Florida Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline
From Pensacola to Key West, Florida has 1,197 miles of coastline, 11 national parks, and a lot of lakes. Whether you're headed to one of these natural treasures, or on your way to Disney World in Orlando, you'll probably need to get there by car. And unfortunately, car accidents are just as much a part of life in the Sunshine State as they are anywhere else. If you've suffered such a fate, you'll need to know about relevant insurance laws as well as the settlement process and timeline in Florida.
Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in Florida?
In Florida, you must immediately contact law enforcement for accidents involving an injury, death, or property damage greater than $500 (Sec. 316.065). The police officer will submit a report for these types of accidents. For accidents that do not require a police report (such as minor car damage), or where no police investigation was conducted, the driver must file a crash report within ten days (Sec. 316.066).
Once you're in a safe spot on the side of the road, you must offer "reasonable assistance" to anyone who is injured and exchange personal, vehicle, and insurance information with the other drivers (Sec. 316.062, 316.027, 316.061). You should also get the names and contact info for any witnesses, document weather and road conditions, and take photographs of the vehicles. Finally, although you should tell the truth to an investigating officer, never assume responsibility for the accident at this point. Even if you feel responsible, the facts might show that you were not actually at fault.
Florida Car Insurance Laws
Florida has a no-fault insurance system which means each driver's medical bills and related expenses are covered first by his or her own insurance carrier, regardless of fault (Sec. 627.731 et seq.). However, for property damage, you can pursue a claim against the at-fault driver's insurance. Every driver must carry at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and $10,000 of property damage liability insurance (Sec. 627.736).
Once you're home safe after an accident, you should file a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible, but you can check your policy to see what the exact deadline is. Additionally, don't wait to see a doctor, but do hold off on car repairs if possible -- your insurance company may want to inspect the damage or have you go to an approved repair shop.
How Do Car Accident Settlements Work in Florida?
In a settlement, the injured person agrees to a payment amount from the insurance company or other driver, and in exchange gives up the right to pursue any further legal action in connection with the accident. Like most types of settlements, the willingness to settle and the amount offered after a car accident will depend heavily on the evidence supporting your case. For this reason, witness statements, police reports, and other documentation are extremely important in these negotiations.
By law, insurance companies may not engage in unfair or deceptive practices, such as failing to pay valid claims for personal injury protection, or failing to properly investigate a claim (Sec. 627.736(11), 634.336(5)). However, their primary job is to look out for the business interests of the insurance company, not you. To settle a claim, the insurance company may want you to sign a release which states that you won't file more claims related to the same accident. However, you should not do so until you're satisfied that the settlement is fair and covers your damages, including future medical treatment as estimated by your doctor.
What is the Average Car Accident Settlement in Florida?
Since the circumstances and damage of each accident are unique, there is no exact formula for calculating a car accident settlement amount. However, there are relevant factors to consider, such as the following:
- The severity of your injuries
- Costs of reasonable and necessary medical expenses
- Loss of past and future wages
- Whether you helped cause the accident: Florida follows the "pure comparative negligence" doctrine where damages are barred or reduced according to your degree of fault (Sec. 768.81(2))
- The types of insurance coverage both parties have
- The amount of evidence and documentation you provide
- Your or your attorney's ability to argue your case
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Florida?
Since Florida is a no-fault state, you can only pursue a personal injury legal claim against an at-fault driver in the event of a serious accident. The deadline (or "statute of limitations") for filing a personal injury or property damage complaint is four years from the date of the car accident (Sec. 95.11(3)).
Need Help with Your Car Accident Settlement? Meet With a Florida Attorney
Navigating Florida's no-fault insurance system and when it applies can be tricky, and there could be a lot at stake if the accident caused serious injuries. Having an attorney argue your case against the insurance company can make a huge difference during settlement talks. Learn more about the strength of your case by meeting with a Florida accident attorney today.
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