Mark Roman | November 20, 2020 | Car Accidents
When the other driver is responsible for the cause of a car accident, you might be angry or frustrated. The car accident is an inconvenience. If you are injured, you might be worried about how you will pay your bills while you are out of work.
However, when you are responsible for the cause of a car accident, you might be worried about your liability for the other driver’s damages. Will the other driver file a personal injury lawsuit against you? What will happen if the other driver obtains a personal judgment against you?
Florida is a No-Fault Insurance State for Car Accidents
Most states use a fault-based approach to liability for damages caused by car accidents. You must prove that the other driver’s actions led to the cause of the car crash before you can recover compensation for your physical injuries, economic losses, and other damages.
Florida is one of the few states that utilizes a no-fault insurance system for car accidents. Each driver in Florida is required to have no-fault insurance or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. PIP insurance pays claims, regardless of who caused the car accident. The minimum PIP coverage required for Florida drivers is $10,000.
After a car accident, each driver files a claim with their PIP insurance provider. It does not matter which driver caused the accident. If the drivers are injured, they file a claim against their no-fault insurance coverage.
PIP insurance pays 80 percent of reasonable and necessary medical care. It also pays up to 60 percent of a person’s lost income. The insurance company is only responsible for covering medical bills and income loss up to the policy limits.
Therefore, if you cause a car accident in Florida, the other driver files a claim against their PIP insurance coverage. However, that does not necessarily mean that you cannot be sued for damages. There are cases in which a driver can sue another driver for damages caused by a car crash.
Car Accident Lawsuits in Florida Against the Other Driver
Even though Florida is a no-fault insurance state, drivers can sue other drivers for car accident damages in certain situations. Florida laws permit car accident lawsuits if the accident involved a serious injury.
Serious injuries are defined by statute as:
- Loss of life
- The significant and permanent loss of a body function
- Scarring or disfigurement that is significant and permanent
- An injury, other than scarring or disfigurement, which is permanent within a reasonable degree of medical probability
Therefore, if the other driver sustained a brain injury that resulted in a permanent disability, the driver might meet the serious injury threshold. If so, you could be sued for damages because you caused the car accident.
Damages in a car accident lawsuit could include:
- Past and future loss of income and benefits
- Past and future medical bills and expenses
- Decreases in earning capacity because of a permanent disability
- Long-term personal care
- In-home health care
- Physical, vocational, occupational, and other therapies
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life or enjoyment of life
- Other out-of-pocket expenses related to the person’s injuries
The value of the damages depends on numerous factors, such as the person’s injuries, financial damages, and whether the person could be partially at fault for causing the car accident.
What Should I Do if I am Sued for a Car Accident?
If you have liability car insurance, notify your insurance company immediately. Liability insurance is not required in Florida, but many people purchase liability insurance to protect themselves if they cause an accident. Liability insurance compensates accident victims when you cause a car crash.
In most cases, your insurance company hires a lawyer to respond to the lawsuit. However, you may also want to contact a car accident attorney to discuss what you should do if someone sues you after a car accident. It is a good idea to learn about your legal rights and options from an attorney who only has your best interest in mind.
The insurance company may settle the car accident lawsuit before it goes to trial. If not, you are expected to participate in the trial. If you do not cooperate, you could void your insurance contract, which means you could be liable for the entire amount of the judgment.
If the value of the accident victim’s damages exceeds your insurance policy limits, you could also be personally liable for any amount above the policy limits. For that reason, having legal advice from an attorney you hire could be very important.
What Happens if the Other Driver Shares Liability for the Accident?
One potential defense of a car accident lawsuit is shared liability. Under Florida’s comparative fault laws, the other driver might not be entitled to full compensation of all damages.
A driver who contributes to the cause of an accident shares in the liability for damages. Therefore, if the other driver was 50 percent at fault, the driver could only receive 50 percent of the compensation he would be entitled to receive if you were entirely at fault for the cause of the crash.
In other words, if the value of the driver’s personal injury claim is $200,000, the most he could receive would be $100,000. His compensation is reduced by the percentage of his fault for causing the car accident.
How Can You Protect Yourself After a Car Accident?
The steps you take after a car accident can help protect your best interests in future legal actions. If you are involved in a car accident, you should:
- Call 911 to report the car accident and request assistance
- Check on the other people involved in the crash to see if they need aid
- If possible, move your vehicle to the side of the road to avoid further danger
- Exchange information with the other driver
- Ask witnesses for their names and contact information
- Take photographs and make videos of the accident scene, the vehicles, and any apparent injuries
- Do not apologize or say you are sorry for the accident
- Do not talk to anyone about the accident except the police officers
If you were injured in the accident, seek immediate medical treatment. You must seek medical care within 14 days of the accident, or your insurance company can deny a PIP insurance claim. It can be a good idea to see a doctor even if you do not think you are injured to avoid problems with a PIP claim.
Keep careful notes about all conversations you have with insurance adjusters or other parties. If you have questions about a car accident, you can always seek advice from a personal injury lawyer.