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Miami, Florida

Miami Car Accident Settlement Timeline

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Miami Car Accident Settlement Timeline

Due to Florida’s no-fault system, most Florida car accident claims resolve in a few weeks at most. Sometimes, however, claims take months or even years to resolve. 

The more serious the injury and the larger your claim, the longer it is likely to take to settle your case. Many factors will affect the timing of a Miami car accident settlement.  

Florida’s No-Fault Auto Accident System

Florida’s No-Fault Auto Accident System

A Florida motorist must purchase $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) insurance. Most of the time, in the event of an accident, you don’t need to bother asking whose fault the accident was. PIP will pay 80% of your medical expenses and 60% of your lost earnings regardless of fault. 

PIP Deadlines

Florida’s PIP car accident insurance system imposes the following deadlines:

  • You must seek medical treatment within 14 days of the accident;
  • PIP must pay your claim within 30 days after you file it.

Although PIP has 60 days after you file your claim to investigate it, they must still adhere to the 30-day deadline mentioned above, even if they suspect your claim. 

When Fault Matters

Fault matters in two scenarios:

  • The accident was the other party’s fault and you need reimbursement for damage to your vehicle. In this case, you can file a property damage lawsuit or a third-party claim against the at-fault driver’s property damage liability insurance policy.
  • Your injuries were “serious,” as Florida law defines that term, or your crash falls under another exception to the state’s no-fault rules.

In the latter case, suppose you permanently lose the use of your right thumb. If the court agrees that such an injury is “serious” (and it probably will), you can exit the no-fault system. 

Once you do that, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. In this lawsuit, you can seek full personal injury damages – both economic and non-economic. In most cases, you must file your lawsuit within two years of the date of the accident.

Settlement Timeline for Ordinary Personal Injury Claims

Although there is no timeline for a Miami car accident settlement that applies to every case, the following should provide you with a general idea of how these claims work, assuming that you were able to exit the PIP system due to the seriousness of your injuries.

Step 1: Gather Evidence at the Scene of the Accident

Gather the following evidence if your injuries allow you to:

  • Contact details for the other driver, passengers, and witnesses;
  • The other driver’s insurance details;
  • Photographs of the accident scene, including license tags, skid marks, property damage, and injuries.

Collect any other evidence that you suspect might prove useful.

Step 2: Seek Medical Treatment

Seeking prompt medical treatment is almost as important for legal reasons as it is for medical reasons. The longer you delay seeking medical treatment, the easier it will be for the other side to claim that your injuries are not particularly serious. 

Seek prompt medical treatment if you suffer any impact at all, even if you feel no pain, because some injuries, such as soft tissue injuries, can take time to generate symptoms.

Step 3: Talk to a Lawyer

Personal injury lawyers typically offer free initial consultations. During your consultation, the lawyer will ask you questions designed to help them determine whether they can win your case and, if so, how much your claim is likely to be worth. 

If the lawyer offers to represent you, you can be confident that they believe they can win it.

Step 4: Collect More Evidence

Once you decide on a lawyer, help your new lawyer to collect more evidence, such as: 

  • Your medical records,
  • The accident report,
  • Your medical bills,
  • Your “pain journal,” where you document your pain and how your injuries have affected your life,
  • An expert witness report, if the facts of your case call for one.

There are hundreds of different items and information that might serve as persuasive evidence in your case. Beware, however, that not all evidence is admissible in court or persuasive in settlement negotiations.

Step 5: Reach MMI

MMI, or maximum medical improvement, is the point you reach during medical treatment where your condition will probably not improve any further. Hopefully, this means a full recovery. It might, however, mean chronic pain or a permanent disability. 

Reaching MMI makes it easier to calculate your medical expenses, since you won’t have to speculate so much on the future.

Step 6: Send a Demand Letter and File an Insurance Claim

Insurance companies pay most personal injury claims. That might mean your own PIP insurance, or it might mean the other driver’s liability insurance carrier (if any). To jump-start settlement negotiations, you need to send the insurance company a formal demand for compensation along with documentation justifying your claim.

The insurance company will probably respond with a “reservation of rights letter.” Don’t worry, as this is routine.

Step 7: Negotiate Your Claim

Negotiation is a skill that insurance adjusters practice every day. For this reason, ask your lawyer to do the negotiating for you. Importantly, your lawyer cannot settle your claim without your advance permission.

Step 8: File a Lawsuit

There are strategic reasons why you might want to file a lawsuit even if you still plan to settle. Access to pretrial discovery (see below) is one potential reason. You will need to comply with specific documentation requirements to file a car accident lawsuit in Florida. 

Among other matters, you will need to establish that your injuries are serious enough to allow you to exit the PIP system (or that another exception applies).

Step 9: Engage in Pretrial Discovery

Pretrial discovery is an evidence-gathering tool that is only available to plaintiffs and defendants in active personal injury lawsuits. It is powerful because the court can sanction any party that refuses to cooperate.  

Step 10: Participate in Mediation

Judges often pressure parties to resolve their disputes through mediation. Mediation is a non-coercive means of dispute resolution that utilizes the services of a third party–a trained mediator. You don’t have to settle through mediation, but you probably should do so if you receive an attractive offer that way. 

Step 11: Hammer Out a Settlement Agreement

A car accident settlement agreement requires careful drafting. Once both parties have signed the settlement agreement, it becomes a binding legal contract. If the other party signs the agreement but refuses to pay the settlement, you can sue them under contract law.

Step 12: Collect the Settlement Funds

 Several things have to happen before you can receive your settlement funds:

  • The claim has to emerge from the insurance company’s bureaucracy.
  • The insurance company has to transfer the money to your lawyer’s escrow account.
  • Your lawyer must make appropriate deductions—your legal fees, case expenses, and any other deductions, such as a medical lien if you have one.
  • Your lawyer will then send the money to your bank account.

The entire process might take a few weeks.

Most Miami Personal Injury Lawyers Won’t Charge You Unless You Win

You might worry that you cannot afford a lawyer, or that you cannot afford the best lawyer. However, in personal injury cases, it is the quality of your claim that matters, not the size of your bank account. 

You won’t need to pay your lawyer any money upfront. Indeed, unless your Miami personal injury lawyer wins your case, you’ll never owe attorney’s fees at all. To discuss the advantages and disadvantages of settling your car accident claim, contact or call Shaked Law Personal Injury Lawyers at (305) 937-0191 for a free consultation.