Only two of the fifty states report more fatal automobile crashes than Florida. According to statistics provided by the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department, an estimated 200,000 car accidents are reported in the state of Florida every year, with an average of about 650 crashes in our state every day. With statistics like that, every driver in the state needs to understand how personal injury and negligence laws work in Florida.
Florida laws regarding personal injury and negligence are complex and quite extensive, but those personal injury and negligence laws are derived from one fundamental commonsense principle – that the person who causes an accident is responsible to pay for the damage that he or she has caused. Thus, when a Stuart personal injury attorney handles a personal injury lawsuit generated by a traffic collision, the central legal question is, “Which motorist is liable for the accident?”
Although vehicle accidents trigger the largest number of personal injury claims, these claims are often complicated by liability issues. If you are injured in Florida, for example, by medical malpractice during a surgery, you might sue the surgeon, and if you are bitten by an unleashed dog, you might sue the dog’s owner. But in a traffic collision, the answer to the question, “Who was responsible?” is not always so immediately obvious.
IF YOU’VE BEEN INJURED, HOW CAN YOU SEEK JUSTICE?
In the state of Florida, when one driver’s negligence causes another person to suffer a personal injury or injuries, the law in this state entitles the victim to complete reimbursement for all crash-related damages – medical bills, lost wages, and more. But – here’s the catch – an injured accident victim must prove that he or she was injured by the other driver’s negligence. Injury victims are not just handed compensation. An injury victim has to retain an attorney, file a personal injury claim, and help the attorney prove that the other driver was liable. That’s not always easy.
For instance, it’s hard to show that a negligent driver injured your back if you are someone with a history of back pain. After any vehicle collision, whether you think you have been injured or not, get a medical examination immediately or as soon as possible – within 24 hours. If pain or a latent injury emerges days later or even weeks after a collision, and you need to be compensated, the results of that medical exam can be important evidence.
What else does an injury victim (called the “plaintiff” in the legal proceeding) have to prove in a Florida personal injury case? After proving that the other driver was negligent, and that said negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury or injuries, a plaintiff and his or her attorney finally must also offer some proof of the extent and cost of the injury or injuries by providing documentation for the medical costs, current lost wages and future lost earnings capacity, and any other injury-related losses, expenses, and damages.
CAN YOU ASSIST YOUR LAWYER IN PROVING NEGLIGENCE?
If a negligent driver injures you in Florida and you file a personal injury claim, you will require documentation and testimony – evidence – to support your claim. An experienced Stuart personal injury attorney can help, but even before you can consult a lawyer – in fact, immediately – you must start thinking about liability and gathering the evidence that your attorney can’t, because some evidence is available only at the time and scene of the accident itself.
Take photographs – as many as possible. Photos are powerful evidence in traffic accident cases. Get pictures of the damage to the vehicles, your own visible injuries, and the overall accident scene. If you’re incapacitated by an injury, ask someone to take the photos for you. Also, try to identify any eyewitnesses. Their statements or testimony can make all the difference. Obtain names, addresses, telephone numbers, anything that can help your attorney contact these eyewitnesses later.
Summon the police to the accident scene and be sure that you are able to obtain a printout of the police report. When you receive it, make copies for yourself and your injury attorney. Along with your medical paperwork, these documents are critical when you choose to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. A police report may or may not indicate if either driver was negligent, but a police report might also be quite helpful to your case.
WHAT WILL AN INJURY ATTORNEY DO ON YOUR BEHALF?
A trained, knowledgeable personal injury attorney will comprehensively investigate the crash. If necessary, your attorney will seek assistance from medical authorities, crash reconstruction experts, and others as needed. The collision will be scrutinized and studied from every angle to determine who was responsible. When that determination has been made, your lawyer can then develop a strategy for obtaining the maximum available compensation for the crash victim.
If neither driver was liable for an accident, an accident victim will still require justice, particularly if his or her injuries are catastrophic or permanent. Products recalls for defective vehicle parts are routine, and if a defective vehicle part actually caused the accident, your personal injury attorney might recommend filing a product liability lawsuit against the defective part’s manufacturer.
WHAT SHOULD EVERY FLORIDA DRIVER KNOW?
Florida law makes presumptions about liability that every driver in our state should understand. In a rear-end crash, for instance, the driver of the rear vehicle is nearly always deemed at fault, even if the driver in front stopped improperly, because Florida law assumes that every driver should be able to brake safely in nearly every circumstance. Likewise, a driver turning left is nearly always deemed at fault for a crash with a vehicle moving straight across the intersection, unless the driver not turning was violating the law, for instance, by speeding or running through a red light.
If you are injured in traffic in Florida, do not admit any fault, do not confess to anything, do not sign any documents, and do not even talk with an auto insurance company about the accident until you have consulted an experienced Stuart personal injury attorney.
An insurance company may offer you a settlement amount worth much less than the actual value of your claim. Don’t accept such an offer. If a negligent motorist injures you in traffic in the Stuart area, a good personal injury lawyer can safeguard your rights, prove who was responsible, and fight aggressively for the compensation an injury victim needs.