Accidents can happen in a split second, but the aftereffects, in terms of injury trauma, healing, rehabilitation, or coping with loss, can last a lifetime. Florida drivers should be aware of what steps to take after the accident has occurred, as well as what laws are in place that will determine the outcome of liability and insurance claims.
What happens immediately after the incident can affect the outcome of both insurance and personal injury claims. After reporting the accident, those involved should:
- Make sure to get the other driver’s contact information and relevant information about the other vehicle, including photos of both vehicles and of the damage
- Gather evidence, as well as contact information of any eyewitnesses
- Call 911 if any of the occupants has suffered injuries
- Give detailed information about the accident to law enforcement when they arrive at the scene
- Call your insurance company
Although most personal injury claims settle out of court, that does not mean that the settlement offers from insurance companies are sufficient to cover property damage, medical expenses, or lost wages. Because the required minimums for personal injury protection (PIP) in Florida are quite low, if the accident was caused by a negligent driver, the injured party may want to file suit in civil court if the damages and medical expenses are higher than what PIP will cover.
Florida’s no-fault insurance laws
The Sunshine State requires minimum auto insurance coverages for all registered drivers to pay for damages in an accident, no matter who was at fault. In Florida, property damage liability (PDL) will cover damages to the other vehicle in the accident, and PIP covers 80% of the expenses to any injured parties, regardless of fault. The required minimums for PDL and PIP are each $10,000.
No-fault insurance laws lower the number of uninsured drivers on the road, but the required minimums are often too little to allow the accident victims to recover damages for the full extent of medical expenses, lost income, funeral expenses, or survivor’s loss.
Pursuing a negligence claim
Although most no-fault insurance systems bar liability claims through the court system, Florida laws allow claims to proceed in civil court if the other driver was at fault, and if damages go beyond the available insurance coverages.
In pursuing a claim, the injured party must prove that:
- the other driver owed a duty of care to other drivers on the road
- the other driver’s actions or failure to act constituted a negligent breach of that duty
- this was the proximate cause of the injuries
- there has been compensable loss as a result
Proving liability often hinges on the evidence that investigators can recover, as well as the accident report and witness statements. As Florida is a comparative negligence state, even if the injured party was partially at fault for the accident, they can still recover the percentage of damages attributable to the other party.