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Pursuing Florida Auto Accident
If you are involved in a car crash in Florida and wish to file
a claim against the person you believe responsible for the incident
in a Florida court, you should make yourself aware of the basic
laws the State of Florida employs in determining liability and
awarding damages to plaintiffs.
Every individual operating a motor vehicle within Florida
has a duty to exercise reasonable care in the operation of that
motor vehicle. The burden of reasonable care makes drivers accountable
for acts which they knew would likely result in personal or property
injury and for acts which they should have known would likely
result in personal or property injury. Florida state law identifies
a driver's failure to use reasonable care as negligence. Negligence
represents the first requirement for a successful lawsuit.
Once you have established the negligence of a party, you must
show that their negligence caused the accident that resulted
in your lawsuit. "Causation," in a legal sense, can
be a complex issue, but suffice it to say that if the negligence
of the party resulted in the injury to person or property for
which you have sued, causation exists.
Finally, in order to maintain a suit as the result of an automobile
accident, you must prove that you have suffered damages. Damages
include economic injury, such as lost income or wages, medical
and funeral expenses, lost support and services, and replacement
value or repair costs of personal property damaged in the accident.
In addition damages may include non-economic injuries such pain,
suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience as a result of bodily
injury that result for the accident.
The State of Florida has a "No-Fault" law, which
requires your auto insurer to pay for non-economic damages, regardless
of who caused the accident. Florida enacted this law as a way
to reduce auto-injury fraud, thereby keeping insurance costs
down. Florida does have exceptions to the "No-Fault"
law. You may collect non-economic damages from the at-fault party
if you can establish that the bodily injury resulted in: 1) significant
and permanent loss of important bodily function; 2) permanent
injury; 3) significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement;
or 3) death.
A court may reduce your damages, if the defendant can establish
that actions on your part contributed to the accident. This principle,
known as "comparative negligence," holds that a court
can reduce your damage award by the percentage for which a jury
found you responsible for the accident. For example, if you establish
damages in the amount of $10,000, but the jury finds that your
negligence constituted twenty percent of the reason the accident
occurred, then your damage award would be reduced by twenty percent,
Florida law also allows the reduction of damage awards by
any amounts you might have received from public or private insurance
to compensate you for your losses. Under this rule, known as
the "Collateral Source Rule," if you received $1,000
from your auto insurer to cover your medical expenses after an
accident, a court may reduce your damage award, if it includes
medical expenses, by $1,000.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
You should note that you may only file your suit within four
years from the date of the accident. Florida law prohibits any
suit filed after the four-year period. If you think that you
might have a claim against another party as the result of a car
accident, you should consult a qualified attorney as soon as
possible to ensure that your suit is filed within the four-year
PARTIES YOU CAN SUE
Florida law allows you to sue not only the operator of the
vehicle, but also the owner of the vehicle, or the employer of
the operator of the vehicle, if the operator was acting in his
capacity as an employee. Circumstances exist when you may not
sue the owner of the vehicle. Florida courts have held that legal
title to a car is not sufficient to establish ownership, but
that the party must have control and authority of the automobile's
use. In addition, an owner who is the long-term lessor of the
automobile has immunity from suit. In those cases, you may sue
the lessee, even if he or she was not operating the automobile
at the time of the accident.
Florida law mandates a certain minimum automobile liability
insurance coverage for all automobiles registered in the state.
Depending on the terms of the individual policy, liability insurance
typically covers the cost of property damage, including the cost
of repair or replacement for any property damaged as the result
of an accident. Liability insurance also pays medical bills and
lost wages as a result of bodily injuries incurred in an accident.
Florida law requires that each car registered in the state
have a minimum of $10,000 in insurance coverage for one person
injured in an accident, and a minimum of $20,000 for all persons
injured in an accident. In addition, Florida requires a minimum
$10,000 in coverage for property damage. While Florida law also
mandates $10,000 in coverage for when you are involved in an
accident with an uninsured, underinsured, or hit-and-run driver,
you can waive this requirement through a written request to your
Beyond this compulsory insurance, you may wish to purchase
additional insurance coverage. As the owner of an automobile,
a court may hold you personally liable for any damages in excess
of your insurance coverage for any accident your vehicle caused
through negligent operation. Purchasing additional coverage could
protect your personal assets in case of a suit.
Basic Reparations or Medical Payments Coverage, Collision
Coverage, and Comprehensive Coverage are three types of additional,
optional insurance coverage. Basic Reparations Coverage covers
bodily injury and medical expenses of an at-fault driver who
does not have medical insurance. Collision coverage pays for
damages incurred by the at-fault driver in accidents involving
collision. Finally, Comprehensive Coverage pays for damage to
a vehicle not caused by collision, including damages caused by
theft, vandalism, flood, fire, and explosion.