Fort Lauderdale is well-known for its mild weather. The area is lightly populated, being home to close to 200,000, half of which fall between the ages of 25 and 54. While these conditions might first suggest the roads would be safer, there are many unique challenges on Fort Lauderdale roadways which make them more challenging to navigate than many other parts of Florida, often leading to car accidents resulting in serious injuries.
Traffic Increases in Fort Lauderdale Due to Tourism
While the amount of traffic on Fort Lauderdale roadways may seem perplexing given the relatively small population, this phenomenon can be pretty easily explained—tourism. On an annual basis, Fort Lauderdale hosts more than 13 million overnight visitors. And more than 36 million pass through the area on their way to other destinations. The astounding number of stopping passengers from rail, planes, and cruise ships means there are more cars on the road, some filled with folks on vacation and others just making a sightseeing stop for their layover. In light of these numbers, the hectic Fort Lauderdale traffic starts to make sense.
Car Accident Statistics in Broward County
Data for Broward County give us an idea of car accidents in Fort Lauderdale. According to the data released by Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), in 2018 and 2019, more than 40,000 accidents took place in the county. Curiously, that number went down to just over 34,000 in 2020, perhaps due to a slow-down in the previously mentioned tourism that is a primary source of traffic congestion in Fort Lauderdale. The data further tell that, in a normal year, more than 200 people in the county die in accidents, and around 24,000 are injured. In light of these high numbers, anyone who operates a vehicle on Fort Lauderdale roadways should have a clear plan regarding what steps to take immediately following a car accident.
Steps for Accident Victims Following an Accident in Fort Lauderdale
It should be acknowledged that, in many cases, car accident victims will be unable to take some or all these steps due to the nature or severity of their injuries. A victim’s focus should be ensuring their safety and tending to any immediate medical needs. Still, the following steps can be a useful guide to what to keep in mind to secure your medical and legal recovery as much as possible. If you are with someone at the time of the accident, they can perhaps help with any steps you are unable to take yourself due to your injuries.
- Step One: Immediately after the crash – First and foremost after a crash, you should get to a safe area. Never think that just because movement has paused that you are fine sitting in the middle of the scene. Other traffic may get involved the longer you wait, such as in a pile-up, or in low-light conditions where it may be difficult for an oncoming vehicle to see the crash early enough to avoid hitting it. If your vehicle is still operable, move out of the way of traffic. If it isn’t, see if you can safely extract yourself from your car. You should also check on any others in your vehicle to see to it they are safe.
- Step Two: Notify law enforcement – Contacting law enforcement is mandatory in a serious accident, especially if anyone has identifiable injuries at the scene. When contacting law enforcement, provide your location, the number of vehicles involved, and report any known injuries. Law enforcement will notify emergency medical personnel to join them at the scene of the accident. Once law enforcement arrives, they can repair a report with photographs of the evidence, witness statements, and other important information that you may be able to use later in the event you bring a claim.
- Step Three: While waiting for law enforcement – If you are physically able to do so, while you are waiting for the police to arrive at the scene, you might photograph your vehicle to document damages, obtain the names and contact information from the other driver, as well as their insurance information, and request the names and contact information for any witnesses to the accident. Other photographic evidence which may be helpful includes any street signs, speed limit signs, etc. which may help fill in some important contextual information for your claim.
- Step Four: Seeking medical care – Many auto accident victims believe they just need to rest after an accident, because their injuries do not initially seem serious enough to warrant medical attention. Too often, this proves to be a mistake. The stress one’s body undergoes during a car accident often masks the injuries which you get during the accident. Always get checked by a qualified physician following an accident, even if you believe your injuries are minor.
- Step Five: Notifying insurance companies – Every person who operates a motor vehicle on Fort Lauderdale roadways is required to carry car insurance. Notifying your insurance company immediately following an accident is important because it can help preserve your claim and protect you from other issues later on in resolving it. The sooner you notify your agent of the accident, the better. Remember when speaking with the insurance company to stick to the facts of the accident. Do not offer or accept a recorded statement, do not speculate about how the accident occurred, and do not accept any responsibility for the accident.
- Step Six: Contact a skilled car accident lawyer – To make sure your interests are protected, and that you have a thorough understanding of your rights following a Fort Lauderdale car accident, you should schedule a free consultation with a skilled car accident attorney. An attorney can advise you of what you can expect going forward and help you decide whether a personal injury lawsuit is appropriate.
Insurance Company Adjusters and Fort Lauderdale Accidents
Victims of Fort Lauderdale car accidents will almost always need to turn to insurance companies to get the compensation they deserve. Most of us set up our insurance policies when we first start driving, pay our monthly premiums, and otherwise have little, if anything, to do with them unless we purchase a new car or require an update to our policies.
In Florida, you may need to contact your insurer for proof of insurance when you register a vehicle. Otherwise, you probably do not think much about your car insurance. But, make no mistake about it, you will hear from your insurance company, probably via an insurance adjuster, soon after an accident. Your claim will require processing and the insurer will want to know more about the accident, your injuries, and the other drivers involved.
Before you speak with an insurance company you should speak with an experienced Fort Lauderdale car accident attorney. Claims adjusters ask a lot of questions, will possibly send you numerous pages of documentation that may require signatures, and they may call you multiple times throughout the weeks following your claim. Their intentions in this process are partly to find out if there’s any way to deny or minimize your claim. Thus, being able to turn them to your attorney not only saves you the hassle of having to deal with the insurer while you heal from your injuries, but also protects your claim
Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Claims Process When Someone Else is at Fault
As Florida requires drivers to carry personal injury protection (“PIP”) insurance, everyone involved in an accident, even those at fault for it, should have coverage for their medical and some other expenses, up to certain limits. But, damages often exceed the limits, in which case you will need to go after at-fault parties to recover the full amount of compensation you need. Keep in mind, even when the accident was clearly the fault of the other driver, the claims process can be tedious and difficult.
If you need to sue to recover full compensation for your Fort Lauderdale car accident expenses and impacts, you must file within the state’s statute of limitations, which is four (4) years from the date of the accident. While this may seem like a lot of time, it is important to bear in mind that the sooner you start working with an attorney, the sooner you’ll be able to start building your case and get on your way to recovering compensation.
Furthermore, the process can be delayed already by factors beyond your control, including your recovery time and the time it takes to get a final prognosis and determination of whether or not you’ll be able to return to work. These things can take a while to play out, and eat up some of the time you have to file a lawsuit.
Because Florida is a no-fault insurance statute, you will first exhaust your PIP and then, to sue, will need to show that you suffered “serious injury,” which is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit in civil court. Serious injury is broadly defined as follows:
- Victim suffers a permanent injury
- Victim suffers scarring or disfigurement which is considered significant and is not expected to go away
- Victim has a permanent loss of bodily function such as their hearing or vision
If you can show serious injury and are within the statute of limitations, you can go ahead and file your lawsuit. From there, the process can become complicated, with the possibility of pre-trial motions, discovery, and a trial, among other stages. This can be overwhelming to handle in the wake of a Fort Lauderdale car accident, and victims are often best off hiring an attorney to help them navigate the process.
Insurance Companies and Settlement Offers in Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Cases
Insurance companies tend to make quick settlement offers to Fort Lauderdale car accident victims. This is no happenstance. Insurance companies know that, following the accident, victims are facing a mountain of medical bills, damaged property, and other immense medical and financial pressures.
These situations make you feel like you have few options available to you after an accident, and you may be tempted to accept the first offer made by the insurer. After all, if you were one of those who was just there on a layover, it may seem like a relief to get it done with and leave it behind. Insurance adjusters count on desperation and the natural urge to get a case done to give victims less than they deserve. Victims need to remember that once a settlement offer is accepted, the insurance company can have no further liability. This means any follow-up medical care, additional lost wages, or any other expenses related to the accident that you did not account for in the settlement amount will be your responsibility.
Because of this, it’s in your best interest to ask an experienced Fort Lauderdale car accident to review a settlement offer before accepting. Chances are they’ll tell you the insurance company is offering far less than you deserve.
Car Accident Attorneys Protect Your Rights
Victims of car accidents often are unsure about their rights they have when they suffer an injury. As a Fort Lauderdale car accident victim, you should not have to suffer financially because of the negligence of another driver. Expenses you may factor into your claim include:
Medical expenses – Your medical expenses begin the minute you are placed in an ambulance at the scene of the accident, and they include all care, tests, medications, and other treatments you receive for your injuries.
- Lost wages – A Fort Lauderdale car accident can easily put you out of work, causing you to lose income for an indeterminate amount of time. You should be compensated for any amount of income you lose due to your accident injuries. Lost wages may include the dollars you lost but may also include recovery of other benefits such as sick days, personal days, and benefits such as matching funds for your retirement accounts.
- Other losses – You may have had to reconfigure your home after an accident to enable you to remain in your home with your injuries. The expenses required to do any type of rehab on your home may be recoverable.
These are just a few of the damages you can seek in a Fort Lauderdale car accident lawsuit. To find out the full slate of damages you might be able to recover in your case, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale accident attorney as soon as possible after your accident.