Pensacola Car Accident Lawyer
Auto Accident Attorney Representing Clients in Fort Walton, Cantonment, & Surrounding Areas
At the The Watson Firm, PLLC, we know that people injured in car accidents are entitled, under Florida law, to compensation for medical expenses, wage loss, out-of-pocket expenses, and pain and suffering damages. An insurance adjuster may try to get you to settle your claim right away. Keep in mind that the insurance company’s primary goal is to pay as little as possible for your settlement. Hiring your own car accident lawyer in Pensacola ensures that you have someone to protect your interests and recover as much as possible for your injuries.
When Can You Sue an At-Fault Driver in Florida?
Since Florida is a no-fault state, you may only sue another driver for damages sustained in a car accident if your injuries meet a certain threshold.
Under Florida Statutes section 627.737, an injured party (or the family of a person killed in a fatal car accident) may seek legal action against an at-fault driver in pursuit of compensation if their injuries involve any of the following:
- Significant or 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
Since these definitions carry a certain level of ambiguity, is important to consult with an attorney if you think you may qualify under Florida's serious injury threshold, to determine your legal options. If your injuries do not meet this threshold, you will be unable to recover damages for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
With that being said, property damage lawsuits are exempt from this threshold and can be filed against an at-fault party without limitations. You may also choose to file a property damage claim under your own insurance policy if you have elected to purchase collision coverage
The Florida Car Accident Statute of Limitations
If your injuries do meet the state's serious injury threshold, you will need to act quickly if you wish to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Under the statute of limitations established in Florida Statutes section 95.11(3)(a), you have four years from the date of your accident to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at fault driver in pursuit of compensation. This same deadline applies to property damage lawsuits related to your crash. Wrongful death claims related to a car accident must be filed within two years of the date of the deceased person's death, if it is different from the date of the accident.
If you try to file a claim after the statute of limitations has passed, your case will almost certainly be dismissed by the court, thereby permanently barring you from pursing legal action. For this reason, it is crucial you act with urgency after an accident and speak with one of our car accident lawyers in Pensacola, our firm will make sure all filing deadlines are met.
Comparative Negligence in Florida Auto Accident Claims
Florida follows a rule known as "pure comparative fault," also known as "comparative negligence," when both drivers are found to share blame for a car accident. This means that a person's eligible compensation after a crash will be reduced by a percentage equal to their share of fault. For example, if you were involved in an accident and suffered $10,000 worth of damages, but you were found to be 30% at fault for the crash, you would only be able to recover $7,000 in damages (or 30% less than $10,000).
Insurance companies know this law well and may use this to minimize your potential settlement after an accident. Our firm can protect your best interests and shield you from this type of unfair treatment.
Compensation for Injuries & Property Damage in Florida
Florida is a no-fault state. This means your auto insurance pays for medical bills and other expenses first, regardless of fault. Insurance companies are required to set aside up to $10,000 in No Fault or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits when you are involved in an accident.
Some of the sources of compensation may include:
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) - This no-fault insurance pays benefits, regardless of fault. The insurance company is required to provide benefits for medical expenses, wage loss, mileage, and other out-of-pocket expenses. You must seek medical attention within 14 days of the accident, or you waive your right to PIP benefits.
- Medical Bills - Your auto insurance will pay 80% of the first $10,000 of expenses, and the at-fault driver will need to cover the remaining 20% and any medical costs that exceed the PIP insurance limits.
- Vehicle Damage - After the accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will call you regarding your property damage claim. Florida law holds the at-fault driver responsible for your personal injury and property damage claim. Your comprehensive and collision coverage may also cover your property damage, but you may have to pay a deductible. You should not sign a settlement release for a property damage or personal injury claim without consulting with a car accident lawyer in Pensacola.
Do You Need Car Insurance in Florida?
The simple answer is yes. Car insurance, at some level, is required in practically every state. While driving in Florida you have to have up to date proof of insurance. Law enforcement will ask you for your proof of insurance if you are pulled over or in a car accident. Without proof of insurance, you could face hefty fines or even the loss of your driving privileges. The minimum insurance requirements for Florida are:
- Personal injury protection (PIP) of at least $10,000
- Property damage liability (PDL) of at least $10,000
Additional insurance coverage can be a great idea, otherwise you can end up paying for the damages out of your own pocket.
Should I Hire an Attorney After a Minor Car Accident?
Even if you believe your accident was minor, it’s important to speak to our car accident attorney in Pensacola. Many people find that their injuries are much worse than they initially believed at the time the accident occurred. This is because some injuries can take days or weeks to show themselves completely.
Additionally, as much as they may say they are, insurance companies are not on your side. They are looking out for what is best for their company first, not what is best for you. An experienced attorney from The Watson Firm, PLLC can fight to protect your rights and help you recover the compensation you deserve so you can cover all your medical expenses. Filing a car accident claim can be complicated. Our firm is here to help you. We offer free consultations, so you have nothing to lose by calling our firm today.
What to Do After an Auto Accident in Pensacola
The first thing to do after an auto accident is to make sure you are okay. After a car accident, increases in adrenaline can mask serious injuries. You may feel fine, but later discover that you sustained injuries. For this reason, it is best to go to the hospital to get checked, even if you don’t see any injuries or feel hurt at all. Extreme forces are involved in car accidents, so it is best to seek medical attention to identify injuries that may require treatment.
At the scene of the accident, you should:
- Contact law enforcement immediately to help you file a police report
- Take pictures of the scene of the accident, damage to vehicles, skid marks on the road, or any other evidence
- Get the names and contact information of any witnesses
- Never admit fault at the scene of the accident or before an investigation has been completed
- Get in touch with a Pensacola car accident attorney from our firm
The investigating officer will probably ask if you are injured. Because injuries may not present themselves immediately, it is best to say you don’t know. After the accident, you should seek treatment at the hospital, at an urgent care clinic, or from your primary care physician.
No Fee Unless We Win
The Watson Firm, PLLC does not charge for your initial consultation with our Pensacola car accident attorneys. If you hire our firm, you will never receive a bill unless we recover money from the person that caused your car accident, or that driver’s insurance company. Make sure to check out our case results as well as what our client testimonials and see what people are saying about our firm.
- Can a Passenger Sue After Being Involved in a Car Accident?
- What to Do After Being Involved in a Car Accident
- Pain & Suffering in Car Accidents