You might wonder how a car accident attorney and personal injury lawyer can be of assistance to you. While nobody wants to think about accidents, most of us will be involved in a car crash as either a passenger or driver at least once during our lifetimes. If you are a resident of Tampa or you were just visiting the area and ended up in a car accident, we want to give you the details that you need so you will know what to do after suffering damages in a Tampa car accident.
Florida Accident Rates
Statistics show that in 2014 there were 32,675 death because of car crashes in the United States. Another 2.3 million people suffered injuries in car accidents. Florida has its fair amount of car crashes. By Thanksgiving 2015 there had been 328,670 accidents with 213,913 passengers or drivers suffering injuries. During 2015, the state saw traffic fatalities increase by 18%. There are also other vehicle-related deaths, such as pedestrians and cyclists. When you are in Tampa, you should always follow the traffic regulations and be alert when driving, cycling, walking, or running. Accidents continue to happen even if you are cautious. If you find yourself in an accident, you need to know what to do. Here are a few steps to take to help you throughout the process.
Right After the Car Accident
You are required by Florida law to stop your vehicle as soon as the accident has occurred. Before exiting your vehicle, you should move it off to the side of the road where it will not be a traffic obstruction. If you are unable to move your car, call for a tow truck right away so your vehicle won’t cause other crashes.
If anyone is injured, giving them care is the most important thing that you can do. Regardless of whether the injured is a passenger in your car, the driver or passengers of another vehicle, a cyclist, or a pedestrian, you need to call for medical assistance right away. If that cannot be done, try to get the injured person to a medical care provider right away. If you call for an ambulance, stay with the injured person until help gets there. You must remain at the accident scene. If you leave the accident scene, you could face criminal charges for leaving the scene of the accident, have your driver’s license suspended, and face various penalties and administrative fines.
Anyone who is involved in a car accident must provide their full name, address, and vehicle registration to everyone else who was involved in the car accident. It must also be provided to anyone else requesting the information, especially law enforcement officers. The officers have the right to ask for your driver’s license if they have been called to the crash site. If the accident injured a pedestrian and they ask for your insurance information, you must provide it to them as well. An experienced Tampa car accident lawyer can help if you have any questions about this process.
When Should the Police Be Called?
For your safety and protection, any car accident should be reported to the authorities. By doing so, all the necessary forms are completed by a law enforcement officer. Without an accident report, negotiating any damage payments can significantly reduce your damage compensation. You can also be opened for personal liability because no official accident report would exist. Calling the police to report the accident isn’t enough in itself. Make sure the officer gets a thorough and accurate record that includes everyone’s information for the accident report. This will be a critical part of your case should it be presented to the courts.
It is better to report any accident to the police, but there are few that you are legally required to report. If you are involved in a serious crash, you must without hesitation call the police. Florida laws require that the police be notified after an accident that results in serious injury or death, any accident classified as a hit-and-run, any crash involving a drunk driver, or any accident resulting in more than $500 of property damages. If these circumstances apply, no one should leave the scene until law enforcement officers arrive. The investigating officers will complete an accident report for any accidents resulting in injuries or death, and if requested t to do so, in other circumstances as well. If the police determine who is at fault or issue a citation to driver who is at fault at the crash scene, you should ask for that information to be included in the completed accident report. Make sure you share all of the information, including the completed accident report, with your car accident lawyer.
Car Accidents Involving Inanimate Objects or Unoccupied Vehicles
If you have been in a crowded parking lot, odds are you have seen a vehicle backing up or pulling in to a parking space “bump” a vehicle that wasn’t occupied. The driver will often look around to see if anyone saw what happened as if he or she is uncertain of what to do next. According to Florida law, if you are in an accident that involves an unoccupied vehicle or stationary object you must inform the owner. If the owner cannot be found, you must leave your information on a piece of paper that you attach to the vehicle or damaged property. Your notification to the owner must include your name, address and license plate number. You are also required to notify law enforcement under such circumstances.
Florida Automobile Insurance Requirements
Basic insurance amounts are required for Florida drivers. If you don’t meet the insurance requirements, you can have your driver’s license suspended and face an administrative fine. All Florida drivers must have $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage along with $10,000 in property damage liability coverage. Florida is one of few states that doesn’t require drivers to keep bodily injury liability coverage, which is the kind of auto insurance coverage that pays medical costs related to the injuries suffered by others in a car crash.
Tampa Auto Accident Details
Florida follows a no-fault system when it comes to car crashes. Because of the no-fault laws regarding Florida vehicle accidents, your own insurance company will take care of your medical expenses, regardless of who caused the crash. The other driver is not liable for the crash unless the damages reach the “serious injury” threshold. Because of this law, most minor accidents go through the no fault system, which means your physical injuries are taken care of by your own PIP coverage. The only way to bypass the no-fault system and file a liability claim against the driver causing the Tampa car accident is if the crash causes you suffer from permanent injury. This might include significant and permanent scarring or even disfigurement.
Florida Limitations Regarding the No-Fault System and Personal Injury Protection
Florida law requires all drivers to carry a minimum of $10,000 in PIP insurance. This insurance covers as much as 80% of the insured’s injuries and as much as 60% of the insured’s lost wages resulting from the car accident, regardless of who was at fault. This law was originally enacted to reduce the number of lawsuits filed by Florida residents pertaining to car accidents. It was also designed to help lower insurance rates. However, this comparative negligence law has unintended consequences. The required coverage often isn’t sufficient for injured drivers when it comes to covering the overall costs of medical care and lost wages. This coverage doesn’t provide for other damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional trauma, or pain and suffering. Since the PIP coverage only pays 80% of your medical costs and 60% of your lost wages and has an initial deductible of $1,000 or $2,000, it should not be of surprise that not all your out of pocket expenses will be covered if only PIP coverage is available.
Asking for Additional Damages
If you are in the position of having exhausted your PIP coverage, you are sometimes able to take legal action against the driver at fault for your accident. If you are seeking additional damages, you will need to retain a Tampa personal injury lawyer, who will seek compensation to cover your remaining costs from the insurance company for the negligent driver. The insurance company for the driver who is at fault will then conduct an investigation of their own, if they have not already done so. Whether or not your claim succeeds depends on the strength of the evidence you can present to the opposing insurance company.
Legal Claims Resulting from Car Crashes
There are several different kinds of legal action that can result from a Tampa car accident. If another driver is clearly at fault, you might be able to pursue a lawsuit based on negligence with the help of a car accident lawyer. Other times, there is a defect with the vehicle itself that caused the accident or injury, and a lawsuit against the car manufacturer arises. Or, there are road conditions that cause the accident in question, which can lead to a lawsuit based on road design.
Negligent Driving Claims
The vast majority of lawsuits that arise out of car accidents are based on the legal theory of negligence. Negligence, in the case of a car accident, is one party’s failure to exercise a reasonable standard of care while operating a motor vehicle or using public roads. Negligence is proven with evidence that illustrates carelessness or violation of the law. To prevail in a negligence lawsuit, you must be able to show that the party you are suing did not exercise reasonable care, and this breach of duty was the proximate cause of your injuries. The defendant is not always another driver; sometimes it is a negligent, reckless, or intoxicated driver, and sometimes it is a passenger, a pedestrian, or even a bicyclist. In some cases, there is even more than one negligent party.
Sometimes there is a defect to the vehicle you are driving that contributes to or causes the accident you were in. If this happens to you, you may have a claim against the manufacturer of your vehicle or of the part of the vehicle that malfunctioned. There are some circumstances under which the manufacturer will be liable regardless of negligence for injuries a plaintiff sustains as a direct result of design defect, faulty labeling, or manufacturing defect.
To win a case against a manufacturer, your car accident lawyer must be able to prove the defect that occurred during the design, labeling, or manufacturing process, was the proximate cause of the injuries sustained. In cases with claims against a manufacturer, expert testimony is almost always needed to establish the point at which the defect manifested. To prevail, you must show that the faulty car or car part was unreasonably dangerous, and that the vehicle was being operated as it was intended to be operated at the time of the accident.
Road Design Defect Claims
Some accidents are caused by faulty road construction, design, or maintenance. Sometimes there are embankments that are too steep or not properly elevated, which can lead to accidents. Sometimes barriers, guard rails, speed bumps, curbs, or medians, all things in place to positively influence driving, are poorly designed or placed, resulting in accidents. There are occasions when the surface of the road is altered, such as in the case of massive potholes, which drivers are not alerted to and result in an accident. Improperly placed or missing road signs can also lead to accidents, and road design defect claims. Improper placement and operation of traffic lights, stop and yield lights, and other lights used to regulate traffic flow also lead to lawsuits based on faulty road design.
Those who lose a loved one in a car accident might have grounds to seek compensation under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act. In wrongful death suits, the family or survivors of the deceased must prove their loved one was killed due as a result of the negligence of another. In wrongful death cases, plaintiffs can be awarded economic and non-economic damages, as well as punitive damages where appropriately reckless or criminal conduct is involved.
Comparative Negligence Laws
In some cases, the party you are seeking to recover damages against for your injuries and/or property damage after a car accident may turn around and allege you are the party at fault for the accident. If you are at fault, even partially, it will affect the amount of money you can recover as damages from other people or businesses at fault. Florida follows a pure comparative negligence rule in cases where there is more than one party at fault for an accident. Under Florida’s comparative fault rule, your compensation is reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of your liability in the accident.
As an example, you can pretend that you are in an accident with a driver who runs a stop sign and hits you. You are legally crossing the intersection, but you are exceeding the speed limit by at least five miles per hour. If it is decided in court that you were 10% to blame for the accident because you were speeding, your damage award from the driver who was at fault will be reduced by 10%.
This reduction means if your loss for your property damages and injuries total $10,000, you can only collect $9,000 for compensation for damages. Florida courts are required to follow these rules for cases where injury results from a car accident, so it is imperative that you understand this concept before negotiating with any insurance company.
What Does Florida Law Specify as Serious Injuries?
While each car accident has its differences plus the kinds of injuries and the extent of those injuries vary from case to case, the costs for treating those injuries suffered in the accident exhausts PIP coverage, causing the need for further negotiation. In some cases, it might lead to the need for litigation. Paralysis, scars, burns, injuries to the spinal cord, loss of limb, head injuries, injuries to muscle, joints, back, neck or bones, whiplash, knee damage, permanent disability, and wrongful death are classified as serious injuries, which would warrant additional compensation.
Various Damages Available to Car Crash Victims
Tampa car accident victims can recover various damages. Economic damages are referred to as compensatory damages, which compensate you for the monetary losses suffered because of the car accident. Medical bills fall in this category. This includes past medical expenses plus future medical care.
Any lost wages fall into this category as well. You can recover any wages lost up through the end of the lawsuit or until a settlement is reached. If your ability to earn a living has been impacted, you can seek loss of earning capacity damages as well. Your past wages are considered when determining a monetary figure. Usually, the court will consider the amount you could have earned working in the future had the crash not occurred.
Non-economic damages compensate for damages of a nature that are not financial. These are challenging to prove and most often require litigation. These damages might include pain and suffering, which focuses on the physical pain and suffering from injuries sustained. The nature of the injury and its severity are given ultimate consideration. Mental anguish provides compensation for emotional distress such as nervousness, worry, or grief resulting from the crash.
Loss of Consortium Damages and Punitive Damages
In a successful car accident lawsuit in Tampa, the injured party’s spouse might be awarded compensation for the loss of marital benefits, including loss of companionship, loss of sexual relations, loss of affection, and loss of comfort. The length of the marriage, its stability, the life expectancy of the couple, and the degree of impact are considered during the awards process.
Sometimes the party at fault in a car accident acted maliciously with the intent to harm. In such cases, courts have the right to assess punitive damages as a form of punishment to discourage similar behavior or actions in the future.
Tampa, FL Personal Injury Lawyer
People suffer serious injuries every day because of circumstances that are beyond their control. Not all accidents lead to personal injury claims or even result in lawsuits; the facts and circumstances surrounding your personal injury case might dictate whether you might have a claim for damages against the party that is responsible for you being hurt.
What Warrants Legal Action for a Personal Injury Claim in Tampa, FL?
A viable personal injury claim results because someone suffers injuries after the negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct of another person or legal entity. Not all personal injury claims result in the filing of a legal proceeding to recover damages. In most cases, a claim is filed with the insurance company that insures the lawfully accountable party (or in several cases, more than one insurance company). Most cases are settled before ever going to court, but it is sometimes necessary to let a jury hear your case. A settlement can happen at any time within the claims process, up until the jury hears the case and makes a decision.
Tampa Personal Injury Claims Legal Grounds
Most personal injury cases are brought as a result of negligence. Negligence implies that employer or individual with an obligation to act fairly in some manner to a different party failed that duty and that breach caused the opposite party injury. This is often the most common kind of personal injury action and covers several classes of claims.
Attorneys in Tampa, Florida for Personal Injury Claims
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There are times when personal injury claims are the result of the intentional misconduct of another person or entity. One example of this is when someone physically assaults another party, someone batters someone else, or when someone imprisons another person. If those actions cause you to suffer injuries, a viable personal injury action exists. Most other personal injury cases are filed because of strict liability. This is a legal theory employed for ultra-hazardous activities, dog bite cases, and some product liability cases. In a strict liability case, there is no need to show that the defendant acted intentionally or negligently, it is enough that the plaintiff was injured as a result of the product or animal.
LEGAL ELEMENTS OF A NEGLIGENCE CLAIM IN TAMPA
A negligence claim in Tampa is based on four legal elements. To prevail, you must establish all four elements by a preponderance of the evidence, which means the facts you present are accurate. This is a lower burden that makes it easier to establish than what you notice in television criminal cases. In those cases, the legal standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Under the “preponderance of evidence” benchmark, if it is 51% likely that the facts you present are what happened then you have met the standard.
Duty of Care in Tampa, Florida
The first element you must establish to be successful with a negligence claim for personal injury is that the defendant had some sort of duty of care that he or she was obligated to meet. This duty is usually based mostly on relationships between parties, thus for example: (1) employers have an obligation to workers, (2) business owners or operators have an obligation to customers, (3) higher learning institutions and education directors have an obligation to students, and (4) caregivers have an obligation towards those they look after.
All people by law have specific duties that they must meet; for example, we tend to all have an obligation to drive as a responsible and prudent driver when operating a motor vehicle. All folks normally owe one another an obligation to act fairly and avoid inflicting injuries to others, whenever it can be prevented.
Breach of Duty
Once it has been established that the other party owed you that obligation, you need to be ready to prove by a preponderance of the proof that the other party failed in that duty. Breach examples take issue, which is dependent on the circumstances. Let’s scrutinize the example through the employer/employee relationship. Employers owe workers an obligation to supply safe operating conditions. If any worker is harmed because of a part of working equipment in use that wasn’t maintained in correct operating condition, then the company has failed this duty. Another example is that caregivers owe the aged they care for the duty of care when they give home health services. If your family member develops bedsores because the caregiver failed to properly turn their body position frequently, then the duty of care has been broken. If you’re in a Tampa automobile accident, and the litigant is speeding or driving recklessly, he or she has broken the duty of care to drive safely and adhere to the traffic laws.
After it has been established that the other party owed you an obligation for care which the duty was broken, you then should determine that the negligent actions of the litigant caused the damages you ultimately suffered. You must be prepared to show that you wouldn’t have sustained the damages or injuries that you’re seeking compensation for if it wasn’t for the negligent actions of the other party.
The last component of negligence claim damages. You must have really suffered an injury to legally recover damages, though all the three primary parts must be factors in the accident from which you suffered. This implies you need to be ready to establish either bodily injury or property harm to be compensated for the negligence.
PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUITS & STRICT LIABILITY
Some members of society are expected to be more attentive to safety than other people, which plays a role in liability for some personal injury cases. Someone or some company subjected to strict liability features a far tougher legal standard to beat, as you are doing not got to show that the person or company acted negligently or carelessly in order to prevail on your claim. A prime example of the strict liability customary in Tampa is found in Florida’s dog bite laws. If the Tampa resident’s dog bites someone that is either in a public place or lawfully on the dog owner’s premises or the premises of a third party, then the dog owner is control in command of the dog’s actions and for the damages sustained by the victim, while not reference to negligence or intent.
Most Common Kinds of Tampa Personal Injury Claims
Motor vehicle accidents comprise the common personal injury claim; it so common we’ve devoted a complete section of this Tampa Guide to them. There are several different kinds of personal injury claims brought forth by the injured people of Tampa with the most common of them mentioned below.
PREMISES LIABILITY CLAIMS
Premises liability claims arise after the property owner, who owes an obligation of care to people on his or her premises, breach that duty, and a private party suffers injury as a result. A premises liability claim might arise because of a client, who slips and falls once within an area of business, or because of a guest trips while on the personal estate of another individual. Typically speaking, homeowners can’t be held accountable for injuries that were caused by unknown conditions on their property that they didn’t have reason to know existed. Anyone coming onto the personal estate of another must exhibit due care for his or her own safety. The particular duty of care owed by property house owners depends upon the conditions as to why the victim enters their premises. There are three classes of guests, business invitees, licensees, and trespassers. The duty is totally different for every visitor class.
The highest duty of care is owed by property house owners to business invitees or those who enter a property for the purpose of doing business. This includes those who are in a restaurant, a retail establishment, or people at a gas station filling up their car. This classification conjointly extends to repairmen and various employees invited to a home to perform some kind of work.
When it involves business invitations, property owners have the obligation to make sure the premises are in a safe condition. They should either repair any dangers on the premises or give warnings of the danger. Additionally, property owners should frequently examine their property for any risky conditions. This includes spills in the aisles of a market, merchandise blocking the associate gate, and lots of different forms of dangerous conditions that arise in places of business.
The next highest duty of care is owed by property house owners to their guests. This spans from friends invited into the house of the owner for a celebration to even uninvited guests, like a neighbor or friend stopping by unexpectedly. The duty owed to licensees is to keep up the premises in a very moderately safe fashion and repair unsafe conditions. The duty requires homeowners to warn guests of unsafe conditions on the property.
Although a trespasser doesn’t have permission to get on personal estate, the owner still has a restricted duty to prevent any intentional and reckless injury. The owner so cannot come upon a visit causing injury to an entrant that does not face civil liability. Property house owners even have an obligation to warn discovered entrants of any dangers that the trespasser cannot notice with average observation.
Youngsters are Owed Elevated Duty of Care
Property house owners have an obligation to exercise special care, and shield youngsters on their property whether or not they were invited. House owners should take steps to shield youngsters from conditions on their property in places that will entice children. As an example, swimming pools, trampolines, playground sets, and the other dangerous conditions which might tempt a child. Affordable steps should be taken by property house owners to get rid of any dangerous conditions or keep children away from any dangers that lurk. Swimming pools, in particular, should be fenced and protected.
Tampa Personal Injury Cases
Medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages may cause anxiety and stress after a personal injury accident. Our Tampa personal injury lawyers and auto accident attorneys have been representing clients in the Hillsborough County area for over 20 years. There are many different scenarios that may result in someone filing a Tampa personal injury claim, including unsafe conditions on a property resulting in a slip and fall, or inadequate security in a building. Use of a defective product or defective drug may also result in severe injuries or even loss of life. Auto accidents, workplace accidents, dog bites and nursing home neglect are also types of personal injuries that may lead to lost wages, medical bills, or pain and suffering.
Our personal injury lawyer in Tampa handle injury claims throughout the Tampa Bay area. If you or a loved one has been involved in a personal injury caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.
EXAMPLES OF PREMISES LIABILITY CASES
The duty to keep premises moderately free from dangerous may be a duty that applies to the inside and exterior of the property. This means the owner should keep the boundaries safe along with the outside areas, including the parking lot and the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. Of course, the food served must be safe as well. The most popular category of premise liability claims is so called “slip-and-fall” cases, where somebody is injured because they slip on something on the ground or floor of your property and fall down.
Other situations that give rise to premises liability claims include bumpy and broken sidewalks or stairs, broken or missing handrails or staircases, improper lighting, puddling or slippery floor conditions, and even doors or windows that malfunction. Dog bites are also considered a dangerous condition on private property, also giving rise to suits sounding in premise liability. Anytime a person has been injured on the property of another as the result of a potentially unsafe condition, that person should consult a personal injury lawyer.
MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIMS
A different type of negligence claim that arises with relative frequency in Tampa involves defendants in the healthcare industry. Medical malpractice lawsuits, while still personal injury claims, have specialized evidentiary requirements. These cases require a plaintiff to prove that a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider fell below the accepted professional standard of care. Medical malpractice cases, therefore, require expert testimony regarding the proper standard of care in any given case, and there are many personal injury attorneys that specialize in solely medical malpractice law, as it is an in-depth area of law.
WORKPLACE INJURY CLAIMS
Another significant type of personal injury claim arises from injuries sustained in the workplace. This area of the law intersects with workers’ compensation law and is preempted in cases of plain negligence. In cases involving intentional conduct by the employer, however, or in cases where the injured party was not an employee but an independent contractor, personal injury claims can be brought.
PRODUCT LIABILITY CLAIMS
Claims arising out of injuries sustained by defective products are another common type of personal injury case. Depending on the facts of the case, it might proceed under a negligence theory or a strict liability theory, but most such claims are based on some type of product defect. Design defects occur when the design of the product causes the injury. A manufacturing defect occurs when a manufactured product does not conform to the design for the product and causes an injury. A warning defect is one which arises when a product did not display proper warning labels or properly advise customers on the risks that are associated with using the product.
WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIMS
A final areas of personal injury claims are those brought after somebody dies as the result of the negligent or intentional conduct of another. Such cases are brought pursuant to the Florida Wrongful Death Act, and there are actually two categories of damages that can be awarded pursuant to this statute. The first category is damages that the decedent’s survivors are entitled to recover. Survivors are those close family members defined in the statute entitled to damages for the death of a loved one. The second category of damages is those the decedent’s estates can recover. The estate cannot recover as many categories of damages as the survivors, as there is no compensation available for pain and suffering.
Even if you were partially at fault for an accident, you may still be entitled to recover for most of your damages. Florida follows a “comparative fault rule,” that means that the compensation you are entitled to is reduced by the same proportion that you were at fault in the accident. Let’s say that you just were running through a store and fell. If the court determines you are partly to blame for your injuries because you were running, then your recovery amount is reduced by the percentage of fault you are to blame. If the court determines you are 15% at fault for the accident, that percentage is reduced from the award. If your damages total $100,000, you might be able to collect $85,000. Courts in Sunshine State are duty-bound to follow this decree for personal injury cases, and insurance claims adjusters are responsive to this rule further and can talk it over when you have settlement discussions.
HOW TO DETERMINE A VIABLE PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM
Personal injury cases can be very difficult, and generally, take years to settle. Some cases are settled early on, but to protect yourself entrust your claim with a Tampa personal injury lawyer if you’ve been injured in any way. An experienced personal injury lawyer will advise you regarding your claim’s viability and its odds of success. He or she might offer an estimated value of your claim. Speaking with a injury attorney before negotiating with the insurance company for the liable party typically improves your odds for recovery for damages.
WHAT TO DO AFTER SUFFERING INJURIES
It is necessary to instantly document your injuries if you were hurt in an accident because of the negligent or intentional conduct of another. You must get medical attention as soon as you’re aware you were hurt because the faster medical treatment is sought-after the better your prognosis. Keep all the records associated with your accident and your injuries, your medical records, and all employment records that reflect lost wages. Interviewing witnesses at the scene of the injury and taking photos of the scene is suggested if you’re ready to pursue a claim for your damages. Witnesses should be talked with as quickly as possible while recollections of the accident are fresh in their minds.