Why You Need a Car Accident Lawyer
Consulting a car accident lawyer in Miami immediately following a motor vehicle accident or collision is essential. Lawyers who specialize in car accident claims understand various, legal, evidentiary, and factual issues. In fact, the only thing that takes higher priority after an accident should be getting prompt medical treatment. Miami car crash victims who don’t first talk with an injury lawyer sometimes make critical mistakes when it comes to their medical visits and interactions with insurance adjusters. They sometimes fail to see all the right medical providers or they don’t visit them soon enough, potentially giving the defense an opportunity to argue an intervening cause for the injury. Insurance adjusters, meanwhile, are often smooth talkers who can seem as if they’re trying to help you out. They are not.
Over the last 50 years, our Miami personal injury lawyers have seen far too many cases wherein an unrepresented crash victim was too quick to sign away their rights, failed to fully grasp the potential damages or didn’t recognize the complexity of the legal issues at hand. These pitfalls are avoidable with proper legal counsel.
While you are never obligated to hire a car accident attorney, you will almost certainly benefit from speaking with one who can examine your case and tell you:
- What sources of financial responsibility are available
- The likelihood of success on the merits
- The number of legal claims available
- Challenges to your car accident claim
- What car accident defenses may be raised
- What doctors to see after an auto accident
- How do deal with bill collectors after you accident
- Whether you may have a valid claim for damages.
- Types of damages you could obtain if you succeed.
- Outcome your accident case has if it were to settle vs. go to trial.
- What steps you can now take to maximize your potential recovery.
Most people view car accidents as relatively straightforward, as far as legal issues go. Someone hit you. You got hurt. Now they should pay you damages. Right?
Florida law does not always make it that easy.
First and foremost, Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to traffic accidents. Per Florida Statute 627.736, all motorists are required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. This is supposed to cover the insured regardless of who was at-fault. However, it will only cover up to $2,500 unless there is a formally-diagnosed emergency medical condition. It is only after you exceed that $10,000 PIP threshold that you can pursue further damages from the negligent driver or other parties.
That brings us to the next point: Defendants. To ensure you receive full and fair compensation, you must properly identify all defendants.
- First, we will be examining the liability of the driver. That could be someone in another vehicle or the operator of the vehicle in which you were a passenger. It could be numerous drivers. Not all accidents have a clear-cut singular cause, especially if numerous vehicles are involved.
- Secondly, we’ll be looking at the owner of the motor vehicle. Florida common law precedent set by the state supreme court recognizes motor vehicles as dangerous instrumentalities. What that means is it is an inherently dangerous item, and therefore the owner who willingly allows someone else to use it is responsible when it is operated in a negligent manner and harms someone else.
- Beyond that, we’ll be looking at whether the drivers involved were on-the-clock. Employers, per the legal doctrine of respondeat superior, are vicariously liable for their employee’s negligence. That means even if the employer did nothing wrong directly, if the careless driver was acting in the course and scope of employment, the company could be responsible. A business might also be directly liable if there is evidence of negligent hiring, negligent retention or negligent supervision of that worker. But one must be careful: Only employees, not independent contractors, fall under this provision.
- Next we want to know if the vehicle malfunctioned in some way, contributing to the crash or worsening the severity. That could lead us to a product liability claims, which per Florida Statute 768.81(1)(d) asserts damages on the basis of faulty manufacture, construction, design, formulation, installation, preparation or assembly of a product. There were a record 53.2 million auto recalls in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. It’s unknown exactly how many of those resulted in Miami car accidents, but we can say that faulty vehicles and vehicle parts is a serious hazard to drivers.
- From there, we might also look to see whether poor roadway maintenance or design was a factor in the crash, leading to a potential claim for government liability.
- And if an insurance company fails to investigate your claim or pay you fairly and timely, you could have a claim for insurance bad faith, which could result in treble damages.
As you can see, these are just a few of the possible avenues your car accident claim could take, each requiring an experienced car accident lawyer serving Miami to properly assess.Proving Car Accident Negligence
To be compensated, you must prove negligence by the defendant. In some auto accident cases, this may be fairly simple. However, there are many scenarios where ambiguity can complicate matters. Florida Civil Jury Instruction Section 401.4 explains negligence as the failure to use reasonable care, which is what a reasonably careful person would be expected to use under the same or similar circumstances. It is establishing there was a duty of care, a breach of duty and a causal link between this breach of duty and plaintiff’s injuries. There are legal considerations that are to be made in proving each element.
It should be noted that:
- There is no inference of negligence just because there was an accident or because you were hurt;
- There is no presumption that a person used reasonable care for his or her own safety.
Each element of proving car accident negligence in Miami or any other part of Florida requires the personal injury victims to meet their burden proof. That means that car accident negligence claims must be proven by the greater weight of the evidence. An attorney can help explain what the court expects and the various complexities of obtaining and proving that evidence in the court room.Proving Damages in a Negligent Car Accident Case
In a Miami car accident lawsuit based on the negligence, the term “damages” refers to the total harms and losses and the total amount of money you are seeking to compensate you for the careless, reckless, or negligence of an at fault party. Under Florida law, damages for negligence claims such are broken down into two categories. There are “compensatory damages,” also sometimes referred to as “actual damages,” which compensate you for actual losses. These damages are intended to make a person whole, or bring them back to how they were before the accident, injury or death occurred. Then there are also “special damages,” which cover damages such as lost wages. Then there are “statutory damages,” which may be awarded specifically because the law requires it. Finally, there are “punitive damages,” intended to punish defendant for gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
None of these is guaranteed just because you suffered an injury. Proving your damages often requires a detailed analysis of the actual crash, your medical records, your earnings and your expected expenses and recovery in the future related to the crash. The bottom line is that while there is no exact science as to whether you should hire an attorney to represent you in an injury claim. After a crash, you’re suddenly are dealing with stressors for which you didn’t plan. An attorney can help relieve that burden, give you peace of mind and make sure you aren’t short-changed. Plus, injury claims are handled on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay unless we’re successful.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, please contact the Miami Car Accident Attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A., for a free consultation by calling (305) 371-6000 or using our online contact form.