Overview of the Car Accident Claims Process
It’s important to have a clear understanding of how most car accident claims proceed in Florida.
Receiving Medical Care
You need to get medical care within two weeks of the accident. We recommend seeing a doctor as soon as possible. You’ll want to follow your doctor’s treatment plan carefully. Document all of your medical care and keep copies of all of your medical records and bills.
Notifying Your Insurer
Most insurers require that you notify them of a crash or other event within a reasonable amount of time. We recommend you tell your insurance company as soon as you’re able to. You might be able to send notice of an accident through an app, a website, email, or over the phone.
Getting Your Vehicle Repaired or Replaced
When your vehicle is damaged in an accident, you’ll want to get going on a third-party property damage claim. An insurer might offer a list of shops they work with. You have the right to take your car to any business you trust. The mechanic will thoroughly review the damage to the vehicle and provide an estimate of repairs. The insurance company will determine whether the vehicle should be repaired or is a total loss.
For Minor Injuries: Negotiating an Insurance Settlement
If your injuries aren’t serious, then you can work with your insurer to receive compensation for 80% of your total medical expenses and lost income. You’ll also work with your insurer or the at-fault driver’s insurer to have your vehicle repaired or replaced. For minor accidents, it’s possible to do this without an attorney. But if you’re worried you aren’t receiving all the compensation you should, don’t hesitate to consult a car accident lawyer.
For Serious Injuries: Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
For serious or catastrophic injuries from a Florida car accident, we highly recommend you get a lawyer. You won’t be able to recover all the compensation you need through PIP and PDL insurance. Instead, you’re going to have to pursue a third-party insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the other driver. That driver might not carry liability insurance to cover your injuries. The lack of insurance makes it even more important that you have an attorney who can help you recover form the liable party directly.
Performing an Independent Investigation
Once you file your insurance claim, the insurance companies involved will investigate the crash. An investigation may involve returning to the scene, taking photographs, recreating the collision, interviewing eyewitnesses, gathering evidence from surveillance cameras or cell phone records, obtaining police reports, and studying medical records.
How long your investigation takes depends on the facts of the case. Make sure you go to the doctor for any crash-related injuries right away, as the insurance company will look at this information to gauge how serious or painful your injuries might have been.
Your attorney will thoroughly and independently investigate the crash. Don’t rely on the insurance company’s investigation and findings. You should discover the truth for yourself. For complex accidents, we might hire an accident reconstruction. This person can take the data we have about the crash and use mathematics to uncover who caused the crash or specific facts, like how fast someone was moving at the time of the collision.
Identifying the Liable Party (or Parties)
Car accident liability can be complicated. The person behind the wheel of the other vehicle might not be the party responsible for your injuries. Or they might not be the only liable party. We’ll investigate whether the at-fault driver was working at the time or was in a borrowed or rented vehicle. We look for any potentially liable party, which might give us access to additional insurance policies.
We work closely with you to calculate the value of your economic damages, beyond what you received from PIP insurance, and your non-economic damages. You deserve compensation for your physical pain and suffering, mental distress, and other emotional injuries.
Sending a Demand Letter
When the law entitles you to more compensation than your insurance can provide, we start by sending the liable party or parties a demand letter. In this letter, we assert that they are responsible for the crash and your injuries due to negligence. We state your physical and emotional injuries. Then we demand a certain amount of compensation. We’ll give the other parties a certain period to respond before we move forward with a lawsuit.
Filing a Lawsuit
Our lawyers will carefully write the complaint and file it in court. We’ll make sure the other party—the defendant—is properly served the complaint and summons to court. Once we file the complaint, you’re officially a plaintiff. The next step is to go through the discovery process.
Going Through Settlement Negotiations
Ideally, your insurance company will cover the full cost of your medical bills and property damage. If your injuries weren’t significant or permanent, your case can end here. However, if you encounter any complexities or resistance, you likely need an attorney.
According to Florida’s no-fault insurance laws, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the other driver outside the insurance system if you meet the “serious injury” threshold. Basically, this means your injuries must be permanently disabling, scarring, or disfiguring to file a claim.
Filing a personal injury claim can often garner higher settlement amounts than a simple insurance claim. Bringing a claim with help from an attorney shows an insurance company that you mean business. Help during settlement negotiations can make sure the offer from the insurer is on a par with what your injuries and losses deserve. An attorney can also help you understand when you can and should file a claim against the driver rather than going through your insurance company. You’ll also have the ability to go to trial, if necessary, for full compensation.
Usually, after we complete discovery, we begin the car accident settlement process. We might use mediation to go back and forth with the defendant and reach a fair amount. We can’t guarantee a settlement, but most personal injury claims are resolved without going to trial.
What You Need to Know About Car Accident Lawsuits
When you’re pursuing compensation after a serious Florida car accident, you should be prepared for litigation.
Talk with a lawyer about the potential parties in a car accident claim. It might not be as simple as you and another driver. An employer, vehicle owner, rental company, rideshare company, manufacturer, or government agency could be involved depending on the cause of the crash.
You have to figure out where you should file the lawsuit. You can’t file just anywhere. You have to determine which court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of your case—a car accident—and which has personal jurisdiction over you and the defendants. A court without jurisdiction can’t hear your case. Filing in the wrong place means your case will be dismissed, and you’ll have to start again.
Statute of Limitations
Every state places a deadline on how long you have to file a lawsuit. It’s important to talk with a lawyer soon after your crash to calculate this deadline and make sure you file in time. In Florida, you have four years from the date of the crash to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Discovery is the longest phase of a lawsuit, and it can take months or over a year. During discovery, we use several legal tools to gather information from the defendants. These tools include depositions (out-of-court interviews), requests for admissions (true/false statements), interrogatories (questions), and demands to produce documents or objects.
A common issue that comes up during a car accident claim is two or more people sharing fault. You could be partly to blame for the crash. Florida follows a pure comparative fault rule. When two or more parties are responsible, the jury assigns each party a percentage of fault. Your compensation is reduced by your percentage of responsibility. For example, if you are 75% at fault, your compensation is reduced by 75%. You only get a quarter of how much your claim is worth.
We usually get to a point where we can negotiate a settlement when we finish discovery. At this point, both sides have all the information they need. We know the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and we know how to establish the other parties’ liability. We have everything we need to demand fair compensation for your injuries.
Not all car accident claims are settled before trial. When we can’t settle, we move forward with car accident trial preparation. We spend weeks making sure everything is in order, including all the evidence we’ll use in the trial. We finalize who will be our witnesses, and we prepare each witness to testify and be cross-examined by defense counsel. We also carefully prepare for voir dire, the jury selection process.
The Jury’s Verdict
At trial, each side has the opportunity to present their evidence and make a persuasive argument to the jury. At the end, the judge gives the jury of six or 12 people instructions. The judge tells them the issues they are supposed to decide and the standards for how. The jurors have to unanimous in their decision. If they decide in your favor, the jury also decides your compensation.
If the jury decides in the defendant’s favor, then talk with a lawyer about filing an appeal. You have a brief time to tell the court you want to appeal. You should have an attorney review the trial record for grounds to appeal as soon as possible.
Schedule Your Free Consultation
It never hurts to hear an attorney’s thoughts on your case. A lawyer might advise you to work with your insurer to recover compensation for moderate injuries. You might learn you don’t have a strong basis for a lawsuit. But a lawyer might also see that you suffered serious injuries are need more than PIP insurance can give you. In that case, it’s important to work with your lawyer to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver.
You can schedule a free, no-risk consultation by using the online form or calling (954) 568-3636. Se habla Inglés y Español. Llame a David Fuchs abogado de accidentes en la Fort Lauderdale. Ofrece consultas gratuitas.