A car accident can change your life in a split second. A severe car crash can lead to significant losses, including expensive medical debt, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. However, you should know you are not alone in your struggle. Our Miami car accident attorneys can help you fight for financial compensation.
At Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A., we understand how frustrating and challenging dealing with your injuries and losses can be. For this reason, we fight aggressively and strategically to hold the liable parties accountable and make them pay for their negligence. To learn more about our services in a free, confidential consultation, call our law offices today at (866) 386-1762.
When to Consult a Miami Car Accident Lawyer
Florida is a popular destination for many people around the nation. With millions of people living in “The Sunshine State” and millions visiting every year, it is only a matter of time before a car accident happens. According to Florida’s Highway Safety and Motor vehicles (FLHSMV), thousands of people suffer injuries or die in severe car accidents in Florida every year.
It is easy for car accident victims to feel overwhelmed after a catastrophic crash. However, regardless of how difficult or complex your case may be, you still need to make quick decisions to protect yourself legally and financially. Immediately contacting an experienced Miami car accident lawyer can help you handle critical aspects of your case.
Hiring a Miami car accident lawyer quickly after your accident is essential. This is especially true if you suffered severe injuries, lost time from work, or face expensive medical costs. At Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A., we are ready to take your call, schedule your initial consultation, and help you understand what to expect from your potential claim.
It is often important for victims to act quickly to gather evidence and get witness statements. If the police took photographs and took down witnesses’ names in their police report, it is important to get this information and have your lawyer get copies of the photos and statements from witnesses before any evidence is lost and before people forget what happened during the crash. If there are any cameras that might have captured the crash, such as security cameras, it is important to get that footage preserved before the video is overwritten. Talk to a lawyer about collecting this information and about how quick action can help you down the road when it comes time to prove your case.
Common Causes of Car Accidents in Miami
There are many reasons why accidents occur on Miami roads and highways. Sometimes, a car crash is merely an unavoidable accident. However, in most situations, an accident is caused by the negligence of another driver or party. Negligence in a car crash can involve actual traffic violations, such as speeding, but they can also involve everyday mistakes and indiscretions, such as failing to check your blind spot. The following are some common reasons car accidents happen in and around the Miami area, including both sole causes and contributing causes that might combine with other dangerous circumstances to cause more dangerous or deadly crashes.
Speeding and Reckless Driving
When someone is operating their vehicle above the posted speed limit, they pose a danger to other motorists. Traveling at excessive speeds limits a driver’s ability to control their vehicle, especially if they are driving a large commercial truck. If a driver is required to stop or change lanes to avoid an accident, a high rate of speed could make the maneuver impossible. When speeding is coupled with reckless or aggressive driving, such as improperly changing lanes or ignoring traffic rules, the risk to other motorists increases. Furthermore, injuries are generally much more severe or fatal when an accident is caused by excess speeding.
Texting or Talking on a Cellphone
Texting while driving is one of the major causes of accidents in Miami and across the country. Sending or reading a text requires a driver to focus their eyes on their phone, take their hand from the wheel, and concentrate on texting. Despite many states passing strict anti-texting laws, this form of distraction remains a problem. Unfortunately, the use of a cellphone is not limited to texting. Making a phone call also requires a driver to divert their attention. If a driver takes their eyes from the road, if even for a moment, they could drift into another lane, fail to notice a stoplight or a pedestrian.
While texting deserves its own category, many other types of distractions could result in a motor vehicle accident. Some of the more common behaviors exhibited by Miami drivers that cause crashes include eating, putting on make-up, smoking, changing radio stations, looking for something in the car, or talking with other passengers. Distractions can involve mental distractions that take your mind off driving, manual distractions that take your hands off the wheel, or visual distractions that take your eyes off the road. Any of these issues can put people at risk even if they are not actual traffic violations.
Driving a car, truck, bus, or motorcycle requires concentration. When a driver is tired, their physical and mental reactions are compromised. Often, drivers who are too tired to drive safely can be just as dangerous as drunk drivers, with their reduced reaction times and poor judgment putting other drivers at risk. Even more dangerous than fatigue is a driver falling asleep at the wheel. Many times, a driver will overestimate their ability to stay awake and actually end up unconscious behind the wheel. Even if this lasts only a moment, it could stop them from braking or slowing to avoid an accident, causing a very forceful crash.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
Drugs or alcohol will impair a driver’s physical reflexes and decision-making abilities. Driving drunk or when taking drugs drastically increases the chances of getting into an auto accident. When drunk drivers speed or drive recklessly, the odds of getting into a crash and causing serious injuries multiplies. Drunk drivers also have a reduced ability to make safe judgments behind the wheel, potentially putting others at risk. DUI is a crime because it is so dangerous.
We all do it. When there is an accident or something else that draws everyone’s attention on the other side of a highway, people slow down to look. This maneuver might not seem dangerous, but it drastically affects traffic patterns. If vehicles are traveling too close together or other drivers are not paying close enough attention, accidents occur. Often, rubbernecking results in rear-end collisions or cars sideswiping one another while trying to avoid slower or stopped vehicles.
Defective or Poorly Manufactured Vehicles or Parts
Not all accidents are caused by other drivers. Sometimes a defective part or a poorly manufactured car could cause an accident or impact the severity of injuries in an accident. For example, a defective tire could blow out while on a crowded Miami highway. Additionally, defects in an airbag or seatbelt could injure a driver or passenger more severely than they would have been if the part functioned properly.
Road Construction or Defective Roadways
The roads we travel on often contribute to accidents. Road construction crews could leave debris on the roadway that endangers motorists. In many cases, debris is much more dangerous to motorcyclists than other motorists. If an uneven road surface is unmarked, it could cause a motorist to lose control or unsafely change lanes. Many times, this is the direct result of road crews failing to mark the unsafe conditions.
Other problems occur when the lighting on the road or highway is improperly installed or signage does not reflect the road conditions. Sometimes, a road is so poorly designed, for example, an extremely sharp turn or merge, that it contributes to auto accidents.
Poor Weather Conditions
Weather conditions also contribute to accidents in the Miami area. Severe storms often shower the roadways with torrential rains and high winds. When a motorist fails to consider current severe weather conditions while driving, their negligence could result in a car crash. For example, when the road is slippery and visibility is poor, driving at the posted speed limit could be found to be reckless. Terrible weather does not free a negligent driver from liability.
Common Injuries in Miami Car Accidents
From minor fender-benders to more serious crashes, car accidents subject drivers and passengers to a wide range of forces. These forces often result in injuries. Among the most severe injuries that can occur in an accident are head injuries. The impact of a crash could cause an individual to hit their head on the dashboard, steering wheel, or car windows. Head injuries range from mild cuts to severe concussions or even comas. Many times, a head injury will result in long-term cognitive disorders requiring extensive and expensive medical treatment.
Back and neck injuries are also very common in car accidents. Even a collision at low speed could result in the head snapping back and forth, causing whiplash. Whiplash often occurs in rear-end collisions. The muscle and ligament damage will affect each person differently. Depending on the individual, whiplash victims will experience discomfort or swelling around their neck. Some people will have much more serious and painful symptoms.
In more severe situations, a driver or passenger could suffer damage to their spinal cord, causing significant nerve damage or paralysis. One type of common back injury in accidents that might not be immediately noticeable is a herniated disk. While this is not as severe as damage to your spinal cord, it could result in a lifetime of discomfort and pain.
A person in an accident is also liable to experience blunt force trauma to parts of their body. This force could result in collapsed lungs, broken ribs, or damage to other internal organs. Internal bleeding, which is not always noticeable, could lead to severe and deadly complications. These types of injuries are one of the many reasons why it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention following a car accident – even if you “feel fine.”
Other common injuries in Miami car accidents include broken bones, lacerations, or other injuries to the hands and feet. In addition to the physical trauma a car accident victim experiences is the emotional and mental distress associated with a serious incident. Depending on the severity of the crash, a victim could suffer from anxiety, loss of sleep, or other mental conditions that adversely impact their lives.
The Average Compensation Miami Car Accident Victims Should Expect
It is normal to wonder how much compensation you can expect from a personal injury claim after a car accident in Miami. Sadly, there is no set way to tell you exactly how much compensation you can get. However, the court will consider different elements to assign compensation that reflects your losses in these areas:
The Extent of Your Injuries
When determining the amount of compensation in your case, the court will consider the extent of your injuries. Some car accident victims may only suffer mild injuries, which may require little medical assistance and a short recovery period. However, many other victims can sustain severe, life-threatening injuries, which may require continuing medical assistance, surgery, and rehabilitation. The purpose behind a personal injury claim is to make you whole, which is why the court pays particular attention to the severity and extent of your injuries when determining your potential compensation.
The Extent of Your Losses
There are different losses you can experience after a car accident in Miami: economic losses and noneconomic losses. Fortunately, you can get compensation for both. When determining the value of your case, the court will look at the losses you experienced as a result of your crash. These losses are your medical expenses, past and future lost wages, and pain and suffering. Our Miami car accident lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve for these and other losses.
Impact on Your Personal Life
The court will also evaluate the impact your injuries have on your personal life. Part of their evaluation requires comparing your quality of life before and after your crash. Additionally, the court will look at the extent of your emotional, psychological, and mental suffering caused by your car accident to come with compensation that reflects these losses.
As you can see, the court will consider different elements to determine the compensation you should receive for your losses. However, it is essential to hire a skilled Miami car accident attorney who can help you show the required evidence to support your case.
Types of Damages in a Miami Car Crash Case
Victims can claim a wide range of compensatory damages for a car accident. These damages help pay them for the effects of the accident with the goal of putting the victims back to the same state they were in before the accident. Some damages, such as medical bills and lost wages, can be paid back at their full value because they are “economic” damages. Other harms, such as permanent scarring or disability, cannot be reversed and are considered “noneconomic” damages. Instead, these get compensated by monetary payments as well.
Most damages will fall into one of these two categories, with economic damages being paid to cover many different types of effects of the accident, including the following:
- Surgical costs
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Medical equipment expenses (crutches, wheelchairs, ramps, etc.)
- Cost of transportation
- Cost of childcare
- Cost of household services
- Cost of therapy
- Lost wages
- Reduced future earning capacity
Other harms are not visible but can be claimed because of the emotional and mental toll of the harm. These noneconomic damages include the following, as well as other effects:
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Physical pain
- Mental suffering
- Suffering from scarring or disfigurement
- Lost enjoyment
Other damages may be unusual to people not typically involved in the legal field. For example, the spouse of an injury victim may be able to claim damages for something called “loss of consortium,” which includes compensation for the injured spouse’s limitations and the effect that has on the spouse seeking loss of consortium damages.
Victims may also be able to claim punitive damages in some injury cases. These damages are not used to compensate you for anything but rather to punish the defendant for their actions. These are often issued in car accident cases involving dangerous commercial drivers and truck drivers. To get punitive damages, there usually needs to be a serious instance of negligence or a pattern of dangerous, reckless conduct that led to this accident and potentially many more accidents.
We have already discussed a little bit about calculating damages, but the essential point to note is that calculating damages is not always as simple as adding up the economic damages. Putting a value on pain and suffering damages and calculating future damages can all require the help of an attorney and financial expert witnesses. Talk to a lawyer for help determining what your case is worth.
Should You Hire a Miami Car Accident Lawyer?
Florida laws can be complicated and fighting for compensation on your own can be extremely challenging. The safest, most effective way to get the compensation you need for your car accident is to hire an experienced Miami car accident lawyer. Florida is a no-fault state, which means you typically file a claim with your insurance company for compensation regardless of who was at fault for your accident. Thus, the state requires all drivers to purchase a minimum of $10,000 personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to cover accident-related losses.
For many car accident victims, the coverage provided by their PIP may not be enough. In this case, your Miami car accident lawyer can help you fight for the compensation that best reflects your losses. Typically, injured victims cannot sue the other party directly for their losses since their PIP would provide coverage. However, some exceptions allow you to file a personal injury claim against the liable parties.
Under Florida law, you may file a personal injury against the liable driver if you suffered injuries that led to permanent scarring, loss of bodily function, or if your injury is likely to cause death. Through your personal injury claim, your lawyer will provide evidence showing the defendant’s negligence. Once your case has been proven in court, you may get compensation to cover losses such as your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Our Miami car accident lawyers can help you with all of these matters.
Should I Settle My Miami Car Crash Claim?
As mentioned, your first route to compensation is often to file a claim with your own insurance company. If your injuries are too severe or are worth too much money, that usually will not cover your claim. Instead, you will need to either sue the at-fault driver or file a claim with their insurance company.
Unfortunately, insurance companies may pay less than you ultimately need, and you should never accept a settlement with the insurance company without having a Miami car accident lawyer review it first. When dealing with your own insurance company, deductibles and limitations on benefits might leave you with far lower compensation than you deserve. With the at-fault driver’s insurance company, missing damages for pain and suffering is common. In some cases, you may be able to negotiate these payouts through your lawyer and arrive at a reasonable settlement, but if not, you can take your case to trial.
When you go to trial, it is up to the judge and jury to decide your case. Overall, upwards of 90% of injury cases ultimately settle, but the ones that do go to trial often do so because the parties were unable to settle for a fair amount. Settlement amounts may be cut down to account for the money saved by avoiding trial, and sometimes insurance companies attempt to undercut the payments further if they think your case is weak and would fail at trial.
Going to trial always has its risks because you cannot guarantee how a jury will rule, but our car accident lawyers have decades of experience helping victims get compensation. We can analyze the chances of winning your case and help you make an informed decision about whether it would be better to settle your car accident case or take the claim to trial.
Proving Liability After a Miami Car Accident
To prevail in a personal injury lawsuit arising from a car accident in Miami, an injured plaintiff must establish that the defendant was negligent. Our Miami car accident attorney will gather evidence, such as police reports, witness testimony, surveillance footage, medical records, and other evidence to help you build your case. Only through careful preparation and planning are you going to receive the compensation you deserve.
Proving negligence is challenging and requires a skilled and experienced attorney. Every car accident is unique and the facts surrounding your case will impact what is necessary to demonstrate that another party was liable for your injuries. No matter the circumstances, our Miami car accident attorney will have to prove four elements: duty of care, breach of the duty of care, causation, and actual damages.
Duty of Care
Every personal injury case based on a negligence claim depends on establishing that a duty of care existed between the plaintiff and defendant. Fortunately, for most car accidents, this part of the process is straightforward. Every motorist in Miami, whether they are driving a car, truck, bus, or another vehicle, owes every other motorist and pedestrian a duty to operate their vehicle safely. For example, a driver has a duty to follow traffic rules and regulations.
Breach of the Duty of Care
The difficulty in many personal injury cases is proving that a driver breached their duty of care. Some cases are easy. For example, ignoring a red light and hitting a stopped car is a clear breach of duty. For legal purposes, to determine whether certain conduct constituted a breach, the court will use a reasonable person test. The not so simple question is, “what would a reasonable and prudent driver do under similar circumstances?”
After establishing that a breach of duty occurred, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the breach caused the accident. To show causation, an injured plaintiff needs to prove that without the negligent driver’s actions, they would not have suffered any injuries or damages. Using the example above, when a driver fails to stop at a red light and crashes into a car, any injuries that occurred were likely a direct result of the collision. The driver was negligent in breaking the law and the impact of the crash caused the injuries. However, even in a seemingly simple case, there could be circumstances that make it more difficult to prove. For instance, the plaintiff might have had an existing back injury.
Proving causation is often another challenging hurdle for our Miami car accident attorney. Imagine a multi-car accident where a driver’s car has defective brakes and another driver was texting at the time of the accident. Our office will have to piece the various elements together to determine what parties contributed to the crash. In this example, was the driver with the bad brakes liable because they failed to have their car inspected? Is the car manufacturer to blame for the crash? What role did the texting driver play? While texting is often a serious breach of the duty of care, it does not always result in an accident.
Finally, an injured plaintiff must have suffered actual damages. The severity of an injury will impact the type of damages that occurred. For example, if a plaintiff suffered a spinal injury in an accident that required surgery, rehabilitative therapy, modifications to their home, and made it impossible to go back to work, they will have significant economic and noneconomic damages. If you were lucky enough to walk away from an accident without a scratch or bruise, you might not have a personal injury claim. However, no matter how well you might feel after a car accident, you should always seek medical attention within two days of the incident. Some injuries might not be readily apparent at the time of the crash and you will want medical documentation to link your injuries to the accident.
Burden of Proof
As the victim of the car accident, the law places the burden of proving the case on your shoulders. That means that it is up to your lawyer to produce evidence to the court and prove the elements listed above. If you can show the jury it is more likely than not that the accident happened as you said it did, then the jury will be able to rule in your favor and award you damages. This level of proof is known as a “preponderance of the evidence standard” and essentially means that the jury needs to have the scales tipped in your favor just a little bit for you to win your case. Even if the defendant brings up questions about causation or fault, these will not necessarily kill your case, and our experienced car accident lawyers can fight to control the narrative and argue the facts of your case in your favor.
Comparative Negligence in Miami
Courts in Florida follow the pure negligence standard in personal injury lawsuits. Under this doctrine, your actions matter. In a car accident case, a court or jury will apportion out the percentage of fault for a crash. Therefore, pure negligence means that if your actions were found to have contributed 20% towards the accident and the other driver was found to be 80% responsible, your compensation award would be reduced by 80% percent.
Fortunately, under Florida’s standard, you will never be cut off or barred from claiming compensation as long as the other party still shares some level of fault. Even if you were 99% responsible for the crash, if you happened to face serious injuries, the other at-fault parties could be made to pay for that 1% they caused. However, not every case is worth filing, so it is important to talk to a lawyer about how your own contributions to the crash might affect your chances of getting the compensation you seek.
Our Miami car accident attorney will have to prove that the defendant was negligent and that your behavior did not contribute to the crash. In situations where one driver is clearly negligent, defense attorneys for insurance companies will still try to establish that the plaintiff was partially to blame to lower their potential liability. This is one reason why it is important not to give any information to an insurance adjuster that could be used to show you were partially at fault.
Statute of Limitations on Claims for Personal Injury in Miami Car Accidents
In Florida, the statute of limitations for car accident claims is set at 4 years. The statute of limitations is a law that limits how long victims have to seek compensation for their injuries through the courts. If you wait for the statute of limitations to run out, you will be unable to file your case and seek compensation through the courts. Without the ability to sue, you may be left with whatever compensation the insurance company is willing to pay – if any.
What the Statute of Limitations Does
Statutes of limitations are designed to make sure that victims pursue their claims efficiently instead of sitting on their rights while defendants wonder if the case will ever be filed. Statutes of limitations also ensure that cases are not tried on old evidence. Photos could degrade or become lost or mixed up with other evidence, witnesses’ memories of the accident could fade, and signs of injury could heal and go away if the victim waits too long to file.
Benefits of Filing Early
In most cases, you can and should file the case far sooner than 4 years after the crash. Even if you are not fully recovered by the time the case goes to court, you should file quickly to get the court’s power behind your case. Having a lawsuit filed in court could help pressure insurance companies into settling to avoid the time and expense of going through the courts. Having the case filed can also allow you to subpoena evidence and information by having a court order issued to the defendant and witnesses to turn over evidence and sit for depositions. By the time evidence is exchanged, most cases are fleshed out enough to determine how much the case is worth and what your chances of winning are – and most cases settle around that point.
Consequences of Filing Too Late
If you wait too long to file, the court could refuse to hear the case on their own. If the case does somehow get through the initial filing after the filing deadline has already expired, the defendant can always ask the court to drop the case for violating the statute of limitations, too.
Drafting court filings and building a strong case takes time, so you should always talk to a lawyer as soon as you can to begin work on the case and get it filed before time runs out. Car accident injury lawsuits can take quite some time, especially if the court is busy with other cases, so there is typically no expectation that the case must finish within the 4-year limitations period, but the case must still be filed. Four years is on the longer end as far as statutes of limitations go, but that does not mean you have forever to file your case. Contact a lawyer as soon as you can to get your case started.
Let Our Miami Car Accident Lawyers Talk to the Insurance Company for You
When you have to deal with insurance companies, it can be stressful. You may not understand exactly how insurance companies can twist the meaning of the words you say and use them as admissions of fault and other kinds of evidence that could help them deny your claim or help their policyholder avoid liability. Most times, it is better to have your lawyer do the talking for you instead of trying to communicate with the insurance companies.
Our lawyers can help strictly control the narrative of what happened and use the right words and phrases to show the insurance companies that you were the victim and that the other driver was at fault. Insurance companies often rely upon slip-ups or admissions that you said something like “I’m sorry” as proof that you felt guilty or that you thought you were at fault. By working through your lawyer, the attorney can help avoid any potential miscommunications or misunderstandings.
Additionally, insurance companies often seek to take advantage of people who may not be very experienced with insurance or liability. Insurance companies may tell you what they think happened and change narratives to fit their picture of the crash, and then they may dictate how much they think the case is worth. Often, accepting a settlement offer from the insurance company means missing certain areas of damages and costs that you could be entitled to claim. Working with a car, truck, or motorcycle accident lawyer in Miami can help prevent the insurance company from having the advantage. Level the playing field and work with one of our Miami car accident lawyers to help protect your rights and access to proper compensation.
Miami Car Accident Lawyer Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one was hurt in a car accident caused by a negligent driver in Miami, we can help. At Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A., we understand how challenging dealing with your injuries can be. We know how frustrating the healing and recovery process can be for you and your family. However, you don’t have to go through this situation alone. Our Miami car accident attorneys can help you hold the liable parties accountable for your losses and fight for the compensation you deserve. Call our law offices today and schedule your free, confidential consultation. Our phone number is (866) 386-1762.