Unfortunately, automobile accidents are quite common Florida. With about 27 accidents occurring per 1,000 people, the chances are pretty good that the longer and more often you drive throughout your life, the more likely it will become that you may one day find yourself in a wreck.
While we certainly hope you don’t get hurt, the reality is that auto accidents are an extremely traumatic experience, and they do happen. It’s for that reason that we want to educate the public on some of the most common FAQs our law firm receives regarding auto accidents.
Take a few minutes on this page, and you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to avoid an auto accident, and what to do should you find yourself a victim of auto negligence one day. You’ll also learn about the illegal practice of solicitation (“why did I receive a phone call from a stranger after my accident?”), and why it’s such a massive problem in Florida. You will also learn to how protect yourself with uninsured motorist (UM) coverage.
Got a question we didn’t answer? Scroll to the bottom of the page to post it, and one of our lawyers will respond in 24 hours or less.
- Someone called me on my cell phone after an accident. How is that possible?
If you were contacted after an accident, either by text, a phone call, or in person, you are the victim of a crime. This is called “solicitation”, and in Florida, it’s a felony. It’s illegal for anyone to contact you after you’ve been in a car accident. Often, shady doctor and lawyer’s offices will pay people to obtain traffic citation reports that show you as an injured party, and which lists your contact info. Then they call or text you to try and get you to show up at a doctor’s office for medical treatment.
Often, they offer cash for your cooperation. That’s so they can get you into treatment, and falsify insurance claim reports to obtain $10,000 in PIP benefits. When the scheme works, there are actually three separate crimes occurring, for which you are being used as a victim:
- Solicitation – that’s the initial contact with you
- Bribery – offering you cash to show up at a medical facility
- Insurance Fraud – occurs when a lawyer files the false PIP benefits claim on your behalf
The irony of the crime is that you’re the one getting screwed. Those $10,000 in PIP benefits are yours to begin with. But, victims don’t realize that’s happening: if a criminal offers someone $1,000 in cash to show up at a medical facility, that sounds like a pretty good deal that’s hard for many people to resist.
You may be entitled to a reward if you report solicitation!
Our law firm is committed to the highest standards of ethics, and we fight solicitors. That’s why we work with our clients who have been the victims of solicitation after an auto accident. We have a direct contact at the Office of Insurance Regulation for the State of Florida for which we refer these illegal activities to. The Office offer cash rewards to victims who report a solicitation crime that is prosecuted.
In order to be eligible for the reward, follow these tips if you are solicited:
- Record the name, phone number, name of medical facilities, and names of any doctors, and any other details you think might be important
- Call our law firm and let the receptionist know you have a potential new case
- Let the Intake Coordinator you work with know that you were solicited. We will refer you to one of our attorneys who will handle it from there.
Do not have any fear of “repercussions” as a result of you reporting this crime – these are white collar criminals who are engaging in the theft of money. They are not dangerous people. They are simply greedy, and don’t want to put in the hard work of building a reputable law firm that attracts clients. They would rather just buy them, illegally.
Report solicitation crimes to us! You may be eligible for a cash reward!
- How much is my case worth?
This is a very common question we receive often, and unfortunately, it’s a difficult one to answer. The value of your injury claim is based on a wide range of factors, including the severity of your injuries, the cost of treatment and future care, and how much insurance monies are available.
The value of your case is directly tied to how significant your injuries are, and the amount of available insurance. Those are the two biggest factors.
It’s our job as your auto accident lawyers to explore all possible areas of available insurance money for any and all policies, including umbrella policies, third-party policies, homeowner’s policies, and many other types of insurance that may be available. The higher your insurance limits, the better.
Also, one type of insurance that people aren’t often aware of is under-insured or uninsured motorist coverage, or UM. This is coverage you buy in addition to your state-mandated auto insurance requirements that pays you additional money in the event you are hit by someone who flees, or who has no insurance or too little insurance for you to fully recover.
In Florida, all insurance companies offer you UM. In fact, you have to decline it if you don’t want it. This is a mistake! It’s not very expensive, and there is a lot of hit-and-run incidents in Florida, and many under-insured drivers on the road. If you are hit by one, you will be frustrated to learn that without UM coverage, there’s almost nothing our lawyers can do to help you.
- I was in a car crash, but I don’t think I’m injured. Do I have to see a doctor?
It is ALWAYS a good idea to see a doctor after a car accident. There’s a few reasons for this.
First, Florida PIP laws require that you visit a doctor within 14 days of a crash if you plan on making a claim on your minimum state-required $10,000 PIP insurance benefits. Those benefits are already bought and paid for by you.
Second, the most common of car crash injuries is whiplash and back injuries. Sometimes, our clients won’t feel these injuries for a few days, when the neck and back become sore. Further, there are all kinds of injuries you may not notice until hours or days after your crash.
Lastly, there’s no good reason not to get checked out by a doctor! That’s because even if you don’t have health insurance, our law firm can help you obtain treatment from a medical facility at no upfront or out-of-pocket cost to you.
- Whose fault is it if my vehicle is rear-ended?
The answer to this question is a bit complex, as Florida is a “no-fault” insurance state. This means that if you are rear-ended, even due to no fault of your own, your insurance will be responsible for covering your injuries and damage – at least up to the limits of your policy. If you’ve suffered permanent serious injuries exceeding the value of your coverage, you can then file a claim against the at-fault driver. The driver who rear-ended you is almost always presumed to be at fault, although you could be found partially liable in some conditions – if your brake lights weren’t working, for example.
- What is uninsured motorist coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage ensures that if you are in a crash with a hit-and-run driver, or a driver who is otherwise under-insured, you are entitled to insurance benefits.
- I’m not the ‘suing’ type – are you suing individual people?
It’s a very common misconception among the public that personal injury law firms like ours sue people. In fact, we sue insurance companies. In Florida, you pay for car insurance to protect you from any legal action or litigation relating to a car crash you may cause, and that legal representation is provided by your insurance company.
While technically, if we do need to file a lawsuit (which happens only in about 1 in 100 cases), we do sue the Defendant driver, the driver is of course represented in our lawsuit by an attorney that works for the insurance company. Any monies we recover are paid out by the insurance company, not the Defendant personally.
Insurance companies are out to make exorbitant profits, and one of the main reasons you carry auto insurance is to protect you when you are injured. So don’t be shy about suing insurance companies!
- My child was hurt in a car crash. What can I do?
Children are particularly susceptible to incurring injuries after an auto accident, because their bodies are not fully formed and may be vulnerable. Children have the same rights under the law that adults have. So, a personal injury case can be filed on behalf of a child. Seeking medical treatment for the child may be unpleasant, or even downright scary, but it is absolutely necessary to ensure that the value of the personal injury case is protected.
- How is ‘fault’ established in Florida?
In a car accident injury claim, fault is based on the legal concept of negligence. To establish that a driver was negligent, you must prove the following four elements:
- The other driver owed a duty to you (for example, they are required to stop at red lights)
- The driver did not live up to this duty (they ran the red light)
- This breach of duty caused your injuries (you must prove you were injured)
- You suffered losses as a result (medical bills, loss of income, etc.)
That’s a generalized concept of how fault is established. Typically, the police on the scene of a auto accident will actually write in on the uniform Florida ticket who was “at fault”, or in other words, who caused a crash. It’s extremely important that you get an office on the scene of an accidents, no matter how trivial or “small” the accident may seem, for two reasons:
- To ensure that if you were not at fault, and the other party is, it’s indicated on the uniform traffic ticket
- So you are not blamed later for an accident that wasn’t your fault
- To prove to the insurance company that the crash the fault of someone else
- What is the statutes of limitations for a car accident in Florida?
Florida is relatively generous with their statute of limitations for car accident injury suits, as you have four years to file a lawsuit from the date of the accident. The exception is a claim against a government agency, for which the statute of limitations is three years. The longer you wait, however, the weaker your case typically becomes. That’s because personal injury attorneys need ample time to work up your case, and make a claim on your behalf – months, usually. If you are within twelve months of your SOL date, your case becomes more difficult for any attorney to handle with each passing day.
The SOL date is the last date by which you can file a lawsuit. A year or two worth of work can go into a personal injury case before our law firm can even make a recommendation whether a lawsuit needs to be filed or not.
Do not wait – give us a call and let us get working on your case right away!
- How long will my car accident case take?
Much like the question of how much a case is worth, how long a car accident case will take to settle is an impossible answer. Every single case is different, and how long a case takes depends on factors such as treatment time, how negotiable the insurance company is being, and which insurance company we are dealing with.
Generally speaking, insurance companies are typically willing to settle more quickly if you have a strong case, or if they are facing a potentially large payout. Although these claims often take several months to a year to be resolved, they should not be rushed – the goal is to obtain the most compensation possible, and it can take time to build a strong case to do so.
In our law firm, we typically see average auto accident case settlements within twelve months. That’s from the date you first call us, to the date we bring you into your office to pick up your check!
- Who handles the property damage claim after a crash?
Florida is a no-fault insurance state, which means you must carry a minimum in $10,000 coverage for property damage for your vehicles and other vehicles on the road. Our lawyers do not handle property damage claims, and for good reason – you can handle the property damage claim yourself! There’s no need to involve lawyer. We handle only injury cases. However, we love helping our clients, and our paralegals will often guide you through the process of filing a property damage claim with your insurer if you ask us for help.
- How do I know if I should be suing someone, and what can I win from a lawsuit?
Due to Florida’s no-fault insurance system, you may only file a car accident injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver if your injuries meet the state’s serious injury threshold. Injuries which are permanent, leave significant scarring, or cause disfigurement may be considered “serious” for the purposes of filing a lawsuit against the liable driver. Due to the vague description of what makes an injury serious or not, it’s crucial to remember that consultations with our law firm are always free, so just give us a call, and let our lawyers investigate your potential case to make a determination on the viability of the case.
“Damages” is the legal term for the harm that was caused to you due to a car crash. That might include medical treatment and expenses, loss of wages, and physical or psychological pain and suffering. These are the damages we sue for under Florida’s law.
- I was in an auto accident, and my insurance company is wanting to talk to me. What should I do?
Your insurance company’s goal is to get you to sign away your rights under the law for compensation relating to your injuries as soon as they possibly can. That means they will have their adjusters call you and write you non-stop. Don’t fall for it! Instead, get a second opinion from our law firm. If we accept your case, we begin representing you immediately, which means you do not need to talk to any insurance adjusters ever again – that’s our job as your lawyers!
Also, be very careful with what you say to an insurance adjuster, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal. They will take anything you say and use it against you in every effort to try to find some fault of yours as to why they can’t or don’t want to pay out your insurance claim.
Definitely do not sign anything from the insurance company, and do not accept any checks from them, until you’ve consulted with us, first.
- What is ‘Gap Insurance’?
GAP insurance, or Guaranteed Auto Protection” is a type of policy which will cover the difference between your car’s actual value and the amount you still owe on it. It’s common knowledge that a brand-new car loses a large amount of value when you drive it off the lot, and gap insurance will protect you if you crash while still upside down on your loan. For example, if you still owe $20,000 on a car, but the value of your car is just $18,000, gap coverage will cover the $2000 difference you would otherwise owe.
- Am I going to get to go to court? Will I have to go to court?
Many car accident injury claims are actually settled out of court, and don’t require you to appear in court at all. At the Law Offices of Craig Goldenfarb, P.A., we have proven our ability to recover fair settlements on behalf of our clients. We always seek to recover you insurance policy limits, which is the maximum the insurance company will pay out for an accident. Depending on the significance of your injuries, we may or may not be able to recover the maximums, but that is always our goal.
In very few cases, however, it may become necessary to go to court to recover the compensation you deserve. That process is called “litigation”, and whether or not you go into litigation is a choice you and your lawyer will make together based on the unique circumstances of your case.
- Will my car insurance rates go up after a crash?
Although Florida is called a “no-fault” car insurance state, fault still plays an important role in the event of an auto accident. The at-fault driver, for example, becomes the Defendant in an auto insurance lawsuit. Also, fault can play a factor in how the insurance adjuster views the value of you case. If you are even slightly at fault, that can hurt your chances for a recovery if you don’t have an excellent personal injury law firm at your side.
In Florida, insurance companies are not supposed to raise your rates just because you were in an accident. However, they find ways around that by employing other “factors”. For example, your age or where you live, or even your credit score, can be a factor for which the insurance company finds a reason to raise your rates on you.
If you were not at fault for an auto accident, and even if you make a claim for an auto accident, your rates should not be increased.
- I was a passenger in a car crash. Who is responsible for my injuries?
Depending on the unique circumstances of your case, you may have the ability to pursue compensation from a number of parties. You may file a claim under the insurance coverage of:
- The negligent driver of your vehicle or the other vehicle(s)
- The owner of the car the at-fault party was driving
- Your own car insurance coverage
- Your own uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage
Many people are hesitant to file a claim against their family member or friend, but it’s important to remember that insurance companies are who is responsible for paying out your claim! We never sue individuals. You paid for the insurance coverage, and you need to use it. So don’t let the worry that you are “suing” someone get in the way of your right to compensation.
- What should I do if I’m involved in a car accident caused by a drunk driver?
The very first thing you should do after a drunk driving accident is to tend to your own injuries, and then see if there are any other parties who need tending to. As soon as it is safe to do so, call 911 to report the crash, and let the operator know if you suspect drunk driving. To avoid allowing the driver fleeing the scene, get their license tag number as soon as you are able to.
If you can, you should try to gather as much information as you can, including pictures of the scene and vehicle damage, and the names and information of any witnesses. Keep your police report brief and factual, avoiding phrases like “I didn’t see him coming”, which could indicate your own fault. Make sure a police report is filed, and get your copy.
Call our law firm as soon as possible. There may be some evidence that we need to protect in order to build a strong case for you against the drunk driver, and the longer you wait to call, the more likely the chances will be that the evidence will get thrown own, damaged, or otherwise ruined.