If you are injured in a car accident in south Florida because another driver was negligent, discuss your rights and legal options as quickly as you can with a Miami car accident attorney.
The injured victims of negligent drivers have the right to seek compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, personal pain and suffering, and all other losses and damages arising from the accident and injury. But how do you and your lawyer prove that the other driver was at-fault?
If you continue reading, you will learn how fault is determined in car accidents, and you’ll also learn more about your rights – and how to exercise those rights – as the victim of a negligent driver in south Florida.
What Should You Do Immediately After a Car Accident?
To determine which driver was at-fault for a traffic crash, the first step is gathering and carefully considering the evidence.
Here are three steps you should take after an accident to help your attorney prove that the other driver was negligent and at-fault:
- Take photographs at the scene, or ask someone to take photos for you if you can’t. You’ll need pictures of the vehicle damage, the license plates, the overall crash site, and your own injuries. Good photos can often lead to a quick resolution of a personal injury case.
- Eyewitness testimony can also be powerful evidence in support of your injury claim. If there are eyewitnesses, get their names, phone numbers, and anything else that may help your Miami personal injury attorney find those witnesses and obtain their statements.
- Call the police. When they arrive, ask them how to acquire a copy of their written accident report. In Miami-Dade County, you can request a copy of an accident report from the Miami-Dade Police Department online from policereports.lexisnexis.com/.
Any indication that the motorist who injured you may have been negligent – in the photos, the eyewitness statements, or the police accident report – will strengthen your personal injury claim.
How Are Claims Arising From Car Accidents Investigated?
When insurance companies and personal injury attorneys investigate injury claims arising from car accidents, they’re guided by several presumptions.
For example, if your vehicle is “rear-ended,” the initial presumption is that the driver who rear-ended you is at-fault, because a driver should be able to brake and bring a vehicle to a stop in any situation.
But even in a rear-end crash, drivers can share fault for an accident under Florida’s “pure comparative negligence” system, which means that if you are 80 percent at-fault for an accident, in many cases, you will still be able to recover 20 percent of your damages from the other party.
What Does It Take to Prevail With a Personal Injury Claim?
To receive compensation after a car accident by filing a personal injury claim, you (the “plaintiff”) and your south Florida personal injury lawyer must prove these four “elements” of your claim:
1. The other driver (the “defendant”) owed you a duty of care to avoid negligence.
2. Instead, the defendant was negligent and breached the duty of care.
3. The defendant’s negligence is the reason why you were injured.
4. The negligence resulted in quantifiable damages which the defendant should pay.
How Are These Four Questions Addressed?
In personal injury cases, the first question that must be addressed is whether a defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. Everyone has a legal duty to avoid behavior that may injure others. All motorists owe other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians the duty to operate a vehicle safely.
The next question is whether the defendant breached the duty of care by failing to behave as a “reasonably prudent” person would have behaved in a similar situation.
If the duty of care was breached, the third question in a personal injury case is whether the defendant’s breach of the duty directly caused your injury or injuries. Even if a negligent driver collides with your vehicle, if you walk away uninjured, you will have no personal injury claim.
The exact amount of the damages is the final issue in a personal injury case. Injured victims of negligence who qualify to file personal injury claims in Florida – as explained below – are entitled by law to compensation for quantifiable damages such as medical bills and lost wages.
The law also presumes that a victim’s physical injuries are accompanied by pain and suffering, so victims of negligence are entitled to compensation for that pain and suffering. Courts and lawyers use standard formulas to determine what constitutes a fair and just award in these cases.
What Other Barriers to Compensation Do Personal Injury Victims Face?
But even when you can prove that the other driver’s negligence is the reason why you were injured, car accident injury victims in Florida face additional – and sometimes formidable – barriers to recovering compensation.
Florida law sets a medical “threshold” for personal injuries in car accident cases, which means that your injury must meet certain qualifications before you may pursue a personal injury claim in a Florida court:
1. The “14-day rule” in Florida requires you to have a medical exam within 14 days of an accident, or you cannot be compensated. Even if you don’t “feel” injured, you may have sustained a latent or hard-to-detect injury, so have a medical exam at once after a crash.
2. Florida law allows you to seek compensation after a car accident only for the significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function, permanent disability, or significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
What Are Your Two Top Priorities After a Car Accident Injury?
These additional barriers to compensation mean two things: You must be examined by a medical professional immediately after a car accident, and as soon as possible after that examination, you must speak to a Miami car accident attorney regarding your rights and options.
Every case is unique. What you’ve been reading is a general introduction to how negligence is determined in car accidents, but if you are the person who has been injured by a negligent driver, you are going to need personalized advice.
How Can You Afford an Attorney?
Personal injury attorneys in Florida work on a contingent fee basis. This means your first consultation is provided with no cost or obligation, and if you take legal action, you pay no attorney’s fee until your attorney recovers the compensation you need and deserve.
The right south Florida car accident attorney will fight aggressively and effectively for the compensation and justice you need and will bring your personal injury case to its best possible outcome. Contacting the right attorney – by phone or online – is your first step.