In Florida, insurance covers most car accidents. If you suffer minor injuries that cost less than $10,000 in medical expenses and lost income, you will deal solely with your no-fault auto insurer. If you suffer a permanent injury or your damages exceed your no-fault policy limits, you will deal with the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurer.
In either case, the insurance companies and the at-fault driver have an incentive to blame you for the accident. Blaming you can reduce the amount of their liability or even eliminate it.
Here is some information about how an personal injury lawyer can help if insurers blame you for an accident.
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Auto Insurance Laws in Florida
Florida uses a no-fault insurance system. Every vehicle owner in Florida must have an auto insurance policy with $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP). Florida does not require car owners to buy bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage.
When you suffer an injury in an auto accident, your injury claim starts with your auto insurer. Your insurance policy covers 80% of your medical expenses and 60% of your lost income until the insurance company pays out $10,000.
You will receive PIP benefits from your insurer regardless of who caused the accident, hence the name “no-fault.”
For example, suppose that you had $10,250 in medical bills and $3,000 in lost income. The insurer would pay $8,200 of your medical bills and $1,800 of your lost income even if you caused the accident. At that point, you would hit your policy limits, and your PIP benefits would run out.
No-Fault Insurers Could Blame You for an Accident
Your insurance company has an incentive to blame you for the accident in some situations.
Under Florida law, your insurer does not need to pay PIP benefits if you:
- Intentionally caused the crash
- Crashed while committing a felony
After an accident, a claims adjuster could investigate to determine whether you intentionally crashed. By shifting blame for the accident to you, the insurance company could potentially save up to $10,000.
The most common reason for shifting blame to you is if you were intoxicated at the time of your accident.
Prosecutors can charge DUIs as a felony when you have two prior DUIs or if the DUI kills or injures another person. If prosecutors charge you with felony DUI, your insurer will shift blame for the crash to you and deny your PIP benefits.
Negligence Claims in Florida
If you suffer a permanent injury or your losses exceed your PIP benefits, you can pursue a negligence claim against the at-fault driver.
To prove negligence, you need to show that the driver failed to drive with reasonable care. A driver does not need to break a traffic law to drive negligently. However, if the other driver received a traffic citation, your chances of proving negligence will improve under a doctrine called negligence per se.
On the other hand, if the driver can shift blame to you, the driver’s potential liability decreases or is eliminated. Under Florida’s modified comparative negligence statute, you can only recover damages in proportion to the fault of the person you sue — and you cannot recover damages if your portion of fault exceeds 50%.
For example, if the at-fault driver was 60% at fault for your injuries, you would only be able to pursue 60% of your total damages in a claim. If the other driver was 40% at fault (making you 60% at fault), you’d be entitled to nothing.
This means the defendant has a powerful incentive to shift as much blame to you as possible. The more blame you bear for an accident, the less the at-fault driver must pay in damages.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help with Comparative Negligence Problems
An injury lawyer can take several steps to keep the blame where it belongs, including:
Representing You in Communications and Negotiations
Oftentimes, insurers use your words to shift blame to you for your accident. One common tactic is to take a phrase out of context and badger you into an admission.
An experienced injury lawyer knows the tricks that can be used to twist your words. A lawyer can advise you when to speak and when to keep quiet. A lawyer can help you prepare to give statements to insurers. A lawyer can defend you in depositions and during your testimony in court.
By keeping a tight rein on insurers and defense lawyers, your lawyer can minimize the risk that these parties will try to shift blame to you.
Investigating the Case Thoroughly
If the case devolves into the at-fault driver’s word against your word, the case can become unpredictable. An injury lawyer can prevent this from happening by investigating the case thoroughly and developing evidence to support your side of the story.
An injury lawyer could collect physical evidence, such as photos of the accident scene. Skid marks, the angle of the collision, and security videos of the accident can help to identify who is to blame for an accident.
The injury lawyer might also collect statements from witnesses who saw the accident. These witness statements could show that you didn’t play a role in causing the accident.
Hiring Expert Witnesses
Expert witnesses provide opinion testimony based on their education and experience. In a typical case, the expert witness analyzes the evidence and forms an opinion about what happened.
If the defense lawyer blames you for the accident, your injury lawyer can hire an accident reconstruction expert to review the evidence. The expert will prepare a report explaining what happened. The expert may even create videos, animations, and charts to illustrate what happened.
These visual aids can persuade a jury that you were not to blame.
It can be overwhelming to be blamed for a car accident, especially if you aren’t at fault.
To learn how an experienced personal injury lawyer at Shaked Law Personal Injury Lawyers can help, contact us or call (305) 937-0191 for a free consultation. Our skilled attorneys will listen to the details of your case, provide insight into effective strategies for countering insurers and other drivers, and help you to understand all of your legal options.