Have you been injured in a car accident in Pinellas or elsewhere in Florida? Before you speak with an insurance adjuster about your accident, we recommend speaking to one of our car accident lawyers. Herman & Wells offers free legal consultations for car accident victims who have been injured and are facing significant property damage. Call (727) 821-3195 or use our convenient online form if you'd like to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.
After a traumatic collision, so much happens, and you may need to make crucial decisions that could have long-term ramifications for you and your family. The actions you take at the scene of the accident, and the days that follow, can have a dramatic impact on your ability to recover compensation. A person in pain and anxious about how they will pay for their medical expenses can have trouble deciding what to do.
If you or a loved one have been injured due to another driver's negligence in Florida, you should contact a car accident lawyer ASAP. Personal injury attorneys who are experienced with car accident claims can help you recover full compensation from the at-fault party's insurance company.
Reasons to Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer After a Car Accident in Florida
If you handle the case on your own, you are likely to receive the bare minimum from an insurance company. Despite what their advertising campaigns may have you believe, insurance providers must make a profit in order to stay in business. One of the most effective methods of doing this is by keeping claim payouts as low as possible. After you file a car accident claim in Florida, your insurance adjuster will not hesitate to use what you tell them to undermine the value of your claim.
The truth is the insurance claims process can be quite complicated, especially for high-value claims like a car accident that resulted in injuries. Car accident lawyers in Pinellas are trained to deftly navigate the pitfalls in this process that trip up so many drivers who choose to pursue their claims on their own. This is why people who hire an experienced* attorney after a car accident end up receiving many times more in compensation than people who go solo.
Note: It is important that you hire an attorney with a proven track record of success in relevant car accident cases or related personal injury claims in Florida.
Herman & Wells employs a team of highly skilled car accident lawyers in Pinellas. When you hire one of our lawyers after a car accident, you will have someone who is accessible, straightforward, and ready to advocate for your rights in court against the biggest insurance companies in Florida.
Insurance Disputes After Car Accidents
Every minute you spend in a car or a truck increases the likelihood of coming across someone else who is not paying attention, who is driving too fast, driving while tired, while on the phone, while texting, while intoxicated, or while focusing anything other than the road. There are approximately five million motor vehicle accidents every year in America. About forty thousand result in fatalities.
The fact is that more people under 34 years of age die in automobile collisions than by any other means. The insurance industry pours a tremendous amount of money and time into fighting the claims arising out automobile collisions. They extensively train every one of their adjusters how to try to get you to settle for the least amount possible.
Injured in a Car Accident in Florida? Call a Personal Injury Lawyer ASAP
We urge you to call our personal injury law firm right away after a car accident. Our team of legal experts can often retrieve pivotal evidence that won't be available later.
For example, say you are in an accident that happens to take place near the local pawn shop in Pinellas Park. Our car accident lawyers can request footage from the pawn shop’s security cameras (if available) that might show critical evidence of the crash that happened out front.
A good car accident lawyer will also want to contact any witnesses as soon as possible. It is not uncommon for people to not only forget details about the crash, but sometimes they'll also forget speaking with anyone until we let them listen to their own recording.
Our attorneys have been highly trained in litigation tactics and know how to respond to insurance companies when they want to play hardball. Still, it is often the critical evidence such as witness testimonials or video footage that can make or break a case in Florida. This evidence isn't available for very long after a car accident occurs, so we highly recommend contacting a personal injury lawyer within 14 days after the incident.
Dealing with Auto Accident Injuries
If you suspect that you were injured during the car accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible. After this level of trauma, the body often goes into shock and releases endorphins which will mask the pain of an injury. You may notice that your fingers are shaking a little and your heart rate is elevated due to this fight or flight reaction.
Serious neck, back, shoulder, or knee injuries that will require surgical intervention may only present with stiffness, a burning sensation, or a headache on the day of the crash. Let your doctor know about all your symptoms and that you may be in shock. He or she will know what to do.
In addition, if you delay in treatment will lead the insurance company and their attorneys to argue that it was not the collision that caused your injury.
Hidden Car Accident Injuries
In minor car accidents, a person can sustain several injuries that may not manifest themselves for several days. Despite being hit from behind, you may feel fine initially. Our car accident lawyers always recommend going to seek a doctor after this type of traumatic incident. A car collision can cause hidden injuries that aren't noticeable right away but could become very serious if left untreated.
Most people might think about broken bones, lacerations, and serious head trauma when they think about car accident injuries. However, tendon ruptures, stretched ligaments, and contusions are common car accident injuries in Pinellas and may not be immediately noticeable.
There is a possibility that you will wake up in severe pain tomorrow or the day after. Adrenaline can mask an injury following a car accident. Personal injury lawyers in Pinellas will tell you to see a doctor as soon as possible to ensure that you don't have any hidden injuries.
What Should You Know If You Plan on Filing a Car Accident Claim on Your Own in Florida?
There are no legal restrictions preventing someone from representing themselves in court for a car accident case in Pinellas. However, it is important that you are aware of what you will have to face beforehand.
If you have experience handling legal matters and extensive knowledge of the laws in Florida, you may decide to settle your case on your own.
If you don't and you have been seriously injured, then we highly recommend hiring a car accident lawyer to advocate on your behalf. One tactic insurance companies use when people don't have an attorney is a quick settlement offer. People often take this without question simply because they don't what their car accident claim is really worth or don't want to take on the extra hassle.
Those quick settlement offers are rarely enough to cover the significant medical expenses that can result from common car accident injuries. Our Pinellas car accident lawyers know all of the tactics insurance companies may employ and how to address them head-on.
In your demand letter to the insurance company, a car accident lawyer will calculate all damages, both present, and future, including intangible, non-economic damages. Additionally, a lawyer can build an evidence-based case to block the insurance company's attempt to deny the claim by questioning the policyholder's fault.
Qualities an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Should Have
A car accident attorney specializes in personal injury law. There are many local options available to you in the Pinellas area. When you ask the right questions and look for the right credentials, you can narrow down the right lawyer for you. Before hiring an attorney, you should research them online to see what other people have to say.
It isn't a bad idea to ask how much of their business comes from referrals from other attorneys. If the percentage is higher, it is a good sign. Lawyers who refer you to someone have a high level of respect for that person - enough respect to risk their reputation on a recommendation. An attorney should also provide references to support their qualifications.
Why Trial Experience Is So Important
A lot of personal injury attorneys specialize in certain types of cases. Workers' compensation, class actions against manufacturers, and car accidents are among the usual cases they handle. The lawyer you choose should have extensive experience handling car accidents. In the unlikely event your case does not settle before trial, look for a lawyer who has taken cases all the way to trial. With this experience, there is no doubt that there is a successful track record of getting insurance companies to make appropriate settlements and judgments.
Why an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Works on Contingency Fee
After a car accident, a contingency fee arrangement ensures that you receive the legal advice you need without worrying about how you will pay for the service. You will only owe attorney's fees when you receive compensation, either through a settlement or verdict. These fees are deducted from the settlement or verdict. The use of contingency fees improves access for indigent clients by enabling people who otherwise could not afford counsel to assert their claims, gives attorneys incentive to pursue success for clients, and allows clients to shift the risk of losing to the lawyer.
Why a Great Car Accident Lawyer Should be Accessible
Throughout your case, you will have many questions. An attorney should be able to explain what is happening to you in a way that you understand. Even though you may think that a lawyer who uses legal jargon sounds impressive, you will probably end up lost.
Why an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Should Have Their Own Office
If you want to win your case, you need an attorney who has the resources to do so. In other words, they have the staff to conduct investigations and address issues as they arise. As your case progresses, you'll likely interact with some of these staff members. It is also a good sign of a professional law practice if the attorney's office is organized. When you come in for a meeting with an attorney, it's hard to trust them as they flip through files trying to find your case.
How Experienced Car Accident Lawyers Help Clients Maximize Their Clients’ Compensation
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that motor vehicle collisions cost $242 billion when factors such as lost productivity, fatalities, and reduced quality of life from accident-related injuries are taken into account. Since your accident, injuries, work, wages, and life, in general, differ from other accident victims, there is no average settlement estimate. There are two factors that determine the settlement value of your case: your injuries and any limits your insurance company sets. To get the settlement you deserve, your lawyer will need to work on both factors.
Insurers may do everything in their power to deny your claim or prove that the policyholder was not at fault for the accident. To prove that you suffered serious injuries, your lawyer will need to gather and present medical bills showing your treatment, hospitalization, and emergency transportation as well as a forecast of how to proceed with your case. Documentation supporting non-economic damages will also have to be provided.
Proactive Steps to Take After a Car Accident in Pinellas
1) Dial 911 As Soon As You Get Into a Car Accident in Florida
When you get in a car accident, shock is probably the first thing you'll feel. Having this "feeling" may make you feel too numb to realize that you have injuries, such as broken bones. Therefore, you should call 911 as soon as you stop your vehicle. It's also best not to move your car from the accident scene unless it's causing traffic.
Tell the 911 operator the exact location of the accident. If possible, provide specific details such as highway mile markers and landmarks.
It will take the police and paramedics less time to reach you if you provide more details. The operator should not be told who caused the accident. A description of the scene and the type (and extent) of injuries are all the operator needs to know.
2) Call the Police to File an Accident Report
The police do not need to be notified of all Pinellas car accidents, such as a minor fender-bender. When it's a hit-and-run or a crash that causes property or personal damage worth $500 or more, call the police as soon as possible. However, if you called 911, the operator should have already notified the policy. Calling the police is important, even if the accident turns out to be minor. If the other driver is drunk or has fled the scene, or if the accident was caused by negligence, this is of even greater importance.
3) Create a Detailed List of the Accident
As you wait for the police, try to recall what you remembered before the accident. Remember the direction you came from before you were hit by the other driver. Did the traffic light turn green, red, or yellow? What symptoms of DUI may the other driver have displayed? Was he swerving, speeding, or showing any other signs? Maybe you've seen the other driver using a mobile phone while operating the vehicle.
The other driver, in this case, would have already broken Senate Bill 76.
Describe everything you can about the other vehicle in the event of a hit-and-run. It's important to note the make, model, year, and color of the vehicle. It will help the police to identify the offender if they can find even a small detail, such as a sticker or a dent on the bumper.
You should exchange vehicle and insurance details with the other driver if they stayed on the scene. List the make, model, year, license plate number, and vehicle identification number.
The other driver's full name, address, date of birth, contact information, and license number should be obtained. Ask for the name and contact information of the vehicle owner if the driver isn't the owner. You should ask the police officers for their name, contact information, and badge number as well.
4) Gather Evidence and Witness Accounts
Make sure you take photos and videos from different angles of the involved vehicles. You can also determine road obstructions and weather conditions from these images and recordings.
You should also include street signs in your visual evidence. Record videos with sound, since this can provide clues to a person's state of mind. Slurred speech may indicate intoxication. It's possible that you can catch the other driver admitting fault.
If there is a cooperative witness, ask them to recount what they saw in a video. Make sure you get their name and contact information. It's possible that your insurance company will contact them.
With such evidence in your possession, the other driver would find it difficult to alter their story. This can be used to dispute what they said right after the accident.
5) Call Our Car Accident Lawyers in Pinellas
Even if you aren't sure you want to hire an attorney following a car accident, it is worth speaking to one before you file your claim with your insurance provider. If you call the car accident lawyers at Herman & Wells, then you'll be speaking with an expert who can walk you through what to expect during the insurance claims process. Remember that this is a free legal consultation and an excellent opportunity to learn more about your claim may really be worth.
6) File a Car Accident Claim With Your Auto Insurance Company
Florida is a no-fault state, so you'll be filing a claim with your insurance provider following a car accident. If you aren't sure what to expect and still not comfortable contacting an attorney, we've also created this guide on how to file a car accident claim in Florida.
How Do You Know If You’re Getting a Fair Settlement Offer After a Car Accident in Pinellas?
In a car accident, there is no such thing as a typical settlement, but it should at the very least pay for your medical and repair bills. The amount will differ from person to person and case to case. Depending on your degree of negligence, some states allow you to claim only a portion of your losses. Settlements for car accidents vary from case to case, so you may want to consult with an attorney who can evaluate your losses and estimate a fair settlement for your case.
If you are involved in a car accident, you may recover compensation for both economic and non-economic losses, for example:
- Visits to the doctor
- Hospital stays
- Surgical procedures
- Costs of transportation
- Loss of wages
- Loss of earning potential
- Pain and suffering
- Suffering from mental anguish
- Damage to property
- Cost of funeral and burial (in the event of wrongful death)
Depending on your losses, a Pinellas car accident lawyer can better estimate what you deserve. If you cannot settle your case outside of court, and the negligent party is found to deserve punishment by a judge or jury, you could receive punitive damages.
Who Will Pay for Your Medical Bills Afterward?
In Florida, everyone is required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage on their automobile insurance policy. This will usually provide a minimum of $10,000 in coverage. PIP is meant to cover up to 80% of the resulting medical care expenses regardless of who was at fault. The issue far too many people end up facing is that insurance carriers often refuse to pay it all. Even when they do, there's still 20% left over that you are responsible for if you do not make a claim against the at-fault driver’s bodily injury (BI) coverage. The PIP coverage for medical care goes straight to the medical facilities. You can claim some of that PIP coverage for some of your lost wages as well, but it only covers 60% of those damages.
If the at-fault driver has BI coverage on their car insurance policy, it could cover medical care for the rest of your life as well as:
- All lost wages and lost earning capacity
- Injury, pain and suffering
- Disability or physical impairment
- Mental anguish
- Loss of the capacity for the enjoyment of life
Unfortunately, many drivers in the state of Florida don't have adequate (or any) bodily injury coverage on their policy. This is why our personal injury lawyers always recommend adding uninsured motorist (UM) coverage to your auto insurance policy. Here's a video from Cliff Wells, a board certified personal injury attorney that breaks down the impact UM coverage can have if you're in a car accident in Florida:
Can You Sue If You Weren’t Injured in a Car Accident in Florida?
You may not have been injured in a Florida car accident, but your car could have been damaged. You might also suffer psychological trauma and be unable to return to work or your daily routine. In Florida, there is a "no-fault" insurance system, which means that regardless of whether or not you're at fault for an accident, you can claim damages from the insurance company.
Coverage Protection Laws in Florida
Owners of vehicles are required to purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) worth at least $10,000 and Property Damage Liability coverage worth at least $10,000. When you're involved in a car accident, your insurer should cover medical expenses up to $10,000.
Despite the fact that the law awards you non-economic compensation for "pain and suffering," you can only claim these damages if you have significant injuries. The injuries and trauma are the cause of the pain and suffering.
For instance, being unable to perform an essential bodily function or having a permanent injury or disfigurement which cannot be reversed. Nevertheless, you can seek damages if the Florida car accident aggravated your pre-existing condition.
What Are Your Options If You Were At Fault for the Car Accident in Florida?
Depending on your state of residence, causing a car accident will affect your ability to collect compensation. As a result of so-called "fault" states, the person who caused the accident assumes responsibility, which usually means their insurance company covers damages.
The injured party in a no-fault state like Florida is entitled to compensation from their own insurance provider after a collision, regardless of who caused the collision. You will be covered for both medical expenses and certain economic losses under PIP.
When you are the at-fault party in a collision, the other parties may file a third-party claim with your insurer. Although no-fault states may allow your insurer to cover damages beyond their own PIP coverage, the other parties may still require it.
When you share some blame in a car accident, some states have comparative negligence rules that can limit how much you are able to recover. According to the "pure comparative negligence" doctrine, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. You will only receive compensation if you are found to be 50 percent or more at fault for the crash in states that use "modified comparative negligence" rules.
Other states, however, follow contributory negligence rules which means that you will not be able to recover damages if the jury finds that you were at least one percent at fault.
Lost Someone in a Fatal Car Accident in Florida?
According to the CDC there were more than 32,000 crash deaths in the US in 2013 and about half of drivers or passengers who died in crashes in the US weren’t buckled up. Speeding contributed to more than 9,500 crash deaths. Drunk driving contributed to more than 10,000 crash deaths.
Here are some statistics about vehicle crash deaths that do not touch on the pain this loss has inflicted on you:
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that the 32,000 crash deaths in the U.S. cost more than $380 million in medical costs.
- 17% of car crash deaths involved occupants of the vehicles.
- 20% of the vehicle deaths involve motorcyclists.
- 19% involved pedestrians.
- 5% involved cyclists.
- As far as how vehicle deaths breakdown by age, 4% of vehicle deaths involved older adults, 3% involved children, teens account for 8%, young adults were 45% and adults were 40%.
If you have had a loved one die in a vehicle crash, it will be covered by a combination of laws relating to car crashes, but it will also be covered by the laws involving wrongful death damages. Call our personal injury law firm today and speak to one of our experienced attorneys for free.
How Much Time Do You Have to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident in Pinellas?
Your state's personal injury statute of limitations determines how long you have to file a lawsuit after being in a car accident. To find out how long you have to file a lawsuit, check your state's statutes. For personal injury lawsuits involving car accidents in Florida, the statute of limitations is four years from the date of the crash.
Depending on the severity of the injuries or property damage, a lawsuit could take considerable time. This is why we recommend contacting our car accident lawyers as soon as possible. We'll need time to build your case, establish liability in the accident, and determine what damages you should demand from the insurance company.
Your case also needs to be submitted before the deadline. Before the personal injury statute of limitations expires, anyone interested in filing a complaint must do so with the court in their area. You may lose out on the chance to seek compensation in your case if you miss this deadline, and the liable party may not be responsible for paying damages resulting from the accident.
How Long Does It Take To Settle Car Accident Claims in Florida?
Settlement times for car accident claims are entirely dependent on the circumstances and the insurance companies involved. If they believe their driver is at fault, the insurer must investigate the accident and make an initial settlement offer. A claim can be denied altogether, which will prolong the process even more. If this occurs, you could choose to file a personal injury lawsuit, though those also take some time to resolve.
You deserve compensation if you suffer injuries due to the negligence of another party, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. Here at Herman & Wells, our car accident attorneys in Pinellas Florida are ready to help. We want you to recover from your injuries as quickly as possible. Let us take care of the groundwork for you. Simply call (727) 821-3195 to request a free legal consultation with one of our lawyers.