Car accidents can leave victims with wide-ranging injuries, from cuts and bruises to broken bones to serious spine and brain injuries. For help getting the compensation you need, you should never rely on your no-fault insurance alone to cover your damages.
When working with our experienced Miami car accident lawyers, you can rest assured that we will fight to get you taken care of. We can fight insurance companies to give you the damages you deserve and even take your case to trial if needed.
For a free case review, call The Law Offices of David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A. today at (954) 751-4258. Our Miami car accident attorneys are ready to take your case.
How to Get Damages After a Car Accident in Miami
In Florida, the process of getting damages after a car accident is often a two-step process. First, you have your own no-fault insurance that you can file a claim with; then, you can file a claim with the other driver’s insurance to get the rest of your damages paid. In many cases, you may have to also file a lawsuit alongside any insurance claims against the at-fault party to enforce your claim, but this lawsuit might still settle rather than going to trial.
No-Fault Insurance Claims
Every driver is required to carry insurance in Florida that can cover their own injuries and the injuries of other passengers in their car. This coverage is known as PIP coverage – personal injury protection – and is designed to cover your medical bills and lost wages. This “no-fault” insurance policy forms the basis of Florida’s no-fault insurance system.
As the “no-fault” name implies, insurance companies must pay these damages before looking into who is at fault for the crash. This means that whether you caused the accident or you were injured by someone else, you should be entitled to full payment from your own PIP insurance.
However, PIP only covers up to 80% of your medical expenses and 60% of your lost earnings. Additionally, these policies are usually limited to $10,000 and do not pay any damages for pain and suffering. Today, $10,000 is a relatively low limit compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars you could be billed for medical care after a car crash. As such, you cannot usually get all of your damages paid through your no-fault policy.
If you have any problem claiming these damages, our Miami car accident lawyers can help you file claims with your own insurance company and fight any denials or low-dollar payouts.
Filing Insurance Claims Against the At-Fault Driver
The driver who caused your crash could be required to pay for additional damages through their insurance. Liability insurance policies pay for the damages that the driver causes to someone else during a crash. You can often file a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance to get the remainder of your damages covered.
This means paying for anything above the 80% and 60% caps and the $10,000 from your PIP coverage by filing a claim against the at-fault driver.
Lawsuits for Pain and Suffering
If you suffered any injuries in your car accident, you likely experienced pain and suffering as well. As is common with no-fault insurance systems, Florida limits injury victims in their right to file a lawsuit for pain and suffering damages after a crash. However, our Miami car accident lawyers can help you determine when you are eligible for these lawsuits, file your case, and fight to settle your claim for a fair value.
To qualify for a lawsuit to recover pain and suffering damages, you must meet Florida’s “serious injury” threshold. An injury is considered “serious” if it meets certain criteria. Primarily, the threshold requires permanent injuries, such as loss of a body part or loss of function in a body part. Scarring is a permanent injury, but scarring and disfigurement must typically be substantial to qualify as “serious.”
In addition to these, the loss of a pregnancy or the death of a loved one is always considered a “serious injury” that allows a lawsuit. This means that if a loved one was killed in an accident, our Miami car accident attorneys can help you recover damages for their loss.
Calculating Damages in a Florida Car Accident Lawsuit
As mentioned, lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering are some of the most common damages that injury victims will claim after a car accident. However, calculating these damages is not always straightforward.
Lost wages can be calculated by looking at the average wages you receive and then multiplying them by the time you were out of work. This commonly uses your pay stubs and other financial data as evidence of how much you usually make. However, this type of calculation only helps with damages you have already faced after you have been cleared to return to work at full capacity.
If your injuries keep you from returning at full capacity – or they keep you from returning to work at all – calculating damages can be more difficult. Our Miami car accident attorneys might need to hire financial experts to calculate your projected future lost earnings by looking at how much longer you would have worked and what projected future raises and promotions you missed out on. Then, they can compare those totals to the wages you will still be able to make going forward if you can return to work in a limited capacity.
The bills you have already faced only tell one side of the story when it comes to calculating medical expenses. These past medical expenses might not be the total damages you face for medical care if your injury is very serious.
The cost of wheelchairs, ramps, prosthetics, and other ongoing medical needs might also factor into your damages. The cost of home nursing care or other long-term care needs can also factor in. Talk to our attorneys about what proof is needed to prove future medical bills with a degree of certainty.
Pain and Suffering
As mentioned, pain and suffering is often blocked unless you face serious injuries. Claiming pain and suffering damages is also complex from a practical standpoint: no one else can truly know how badly your injuries affected you.
Pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish are different for everyone. The other ways that your injury affects your life are also unique to you and your position. For example, if you love swimming but your injuries leave you unable to swim, that is one particular harm that you face that someone else might not.
Our Miami car accident lawyers can help you explain the severity of your injuries to the court and back up those claims with notes on your recovery process, statements from doctors, and testimony from loved ones and friends about how the injury affected you.
We have yet to explain punitive damages, as they are so rare. In some cases, you could be entitled to additional damages to punish the at-fault driver rather than to compensate you for the harm you experienced. These damages require additional proof of the defendant’s mental state but can result in additional damages if they are available in your case. Talk to our Miami car accident lawyers about claiming punitive damages in cases involving serious wrongdoing, such as dangerous trucking accident cases or drunk driving accidents.
Determining Fault in a Miami Car Accident Injury Case
If you were injured in a car accident, there are various elements you need to prove before you can hold another driver liable for your injuries. This is where Florida’s no-fault insurance becomes very important: those damages are available whether or not you can actually prove all of the elements of your injury case. Regardless, our Miami car accident injury attorneys can fight to collect evidence to prove each element of your claim against the defendant driver who caused your crash.
Duty and Breach
For a driver to be held liable for a car accident, you must prove that they violated some legal duty that they owed you. Proof of the duty and proof of the breach of duty are two of the four elements in a car accident claim.
The duty usually involves the duty to follow a specific traffic law. As such, the following are all common violations leading to fault in a car accident in Miami:
- Running red lights and stop signs
- Changing lanes or merging without a signal
- Distracted driving
- Drunk driving
- Tired driving
- Reckless driving
There are many more traffic violations that could also supply the duty element in your car accident case. In addition, there are many safe-driving requirements that could supply fault, and any unreasonable actions behind the wheel could be considered a breach of duty even if they do not explicitly violate a specific traffic law.
One last point regarding the duty and breach elements of the case is that sometimes accidents happen even when everyone was doing everything they were supposed to. If the driver did nothing wrong but an accident happened anyway, they usually cannot be held liable. Drivers are also typically not held liable for “freak accidents” caused by bad weather or other circumstances beyond their control.
Our Miami car accident lawyers must also prove that this breach of duty actually caused the crash to hold the driver liable. If there was no physical contact between the cars, it can be difficult to prove that the other driver actually caused your crash. Moreover, if someone else intervened and caused the accident instead, the other driver might not be at fault even if they did do something wrong before the accident happened, and you would instead sue the intervening driver.
Lastly, you must be able to prove your damages were related to the accident to get compensation. If you waited a long time to get medical care, the defense could argue that some other accident happened in the meantime and that their client did not actually cause your injuries. You also cannot sue if you faced no injuries or expenses, even if the other driver did something truly dangerous.
Who to Sue for Car Accidents in Miami
In almost every case, the driver behind the wheel of the car is going to be the one that you sue for injuries. However, there are some circumstances where someone else might share liability for the crash:
Employers of Commercial Drivers
If the driver that hit you was working as a commercial driver – such as a truck driver or a delivery driver – then their employer might be able to be sued in place of the driver. Often, employers can be held liable for negligence that their drivers commit during the course of their employment. This can allow you to sue trucking companies, bus companies, and other transportation companies for accidents their drivers cause.
Dram Shop Liability
When someone drinks at a bar or restaurant and then gets behind the wheel of a car, the bar or restaurant can sometimes be held liable. Other states allow establishments to be held liable simply for overserving someone that later gets in the car and causes a DUI accident. Florida law only allows bars and restaurants to be held liable if they serve someone who is “habitually addicted” to drinking or a minor. Nonetheless, this could allow you to sue a bar or restaurant if you are hit by an underage drunk driver or another qualifying driver.
In some cases, car owners can be held liable for giving the keys to someone they should have known was a dangerous driver. For example, if someone lets their unlicensed friend drive their car, you could be able to sue the car’s owner for the crash the unlicensed (and likely uninsured) driver caused. You can also often sue someone who loans their car to a drunk driver. This rule might also apply to rental car agencies in cases where they rent a car to someone that they should have known was unfit to drive.
Call Our Miami Car Accident Attorneys Today
For a free review of your potential car accident case, call the Miami car accident lawyers at The Law Offices of David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A. Our phone number is (954) 751-4258.