Tampa Car Accident Lawyer
Whether as drivers or passengers, we spend a lot of time in our cars. So do millions of others. According to the American Automobile Association, American drivers spend an average of more than 17,600 minutes, or almost 300 hours, behind the wheel every year. With so many people and vehicles on the road so often, it is almost inevitable that we will get in a car accident at some point in our lives.
Many accidents are relatively minor fender benders, causing some property damage or inconvenience and nothing more. But too many other accidents are anything but minor. Serious injuries and death from car accidents are common and tragic. When accidents are caused by the negligence or recklessness of other drivers, such tragedies are made even worse.
A Tampa car accident lawyer with Alley, Clark & Greiwe has seen the struggles and challenges faced by individuals who have been injured or families who have lost a loved one in a car accident. Seemingly endless and difficult medical treatments and rehabilitation, the mounting bills, loss of work, and a life that may never be fully the same – all can follow in the wake of a serious car accident. That is why our experienced and dedicated car accident attorneys work tirelessly to get compensation and justice for those who have suffered because of others’ negligence on the road.
After a car accident in Tampa or elsewhere throughout Florida, victims may be overwhelmed with questions and confusion about what to do, who to turn to, and what happens next. Here is what you need to know about Florida car accidents, injuries and claims.
Tragic Car Accidents Are All Too Common
On any given day here in the Tampa area, throughout Florida, and across the country, people are being hurt or killed in car accidents. The statistics are staggering. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2015 alone:
- There were 6.2 million police-reported auto accidents in the U.S.
- Over 2.4 million people were injured in those accidents, including 49,000 children under the age of five
- 35,092 people were killed in traffic accidents in the U.S., including almost 400 children
- 2,939 of those deaths occurred on Florida roads and highways, the third-highest number of fatalities in the country.
The causes for accidents are not mysteries. Drunk driving, distracted driving including texting, fatigue, reckless and aggressive driving, and speeding are the most common behaviors that lead to serious injuries and death in car and truck accidents.
Regardless of the cause, car accidents can cause a wide range of serious and debilitating injuries, many of which will permanently impact a person’s mobility, ability to work, and capacity to enjoy life as they once did. Some of the most common include:
- Head and neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Chest injuries
What to Do After an Accident
Car accidents happen suddenly and without warning. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, you may be in shock and confused as to what happened. You and your passengers may also be injured or immobile. With all of that going on, it can be difficult to keep your head about you and think clearly. But there are important steps you should take right after an accident that can be crucial to both your health and any claims you may have for compensation.
After a Florida car accident, you are encouraged to do the following:
- Call 911 and get medical help. Call the police or 911 immediately, even if no one appears to be hurt. Getting medical help is priority number one. Report the following:
- Location of your car
- Your name and address
- Your driver’s license number
- Your registration number
- If there are injuries
- Gather Evidence. If possible, take pictures of the accident scene, write down the names and telephone numbers of any witnesses, obtain the year/ make/model of all vehicles involved in the accident along with a full license plate number, and obtain insurance information from the other driver(s) including policy numbers.
- Notify your insurer. You need to report your accident to your insurance company, but you should not give any statements about your accident to any insurance agent before you consult with an attorney.
- Call a car accident lawyer. Even if lawyers and lawsuits are the last thing on your mind, you should contact an experienced Tampa auto accident attorney as soon as you can. An attorney can help protect you and your rights, evaluate your accident, and advise you as to next steps. There are strict time limits in Florida that apply to personal injury claims, and if you wait too long you could lose any right to compensation. Additionally, your lawyer will not be intimidated or fooled by the tactics many auto insurance companies use to get victims to settle their claims for amounts significantly lower than they deserve. After an accident, a good Tampa car wreck lawyer will be your best advisor, ally, and advocate as you recover from your injuries and losses and will fight to get you the compensation and resources you need.
Florida No-Fault Car Insurance
All car accidents involve car insurance. That’s why it is there and why Florida law requires that all drivers have certain kinds of coverage. What makes Florida different than most other states is the way car insurance and claims work.
Florida operates under what is called a “no-fault” insurance system. This means that for certain injuries and losses up to a specified amount, you seek compensation from your own insurance company rather than the other driver’s insurer, regardless of who may have been at fault for the accident. All Florida drivers must carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. The PIP coverage provided by your policy is "primary," meaning that it is the first place you’ll look for compensation after an accident.
However, you retain the right to pursue a claim for compensation and damages from the other driver and their insurer, including damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, physical impairment or disability, mental anguish, loss of earning capacity, and other damages if:
- The injuries resulting from the accident are considered "permanent"
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement occurs, or
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function results
- A fatality is caused by the accident
Vital Information About Florida PIP Coverage
In order for your PIP benefits to apply after a car accident:
- You are required to obtain initial medical care within 14 days of the accident from a medical provider. Follow-up care must be on a referral from that provider.
- PIP reimbursement is limited to $2,500 unless there is a finding that you have an "emergency medical condition" which is very specifically defined and must be made by a physician (D.O. or M.D.), dentist, Physician Assistant (P.A.) or Nurse Practitioner (ARNP).
- Follow-up care will be reimbursed (up to $10,000), but only if a finding of "emergency medical condition" is made.
- If you need treatment from a chiropractor, reimbursement is limited to $2,500.
- If PIP benefits do not apply because you did not get treatment within 14 days, or they apply but were exhausted, your personal medical insurance may be used.
What If You’re Hit by An Uninsured Driver?
As noted, you can seek damages from the other driver and their insurer beyond your PIP coverage for accidents that result in serious injury or death. But what if the other driver didn’t have insurance? Even if they were completely at fault for your accident and injuries, and even if you win an award of substantial damages after a trial, it won’t be worth much if the other driver has no money or insurance coverage to pay those damages.
Notwithstanding the fact that liability insurance is required under Florida law, a disturbing 24% of Florida drivers are uninsured according to the Insurance Research Council. That’s why auto insurance companies offer uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, or “UM Coverage” to drivers. Florida law requires that insurers offer drivers UM Coverage, though the insured can reject the offered coverage in writing if they choose. Do not reject the UM coverage.
There are two types of UM coverage available in Florida. Drivers can select either “stacked” or “unstacked” UM coverage. Generally, “stacked” UM coverage increases your available coverage by multiplying your limits by the number of vehicles being insured. “Unstacked” coverage does not increase the limits of available UM coverage by the number of vehicles being insured. Most drivers will weigh the differences in their insurance premiums when determining which type of UM coverage to select.
Florida Car Accident Lawsuits
After you’ve obtained a lawyer, he or she will conduct their initial investigation and evaluation of your claim. If he or she determines that the other driver was wholly or partially at fault for your accident or injuries, he or she will then communicate with the other driver’s insurance company to see if an acceptable settlement can be reached without the need to file a lawsuit. More often than not, however, the insurance company will do everything they can to deny any liability or minimize the amount they will offer and pay at this stage.
If a settlement can’t be reached and the decision is made to file a lawsuit, your car accident lawsuit will likely proceed through the following stages:
- Filing of the lawsuit. A complaint is filed with the court and served on the other driver or other responsible party. Even though the defendant is the person responsible for your injuries, in most accident cases the other driver’s car insurance company will hire lawyers to defend their insured.
- The process of gathering and exchanging information and evidence between the parties and from others is called “discovery.” Often the most time-consuming part of a car accident lawsuit, the discovery phase includes exchanging and answering written questions (“interrogatories”) as well as providing relevant documents and records. Depositions are taken of the parties, witnesses, treating doctors, and expert witnesses.
- Motions to end the case before trial. If, after discovery, one side believes that the evidence requires a verdict in their favor as a matter of law, they may ask the judge to enter summary judgment in their favor. A summary judgment in favor of the defendant can effectively end the lawsuit, other than an appeal.
- Settlement discussions. Even if the insurer would not settle before the lawsuit was filed, the evidence developed during discovery as well as the plaintiff’s attorney’s tenacity, skill, and willingness to go to trial may change their mind. In fact, over 90% of personal injury lawsuits ultimately settle before trial, and negotiations can be held at any time, even after a trial has started.
- If the parties do not settle and the case has not otherwise been resolved, a trial will be held. The trial can be held before a judge and jury or just a judge (a “bench trial”). At the conclusion of the trial, a judgment will be entered. If the judgment is in favor of the plaintiff, it will be for a specific sum of money to be awarded as damages.
How Alley, Clark & Greiwe Can Help You
If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a car accident, you don’t need someone to tell you how hard things can be. You need someone who has the skill, experience, and tenacity to make things better. The Tampa car accident lawyers at Alley, Clark & Greiwe will leave no stone unturned to get you the compensation you need and deserve, and will fight tirelessly to get it. We have a long track record of success on behalf of Florida car accident victims and will be by your side every step of the way.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, please call one of our Tampa car wreck attorneys today at (800) 840-0977 or contact us online to arrange for your free initial consultation and case evaluation. We look forward to assisting you.
Helpful Consumer Web Links on Auto Safety:
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- National Defects & Recalls
- Vehicle Safety Ratings
- Motorcycle Safety Foundation
- Child Safety Seat Information
- Locate Child Safety Seat Fitting Station
- Teenage Driver Safety Information
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Vehicle Ratings Result