Florida Car Accident FAQs
Lots of questions run through a Florida car accident victim’s mind after they have been injured. Throughout Alan Sackrin’s 38 years of experience, the following questions are frequently asked:
- How long does it take to get a settlement check from a car accident?
- Do doctor bills come out of a settlement for a car accident?
- What should I expect from a car accident settlement?
- Will a lawyer take my case a month after a car accident?
- Is driving in the night-time with no headlights on considered negligence?
- Will I win a car accident personal injury case if the defendant plead guilty?
- What are punitive damages in a car accident personal injury settlement?
- Which insurance policies cover Florida car accident injury claims?
- How long do I have to file my lawsuit or claim for my accident damages?
- Is a jury given wide latitude in the amount of pain and suffering I can get for a car accident?
- Can you switch lawyers in the middle of a car accident case?
- What Can I Do If I had a car accident, the case is closed, and I still get medical bills?
- Do I have insurance coverage if I am in Florida on vacation, on military duty, just visiting or driving through and I am in a car accident?
- Can a car accident victim get compensation even if they have a pre-existing injury?
- How are pain and suffering and lost wages calculated?
Below, Alan Sackrin does his best to answer these frequently asked car accident questions with citation to relevant case law about these issues.
The time it takes to receive a settlement check from a car accident depends on whether or not liability and/or injuries are in dispute. In the unlikely event that nothing is being disputed, you should be able to get a check quickly, but you still have to submit a claim and your medical records to the insurance company. That’s the best-case scenario. The odds are that some aspect of your claim will be disputed, which will drag out the process. The facts and circumstances of the case, along with the disputes being made, will determine how long it takes for you to receive your check.
Yes, your doctor bills will come out of the settlement. Your attorney will pay the providers after the liens and medical bills have been negotiated. Sometimes, although rarely, the insurance company will make the attorney prove that the medical providers have been paid before authorizing any other disbursements.
You can expect that after a settlement has been agreed upon, the money will be given to your attorney. Your attorney will then calculate the amounts paid to medical providers, costs advanced by your attorney for medical records and the like, and your attorney’s fees. Once the client has signed off on the closing statement, the funds are dispersed. The lawyers are just as eager to disperse the funds, as they have often spent thousands of dollars to help you in your case.
You will simply terminate their services and hire new counsel who will, if the case is in litigation, file a substitute of counsel. The new counsel will ask the old counsel for your file, so they do not waste the work already done by the previous attorney. The old counsel may still want monetary compensation if they worked on the case, but it will not mean a separate cut of the settlement. The attorneys will negotiate who gets what amongst themselves.
Sometimes, but not often, medical bills will come in after settlement proceeds have been received and dispersed. We make it clear in our closing statements that the clients are responsible in taking care of those bills. It is rare that this happens. If it’s a large medical bill, we of course will assist in negotiating the bill down, but will not be able to assist further.
Yes. However, the sooner you get treated and find a lawyer, the better.
Yes. Under § 317.471, Fla.Stat., F.S.A., a driver is required to have two headlights and under § 317.461, Fla.Stat., F.S.A., the lights must be operating at the time of an accident. When a plaintiff provides evidence that only one light was operating at the time of an accident that establishes a statutory violation and therefore a prima facie case of negligence. See Morrison v. C. J. Jones Lumber Co., 126 So. 2d 895.
Yes, especially when there is unchallenged expert testimony stating that some aggravation of preexisting back injury could have resulted from the current car accident. See Short v. Ehrler,510 So. 2d 1110 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 1987) and our articles about this issue on our injury blog.
That helps your case in establishing the party that is at fault. You may not necessarily “win”, but the guilty plea eliminates half of the battle of a personal injury car accident case.
Punitive damages are damages over and above what the accident victim has proven, or even what the victim has suffered regardless of proof. Punitive damages are also called “punishment damages”. These damages punish the defendant for their particularly terrible conduct, as well as provide an example to others. Punitive damages serve the public interest. They are rarely awarded – it has to be shown that the guilty party was willfully negligent, reckless or acted intentionally or with utter disregard for the consequences.
Under Florida’s statutory law (Fla. Stat. 768.72), a “defendant may be held liable for punitive damages only if the trier of fact, based on clear and convincing evidence, finds that the defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.”
The three most common instances where punitive damages are awarded are drunk driving, driving impaired (such as texting and driving) and traveling at an excessive rate of speed.
Depending upon the crash circumstances, the following policies can apply:
i. Your Health Insurance Policy – The policy you buy on your own or the coverage you receive through your company’s insurance plan.
ii. Your No-Fault Insurance Policy (PIP) – Your PIP policy covers 80 percent of all necessary and reasonable medical expenses up to $10,000 resulting from a covered injury, no matter who caused the accident. Your deductible may be up to $1,000.00 for your personal injuries. To be entitled to PIP benefits, you must receive initial services and care within 14 days after the motor vehicle accident.
iii. Medical Payments (MedPay) – in Florida, “MedPay” is another no-fault insurance policy that you can buy to cover 100% of your medical bills. Why do this? MedPay can fill any gap in coverage from your PIP policy and any amount that your health insurance deductible did not cover. With this policy, you can get part of your lost wages covered, too. Good thing, too: if you get a recovery from your car accident case, you do not have to take money from that recovery to reimburse the MedPay insurance coverage for any payments that you received from your MedPay policy.
iv. Collision – This may be part of your insurance policy that provides for the company to provide “collision coverage” if your car is damaged by someone other than you — or if the other driver who was responsible for the accident fails to have enough insurance coverage to fix your car, truck, SUV, minivan, etc.
v. The Other Person’s Insurance (Their Bodily Injury (BI) Accident Insurance)
Florida law does not exclude visitors, vacationers, snowbirds, college students, foreign travelers, etc. from Florida accident insurance requirements. If you drive a car registered in Florida on Florida roads, then you need to abide by Florida insurance laws. However, the military and some students may not have to buy a Florida insurance policy. As for tourists and visitors, there may be special insurance policies available for you: rental car insurance policies, etc., are available for those enjoying a brief stay in the Sunshine State.
Florida law is very clear here: there is a deadline set by the Florida legislature that you must meet to file your claim and your injury lawsuit, or you will be too late. It’s called “the statute of limitations” for your claim.
If you miss the deadline, then the other side can use this law to shield themselves 100% from having to pay any money damages no matter how responsible they are for what has happened to you.
How long do you have? FOUR YEARS.
Yes, a jury verdict should be disturbed only when “it is so inordinately large as obviously to exceed the maximum limit of a reasonable range within which the jury may properly operate.”
In determining whether to reduce a jury verdict, a court considers the following criteria:
i. Whether the amount awarded is indicative of prejudice, passion, or corruption on the part of the trier of fact;
ii. Whether it appears that the trier of fact ignored the evidence in reaching a verdict or misconceived the merits of the case relating to the amounts of damages recoverable;
iii. Whether the trier of fact took improper elements of damages into account or arrived at the amount of damages by speculation and conjecture;
iv. Whether the amount awarded bears a reasonable relation to the amount of damages proved and the injury suffered; and
v. Whether the amount awarded is supported by the evidence and is such that it could be adduced in a logical manner by reasonable persons.
See: Sanchez v. Cinque – 238 So.3d 817
Since these are 2 very popular questions that require some explanation, we wrote 2 in-depth articles on these topics – See Lost Wages and Pain and Suffering under Florida law. However, the short answer is pain and suffering is calculated by considering a victim’s existing medical bills, future medical expenses, and lost wages.
Want to Know More?
Since 1982, Alan Sackrin has represented clients throughout Florida in recovering monetary damages for car accident injuries. Alan is a Board Certified Civil Trial Expert that strives to maximize the amount of compensation his clients receive for their claim. Alan brings a high level of skill and knowledge to his client’s car accident cases and he offers a free initial consultation.
To learn more about Alan, click here.
See: Sample Case Verdicts and Settlements
Related Car Accident Topics
- FAQs About Car Accident Insurance
- 8 important steps you should take at the time of an accident
- Car Accident Damages
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