Car Accident Attorney in Clearwater, Florida
It can be extremely stressful and overwhelming after being involved in a car accident. Everything from medical expenses, damages, and loss of time from work can pile up quickly, leaving you financially behind; on top of that, you may be experiencing life-altering physical or mental changes.
Florida is one of a dozen states that have no-fault auto insurance laws, which means your own policy should cover you and any passengers for any injuries suffered – up to a limit – and even for any wages lost due to time off for recovery. However, your car’s damage, if caused by another driver, will not be covered unless you purchase optional collision coverage. Also, if your injuries are severe enough (and costly enough), you may have to seek compensation from the at-fault driver.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicular accident in or around Clearwater, Florida, contact me immediately at the Law Office of Alex Hernandez. I have more than three decades of experience in helping clients with personal injury claims and lawsuits. I am bilingual in English and Spanish and available 24/7 by cell phone.
My firm proudly serves clients in the Tampa Bay area and in the Tri-County area of Pasco County, Pinellas County, and Hillsborough County, encompassing Sarasota and Bradenton, Florida.
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Florida Is a No-Fault Insurance State
No-fault insurance rules are aimed at curtailing endless lawsuits and back-and-forth claims between insurance providers for those involved in an accident. Florida’s minimum auto insurance requirements are straight forward in terms of what they cover.
You must have $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) to cover your personal injuries and those of your passengers in an auto accident. Also, you must carry a minimum of $10,000 in property damage coverage. This can be increased, but remember that it covers only damages you cause to other people’s property, not your own.
Considering that vehicles now cost $40,000 or more on average, $10,000 might not go very far in an accident you cause to another vehicle. You should consider purchasing a higher limit. As for PIP, once the $10,000 is breached in medical expenses and wage losses, you’re on your own unless your injuries are severe enough that you can make a claim or file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the other driver, if that person was at fault.
Filing a Lawsuit Against the Other Driver
With PIP, only 80 percent of your medical expenses are covered, plus only 60 percent of any lost wages. In addition, only the first two weeks of medical expenses following the accident are eligible for reimbursement, and there is no compensation for your pain and suffering.
If $10,000 is not enough for property damages, the same often holds true for personal injury expenses. They can add up quickly, and your PIP limit can be breached. You may be wondering what to do next...
If your injuries exceed your PIP coverage, then you must make a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. You cannot sue the insurance company directly, but you can send a demand letter. You can only sue the insurance company if they act in bad faith.
It is an option to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for personal injuries. Another benefit of both a demand letter and a lawsuit is that they open up the possibility of receiving compensation for pain and suffering, which are not covered by PIP.
Prevailing in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Most civil lawsuits never make it to court but are settled beforehand. However, if you are filing a personal injury lawsuit, you must consider that you have four elements to prove to the jury:
The other driver had a duty of care toward others on the road, which by law they do.
That driver breached that duty of care through negligence or other actions or inactions.
That breach resulted in your injuries.
Your injuries resulted in losses and damages that need to be compensated.
Florida’s Rule of Comparative Negligence
Another factor to consider is your own role – or percentage of fault – in the accident. In March 2023, Florida adopted the legal principle of modified comparative negligence. Comparative negligence refers to assigning a percentage of fault to each of the parties involved in an accident. Say you are rear-ended, but your brake lights malfunctioned when you stopped to avoid something in front of you. The driver behind you – as a result -- ran into you.
What percentage of fault do you have for malfunctioning brake lights? Say the jury pins it at 30 percent. If you’re seeking $30,000 in damages (compensation), that award will be reduced by 30 percent to $21,000. However, insurance companies also employ modified comparative negligence in calculating settlements. If you file a claim against the other driver’s insurance policy, that company’s claims adjusters will attempt to pin as much of the fault on you as possible. Under this new Florida law, any party found to be greater than 50 percent at fault for his or her own harm may not recover any damages for pain and suffering. This subsection does not apply to an action for damages for personal injury or wrongful death arising out of medical negligence.
Car Accident Attorney Serving Clearwater, Florida
You don’t want to face challenges alone against an insurance company’s claims adjusters. They have tactics to get you to admit to fault, so they can lower or deny your claim. If you’ve been injured in an accident in Clearwater, Florida, contact me at the Law Office of Alex Hernandez. My three decades-plus experience in dealing with insurers will help make the difference in an average or below-average settlement.