent individuals. The result is equally the same; chances are that an accident will ensue shortly after.
Negligence is by far the most common cause of automobile accidents worldwide. Any licensed driver needs to exercise due diligence while on the roads. Even if not for his/her safety, then it should be for the safety of the others. Due diligence means that drivers have to observe the traffic laws, drive safely, and respect the space and rights of other drivers on the roads. The above obligation is what is referred to as “the duty of reasonable care” in the Florida state laws.
A driver can be said to be in contempt of the duty of reasonable care when they breach the guidelines and standards set apart by the law. Breach of duty can be something the driver fails to do such as speeding beyond the set limit and ignorantly refusing to stop for a pedestrian. Sometimes, the car accident can be so fatal as to cause the death of a person(s).
Negligent driving can be broken down further into the following sub-categories:
- Distracted Driving
Drivers who drive while texting cause accidents due to the distraction. When it comes to ladies, some put on makeup while driving or eating while on the road. In simple terms, anything that causes you not to pay attention to the road is a distraction and can lead to disastrous accidents that would have been avoided.
- Reckless Driving
Reckless drivers are in a category of their own. They weave in and out of the road as they deem fit. Most times, a driver under this category speeds excessively. For such a person, it’s not in their place to worry about the safety of other drivers and individuals around him or her. Florida is harsh on reckless drivers since their actions can have catastrophic effects.
- Drunk Driving
Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not only negligent but also an offense under the Florida state law. Caution should also be taken when driving under prescribed medication from the doctor. Some of the medicines can be too strong as to cause drowsiness on the road, thereby causing car accidents.
- Fatigue Driving
Driving while tired will most of the times slow down a drivers’ response while on the road. Just like driving under the influence of alcohol makes one drowsy and inattentive, so is the case with driving while extremely tired. You can end up sleeping while driving and thus, lose your concentration. If a situation presents itself that needs immediate action, chances are that it will be too late for you to react. The inescapable will have happened.
- Poor Automobile Condition
The failure to maintain your vehicle in good condition is part of negligence. Poorly maintained brakes are particularly a major factor of accidents that are caused by un-roadworthy vehicles. Brakes cause accidents such as rear-end collision. This happens when the rear driver cannot instantly press on the brakes to bring the vehicle to a standstill. Among other things that need to be checked and maintained are tire blowouts and lights that do not come while driving at night.
Tailgating is driving too close to the car behind you. It is advisable to allow for at least three to five seconds of space between your vehicle and the one right behind. Keeping too close does not leave a lot of room to prevent an accident.
- Night Time Driving
Mostly, driving at night comes with decreased visibility. Combined with other factors in the night, nighttime driving account for quite a number of car accidents in Florida.
Damages That Arise in Car Crashes
Unbudgeted Medical Expenses
An increase in the economic condition of a state brings the standard of living higher by the day. Intrinsically, getting medical services, no matter how minor an injury is, comes with added costs. For instance, you will need to have several follow up visits to the hospital, diagnosis, treatment, medication, surgery, and hospitalization if need be. All of the above are expenses that can really weigh you down. With the help of a skilled personal injury attorney, you would be able to recover both present and future medical expenses.
Thanks to the existence of technological tools, it is getting easier to verify and reconstruct the events of a car crash by the day. Expert attorneys are now able to creatively use animations, videos, and computer graphics to determine the factors and events of any respective car accident. Per se, you do not have to worry about the outcomes of the case.
Repairing the damage done to your car can cost a lot of money. If the fault is that of the other party, you are entitled to compensation. The compensation should cover both the repairs and the depreciation value of your vehicle.
The Loss of Income
Apart from the injuries that come with an accident, there is also the concept of trauma and shock. As such, you may be forced to take a leave of absence from work to recuperate. That, coupled with the fact that you may have sustained injuries, means that you will be absent from work for some good time. This translates to lost income that you would not have otherwise lost had the accident not happened. Sometimes, the injuries might be too gross as to prevent you from ever returning to your previous job. Other times, the injuries could leave you incapacitated for life. Such a loss will definitely have a huge impact on your financial life. A court ruling in your favor is supposed to make certain you are compensated; not just for the present, but for future losses as a result of job loss and incapacitation.
Wrongful Death Claims
If you lose your loved one due to an auto accident, the law permits you to file a claim for wrongful death. In such a case, you need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the death was as a result of the negligence of the other driver. With such a claim, you will get non-economic, economic, and punitive compensatory damages.
Financial Recovery Options for Car Accidents Victims
Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance
It is mandatory in Florida for every driver to have PIP insurance. PIP is what caters for costs such as lost income, medical expenses, and other accruals. However, PIP only covers up to a set limit amount regardless of whether you were at fault or not. To be on the safe side, ensure that you have a personal injury protection insurance. This will go a long way in the event that you are involved in an auto accident.
Defendants’ insurance cover
Besides the PIP insurance, another method you can use to recover finances is through the insurance company of the defendant. This option is especially possible if you can prove that the other party was at fault. The insurance should be able to cover the repairs and damages made on your car. Furthermore, it should cover any medical expenses that exceed the set limit of your personal injury protection insurance.
Personal injury lawsuit
A personal injury lawsuit is advisable if the injuries are rather serious. You have all the legal rights and obligations to seek compensation from a civil court of law. Just be sure to follow all the guidelines and time limits so that you are not locked out from recovering your dues.
Find a Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney has years of experience with significant results and ratings that attest to our excellence. From drunk driving, rear-end collisions from underinsured vehicles, we have successfully helped our clients restore what they have lost. Contact us if you have been injured by a car accident in Jacksonville, we will gladly help you get the compensation you deserve. Do not let the insurance company be the one to dictate what you should recover. Please call our Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer today at 904-800-7557 if you need our services.