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.