Orlando, FL Auto Accident Attorney
The Orlando Sentinel recently reported that a 32-year-old woman was killed in a two-vehicle crash on the Florida Turnpike not far from Orlando. The crash occurred when the vehicle that the woman was driving was allegedly rear-ended by a pickup truck driven by a 25-year-old man. The force of the collision reportedly caused the woman’s vehicle to roll over. She was transported to the hospital, where she later died of her injuries.
The story, while terribly sad, is unfortunately common in the region. If you were injured in an accident due to the negligence of another driver or have lost a loved one in a car accident in Orlando, read on for more information about the compensation you may be eligible to receive for your injuries and other damages.
Causes of Car Accidents
Car accidents can be caused in a variety of ways. Here are some of the more common causes:
- Distracted driving: In 2016, distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,450 people and injured another 391,000, according to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Examples of driving distractions include texting and other cell phone use, eating, drinking, visiting with other passengers in the car, and external distractions such as a previous accident that draws the driver’s attention away from driving safely.
- Speeding: Speeding is involved in about 27 percent of the fatalities from car crashes in the U.S. Speeding increases the likelihood of having an accident and being injured in an accident as it takes away some of the time that a driver needs to react to hazards in the road, increases the severity of the impact, and makes automobile protective devices such as seat belts and airbags less effective in a crash.
- Impaired driving: Information provided by the CDC states that 29 people die in the United States each day due to motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver, meaning that there is one death caused by impaired driving every 50 minutes. The cost of alcohol-related crashes to society is about $44 billion a year.
- Driver fatigue: As reported by the National Safety Council, driving drowsy produces the same effects as driving while impaired by alcohol. A driver who has gone more than 20 hours without sleep has equivalent effects as driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent. As the driver’s reaction times, ability to sustain attention, and an awareness of hazards on the roadway all worsen with drowsiness, fatigued drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a car crash than those who are well rested.
- Tailgating: Tailgating is defined as a driver following the vehicle in front of him or her too closely. If the lead vehicle suddenly stops or slows, the following car may rear-end it. Rear-end collisions account for between 23 and 30 percent of all crashes. Tailgating deprives the driver in the following vehicle of the time needed to react to the lead vehicle’s sudden stop.
Common Injuries From Car Accidents
- Broken bones: One of the most common car accident injuries that a person can suffer is broken bones due to sudden impact or twisting. The most common parts of the body to suffer fractures in car accidents include the arms and legs.
- Traumatic brain injury: traumatic brain injury includes any injury that penetrates or fractures the skull, or that causes the brain to collide with the skull. More than half of all reported traumatic brain injuries are caused by car accidents.
- Spinal cord injury: Spinal cord injuries from car accidents tend to be very serious, leading to a loss of sensation and function of the body below the area where the damage occurred, or even death. Spinal cord injuries result from damage to the spinal column, spinal cord, vertebrae, ligaments, or disc.
- Internal injuries including internal bleeding or damage to the organs caused by the force of the accident, broken ribs, or the body striking objects during the crash.
- Herniated disc: Also known as a “slipped disc,” a herniated disc occurs when the tough, outer fiber of the spinal discs becomes torn and allows the soft, jelly-like substance in the center of the disc to leak out.
- Whiplash: Whiplash is a soft tissue neck injury that is caused by the forceful back and forth motion. Whiplash often presents with symptoms such as neck pain, stiffness, and headaches that typically start at the base of the skull. While most people find that their whiplash symptoms go away within a few weeks, the pain can linger for months or even years for some.
Where You Should Turn First for Compensation
Florida is a “no-fault” state when it comes to car insurance. What this means is that drivers are required to purchase a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy with a minimum limit of $10,000 to cover medical expenses and lost wages due to accident injuries, regardless of who was at fault in the accident. The plans must cover the insured, relatives living in the insured’s household, persons operating the insured’s motor vehicle, passengers of the motor vehicle and people who have been struck the insured’s motor vehicle. PIP plans cover the following damages:
- 80 percent of all medically necessary expenses for medical, surgical, dental, X-ray, and rehabilitative services, up to $10,000, or more if the insured purchases higher coverage limits. Florida’s PIP requirement states that these medical expenses are to be covered as long as the insured seeks initial services and care within 14 days after the injury occurs. Massage and acupuncture are not covered by PIP.
- Funeral and burial expenses of up to $5,000.
- 60 percent of lost wages, up to $10,000. This limit includes expenses for services that you would normally do but cannot due to your injuries, such as house cleaning or mowing your lawn.
Options if You Max out Your PIP Policy
Unfortunately, many people find that the minimum required $10,000 policy isn’t enough to cover the full costs of their injuries. Because of this, it is important to establish who was at fault for the accident and whose insurance is responsible for paying for the damages. Florida allows for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering to be sought through personal injury lawsuits only in cases where the injury is permanent. Permanent injuries include the following:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important body function.
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
- Significant scarring or disfigurement.
Some of the costs that you may be eligible to recover via a personal injury lawsuit include:
- Past, current, and future medical expenses for injuries that occurred in the accident, including the cost of long-term health care.
- Accessibility devices such as wheelchairs and lifts, and home renovations that are required for accessibility, such as ramps.
- Lost wages.
- Loss of future earning capacity.
- Property damage.
- Pain and suffering.
To prove your damages in your Orlando car accident personal injury case, you must show negligence on the part of the other driver. In order to show negligence, you must establish:
- The driver owed you a duty of care to operate his or her motor vehicle in a safe manner.
- The driver breached this duty of care.
- The breach in the duty of care caused your injuries, resulting in the damages you’re seeking to recover.
The statute of limitations to file a personal injury lawsuit is four years from the date of the injury. Important details of the accident can easily be forgotten though and after an accident if you think you might have a claim you shouldn’t hesitate in seeking out legal help.
Can More Than One Party Be at Fault for the Accident?
Florida permits personal injury lawsuits to name more than one at-fault party. Some examples as to how multiple parties can be at fault for the same accident include:
- The accident was caused by a distracted driver who was on the job and driving a company vehicle at the time. The employer may also be found negligent in that they hired someone with a past history of driving infractions to drive a company vehicle for them.
- Another driver rear-ended you because they were following too closely. However, the accident investigation revealed that there was a defect involving the brake lights on your car that caused them not to illuminate when you slowed or stopped. You may be able to show that the company that produced the defective product that caused your brake lights not illuminate was also negligent.
- A driver who was following too closely rear-ended you after being rear-ended by the vehicle behind them. You may be able to show that both drivers were following too closely and were partially responsible for causing the accident that resulted in your injuries.
- A driver impaired by alcohol was driving someone else’s vehicle when they caused the accident. In addition to the drunk driver’s negligence, you may also be able to show negligence on the part of the owner of the vehicle if it is found that they knew that the driver had a history of alcohol abuse and they let this person operate their vehicle.
What if You Were Partially to Blame for the Accident?
You can still seek compensation for the accident due to Florida’s pure comparative negligence rule, even if your own negligence was partially to blame. The basis behind comparative negligence in personal injury cases is that there are circumstances in which both parties had some responsibility for the accident. An example of this would be if the other driver rear ended your car due to following too closely, but you also had a brake light out which may have prevented the other driver from having warning that you were slowing down or coming to a stop.
The way Florida’s comparative negligence works is that the court determines what percentage of fault you had in the accident. That percentage is then deducted from damages that you are rewarded. For instance, if you were found to be 10 percent to blame for your accident but you were awarded $100,000 in damages, your 10 percent fault would be deducted from that amount, reducing your damage recovery to $90,000.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Car Accident
If you’ve lost a loved one due to an accident, a representative of your family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on your behalf within two years of the date of the decedent’s death. The representative can either be named in the deceased’s will or appointed by the court. Family members eligible for compensation include:
- The deceased person’s spouse, children, and parents
- A blood relative or adoptive sibling who was solely or partially dependent on the decedent for support or services.
A child born to unmarried parents is eligible for damages if his or her mother dies, but can only recover damages in the death of his or her father if the father had formally recognized the child as his own and was responsible for contributing to the support of the child.
Family members are eligible to recover damages for the following expenses through a wrongful death claim:
- The value of the support and services that were provided by the decedent to the family member.
- Lost wages, benefits, and other earnings from the deceased person, including lost wages that the deceased person would have been expected to earn in the future if death had not occurred.
- The loss of companionship, guidance, and protection that was provided by the decedent.
- Mental and emotional pain due to the loss of a child.
- Any pre-death medical expenses or funeral expenses that the family member paid on behalf of the deceased person.
Florida law caps non-economic, pain and suffering-type damages to $1 million in personal injury and wrongful death cases. However, the Florida Supreme Court found in 2017 that such caps were unconstitutional.
Need Help? Have Questions?
Whether you need more information about filing an insurance claim, your claim has been denied, or you are interested in filing a personal injury lawsuit, you should have an attorney with knowledge and experience in Orlando car accident cases on your side. Let the personal injury attorneys at The Law Office of Jerry Jenkins help you understand your legal options. For a free consultation and case evaluation, contact us online or by calling (407) 287-6757.
Orlando Car Accident FAQ
Sunny beaches, world-class theme parks, and tropical play spaces draw motorists to Orlando from across the country. As commuters and local residents share the roads with tourists and sun-seekers, accidents become inevitable. Accidents are always unanticipated and sometimes unavoidable. Read our car accident FAQ before the next accident takes you by surprise.
What are the Common Causes of Car Accidents?
Accidents happen in Orlando every day. Each one has unique circumstances but many result from Risky Driving Behaviors as classified by the National Highway Traffic Agency.
- Drunk driving. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), reported 5,125 accidents involving drunk drivers. The accidents resulted in 3,035 people injured and 374 fatalities. The DHSMV reported an additional 355 accidents and 274 fatalities involving both alcohol and drug impairment. In 2018, drunk drivers were involved in 10,511 fatal accidents nationwide. Florida law prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle when a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is greater than 0.08 percent. Studies show that alcohol impairs judgment, vision, muscle control, and other critical motor functioning at much lower BAC levels.
- Drug-impaired driving. During 2017, the DHSMV confirmed 668 drug-related accidents, resulting in 589 injuries and 338 fatalities in Florida. When drivers are under the influence of drugs, they experience physical and cognitive impairments similar to drunk drivers. Drug-impaired driving is illegal whether the substance is prescribed or an illegal controlled substance such as recreational cannabis. Effective March 2019, Florida Statute Title XXIX, §381.986, formally legalized medicinal marijuana in Florida. However, driving under the influence of medical marijuana is nonetheless a criminal act.
- Distracted driving. NHTSA statistics for 2017 reveal that 3,166 people died in distracted driving-related accidents nationally. Recent studies point to smartphones and other digital devices as the primary driving hazard. Drivers are also commonly distracted by passenger conversations, eating, daydreaming, and other activities that direct a driver’s attention away from driving. Authorities nationwide are undergoing training to detect and stop drivers using digital devices before an accident occurs. In Florida, law enforcement authorities are now required to document distracted driving in accident reports. However, the current statistics do not include reports after the reporting policy was implemented.
- Speeding. During 2017, the NHTSA documented 299 speed-related accident fatalities in our state. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) report, Speed by the Numbers, suggests excessive speed contributed to 9,000 fatalities in 2017. Nationally, the fatalities accounted for 26 percent of all accident fatalities in 2017. IIHS also found a correlation between increases in the posted speed limit increases and increases in accident fatalities.
- Drowsy driving. The NHTSA documented 795 drowsy-driving related deaths nationwide in 2017. Medication, overwork, fatigue, and inadequate or poor-quality sleep often contribute to distracted driving accidents. There are few verifiable signs of drowsy driving after a crash. Therefore, the National Transportation Safety Board believes accidents caused by fatigued driving are underreported.
Should I Report My Accident to the Police?
Florida statutes establish accident reporting guidelines under Title XXIII, §316.065. You must contact law enforcement authorities at an accident scene under the following circumstances:
- An accident causing a death
- A person is injured
- A vehicle involved fled the scene
- An accident involving a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- A crash where the vehicles require tow truck removal
- A crash with a commercial motor vehicle
- Damage to a vehicle or other property over $500
If an accident involves any of the above circumstances within a Florida municipality, you must report it to local authorities. An accident occurring within a county must be reported to the county sheriff or the closest Florida State Highway Patrol office.
If your accident caused any amount of property damage (even under $500), you must still submit a report. When you’re involved in a minor damage accident, you can download the Driver Report of Traffic Crash form. Once you complete the report, you may either email it to SelfReportCrashes@flhsmv.gov or mail it to:
2900 Apalachee Parkway, MS 28
Tallahassee, FL 32399
How Do I Obtain a Copy of My Crash Report?
Police officers must file a written crash report within 10 days of an accident. If you were involved in the accident or meet the criteria described in 316.066, you may receive a copy immediately. You can download your crash report at the Florida Highways Safety and Motor Vehicles Crash Portal. To obtain the report, you must pay $10 for the report plus a $2 convenience fee.
You may also request a report by mail. You should note that the Florida DHSMV does not release personally identifiable data until 60 days after an accident. To receive your report in advance, you must complete a “Sworn Statement For Traffic Control Information,” verifying your right to receive a report. You must then mail the request and your $10 fee to the Crash Records address listed above.
Your car accident lawyer can complete and file the necessary paperwork for you.
What Happens if the Other Driver Leaves the Scene?
When a driver causes an accident and leaves the scene, he commits a criminal act under Florida law. You must call a police officer at the scene of an accident when it involves a hit-and-run-driver. If the police catch the person who caused your accident, they will arrest and impose criminal charges. Criminal charges for hit-and-run vary depending on the severity of the accident and whether or not there are injuries or fatalities. If convicted, penalties include fines, license revocation, and imprisonment.
If you sustain injuries in an accident with a hit and run driver, it is likely the driver may be uninsured. In this case, you may be eligible to file an Uninsured Motorist claim with your insurance carrier.
What Should I Do While I Wait for the Police to Arrive?
If you or another sustained injuries, tell the emergency operator when you report the accident. The ambulance will be dispatched, so you will not have to wait for an officer to call an emergency unit. If you’re seriously injured and can’t move, wait calmly until assistance arrives. If you’re physically able to leave your vehicle and move around the accident scene, gather information while it’s still available.
Accident scenes begin changing within minutes of a crash. While you’re waiting for the police to arrive, valuable evidence may slip away. Drivers may leave the scene or move their cars off the road. Witnesses may blend into the crowd or walk away. Use your phone’s camera to capture any evidence you can.
Pictures from the scene of the accident may be useful to support your version of how the accident occurred.
Accident scene photos. Take photos of the scene before the vehicles are moved. It may help to capture:
- Close up and distant photos of the accident scene.
- Close-up photos of the vehicles, license plates, old and new damage, and debris left in the roadway.
- The other person’s driver’s license, insurance card, and the driver (if you can do so discreetly).
- Street signs, traffic signals, and other landmarks.
Witness contact information. If you see bystanders after the accident, speak with them before they leave the area. Investigate whether any bystanders witnessed the accident and ask for their contact information. Sometimes witnesses are reluctant to speak with police officers. However, they may be more comfortable reporting their observations to you. You will have to ask to find out.
Must I Report My Accident to My Insurance Company?
Whether or not you believe you’re at fault, you must report your accident to your insurance company. There are several reasons why, including:
- Auto insurance policies have a reporting requirement. Insurance carriers must be aware of your accident so they can determine who is responsible for your losses.
- When you fail to report an accident or delay your report, you prevent your insurance company from conducting a timely investigation.
- Even if you don’t believe you’re at fault, your insurance company has a right to make that determination. If damages are owed, they may wish to settle pending liability claims before an injured person files a lawsuit.
- If you’re injured, you are entitled to benefits for medical bills, wage losses, and expenses under your Personal Injury Protection coverage.
- You might not understand all of the liability issues or understand whether or not you’re at fault. If you’re not at fault, your insurance company wants the opportunity to gather enough information to defend you.
- If the other driver is uninsured or fled the scene, you will need to file an uninsured motorist claim with your insurance company.
How Does My Insurance Company Determine Who is At Fault?
When you file a claim, your insurance company investigates the accident to determine legal responsibility. When there are minimal damages or minor injuries, claim representatives sometimes rely on written accident reports for driver and witness accounts. When serious injuries are involved, they conduct a more comprehensive investigation with recorded interviews, a site investigation, and witness statements.
When you file a claim, be sure to share any information you gathered immediately following the accident. Photographs and witness contact information can help strengthen your claim. An unbiased witness’s statement is more credible because they have nothing to gain by telling a false story. Any relevant information you provide makes the decision-making process easier.
When the claims department has enough information, it will assess liability exposure based on a traditional negligence formula. In determining negligence, the following questions must be answered:
- What duty did you owe the driver? (Did you owe him a duty to stop, slow down, or yield the right of way? Did he owe you a duty?)
- Did you breach that duty?
- Did the other person sustain injuries or property damage?
- Was your duty breach the proximate cause of their losses?
Will My Insurance Company Pay the Other Person’s Injury Claim?
When a driver or passenger sustains injuries in an accident, their own Personal Injury Protection benefits pay for initial expenses. Any injured person must submit their medical bills, wage losses and other costs to their own insurance carrier for payment.
Your insurance company may determine you are responsible if you meet the elements of Florida statute 627.737, which assigns liability for accidents causing:
(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; or
How Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Work?
Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage is optional in Florida. Uninsured Motorist coverage and its companion, Underinsured Motorists coverage, covers injury-related damages when an “uninsured” driver or “underinsured” driver causes an accident. Auto insurance policies describe “uninsured” drivers as:
- A driver who doesn’t have bodily injury liability coverage;
- A person whose insurance company denies coverage or is insolvent;
- A hit-and-run driver who leaves the scene without identifying himself; or
- A driver with less coverage than required by Florida’s financial responsibility law.
If you have UM and UIM coverage, you will file a liability claim against your own insurance policy. Your injuries must meet the same tort threshold requirements as any other injured person making a liability claim. If your injuries meet the elements, you must negotiate a settlement with your own insurance company.
If I’m Injured, Do I Need an Attorney to Handle My Claim?
It’s never a good idea to handle claims without a lawyer. Car accident claims are complicated and sometimes difficult to resolve. You will be required to deal with insurance companies and their attorneys directly. To negotiate successfully, you must know the pertinent legal issues and how state law relates to your case.
When you negotiate your own claim, you must know injury values so you can feel confident you are receiving the compensation you deserve. You must also understand what to say and what not to say as you may easily jeopardize your own liability claim.
Personal injury attorneys provide legal guidance and moral support and they protect their clients’ legal interests. With an attorney fighting for your legal rights, you will be able to focus on your recovery. Lawyers use their experience, research legal issues, assess evidence, and evaluate injuries. They negotiate, mediate, and try cases in court if the parties cannot reach a reasonable agreement. An attorney will make sure you only accept a settlement you deserve—one that will cover your medical expenses.
What Is a Legal Consultation?
A consultation is the first meeting with a personal injury lawyer. Legal consultations can occur by telephone, video chat, or in person. A legal consultation will allow an attorney to evaluate your case and determine the best way for you to proceed.
When you consult with a personal injury attorney, there is no commitment required. It is simply a time for you to share your story and discuss your legal options in confidence. Any decision to move forward with legal action will be your decision.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“I live in GA and I was on vacation in Florida When I got hit. I needed a Florida lawyer to handle my case. Jerry was swift, he directed me and gave me good advice, hooked me up with great medical teams and followed my wishes for financial negotiation. Jerry has a wealth of knowledge and used all capacities to get the most I can get from my claim. Jerry will return your call in a timely manner, he will handle you correctly and accordingly. Don’t go nowhere else.”
Review by: Ivan J.