What Should I Do If Someone Sues Me After a Car Accident in Florida?
Car accidents are scary for all parties involved–whether you caused the accident or were a victim. Being sued after an accident can make the situation even more overwhelming–and it can be easy to panic. Despite this, try to remain calm.
It’s important to know what you should do if someone sues you after a car accident in Florida.
You might have been injured yourself. Taking action quickly can be key to protecting your legal rights.
Below, we discuss some of the key issues to keep in mind if you’re being sued after a car accident. For more specific information, call our law firm to schedule a free consultation with our Clearwater personal injury lawyers at Roman & Gaynor.
Understanding Florida No-Fault Insurance Law
You might not know what to do if someone sues you after a car accident. After all, you may have never been in a serious car accident–let alone the defendant in a lawsuit based on negligence. In most cases, your insurance company should provide you with a lawyer.
You should let your lawyer handle all communications related to the lawsuit. However, it’s always important to have a sense of the law and what might happen if you’re involved in a car accident.
What is “No-Fault” Insurance?
Florida follows a no-fault insurance law. Under Florida law, every driver in the state is required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. “No fault” means that accident victims first make a claim with their own insurance company–regardless of who caused the crash.
PIP insurance covers things like medical bills and lost wages if you’re injured in a motor vehicle accident. Every driver must purchase:
- $10,000 in coverage for bodily injury or death for any one person in an accident
- $20,000 in coverage for bodily injury or death for multiple parties who are hurt in the same accident
However, “no fault” doesn’t mean that fault is never relevant. PIP coverage only provides compensation for things like medical expenses and lost wages–it doesn’t compensate the victim for pain and suffering and other costs associated with a serious injury.
Many drivers only purchase the minimum required PIP coverage. That coverage can barely scratch the surface if an accident victim suffers serious or catastrophic injuries.
What is the Florida Serious Injury Threshold?
Accident victims do have options if their injuries are serious. They might look beyond their own personal car insurance to:
- File a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company
- File a personal injury lawsuit for damages
Accident victims can only recover compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, and other subjective damages if they’re seriously hurt in the accident. This is known as the “serious injury threshold” in Florida.
To file a lawsuit after an auto accident, the injured party must have suffered an injury that consists in whole or part of:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
Usually, a car accident victim will sue for damages if the insurance company already paid off your claim and the victim has continuing expenses above and beyond your policy limits.
How Can the Injured Party Prove the Accident Was My Fault?
Because Florida is a no-fault state, your insurance company will pay you compensation even if you were at fault. However, your insurance company is responsible for paying damages to third parties only if you were at fault. In other words, the at-fault party has to prove that you were negligent to succeed in car accident cases.
There are a few things that the plaintiff must prove to establish that you were negligent. Those include:
- A duty of care, which exists because all drivers have a duty to use reasonable caution to prevent accidents
- Breach, which is the action or omission (mistake) that you made while driving
- Causation–the plaintiff must show that your mistake actually caused the injuries
- Damages, whether in the form of medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering or even property damage
The plaintiff’s lawyer will probably investigate to gather evidence about what happened. This evidence might include:
- Video surveillance footage
- Witness statements
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Expert witness testimony
The plaintiff’s lawyer will do everything they can to prove you caused the accident, so it’s important to refrain from making any statements about the crash.
What Happens if the Car Accident Was Only Partly My Fault?
Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. All parties to an accident can be held liable for their share of the damages. In other words, the injured person can still sue you for damages even if you were only partly responsible for the car accident. Every responsible party is assigned a percentage of fault.
The injured party’s compensation award can be reduced by their own percentage of fault. If a third party shared in the blame with you, that party can also be held responsible for their share of the damages.
Establishing fault can be tricky even if only a single person is to blame. An experienced personal injury lawyer will do everything possible to minimize their client’s share of the blame.
Action Steps to Protect Yourself After a Florida Car Accident
You can start protecting yourself from future legal action immediately after the car accident happens. You should:
- Call 911 and report the accident
- Check on everyone else involved in the crash
- Move all vehicles off the road if possible
- Take photos and videos of the accident scene and any apparent injuries
- Exchange information with the other driver and any witnesses
- Don’t speak to anyone other than the police about the accident
You should also get medical attention even if you don’t seem to be hurt.
What Types of Defenses Might Be Relevant if I’m Being Sued After a Car Accident?
Just like there are any number of ways to prove fault in an accident, there are a number of defenses that might be helpful if you’re being sued.
- The injured person failed to get medical attention within the required PIP timelines
- The accident victim’s injuries weren’t serious
- The injuries were pre-existing or caused by something other than the accident
- The injured person caused the accident and injuries
- The statute of limitations has expired
An experienced lawyer can help you identify the strategies that will be most useful in your specific case.
What Should I Do If Someone Sues Me After a Car Accident in Florida?
So, the commonly asked question is: what should I do if someone sues me after a car accident in Florida?
As soon as you receive notice that you are being sued, you should contact your insurance company. You’ll provide them with a copy of all documentation you have received. If they don’t provide you with a lawyer, or you feel like they aren’t defending your rights adequately, you can contact a Clearwater attorney at Roman & Gaynor to learn more about protecting your rights.
You should also avoid making any statements to defense attorneys or the victim’s insurance company. Insurance companies will do everything they can to shift the blame to someone else. Remaining silent can be much more valuable than you might think.
Remember, you can always call the car accident lawyers at Roman & Gaynor if you were involved in a car accident in Clearwater.