Miami Car Accident Lawyer
Car accidents are stressful experiences, and the aftermath can be equally overwhelming. Insurance companies might fight against giving you fair compensation to cover your medical expenses. In addition to costs incurred to treat your injuries, you might have lost wages due to time off work for recovery or total job loss if your injuries result in long-term or permanent disability. It may become necessary to contact a Miami car accident lawyer to assert your rights and establish a compensation claim.
What is a Car Accident Lawyer?
Car accident lawyers handle all aspects of your accident insurance claim and personal injury lawsuit. More generally called a personal injury lawyer, this type of attorney specializes in civil cases and can properly evaluate your case to get you compensated for injuries or damages you suffered due to an accident. Your car accident lawyer follows civil rules of procedure, applicable statutes, and evidentiary rules to establish your damages claims and advocate for maximum compensation to assist in your recovery.
What Can a Car Accident Lawyer in Miami Do?
Your car accident lawyer can work with you through every step of getting compensated, including:
Recording information and gathering documentation
Your local Miami car accident lawyer gathers records and evidence needed to support your claim. These documents can include medical records, insurance policy contracts, proof of your wages at the time of the accident, paid and unpaid medical bills, and more. Your lawyer can use these documents to determine how much compensation you deserve.
After gathering documents to establish the validity of your damages claim, your lawyer can research the accident further to determine what happened and who’s at fault. Your lawyer collects relevant evidence, such as dashcam footage, security camera footage, and police reports, to prove liability. Your lawyer may find witnesses to gather more information or consult with medical experts about the full extent of your injuries. The investigation can also involve reconstructing the accident scene or simulating the accident.
Negotiations with insurance companies can be tricky without a lawyer, as companies may try to get a statement from you that inadvertently weakens your claim. Your lawyer has the appropriate training to properly correspond with insurance companies to get you the maximum compensation you’re entitled to. If settlement negotiations with the insurance company fail, your lawyer can file a lawsuit and present your case in court.
Throughout the entire legal process, a lawyer is an expert who can act as a valuable resource for you to answer your questions and explain your rights. Also, there are many complicated legal procedures and terms that your lawyer can help simplify for you to more easily follow along with what’s happening and the next steps in the process.
Car Accident Statistics in Miami
Florida had 401,867 motor vehicle crashes in 2019. Of those crashes, 2,951 involved fatalities, with 3,185 people dying that year. These statistics make Florida the third-highest ranking state for total car crash deaths. In 2018 alone, traffic accident deaths in Florida cost $4.40 billion. In 2017, the Florida section of the US-1 highway was deemed the deadliest highway in the United States, with 1,079 fatal crashes in the last decade.
Miami-Dade County sees the most accidents of any other county in Florida, with 65,143 total crashes in 2019 that resulted in 31,698 injuries and 298 deaths. Approximately 20 percent of these traffic accidents happen within the city limits of Miami.
Car accidents are a serious and costly issue across the United States. Florida – and particularly Miami – are not exempt from the devastating consequences of traffic accidents.
Common Car Accident Areas in Miami
With the help of INRIX data, our team mapped out some of the most common intersections where accidents occur, including:
Right as you exit the Dolphin Expressway, at the intersection of NW 57th Ave, you’ll see a Motoport USA store. The dot indicates this high accident area on the map below:
The intersection between Dolphin Expressway and NW 27th Avenue:
Near the Courtyard by Marriott Miami Airport, you’ll find a heavily trafficked intersection uniting the Dolphin Expressway and NW 42nd Avenue, where many accidents occur:
Car accidents can cause a wide range of injuries, including:
- Back and spinal cord injuries that can cause paralysis
- Neck injuries and whiplash
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Head trauma and concussions
- Soft tissue injuries (e.g., bruises and “road rash”)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Crush injuries
- Broken bones
Causes of Car Accidents
The leading causes of accidents include distracted driving, speeding, reckless driving, and driving under the influence. Proving driver negligence caused a car accident is paramount to getting fair compensation. Here’s a list of a few common causes of car accidents:
- Distracted driving, such as looking at your phone while driving
- Drunk driving
- Reckless driving
- Changing lanes improperly
- Not yielding to oncoming traffic
- Bad weather
- Deficient car maintenance by the registered vehicle owner
- Substandard car maintenance by a mechanic or dealership
- Poor lighting on the roads
- Malfunctioning traffic lights
- Negligent pedestrians or cyclists
Common Types of Miami Car Accident Cases
Car accidents can involve one car or multiple cars, and each type of accident can have different collision points. Every car accident has a unique set of facts that can influence the outcome of an insurance settlement or lawsuit. Common types of car accidents include:
Head-on collisions have a high potential to be catastrophic because they usually involve cars traveling at high speeds. This type of crash kills more people than any other type of car accident. Head-on collisions often happen with one car driving the wrong way on a high-speed highway. A vehicle can also turn the wrong way on a one-way road, or the driver may be overly tired or under the influence.
Rear-end car accidents can vary widely in severity, so your compensation amount will depend on your specific situation and the harm caused by the accident. Significant factors influencing the outcome include the extent of damage to your car and any other property, cost of hospital bills, and amount of lost wages from time off work.
Miami-Dade County had over 7,000 pedestrian crashes from 2008 through 2013. Accidents that involve pedestrians are naturally more dangerous for the victim who’s not driving the car. Florida considers a motorist to be in a safer position due to the vehicle’s protection, so drivers have a responsibility to be mindful of pedestrians’ safety. Section 316.130(15) of Florida Statutes states that drivers must exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian. Drivers are also responsible for exercising appropriate precautions and warning pedestrians of impending danger when necessary. A pedestrian victim often sustains significant injuries and can file to receive compensation for medical expenses and more.
Hit and Run
Florida Statute 316.062 mandates that a driver involved in a car accident that injures, kills, or damages property must provide aid and give information (e.g., name, address, vehicle registration numbers, driver’s license information). A driver who leaves the scene of an accident faces increased legal ramifications, both civil and criminal.
Rollover accidents are another highly-dangerous and deadly type of car crash. In 2019, the FLHSMV annual crash report found that overturned vehicle crashes in Florida caused 1,803 injuries, 744 major incapacitating injuries, and 164 deaths.
Parking Lot Accident
People often think car accidents only happen on roadways, but they can also occur in parking lots. Parking lot accidents can happen when cars back out of parking spaces, hitting another car or pedestrian. Two cars might also collide when they move for the same parking space. Parking lots often have two-way lanes with one lane for entering and one lane for exiting, but some ins and outs can get confusing. Determining fault in these instances is paramount to your parking lot accident claim.
Florida requires all motorists to have a basic auto-insurance coverage plan that consists of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) and $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL). Still, driving uninsured does happen. According to the Insurance Research Council, Florida is the number one state with the highest percentage of estimated uninsured motorists in 2015 at 26.7%.
If the at-fault driver does not have the appropriate insurance (or if their insurance does not cover the full extent of injury and damage), you can:
- Use your PIP coverage: You can receive payment from your own insurance company. A car accident lawyer can help if your insurer tries to deny coverage.
- Use Florida’s optional insurance coverage: You can buy additional coverage, such as uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage, and collision coverage, to protect your interests if you’re involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver.
Sue the other driver: The negligent driver (whether insured or not) is still liable for compensating you, so you can file a lawsuit to obtain a judgment against them. The at-fault driver broke the law by not carrying the required insurance, so Florida’s no-fault rule does not protect them (see “Florida Laws You Should Know About”). You can also sue the other driver if they have basic insurance, but the accident’s economic damages exceed the PIP coverage.
Street Racing Accidents
The COVID-19 lockdown emptied most roadways, opening the door for people to engage in street racing. Roads such as I-95, the 826, and the 836 have become popular “racing tracks.” Street racing accidents can be severe due to the speed at which the cars are moving. Criminal charges are likely to accompany insurance claims and civil lawsuits.
In Florida, driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or above is considered driving under the influence and constitutes a DUI charge. Florida law considers drunk driving negligence, so the drunk driver is almost certainly at fault for any accident. Florida also follows dram shop laws, which apply to people who might negligently allow drunk drivers to get behind the wheel after serving them alcohol in their restaurant or bar, knowing they were intoxicated.
Unlike most other states, Florida generally does not hold establishments and vendors (like bars and restaurants) responsible for over-serving a person, resulting in a drunk driving accident. Florida’s dram shop laws can hold an establishment or person liable under a negligence claim if they intentionally provided alcohol to a person under the age of twenty-one and that person drove drunk. Your car accident lawyer can help you navigate the nuances of your drunk driving accident case and the application of laws like the dram shop law, when relevant.
A drunk driver can face charges for intoxication manslaughter when an accident caused by their negligence results in someone else’s death. This situation is a third-degree criminal felony. But regardless of whether a drunk driver faces criminal charges for the victim’s death, the deceased victim’s family can file a wrongful death lawsuit (a civil lawsuit) for the loss of their loved one.
Florida Laws You Should Know About
Understanding Florida car accident laws and how they impact you and your ability to recover compensation for your injuries incurred in a car accident is something a Miami car accident lawyer can help you with. Miami car accident lawyers are knowledgeable of the following laws that can affect your insurance claim or civil lawsuit:
Florida's No-Fault System
A no-fault system governs accident-related injuries in Florida. States with no-fault systems require everyone to be covered by additional car insurance coverage called “Personal Injury Protection” (PIP). PIP coverage takes care of expenses necessitated by a car accident up to $10,000.
Regardless of who was at fault for the accident, the parties involved can receive payment for injuries through their insurance. PIP coverage also benefits people besides the policyholder, including:
- The insured’s children – PIP coverage can protect children injured in an accident occurring in the policyholder’s car and also for injuries sustained while riding a school bus.
- Other members of the policyholder’s household
- Passengers riding in the policyholder’s car, as long as they do not have their PIP coverage as legally obligated if they own a vehicle
Getting paid through an insurance claim up to $10,000 via Florida’s no-fault system means you receive your payment much quicker than if you would’ve had to file a lawsuit or negotiate with the other driver’s insurance company. Though, $10,000 may not be enough, and the no-fault system does restrict a person’s ability to file personal injury lawsuits. Generally, Florida will only allow a victim to receive economic damages to compensate for actual expenses and incurred losses. Non-economic considerations, such as mental anguish or pain and suffering, are not heard, except in extreme cases.
"Serious Injury" Under No-Fault Law
Limitations of no-fault laws are void in some cases, allowing a car accident victim to go beyond the $10,000 PIP claim. In these cases, plaintiffs can hold the at-fault driver accountable if your car accident injuries are considered “serious injuries” under the Florida Statutes Annotated section 627.737, which defines such qualifiable injuries as:
“(a) Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
(b) Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement
(c) Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
Car accident victims suffering from one of the serious injuries outlined above can file a third-party car insurance claim, a personal injury lawsuit, and pursue compensation for non-economic losses not available under a no-fault situation.
Florida's Pure Comparative Negligence
Florida’s pure comparative negligence system assigns a percentage of fault from 0-100% to everyone involved in an accident. This law means that the injured plaintiff can share responsibility for the resulting accident along with the defendant. The amount of compensation an injured party can receive is contingent on their respective percentage of fault. If the suing party was 20% negligent, they can recover 80% of the total compensation awarded by the judge or jury. If you’re in a car accident and you are not entirely blameless, an experienced Miami car accident lawyer can help investigate the facts of your case and fight for the highest compensation available to you.
Statute of limitations
Depending on the type of lawsuit you’re filing, Florida has varying statutes of limitations or time restrictions to file your civil suit. For most personal injury claims in Florida, you must initiate your case within four years from the accident date. This four-year limitation applies to car accidents, slip and falls, product liability, and other similar claims. If your loved one dies in a fatal car crash and you decide to file a wrongful death claim, you have just two years from the date of the accident to file your compensation claim. Talk to a lawyer to determine how long you have to file your car accident lawsuit.
If you’re filing a personal injury lawsuit, your lawyer will determine negligence and base your claim on the same. The other driver isn’t automatically responsible for your injuries. To sue the other driver or their insurance company, you must first prove that their negligence caused the accident that led to your injuries.
The law generally defines negligence as a failure to act in a reasonable manner to avoid injuring other people. A successful claim for negligence needs to prove the following four elements:
You must show that the negligent party had a duty of care. Everyone has a legal obligation to act reasonably so as not to injure others. On roadways, this means drivers must drive sober and follow traffic laws, etc.
You must show that the offending party breached their duty of care. Injured parties can prove negligence in a car accident by showing that the driver failed to do or reasonably should’ve done something but didn’t. In some situations, if a car manufacturer did not reasonably create a safe vehicle, you can also potentially hold the manufacturer responsible for your resulting injuries.
You must show that you sustained injuries resulting in economic and non-economic damages. You should compile medical records, paid and unpaid bills, and proof of lost wages or property repairs to show the damages incurred.
The breach of duty needs to have directly caused your injuries.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
After your car accident, you might have a lot of questions. We want to get you the answers you need so you can focus on your recovery.
What should I do if I was in a car accident?
You should follow certain steps after a car accident, including:
Make sure you're safe
Seek medical attention before worrying about any potential legal issues. Some injuries don’t present immediate symptoms but can be serious, presenting significant problems later. Don’t neglect your health just because you feel okay at the moment. Going to a hospital or seeing a doctor can also be beneficial for any subsequent claim you need to file because you will need medical documentation of your injuries.
Record evidence at the scene (if you can).
It’s helpful to take pictures of the damage and collect information from the other driver and any witnesses. Under Florida law, drivers must provide their contact information, driver’s license number, license plate number, and insurance policy information if involved in a car accident. If you’re unable to get what you need at the scene, your car accident lawyer can be a valuable resource to help you gather any necessary information you might lack.
Report the accident to law enforcement.
A police report is a pertinent evidentiary document to have on hand when you file a claim with your insurance company or if you need to file a lawsuit for compensation. If the car accident is minor with no injuries or property damage, you can use the local police department’s direct line instead of calling the 911 emergency number.
Speak to a local Miami car accident lawyer.
A car accident lawyer can help make sure you get fair treatment, whether you’re negotiating with your insurance company or filing a civil lawsuit. Some personal injury cases are straightforward and able to be resolved directly between you and the insurance companies. Still, a lawyer can be a crucial resource to get you the highest amount of compensation, and they know what to do if your case gets complicated. For example:
- if either side disputes the facts of the accident
- if there are more complex elements to the accident
- if you have injuries that are unusual or significant
- if the other party is not admitting liability
- If there is a lot of money at stake
- If your case requires expert testimony
Do not admit fault to insurance companies.
Let your local Miami car accident lawyer handle communications with all insurance companies, especially if you want to take legal action outside of cashing in on your PIP insurance. Even if you believe you contributed fault for the car accident, you may be wrong, and you don’t want the insurance company to document your admission if it turns out you’re incorrect. The police and your insurance company will decide who’s responsible — don’t indict yourself before determining fault. Anything you say to the contrary can devalue your claim.
What legal action can you take?
In addition to collecting from your PIP coverage, there are other forms of legal action you can take to receive compensation after a car accident, including:
File a personal injury claim against the other driver
A successful personal injury lawsuit against the other driver can provide compensation for medical expenses, future medical costs, lost wages, future lost wages, and in extreme cases, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. To file a personal injury claim for a car accident in Miami:
- The other driver must be at least partially at fault for the accident. (Florida’s pure comparative negligence law means the other driver does not need to be 100% at fault.).
- Your medical and other expenses must exceed the $10,000 available to you through your PIP coverage.
File a wrongful death claim
Losing a family member is always devastating, but especially when it happens due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful act resulting in a car accident. Florida’s Wrongful Death Act enables an accident victim’s family to hold the responsible parties accountable with civil charges.
A wrongful death claim can result in a monetary recovery for a family member’s wrongful death. The exact amount will depend on many factors, including the individual’s age and the extent to which someone’s negligence caused their death. Wrongful death compensation claims can also consider the family’s mental anguish and loss of an inheritance.
File a product liability claim
Suppose a defect in your car or the other driver’s car caused an accident. In that case, you may be able to file a product liability lawsuit against the car or car parts manufacturer to recover compensation for your accident and injuries. Defective car parts might include brakes, fuel systems, steering wheel, tires, etc. Your lawyer will spend time with experts investigating the car and identifying defects that existed before the accident. It must be determined that:
- The defective vehicle or part was “unreasonably dangerous”
- You were operating the vehicle as intended
- You did not modify the vehicle’s performance after its initial purchase
What can I receive compensation for after a car crash?
You can request compensation for the following damages after your car accident:
- Medical expenses: Ambulance rides, emergency department visits, hospitalization, x-rays, surgeries, and more
- Future medical costs: Around-the-clock care for long-term disability and extensive recovery requiring further surgeries
- Rehab and recovery costs: Physical therapy, prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs, and walkers
- Lost wages: If you miss work after a serious accident
- Future lost wages: If a severe injury prohibits you from returning to work
Non-economic damages (for cases of “severe injury” ): Pain and suffering, loss of consortium, mental anguish, scarring, and disfigurement
How do I know if the other driver was drunk?
To determine if the other driver was intoxicated, you can review the police report. If officers have reason to believe a driver is drunk when they arrive at the scene of a car accident, they can request that the suspected drunk driver carry out field sobriety testing or BAC testing. The police report will include the results of all tests administered and whether the driver refused such testing. This information can be helpful to your case.
How do I obtain a copy of the police report?
Call your local police department to request a copy of the police report from your car accident. You can also mail the police department a formal request for the report. If you have a lawyer, they can obtain the police report for you.
What if the accident was partially my fault?
Florida follows the pure comparative negligence system, so all parties involved in an accident may share some percentage of fault. Being partially at fault does not disqualify you from receiving compensation. PIP will cover up to $10,000 no matter who is to blame. If you decide to file a civil lawsuit, your percentage of fault will directly impact the monetary recovery you can receive.
How long do I have to file a claim after a drunk driving accident?
Florida has a four-year statute of limitations for most personal injury claims, including car accidents. This rule means you have four years from the car accident date to file your lawsuit for compensation. If your family member dies in a car accident, you have two years from the accident’s date to file a wrongful death claim.
What does PIP insurance cover?
PIP will cover up to 80% of your medical bills if you file a claim within 14 days, but it’s capped at $10,000 if your injury is life-threatening. If your injury is not life-threatening, then the cap is $2,500. For example, if your medical bills for a serious injury are $10,000, PIP will cover $8,000.
In Florida, PIP also covers 60% of your lost wages up to $10,000. Recoverable income can include direct lost wages and the cost of daily tasks, such as housekeeping, that your injuries prevent you from doing yourself.
Also, if a car accident kills your loved one, Florida’s PIP will cover some of the associated expenses. Up to $5,000 is available for the next of kin to cover funeral and burial expenses, end-of-life medical costs, and lost wages.
What are punitive damages?
A judge or jury will assess punitive damages against the defendant for grossly negligent or egregious behavior intended to punish the defendant and deter future similar wrongful actions. The purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate the plaintiff (injured victim), but they still receive some or all of the damages in addition to an award for economic damages. Punitive damages are common in cases of repeated drunk driving violations.
Should I contact a Miami car accident lawyer?
Yes. A lawyer familiar with Florida personal injury laws and prior experience handling Miami car accident claims can help you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us now to learn about your legal rights following a car accident that left you injured.