Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyers
Car accidents are one of our nation’s leading causes of death each year, and Florida is no exception. Throughout the Sunshine State, motorists lose their lives daily or incur serious injury as a result of car accidents. Distracted driving, operating a vehicle under the influence, or inclement weather can all play a role in motor vehicle crashes. Some of these numbers are startling. According to Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles:
- As of July 2017, there were over 213,000 crashes throughout the state.
- Of those, 88,258 led to motorist injury.
- Over 135,000 Floridians incurred injury on area roadways in 2017.
- In the first eight months of 2017, there were nearly 1,700 fatalities due to Florida car accidents.
- Of these crashes, 22,198 took place in Broward County.
- Broward County reported over 13,000 injuries in the first eight months of 2017.
- 120 Broward County residents lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes in the same time period.
Broward County and Florida as a whole have unique considerations when it comes to motor vehicle crashes. For example, Florida experiences a disproportionate amount of elderly injury and motor vehicle crashes compared to the rest of the country, owing to our large retirement population. In fact, Florida regularly leads the nation in the number of senior citizen car accident deaths. These drivers are especially vulnerable because of impaired vision, limited mobility, and slower reaction times.
While some accidents may be more common here in the Sunshine State, anyone can get into a motor vehicle crash. In fact, simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to devastating consequences. When you or a loved one sustains injury in a car accident, it’s helpful to know your legal options and how to proceed in the days and weeks that follow.
Florida Laws Surrounding Car Accidents
Florida law requires anyone registered to drive a vehicle in the state to carry certain minimum amounts of insurance coverage. When you or a loved one experience a car crash, you’ll look to your insurance company for help paying for medical bills, compensating for lost wages, and covering other applicable expenses. However, Florida is also a no-fault insurance state, which limits the available legal recourse for injured victims of motor vehicle crashes. Despite these laws, some in Florida don’t carry the insurance the law requires.
How Does No-Fault Insurance Work?
Florida is one of a handful of states that follows the “no-fault” rule. After a car accident in Florida, your own insurance (called the “personal injury protection” plan) will pay for your financial losses, regardless of who is responsible for the accident. No fault claims work differently than typical personal injury claims. For example, you can’t seek compensation for “pain and suffering” or other non-monetary damages as you would in a “fault” state.
Unfortunately, this is only one issue with Florida’s no fault rules. The other major issues concerns minimum amounts of coverage. In Florida, motorists must carry:
- A minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP), and;
- At least $10,000 in property damage liability coverage.
Florida is also one of the only states that does not require drivers to have liability insurance for bodily injury coverage for other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. In other words, if you incur serious injury as the result of someone else’s legal fault, you may not be able to get satisfactory compensation for your injuries under your own policy (or another person’s policy if they’re underinsured). If your insurance only allows for $10,000 in PIP benefits, you might find your insurance premiums don’t cover all of your monetary damages.
Florida’s “Serious Injury” Threshold
Florida law does allow drivers to collect compensation from an at-fault driver, assuming they meet certain criteria. This is called the “serious injury threshold” and applies when you experience at least one of the following as a direct result of the accident:
- Bone fracture
- Significant disfigurement
- Permanent limitation of a body organ
- Significant restriction of a body function
- Partial or total disability for at least 90 days
If any of these conditions apply, you may file a third-party claim against an at-fault driver. Unlike your PIP benefits, these claims allow you to receive compensation for general damages such as pain, suffering, and emotional distress.
What To Do After a Car Injury
The hours, days, and even weeks after a car accident can be a confusing time. You may be unsure of your financial future and how to proceed. Your actions following a motor vehicle accident can have a significant effect on your claim. Take the following steps to ensure fair compensation:
Stay at the Scene
Never leave the scene of an accident until a police officer says it’s okay to do so. Remember, leaving the scene, especially when someone’s injured, is a criminal offense.
Check on all the drivers and passengers, and call emergency medical services for those who need it. If you suspect a head or neck injury, don’t move until help arrives. Call the police so they can conduct an on-scene investigation and file a report, which could prove valuable to your case.
Exchange Information and Collect Evidence
While you’re waiting for the police to arrive – and if you are able, collect important information from the other drivers, including:
- Insurance information
- License plate numbers
- Phone numbers
If there are witnesses, ask them what they saw. Collect their information if possible, including their names and phone numbers. Take pictures of the accident, including property damage, your injuries, and the landmarks around the scene.
Be cordial and cooperate with other drivers, but don’t admit fault. Be careful not to apologize for any of your actions, as this could be admitting legal liability.
Tell Your Insurance Company
One of your first steps following an accident should be informing your insurance company. Be honest about the nature of the accident and tell them about any injuries. Obtain a copy of the police report and give it to your insurer.
Seek Medical Treatment
If you sustain an injury during an accident, seek immediate medical care. Keep track of all the doctors, physical therapists, and other practitioners you see. Ask for copies of your medical records, bills, and other reports that may help you keep track of your economic losses later. If you incur serious injury, try to keep a record of how your injuries impact your daily life (such as a journal or a list of activities you used to enjoy). These records may help your attorney determine damages from “pain and suffering.”
Are Car Accident Settlements Taxable in Florida?
Victims of car accident in Florida often wonder if their settlements are taxable. The simple answer is that it depends. Certain types of damages, such as pain and suffering damages, may be subject to taxation. However, federal law protects those who seek economic damages for injuries. You won’t be taxed for compensation for medical bills and lost wages. If you have any questions about taxation in Florida, ask your attorney.
Being involved in a car accident is stressful, and we’re here to help. When you contact Chalik and Chalik, you’re getting one of our partners – never an associate. We’re committed to helping victims of car crashes gain compensation for their injuries. Contact us today for a free initial consultation. Let us provide a risk-free and confidential review of your legal options.
“I just wanted to extend my gratitude to Wally & Chalik & Chalik for all their help. She has been amazing and very fast to respond to my emails and questions, and I much appreciate her patience with me. I will definitely be recommending your firm.” -Nissan Benjamin