Over 8.5 million cars and light trucks were in accidents in the United States in 2020, accounting for 96% of all motor vehicle accidents (MVAs). 2020 MVAs claimed 38,824 lives and injured another 2.282 million people, averaging 106 fatalities and 6,252 injuries per day.
In Florida, 341,399 MVAs injured 212,432 people and caused 3,332 fatalities in 2020. Although Florida’s 2020 population of 21.5 million equaled just 6.49% of the total U.S. population of 331.4 million, Florida MVAs accounted for over 8% of all MVA injuries and 8.6% of all MVA fatalities in the U.S. that year.
Given the high rate of MVAs in the state, many Miami-area residents wonder how a car accident lawsuit works after an accident. Although accidents are everyday occurrences, they’re unwelcome events most people don’t know how to navigate — understanding what to expect and how car accident lawsuits work can help you make effective decisions after a car accident.
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Protecting Your Rights Since 1983
Call the legal experts at Bernstein & Maryanoff and get a free consultation regarding your car accident injury.
Florida’s car accident laws
Florida laws govern who pays for car accident costs, determine when victims can take legal action, and establish how long victims have to file a legal claim.
Florida’s no-fault insurance laws require drivers to provide insurance to cover medical and property damage expenses. Florida drivers must have no less than $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. This insurance covers your medical bills. The state also requires drivers to carry $10,000 or more in property damage liability (PDL) insurance.
The $10,000 PIP and PDL insurance minimums apply to drivers operating personal passenger vehicles. Failing to acquire and maintain these insurance policies can result in authorities suspending your driver’s license and vehicle registration.
Statute of limitations
Florida laws require car accident victims to file claims before the statute of limitations expires. This deadline ensures plaintiffs and defendants can access evidence to support or refute claims. Statutes also prevent excessive court backlogs from cases filed years after an accident.
Florida law gives car accident victims 24 months to initiate a lawsuit. However, a car accident victim may receive more time if they were in a coma or if the at-fault driver fled the state or took steps to prevent victims from locating them after the accident.
Modified comparative fault rule
Florida has comparative negligence rules that apply to car accident lawsuits. You can take legal action against any party partially responsible for your accident, even if you share some responsibility. Comparative negligence means each party accountable for the accident receives an assigned percentage of blame. It holds them liable for their portion of costs from a settlement or judgment.
Suppose you’re in an accident with three other vehicles. Upon investigation, authorities determined Vehicle A’s driver is 50% responsible for the accident. Vehicle B’s driver is 30% responsible, Vehicle C’s driver is not responsible, and you’re 20% responsible. Vehicle A’s driver would pay 50% of the settlement or judgment, while Vehicle B’s driver would pay 30%.
Reporting an accident
You must report an accident to law enforcement officials immediately if the accident causes one or more of the following:
- Damage: You must report the accident if it caused damage to personal property or vehicles that will cost $500 or more to repair
- Death: You must report any accident that causes another person’s death
- Injury: You must report any accident that injures another person
Drivers can use an online form to report minor accidents that don’t meet the immediate reporting criteria.
Process and timeline of recovering damages
Recovering damages is the purpose of a car accident lawsuit. MVA costs can add up quickly, leaving victims with mounting medical bills and other expenses. MVA victims may struggle to pay these unexpected costs when healthy. Still, if the victims can’t work, their situation can jeopardize their careers and ability to provide for their families.
The time it takes to receive a settlement varies. The at-fault party’s insurance company may be motivated to settle quickly or prolong the process by refusing to negotiate.
The damages are the total financial compensation you seek from a car accident claim. Waiting to file a claim can be beneficial if you have mounting damages because you’ll have a better chance to assess your total costs. The at-fault party can be responsible for the following expenses:
- Economic damages, such as:
- Burial costs
- Childcare costs
- House cleaning costs
- Job training
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Property repair costs
- Transportation costs
- Non-economic damages, such as:
- Loss of intimacy
- Pain and suffering
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Although the economic damages may include the therapy costs for mental health issues, such as anxiety or PTSD, non-economic damages allow people to recover damages for the way these issues affect their ability to enjoy life. The non-economic damages acknowledge the emotional toll and psychological suffering car accident victims may face.
Some accident victims can seek punitive damages in addition to economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages apply to cases where the at-fault party is guilty of gross negligence. For example, proving the at-fault driver was speeding can prove their negligence caused your accident; however, if there’s evidence that the at-fault driver was speeding while drag racing, you can justify punitive damages because of their illegal conduct.
Although you may have receipts justifying your economic damages, medical reports, and witness testimony supporting your claims for non-economic damages, you must prove negligence to win a car accident lawsuit.
You must show that the at-fault driver did something likely to cause harm or failed to take steps to prevent harm to others. This is called a duty of care, based on how the average person would act in the same circumstances. Failure to uphold a duty of care also applies when people break traffic laws, such as speeding, running traffic lights, or using a smartphone while driving.
Filing the complaint
Initiating a lawsuit involves preparing legal paperwork, filing it with the court, and serving the defendant. Car accident attorneys have years of training and experience, ensuring they know how to prepare court filings and comply with the filing requirements. Although filing is a crucial step in pursuing damages, it’s one of the earliest steps taken when seeking justice after a car accident. It can take a year or more to resolve your claim after filing.
Legal matters go through a process called discovery. During discovery, the plaintiff and defendant’s legal teams can subpoena records and evidence gathered by the other party’s legal team. The discovery process ensures each legal team has an opportunity to prepare their case thoroughly before trial.
The discovery process extends the time needed to resolve car accident claims. In some cases, discovery could take up to 12 months to complete.
Courts hold initial hearings as a formality, ensuring the filing is in order and initiating the discovery process. Trial dates may be set at this time. The courts typically allocate a significant period for pre-trial settlement negotiations and discovery.
Negotiating a settlement
Most car accident victims resolve their cases during settlement negotiations. During these negotiations, the legal teams meet and assert their claims. Your attorney will present the grounds justifying the total damages sought. The defendant’s attorneys will counter those claims with any evidence they have. The case is resolved if both parties agree to a settlement amount.
Settlement negotiations can be complex if there’s more than one at-fault party involved. One legal team may dispute the percentage of liability assigned to their client. Conflicts over the percentage of blame and liability can extend the settlement negotiations.
Taking the case to trial
Although most car accident victims receive a settlement that resolves their case, some go to trial. A trial may be necessary if the at-fault party’s insurance company refuses to negotiate. Trials are also necessary if the at-fault party’s legal team doesn’t offer a reasonable settlement.
A trial may be necessary if there are extenuating circumstances justifying punitive damages.
Trials can damage the defendant’s reputation, and in cases involving a business’s gross negligence, victims may favor exposing the business’s unethical practices at trial instead of agreeing to a confidential settlement.
Consult with an experienced car accident lawyer today
You must file the correct paperwork and take all required steps to initiate a car accident claim before the statute of limitations expires. Only some people have the experience needed to handle these steps themselves.
Car accident lawyers have in-depth knowledge of state and local traffic laws. These legal experts are familiar with case precedents they can use to support your car accident claim. When you hire a car accident lawyer, you’ll also ensure you have a legal expert investigating your case. You don’t have to worry about learning how to investigate or live with the fear you’ve overlooked crucial evidence that could support your case. Your lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation, interview witnesses, and handle the discovery process to ensure they build a compelling case.
At Bernstein & Maryanoff, we handle the legalities. You don’t have to worry about missing medical appointments or suffering from stress while trying to complete legal paperwork. We’ll answer your questions, explain all your options, and keep you updated until we win your case.
NO FEES UNLESS WE WIN
Protecting Your Rights Since 1983
Contact the experts at Bernstein & Maryanoff to find out how we can help you after a car accident injury.
Carlier, M. (2022). U.S.: number of vehicles involved in traffic crashes 2020.
Florida Crash Dashboard. (2023).
Florida Insurance Requirements. (2023).
United States Census Bureau. (2023).
About the Author
Jack G. Bernstein, ESQ.
Jack Bernstein is a hard-working and highly motivated personal injury attorney in Miami, Florida with over three decades of experience. He is a strategist and idea person, with a genuine passion for helping his firm’s clients. If you’ve been injured, contact Jack Bernstein today for a free evaluation of your case.