Fort Pierce Car Accident Lawyers
Car Accidents in St. Lucie County
Every year, thousands of people are injured or killed in car accidents throughout Florida. To help victims recover compensation for certain accident-related losses and reduce the overall number of personal injury claims filed, the state instated a no-fault car insurance system. Under this system, you can file a claim with your auto insurance provider after a crash and recover monetary compensation for certain covered losses, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
No-fault insurance is limited. It also does not cover non-economic damages, like pain and suffering. For many accident victims, it is simply not enough.
At Smith, Ball & Báez, our Fort Pierce car accident attorneys help victims of all types of motor vehicle collisions with all aspects of no-fault insurance. We also help individuals step outside the no-fault system, when applicable, and bring third-party personal injury lawsuits against negligent motorists and their insurance companies. Our team has extensive experience and a long, proven record of success in all types of auto accident cases throughout St. Lucie County and the surrounding areas.
How Does No-Fault Insurance Work?
No-fault insurance was put in place to limit the number of lawsuits moving through the legal system. It allows motor vehicle accident victims to be compensated for certain covered losses, regardless of fault (hence, “no-fault” insurance).
After an accident, injured victims can file personal injury protection (PIP) claims and receive compensation for:
- Up to 80 percent of the victim’s medical expenses
- Up to 60 percent of the victim’s lost wages or income
- Miscellaneous out-of-pocket expenses (with limitations)
Note that, if your injury is not considered an “emergency,” you are only entitled to $2,500 in damages under the no-fault system. It’s also important to clarify that PIP does not cover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. Additionally, because it does not cover the full cost of an individual’s medical bills or lost wages, victims could potentially be responsible for paying thousands of dollars in expenses out of pocket after an accident.
Going Outside of Florida’s No-Fault Car Insurance System
In some cases, it may be possible to go outside of the no-fault system and bring a third-party claim against an at-fault driver’s insurance carrier and/or sue the liable party directly for damages. To do so, you will need to prove that you have suffered a “serious injury,” as defined by the state.
In Florida, a “serious injury” is defined as one that leads to:
- Significant and/or permanent scarring or disfigurement
- Significant and/or permanent loss of a critical bodily function
- Permanent injury, such as the loss of a limb
If you sustained a catastrophic injury or if your loved one passed away due to a fatal car accident, you may have grounds to go outside the no-fault system and seek compensation for all of your accident-related damages, including the full cost of your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
What Is the 14-Day Rule?
The 14-day rule refers to the 14-day deadline accident victims have to obtain medical treatment. If you do not receive medical attention within 14 days of the accident, you will be ineligible to receive no-fault/PIP benefits.
It is extremely important that you seek medical attention as soon as possible after a car accident. Even if you believe your injuries are minor or will heal on their own, you should always see a healthcare provider. Your doctor can rule out more severe injuries or diagnose underlying trauma and recommend the appropriate treatment. This not only ensures your continued health and wellbeing, but it also protects your right to file a PIP claim after an accident.
If you fail to see a doctor within 14 days of the accident, you cannot receive compensation through PIP, even if your injuries do not go away or your condition worsens.
How Long Do You Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Florida?
The general personal injury statute of limitations applies to most car accident cases in Florida. This means that you have four years from the date of the accident (or injury) to file a lawsuit against the liable party. If you wait too long, your case will most likely be dismissed.
Note that this only applies to third-party lawsuits, not insurance claims. In fact, you often have far less time to file an insurance claim after a car accident. We strongly recommend that you reach out to our Fort Pierce car accident attorneys right away if you were recently involved in a crash and need assistance with any aspect of your claim.
How Comparative Negligence May Affect Your Claim
Although Florida’s no-fault insurance system does not require you to establish the other party’s fault to file a PIP claim, you may need to prove liability if you wish to go outside the no-fault system. This means you will need to prove that the other driver (or another party) was at least partly at fault for the crash.
Another motorist (or some other party) could be liable for the accident if they caused it by:
- Driving while distracted
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Driving aggressively, recklessly, or engaging in road rage
- Tailgating, or following too closely
- Driving while fatigued
- Violating traffic laws or rules of the road
Under Florida’s rule of pure comparative negligence, you can still file a car accident claim if you were partly at fault for the accident. However, the amount you can recover in compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
So, for example, if you were found to be 30 percent at fault for the accident, and you were seeking $10,000 in damages, you would only be able to recover up to 70 percent of that amount, or $7,000. Often, insurance adjusters assign greater blame to claimants in an effort to reduce the amount they have to pay out. At Smith, Ball & Báez, we know how to fight back against insurance companies’ efforts to dispute, devalue, and even deny our clients’ claims. We are prepared to fight tirelessly for you and the maximum compensation you are owed.
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