Car accident victims in Florida routinely suffer serious injuries that leave them incapacitated and needing prompt medical treatment. However, crash victims do not have unlimited time to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit. According to the prevailing statute of limitations, accident victims only have four years from their accident date to file a lawsuit seeking monetary recovery.
This is a strict, hard-and-fast rule. If the accident victim files their lawsuit even one day after the statute expires, they will not be eligible to recover damages for their injuries, medical expenses, and pain/suffering. If you attempt to file a lawsuit in the court system after the deadline expires, the court will promptly dismiss your case, absent some rare exceptions. You should always assume that the four-year limitations period applies to your circumstances.
Given the relatively short statute of limitations time frame, always retain an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible to handle your personal injury case. If the statute of limitations is running short, your lawyer can file a lawsuit immediately, safeguarding your statutory right to recover the monetary damages you deserve. Your lawyer can then engage the insurance company in settlement negotiations and, if necessary, litigate your case through the court system to a prompt conclusion.
Finally, your lawyer can represent you at all legal proceedings, including a civil jury trial or arbitration hearing, and help you maximize the damages you recover for your injuries.
Common Injuries that Car Accident Victims Suffer
Serious car accident injuries may cause victims intense pain, suffering, and inconvenience. The injuries that a victim suffers often depend upon how their body moves in the car at the time of impact and whether a part of their body strikes something in the vehicle during the crash. For example, in some car accident scenarios, the impact force is so severe that it causes a part of the accident victim’s body to strike the headrest, steering wheel, dashboard, or window, producing a severe injury.
Typical car accident injuries include broken bones, soft tissue contusions, traumatic head injuries, internal organ damage, spinal cord injuries, total paralysis, partial paralysis, bruises, and abrasions. All of these injuries may require prompt medical intervention and follow-up treatment lasting several weeks or months after the accident.
In any case, it is a good idea for car accident victims to seek medical care at a hospital emergency room or urgent care center immediately after their car accident. Failing to do so can have serious consequences. Specifically, an accident victim’s injuries may worsen the longer they delay treatment. In fact, symptoms of many injuries, like concussions and other traumatic head injuries, do not appear until significant time passes.
At a hospital ER, the attending physician can order the necessary imaging studies, including CT scans, X-rays, and MRIs, to assist with making an accurate medical diagnosis. The physician can also physically examine the accident victim and recommend future care. For example, the provider might recommend that the accident victim follow up with a neurologist, orthopedic doctor, or primary care physician if they have one.
When undergoing follow-up care, it is vital that accident victims continue treatment until a provider formally discharges them on paper. Otherwise, an insurance company may later claim that their injuries were not severe or that they did not make medical treatment their top priority after the car accident.
While you focus your attention on recovering from your injuries, your lawyer can begin gathering your medical documentation, wage loss statements, photographs, and other potential evidence to use in your personal injury case. After you complete your medical treatment, your lawyer can begin the claims-filing process and negotiate favorable settlement compensation for your injuries.
Types of Car Accidents and How They Occur
When drivers operate their vehicles negligently, they may cause various accidents, which result in driver and passenger injuries.
Some of the most common accidents that occur include:
- Sideswipe collisions, where the sides of two vehicles strike one another, potentially causing severe property damage and injuries
- Rear-end accidents, usually where a distracted or intoxicated driver strikes the back of the vehicle in front of them and often causing soft tissue neck/back whiplash injuries.
- Broadside collisions, or T-bone accidents, where the front of one vehicle strikes the side of a vehicle traveling on an adjacent roadway usually at a traffic intersection where traffic signals, stop signs, or yield signs are present.
- Head-on collisions, where the fronts of two vehicles collide, usually on a dual-lane highway where one driver is intoxicated or distracted and crosses over the median or center line
Some of the most common causes of these accidents include reckless and distracted driving, road rule violations, intoxicated driving, and road rage.
A distracted driver fails to watch the road attentively. In most modern vehicles, drivers have a plethora of electronic devices that compete for their attention. For example, distracted drivers may turn their heads to send a text message or email on their cellular phone or tablet. Alternatively, they might make a phone call using a cell phone without Bluetooth capabilities.
At other times, a driver may become distracted while roughhousing with others in the vehicle or listening to loud music playing in the vehicle. Even a short one-or-two-second distraction can be sufficient time for a driver to lose focus and miss an oncoming vehicle, causing a severe accident.
Other drivers cause accidents when they violate various road rules. For example, the driver might speed, tailgate another vehicle, fail to use a turn signal, or fail to yield the right-of-way at a traffic intersection. When drivers routinely violate road rules, they increase their chances of causing a traffic accident that leads to severe injuries and sometimes fatalities.
Moreover, some accidents result from drunk driving. A driver is legally under the influence if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08 percent. Minor drivers under 18 years of age may not have any alcohol in their system while behind the wheel, and commercial vehicle drivers including tractor-trailer operators have a 0.04 percent BAC cutoff.
When drivers operate their vehicles while intoxicated, they may lose their concentration, experience blurred vision, and become unable to stop their vehicles in time to avoid a crash. If they cause an accident that leads to permanent injuries or fatalities, then they and their insurance companies may be responsible.
Finally, some car accidents happen when drivers exhibit road rage or overzealous driving maneuvers in response to a real or perceived roadway situation that arises. An enraged driver might tailgate another vehicle, fail to use their turn signal, fail to yield the right-of-way, or speed, causing a severe accident with another vehicle or a nearby pedestrian.
If you suffered injuries in one of these accidents that resulted from driver negligence, you are not alone. A knowledgeable attorney for a car accident in your area can review the facts and circumstances of your accident with you and develop a plan of action for moving forward. Your lawyer can then file the necessary claim with the appropriate insurer and work to maximize the settlement recovery you receive in your case.
Recoverable Damages in Car Accident Cases
In addition to recovering their medical expenses and lost earnings via their Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance policy, car accident victims may recover other damages depending upon their accident circumstances. Accident victims may pursue compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurer if they suffered a permanent injury or disfiguring injury. Moreover, they can turn to the at-fault driver’s insurer if their medical bills and other damages exceed the limits of their PIP coverage.
In these circumstances, car accident victims may recover compensation for their:
- Mental distress
- Past/future pain and suffering
- Loss of the ability to use a body part
- Permanent disfigurement
- Loss of life enjoyment
- Loss of spousal companionship and family support
During settlement negotiations and litigation, your car accident lawyer will be your advocate and help you maximize the monetary recovery you receive. If the insurance company refuses to offer you fair compensation, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in court and litigate your case to a civil jury trial or binding arbitration hearing.
How to File a Personal Injury Claim with the Insurance Company
Within four years after your car accident, you must file a personal injury claim or lawsuit with the appropriate insurance company for damages. Regardless of the insurer, your attorney can assist you during every aspect of the claims filing and negotiation process.
First, your lawyer can gather up your medical treatment records, medical bills, lost wage documents, photographs of your injuries, property damage photographs, and a victim impact statement and submit them to the insurance company adjuster on your behalf. Your lawyer can then help you negotiate a fair offer that truly compensates you for your accident-related injuries and damages.
When dealing with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you may encounter significant resistance especially at first. This is because insurance companies and their adjusters often want to resolve cases as quickly and cheaply as possible to save the insurer significant money.
After all, the more money an insurance company must pay out to satisfy a settlement, jury verdict, or arbitration award, the less it has to keep in-house and invest for the benefit of its shareholders. Therefore, your lawyer can be an invaluable help when it comes to settlement negotiations and highlighting the strengths of your personal injury claim while downplaying any weaknesses.
Moreover, if the adjuster refuses to offer you the fair compensation you deserve, your lawyer can threaten litigation in the courts. If necessary, your lawyer may file a lawsuit in the court system and handle your case during every stage of litigation.
During the discovery stage, the parties will typically answer each other’s written questions, called interrogatories, to learn about the other side’s version of the case. Also, during discovery, the at-fault driver’s attorney may take the accident victim’s deposition to learn how the accident victim may testify if the case goes to trial.
Once discovery concludes, the insurance company adjuster may be willing to put more settlement money on the table. However, if that does not happen, the parties may need to take their case to a civil jury trial in court or an out-of-court alternative dispute resolution (ADR) proceeding.
During a jury trial, the parties’ attorneys present evidence to a jury that decides the case outcome. In most instances, the jury will decide what monetary damages to award the accident victim.
The parties may consider ADR options as an alternative to a jury trial. Those usually include mediation or binding arbitration. At mediation, a neutral mediator will help the parties work toward case resolution, while at binding arbitration, a pre-selected arbitrator will listen to the evidence that the parties present, review medical records and other documents, and determine the total damages to award the accident victim.
If your case must go to trial or ADR, your lawyer can represent you at all proceedings and advocate for your legal interests there. Finally, your lawyer can help you make intelligent decisions, such as accepting or rejecting a settlement offer or taking your case to trial or ADR.
Call a Knowledgeable Car Accident Lawyer to Represent You in Your Case
If you suffered injuries in a recent car crash, time is of the essence. A knowledgeable car accident lawyer in your area can promptly file a claim or lawsuit on your behalf within the four-year statute of limitations time frame. Your lawyer can then begin negotiating a settlement for you and, if necessary, filing a lawsuit and litigating your case through the court system.
Insurance companies often have teams of adjusters and lawyers who represent the company’s interests. Unlike insurance companies and their lawyers, your Florida personal injury lawyer advocates only for you not for big businesses. Therefore, your lawyer will do everything possible to maximize your monetary recovery and obtain damages that truly compensate you for your injuries and their aftermath.