Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyers
As one of the ten largest cities in Florida, and with a thriving business community and world-class attractions, Fort Lauderdale is a busy place for both residents and visitors. However, as the population in the city increases, so do the serious traffic accidents. Broward County experiences around 400,000 car accidents each year, with more than 165,000 people becoming injured, and nearly 3,000 of those accidents featuring at least one fatality.
If you have suffered serious injuries or have lost a loved one to a car accident in Fort Lauderdale that was caused by the reckless or careless actions of someone else, you can recover damages related to the expenses and profound life impacts you face through a car accident lawsuit. The Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers at The Levin Firm have extensive experience in obtaining settlements and jury awards in this type of case. Contact us now for more information about the legal options that are available to you.
Hiring an Attorney for Your Car Accident Case
Most people rarely think about hiring an attorney…until they need one. Unfortunately, not all attorneys are equal. It is important to find one who has had success with car accidents, and preferably cases like yours.
When searching for a Fort Lauderdale car accident attorney, seek recommendations from trusted family and friends. You can also find lawyers in your area who practice this area of the law through your state bar’s website, or from online review sites. Our Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys offer free consultations for prospective clients. The consultation is a way for you to learn more about the attorney, his or her experience with cases like yours, and his or her approach to the law. It is also a time for you to discuss the details about your case and obtain guidance as to your legal options.
Questions to Ask During Your Free Consultation
Free consultations provide an excellent way to learn about attorneys who can represent your case and to have your legal questions answered. However, these consultations tend to be limited in time, so prepare the questions you plan to ask of the attorney.
Prospective car accident clients often ask:
- What kind of experience do you have with cases like mine? The reason for asking this question: You want an attorney who is experienced and understands deeply not only how the legal process works, but also has experience with clients who have had similar injuries to those you have incurred and understands the long-term prognosis for such injuries.
- What strategy would you have for my case? The reason for asking this question: Different people have different approaches. You want an attorney who employs strategies that you agree with.
- How comfortable are you with taking this case to trial if you cannot negotiate a fair settlement? The reason for asking this question: While the vast majority of Fort Lauderdale car accident lawsuits settle outside of court, you want an attorney who is willing to fight for you to recover the full amount of damages you are entitled to—even if that means going to court.
- What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of my case? The reason for asking this question: You want an attorney who will be honest with you. If he or she sees weaknesses in your case and is willing to tell you that upfront, there may be ways to mitigate those weak points.
- Who will work on my case? The reason for asking this question: Sometimes, experienced attorneys will handle the initial consultation but will then pass the case off to lesser experienced attorneys in the firm, only reappearing if the case goes to court. It is important to understand if the attorney you are speaking with is actually the one who will be working on your case.
- How long do you expect the legal process to last? The reason for asking this question: No attorney can guarantee you a specific settlement amount or can tell you precisely how long negotiations and legal proceedings will take. However, your attorney is experienced in working on this type of case in your local courtroom. He or she should have a good idea of how fast the process usually goes or whether there is a specific reason why cases such as yours often experience delays.
- How will you communicate with me about my case, and how often will I get updates? The reason for asking this question: Whether you’re a person who needs regular updates or you’d rather only be contacted when there is progress, you must know how often to expect this communication, how this communication will occur, and who you can call if you have questions.
- What is your payment schedule and how will I be billed? The reason for asking this question: Our Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers work on a contingent fee basis, but not all. It is important to ask the attorney how his or her firm handles billing and whether there are additional fees outside of what is covered by the contingent fee to avoid an unexpected bill.
- Do you have any past clients with cases similar to mine who can tell me about their experience working with you? The reason for asking this question: It is common practice to request references from job applicants during an interview. You are hiring an attorney, and in many ways the free consultation is the job interview. It is absolutely acceptable to want to know how satisfied past clients are with the services they were provided.
The free consultation is a no-obligation process, and you’re welcome to attend a consultation with more than one attorney. Once you find one that you wish to work with, you will be given a contract for services. Be sure that you read this document carefully and obtain answers to anything that doesn’t make sense to you before you sign it.
What Is Contingency Fee?
One of the most common reasons why people don’t seek an attorney to guide them through the legal process of recovering damages is because they’re afraid they can’t afford to pay for an attorney. A contingent fee ensures that everyone who needs the help of an attorney can receive that assistance, regardless of their financial status. What a contingent fee basis means is that you will not be billed for the lawyer’s services until there is a successful outcome to the case, such as a settlement or court award.
Common Causes of Fort Lauderdale Car Accidents
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles lists some of the most common causes as failure to yield right-of-way, following too closely, and failure of the driver to maintain his or her own lane. Here is a closer look at these and other common causes of car accidents.
Failure to Yield Right-Of-Way
Intersections are a common source of confusion for drivers. While traffic officials have attempted to alleviate this confusion through the addition of green turn arrows on traffic lights and other efforts, intersections continue to be a common site for traffic accidents. Yielding the right-of-way means stopping at a stop sign or a traffic light so that other motorists can have the opportunity to journey through the intersection. Failing to do so is one of the most common causes of a particularly serious type of accident, known as a broadside or T-bone collision.
Following Too Closely (Tailgating)
Following too closely, also known as tailgating, is the most common cause of rear-end accidents. As a driver of a motor vehicle, it takes time to make the vehicle stop. Some of this time is related to the driver’s own opportunity to perceive a hazard and react by depressing the brakes. Once the brakes are depressed, additional time is needed to stop the weight of the car. The time required to come to a safe stop is increased by factors such as the weight of the vehicle, with heavier vehicles such as commercial trucks requiring more time and distance than lighter passenger vehicles, and by the conditions of the road.
Vehicles stopping on wet roadways require additional time and distance. By following the vehicle in front of them too closely, drivers reduce the amount of time and distance needed to come to a safe stop if the lead vehicle suddenly stops or slows.
Failure to Maintain Travel Lane
Lane-change maneuvers are also a common cause of car accidents. Drivers are required to maintain a single lane of travel. If the driver wishes to change lanes, he or she must deploy the car’s turn signal to indicate his or her intentions to other drivers and wait until there is a sufficient gap in traffic in the new travel lane in which to do so.
Failure to maintain a single travel lane is also a common sign of alcohol or drug-impaired driving when it features weaving in and out of a lane of traffic or straddling two lanes of traffic. These behaviors can result in a traffic stop for suspected impaired driving.
Speeding refers to both driving faster than the posted speed limit as well as driving too fast for the conditions of the road, such as traffic or weather-related conditions that would necessitate that a prudent driver slows down to navigate the roadway safely. Speeding is a major source of collisions and is a factor in around one-quarter of fatal crashes nationwide.
Speeding poses hazards to a driver, including:
- An increased risk of losing control of the vehicle.
- A reduction in the effectiveness of the vehicle’s safety equipment, including seat belts, airbags, and the vehicle’s steel frame.
- An increased amount of distance required to bring the vehicle to a safe stop.
- An increase in the force and the severity of the collision.
- Manual distractions are anything that draws the driver’s hands from the wheel.
- Visual distractions are anything that causes the driver to take his or her eyes from the road.
- Cognitive distractions are anything that takes the driver’s thoughts from driving safely.
Some driving distractions fall into more than one category of distractions. Texting, considered to be particularly dangerous when driving, is an example of all three types of distractions. In fact, when traveling at a speed of 55 miles per hour, in the time it takes to read or reply to a text, a driver will have driven the length of a football field without at least one of his or her hands on the wheel, without looking at the road, and without paying attention to the task of driving.
Alcohol/ Drug Impairment
Each day, approximately 30 people are killed on U.S. roadways as a result of alcohol impaired driving. Despite drunk driving rates decreasing by a third in the past thirty years, the statistics remain staggering: Drunk driving kills around 10,000 people in America every year and results in around $44 billion in societal costs.
Alcohol reduces the ability of the brain to function, causing deficits in many of the skills needed for safe driving. Contrary to popular belief, intoxication doesn’t begin when a driver has the legal impairment limit of .08 of alcohol per deciliter of blood. Instead, impairment begins with the first drink, and the brain’s ability to function worsens as more alcohol is consumed.
Signs of alcohol impairment include:
- A decline in the ability to multitask.
- A decline in the ability to track a moving target.
- Reduced coordination.
- Reduced steering and braking ability.
- A reduced ability to maintain one’s own lane of travel.
- A loss of necessary visual and auditory processing skills.
- A loss of the ability to pay attention to the task of driving.
Like alcohol, drug impairment creates deficits in the skills needed to safely operate a motor vehicle. Depending on the type of drugs consumed, drivers under the influence may experience slowed reaction times, decision-making, and coordination, or they can experience aggressiveness or recklessness.
According to the National Safety Council, about half of all U.S. drivers admit to regularly driving when they have not had enough sleep, and about 20 percent admit to falling asleep behind the wheel. Fatigued driving produces many of the same deficits to the skills needed to safely operate a motor vehicle as alcohol impairment, including slowed reaction times, inability to pay attention to the task of driving, and awareness of hazards. Fatigue increases a driver’s risk of crashing by three times, and 20 hours without sleep has the same impacts as driving at the legal limit for alcohol impairment.
Aggressive Driving/ Road Rage
Careless or reckless driving behaviors, including speeding, failure to yield, and speeding, are considered aggressive driving. Aggressive driving is commonly found in areas where there is traffic congestion, as agitated drivers attempt to escape the condition. Road rage features many of these behaviors, as well as other behaviors including honking, gesturing, or shouting at other drivers, or even attempting to force other vehicles from the roadway or a driver who gets out of his or her own vehicle to physically confront someone else.
Aggressive driving is a factor in approximately 66 percent of fatal accidents in the U.S. 37 percent of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm, and approximately half of the drivers who reported being the victim of aggressive driving also admitted to responding to it with aggressive behaviors of their own.
Types of Car Accidents that Occur in Fort Lauderdale
While the causes of car accidents might not necessarily affect the severity of the crash, the type of accident that occurs does.
There different types of accidents that commonly occur in Fort Lauderdale include:
- Rear-end collision: Rear-end collisions occur when the front of one vehicle collides with the rear of another. Most often, this type of accident is the result of one driver following another too closely and not having ample time to stop when the lead car suddenly stops or slows. Contrary to popular belief, the driver of the following car is not always at fault for this type of accident. If the following driver can prove that the lead car entered the travel lane without a sufficient amount of space to do so, the lead car was traveling in reverse when the accident occurred, or the lead car’s driver failed to signal his or her intentions when turning, the lead driver can be found liable.
- Broadside collision: Broadside collisions, often known as side-angle crashes or T-bone collisions, occur when the front of one vehicle strikes the rear of another. This is one of the most common types of accidents to occur at an intersection, generally happening when one driver fails to yield the right-of-way. Broadside accidents can also occur when a vehicle pulls out of a private driveway or a parking lot into a travel lane without ensuring that there is a sufficient gap in traffic to do so. Because the sides of a vehicle are less protected than the front or rear, injuries in this type of accident are usually most severe for occupants of the vehicle that was struck on the side. This is particularly true when there is a large size discrepancy between the car that was struck broadside and the vehicle that struck it.
- Sideswipe collision: Sideswipe collisions occur when the side of one vehicle collides with the side of another vehicle. This type of accident often occurs as a result of an improper lane change in which one driver attempts to pass another and then underestimates whether there is enough room to return to the original lane of travel.
- Head-on collision: Head-on collisions are relatively rare, making up only about 2 percent of all motor vehicle crashes. However, they make up a much larger portion of the fatalities from motor vehicle crashes. This deadly type of accident occurs when the front of one motor vehicle strikes the front of another motor vehicle. The severity of this crash is increased due to the forward motion of both vehicles at the time the accident happens. Head-on collisions are frequently the result of wrong-way drivers. They also can result during a chain reaction crash in which the force of one accident pushes a vehicle into oncoming traffic. Drivers who are impaired or fatigued can also cross the center line and into oncoming traffic due to falling asleep or losing mental focus.
- Rollover accident: A rollover accident can involve just one vehicle or more than one and occurs when one of the vehicles rolls over either on the roadway, across a median, or even down an embankment. Even restrained passengers have a high risk of injury in this type of collision, as the somersault motion of the vehicle causes all of the vehicle’s contents, the passengers’ bodies, and parts of the vehicle to move uncontrolled through the same space. Rollover accidents are described as either tripped—meaning the rollover was caused by the vehicle’s tires striking an object such as a median or guardrail, or untripped. Untripped accidents are often the result of excessive speed that causes the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
- Single car accident: The most common type of car accident is one that involves only one car. Pedestrians or bicyclists can also be involved in a single car accident, or the accident can be a result of the driver running the vehicle into an object or running off of the roadway.
Common Injuries Suffered from Fort Lauderdale Car Accidents
Nearly every part of the body can be injured in a car accident. However, some injuries are more commonly experienced than others. Around 4.5 million people require medical treatment following a car accident. Read on for more information about some of the injuries an individual is most likely to incur as the result of a traffic-related collision.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
A traumatic brain injury is a type of acquired brain injury—meaning it is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, and did not occur during birth. This type of injury generally occurs due to a violent jolt or blow to the head or body. Traumatic brain injuries can be either open injuries, in which an object has penetrated the protective bony covering of the skull and has entered the brain, or closed, meaning that the damage occurred within the skull without penetration.
Traumatic brain injuries are categorized as mild, moderate, or severe based primarily on the injured person’s level of consciousness upon examination as well as whether the injury can be seen on diagnostic screens. However, it is important to note that there is nothing mild about a brain injury, as even concussions—considered a mild form of traumatic brain injury—can produce life-altering and debilitating effects, including memory loss and chronic headaches.
The brain, along with the spinal cord, makes up the body’s central nervous system that controls all voluntary functions and involuntary responses of the body. Despite its importance, the brain has only a limited ability to heal itself from damage sustained through injury. Therefore, many of the deficits that a person acquires through the injury are permanent.
The damage incurred depends not only on the severity of the injury, but also which section and even which side of the brain sustained the damage. There are several segments of the brain, each controlling different functions of the body. The brain also has two sides—the left and right—which control specific traits.
Some of the deficits that are commonly experienced by those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury include:
- Difficulty understanding language and speaking.
- Difficulty with behavior, impulse, or emotional control.
- Loss of memory.
- Difficulty paying attention.
- Problems with the five primary senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.
- Difficulty organizing thoughts and ideas.
- Lack of awareness of abilities and deficits.
- Depression or anxiety.
- Trouble with balance or coordinated movements.
In addition to the many deficits one can acquire through a traumatic brain injury, individuals who have suffered this type of injury also face many complications during recovery, including fluid buildup on the brain, weakened blood vessels, infection, and seizures. Those who experience recurring seizures that last beyond the early days of treatment are often diagnosed with post-traumatic epilepsy.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Car accidents are the most common cause of spinal cord injuries, accounting for about half of all new spinal cord injuries diagnosed each year. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that extends from the base of the skull to the waist-area and is protected by the bony vertebra of the spine. The spinal cord’s function is to relay messages from the brain to the rest of the body to produce voluntary functions and involuntary responses.
The four areas of the spine—cervical (neck region), thoracic (chest region), lumbar (mid-back), and sacral (lower back)—each control the messages that enable certain functions. The loss of function incurred from a spinal cord injury depends largely on where on the cord the injury occurred. The higher up the injury occurs, the more parts of the body will experience loss of sensation and function.
Spinal cord injuries are defined as complete or incomplete. Complete injuries refer to those in which the individual has lost all sensation and function beneath the site of the injury. Incomplete injuries occur when the patient retains some sensation and function below the injury site. An injury that affects all four limbs, usually occurring in the cervical area, is known as tetraplegia. An injury that affects just the lower half of the body—as experienced with thoracic and some lumbar injuries—is known as paraplegia.
Like the brain, the spinal cord only has a limited ability to recover from injury, meaning that the deficits incurred from the injury are usually permanent. Additionally, this type of injury has a high risk of complications, even many years after the injury occurred. The most serious complication is pneumonia and other respiratory issues caused by the injured person’s inability to cough or expel secretions from the lungs.
Other common complications of a spinal cord injury include:
- Loss of bladder and bowel control that can lead to urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and constipation.
- Bedsores and other injuries resulting from loss of sensation.
- Blood pressure issues, such as low blood pressure upon standing or swelling of the lower extremities due to loss of circulatory control.
- Changes in muscle tone, including loss of muscle tone, known as flaccidity, or muscles that involuntarily tighten, known as spasticity.
- Changes to sexuality, reproductive function, and fertility for both women and men.
Injuries to the body’s internal organs are relatively common with victims of car accidents. Unfortunately, these injuries often present without symptoms at first and can lead to death if not treated promptly.
Some types of internal injuries that are incurred in car accidents include:
- Internal bleeding, which is often the result of damage to the body’s blood vessels that prevents them from clotting or repairing themselves. Common signs of internal bleeding include abdominal pain, the inability to feel warm, lightheadedness, a pale complexion, excessive thirst, and fatigue.
- A ruptured spleen, which generally requires surgery to repair or remove the damaged organ.
- Lacerations to the liver or damage to the kidneys.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm, which occurs when the stomach is compressed during an accident. This injury is often fatal.
- Pneumothorax, which is a condition that occurs when a piece of a broken rib punctures a lung, causing it to deflate and collapse.
Whiplash is among the most common injuries to occur in a car accident. This condition is an injury to the soft tissues of the neck that is caused by the back-and-forth movement of the neck during certain types of accidents, including rear-end collisions.
Symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain and stiffness that worsens with movement.
- Loss of range of motion in the neck.
- Headaches that start at the base of the skull.
- Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back, or arms.
- Tingling or numbness in the arms.
- Blurred vision.
- Ringing in the ears.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Difficulty concentrating.
While whiplash is sometimes erroneously referred to as a “minor” injury, many people in fact experience long-lasting or permanent effects from the condition. The risk of long-term effects from whiplash increases if the person has had whiplash before, is older, experienced a high-speed injury, or had pre-existing lower back or neck pain.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries refer to damage to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the body.
Some of the types of soft tissue injuries that are often experienced in car accidents include:
- Contusions, also known as bruises, which result in pain, discoloration, and swelling of the affected area.
- Sprains, which are a partial tear of ligaments as a result of a wrenching or twisting motion.
- Tendonitis, which is inflammation of the tendon, which is a flexible band of tissue that connects the muscle to the bone.
- Bursitis. which is inflammation of the bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac that provides a cushion between bones and muscles or tendons.
- Muscle tears, which generally require surgery to repair.
Spinal cord injuries and whiplash aren’t the only back injuries an individual can incur in a car accident.
Common back injuries that require expensive medical intervention to treat and lead to long-term pain are:
- Fractured vertebrae: Some small cracks in the small bones of the spine can be treated with rest and immobilization. However, other spine fractures will require surgery. Spinal fractures result in pain that worsens with breathing whether you’re walking or at rest; bladder issues; numbness and muscle weakness.
- Herniated disc: The body has small, jelly-filled discs that provide a cushion between the spinal vertebrae. These discs take a lot of force in an accident, which can cause them to bulge, rupture, or slip out of place. While many herniated discs are treated through non-invasive means, surgery is required to repair more severe herniated discs.
- Spondylolisthesis: This condition is caused when fractures cause the spinal vertebrae to move out of place. This condition causes the nerves of the spinal canal to become compressed and often presents with numbness, pain, difficulty walking, or weakness.
A traumatic amputation can occur during a car accident, when a limb becomes crushed or is sheared off by a sharp object, or it can occur surgically after the accident due to damage to a limb that is too severe to repair. This is a serious and debilitating injury that typically results in the injured individual requiring a prosthetic limb, an extensive amount of rehabilitation to learn to use the prosthesis in a functional manner, and the cost of making modifications to the home, like lowered cabinets, roll-in showers, and other upgrades to accommodate the injury.
While bones are somewhat rigid, they have a limited ability to bend with the application of force. However, when that force is too great—as it often is in a car accident—the bone will break. Because the force of a car accident is often extremely heavy, bone breaks are often severe. As with traumatic brain injuries, broken bones are categorized as open fractures, meaning the bone is protruding through the skin, or closed, meaning that the fracture has not penetrated the skin.
Fractures take several weeks or months to heal. For some people, the pain of the fracture lasts long after the injury has healed, and for others, the injury does not heal properly and can result in a shortened limb, a deformed limb, or must be held together with screws that are surgically implanted.
Car accidents involve many sources of heat or chemicals which can result in burns. Burns are categorized as follows:
- First degree burn: This is the most minor type of burn and is relegated to the outer layer of the skin, called the epidermis. This type of burn causes redness and pain.
- Second degree burn: This type of burn affects both the epidermis and the inner layer of skin, known as the dermis. Second degree burns can result in redness, white splotchy skin, and swelling. Blisters and pain are often severe.
- Third degree burn: This level of burn is so severe that it impacts not only the skin but the layer of fat beneath the skin. The skin often looks leathery with a third degree burn, and nerves may be damaged, which leads to numbness.
The complications associated with burns include an increased risk of a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection, fluid loss including low blood volume, a body temperature that is too low, difficulty breathing, and an overgrowth of scar tissue that can cause difficulty with range of motion in jointed parts of the body.
Beyond the Injuries…
In addition to the expense involved in suffering an injury due to a car accident, the injuries themselves can cause extraordinary impacts on the injured person’s daily life. Many people are required to miss work due to being too injured to work or when attending injury-related doctor’s appointments. Some people can’t return to work due to the permanent disabilities they acquired as a result of the injury.
Severe injuries can forever alter family relationships due to personality changes in the victim as well as their dependence on others to help with personal and self-care tasks. Hobbies they once enjoyed may become impossible, and the injury can alter the injured person’s self-image.
Let our experienced Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers help you to recover damages related to the injury you suffered due to someone else’s carelessness or recklessness. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fort Lauderdale Car Accidents
If you have suffered an injury as a result of a car accident in Fort Lauderdale, you likely have a lot of questions about your future and your ability to pay for the expense of your medical treatment. Listed below are answers to some of the questions our Fort Lauderdale car accident clients and prospective clients have about car accidents and the process of recovering damages through a car accident lawsuit.
Will my PIP policy provide compensation for me after my accident?
Florida is one of a handful of states that require all drivers who register their vehicle to purchase a personal injury protection insurance policy (PIP).
The policy that Florida drivers must hold has a limit of at least $10,000 and covers:
- Up to 80 percent of medical costs related to your injury. This includes services such as medical services, medication, surgical services, hospitalization, diagnostic services, ambulatory services, and the cost of rehabilitation. If your services are determined to be non-emergent, the amount you can obtain from your PIP policy is capped at $2,500.
- 60 percent of the lost wages you incur as a result of being too injured to work or missing work to attend injury-related medical appointments.
- A $5,000 death benefit for the family of the insured if the insured or someone named on the policy dies as a result of injuries sustained in the car accident.
What if my injuries are more expensive than what my PIP policy will provide?
PIP policies provide a way for those who have only suffered minor injuries to obtain compensation, regardless of fault, from their own insurance company. However, because most people do not purchase more of this type of insurance than what is required by state law, there isn’t a whole lot of money available to cover the cost of more serious injuries. If your injuries have created more expenses than your policy can cover, your attorney will look into whether the injuries meet Florida’s serious injury threshold.
If they do exceed the threshold, you may seek compensation from the liable party’s insurance through a Fort Lauderdale car accident claim.
Injuries that meet the state’s serious injury threshold are those that:
- Cause significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
- Cause permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring and disfigurement.
- Cause significant and permanent scarring and disfigurement.
- Result in death.
What kind of damages can I recover from a Fort Lauderdale car accident lawsuit?
Florida allows Fort Lauderdale car accident claimants to seek both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages refer to the out-of-pocket expenses that you have incurred because of your injuries, such as:
- Medical expenses, including emergency treatment at the scene of the accident or in the emergency department; transport to the hospital by ambulance or air; diagnostic testing; physician and surgical services; hospitalization; prescription medication; physical therapy and rehabilitation.
- Lost wages.
- Loss of future earning capacity if your injury results in a permanent disability that renders you unable to return to work.
- The cost of repairing or replacing personal property, such as your damaged car, after the accident.
- The cost of personal or household services that you can’t perform on your own and must hire someone else to do.
Non-economic damages are the impacts that your injury has had on your life. These are damages that it is difficult to place a value on, such as:
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life, if your injury prevents you from participating in activities that you previously enjoyed.
- Loss of consortium, which is damage claimed on behalf of the injured person’s spouse due to the loss of physical intimacy and companionship that often accompanies serious injuries.
How do I prove liability for my car accident?
Liability is proven by establishing the following elements in your case:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. This duty of care depends on the type of accident you experienced and the at-fault party’s role in that accident, but generally, the duty of care owed one driver owes another is to operate his or her motor vehicle safely and legally.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. The breach refers to the actions that the at-fault party took that were contrary to the duty of care that he or she owed. Examples of breaches to the duty of care that one driver owes to others on the roadway include alcohol impaired driving, fatigued driving, aggressive driving, and other risky behaviors.
- This breach in the duty of care resulted in the accident and caused the claimant to incur expenses and impacts on his or her life.
What is the average car accident settlement in Fort Lauderdale?
Because settlements are determined based on the unique facts of each case, there really is not an “average” settlement.
Instead, these factors can positively or negatively affect the value of the case:
- The amount of insurance the at-fault party has. Insurance policies are how the vast majority of settlements and awards in car accident cases are paid. While it is technically possible to file a Fort Lauderdale car accident lawsuit against an individual who does not have insurance and even to obtain a judgment against that person in court, it will likely be very difficult to collect the award as most individuals can not afford to pay for medical and other car accident expenses out-of-pocket.
- Your overall health and age at the time of the accident. Your age at the time of the accident can impact several damage categories, depending on where you are in your career. The damage categories relating to lost wages and loss of future earning capacity would be higher valued than those of a young person who is not yet working or has not had time to advance up the pay scale at work. It would also likely be more than that of an older person who has reached retirement age and is no longer collecting an income. The presence of pre-existing health conditions can sometimes take away from the value of a case, as the defense can argue that the source of pain and suffering was not the injury suffered in the accident but related to the pre-existing condition.
- Your level of patience. Insurance companies do not like paying out to third parties for damages caused by their insured. However, one thing they dislike even more than payouts is extensive litigation, followed by being ordered to pay out an amount ordered by the court. Because of this, insurance companies will often avoid making an offer for a fair settlement until shortly before litigation begins or even after the trial has started but before a judgment has been rendered. What this means is that it will take time for your attorney to negotiate a fair settlement and sometimes the only way to reduce the amount of time it takes is if you are willing to accept far less than what your case is worth.
My loved one died of injuries sustained in a Fort Lauderdale car accident. Is there compensation available for me?
Florida law allows the family members of a deceased person to recover damages related to the accident that caused their loved one’s death through a wrongful death lawsuit.
These legal claims are made within two years after the death by a personal representative of the deceased’s estate on behalf of family members that include:
- The deceased’s spouse, children, and parents
- Any blood relative or adoptive sibling who was partially or wholly dependent on the support and services of the deceased.
The damages that can be recovered through this type of claim include:
- The value of support that the deceased provided to the family member.
- Loss of companionship, guidance, and protection provided by the deceased.
- Mental and emotional pain related to the loss of a child.
- Medical and funeral expenses paid directly by a family member.
The estate may collect on behalf of itself the following damages:
- Lost wages, benefits, and other earnings, including the wages and benefits the deceased would have been reasonably expected to earn if he or she had lived.
- Loss of prospective net accumulations of the estate that the deceased would have been expected to collect if he or she had lived.
- Medical and funeral expenses for the deceased that were paid directly by the estate.
What time limits should I be aware of when filing my Fort Lauderdale car accident claim?
In most Fort Lauderdale car accident, the statute of limitations is four years after the date on which the injury occurred. In some cases, this time limit is “tolled” or extended due to factors such as the injured person being a minor at the time when the injury occurred and can’t file a legal claim, or situations in which the injured person was unaware of his or her injury for some time after it occurred. Your attorney will advise you if there is a reason for an extension of the deadline in your case.
What happens if the individual who caused my car accident wasn’t insured in Fort Lauderdale?
It is very difficult to collect an award from an uninsured person. Your attorney will look carefully at your case to determine if there are potentially other liable parties with insurance policies that can be accessed to compensate you. If not, there are other possibilities for obtaining compensation for the expenses you have incurred, including your PIP policy, your own uninsured/ underinsured motorist policy, or your personal health insurance policy.
Are car accident settlements taxable in Fort Lauderdale?
According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), car accident settlements are not considered income and are, therefore, not taxable. There are some exceptions, however, including punitive damages. Punitive damages are not based on the expenses or impacts suffered by the claimant, but instead punish the defendant for particularly egregious behavior. Because this portion of the damages is not related to injury expenses and impacts, it is considered income and is subject to tax. Additionally, if an individual has claimed his or her medical expenses as a tax exemption in the year before the settlement or award is received, he or she will likely be expected to pay back the amount of that exemption in the year following the receipt of that settlement or award. Ask an accountant for more information.
Why do I need an attorney for my car accident case in Fort Lauderdale?
A Fort Lauderdale car accident attorney can provide valuable services, including:
- Guidance as to the legal options available to you.
- Determination of a value to your case that is based on the expenses and the impacts you have suffered as the result of your injury.
- Determination of all liable parties and all insurance resources that can be used to compensate you.
- Timely filing of all court-required paperwork in the proper jurisdiction.
- Skilled negotiation with the at-fault party’s insurance company to obtain a fair settlement on your behalf.
- In lieu of a settlement offer, litigation. This includes the delivery of opening and closing statements, presentation of evidence, and examination of witnesses.
- Assistance in collecting your award or settlement.
Think you can’t afford an attorney? Contact us today to obtain a free case evaluation and learn more about our convenient contingent fee arrangement.
What to Do If You Are Injured in a Fort Lauderdale Car Accident?
In the chaos of a car accident scene, it is often difficult to know what you should have done before the accident, what you should do at the accident scene, and what actions you should take after you leave the scene. Here are some tips for how to handle each part of the car accident to treat your injuries and preserve your right to recover injury-related damages through a Fort Lauderdale car accident claim.
Before an Accident Takes Place
While no one plans to prepare for a car accident, the Insurance Information Institute recommends a few simple tasks that you can do now that will help reduce the often out-of-control nature of the car accident scene. Those recommendations include:
- Keep critical documents in your car, such as registration, proof of insurance, and your leasing agent’s name. This information should be stored together in a convenient place, such as an accordion-style folder for quick access.
- Ensure that you have the items you need for an emergency scene, such as orange cones, flares, and emergency warning signs. Additionally, you should store a notepad and a pen in your car in case you need to record details such as license plate numbers or witness contact information. While these things can easily be recorded on your cell phone, there are situations in which your phone will be inaccessible such as if it were to break in the accident or the accident occurred in a dead spot.
- Make sure you know the type of auto insurance you have and what your policy covers. It is good practice to go over your insurance policy regularly so you can ensure that your coverage matches your needs. Remember that approximately one-quarter of Florida’s drivers are uninsured, which means that an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy is worth considering.
At the Accident Scene
At an accident scene, take these steps:
- Get to a safe place. If you can pull your car over to the shoulder of the road, do so. If you have reason to believe that your accident was the result of road rage or you were bumped from behind, make sure you pull over in a heavily populated area for safety.
- Call 911 to have a medical unit dispatched to the scene to provide care for you as well as any occupants of your car or any other cars that were involved. When you report the accident to 911, a police officer will also likely be dispatched to the scene.
- If you can, exchange information with the other driver. You will need to obtain the driver’s name, driver’s license number, license plate number, vehicle registration information, the name and policy number for the other driver’s insurance. At this time, you should also collect the names and contact information of any witnesses who are at the scene.
- Take pictures of all four sides of each vehicle involved, as well as any visible injuries to yourself and your passengers.
- Do not leave the scene of the accident until the police officer has arrived and made a report. Leaving the scene of an accident in Florida is considered hit and run and can subject you to financial penalties.
- Do not apologize to the other driver and avoid discussing who was at fault for the accident with anyone at the scene. When the police arrive, answer the officer’s questions as truthfully and completely as you can, and be sure to find out when and where you can obtain a copy of your police report.
- Do not decline medical attention. Even if you don’t feel like your injuries are serious, it is important to have a medical examination after any accident, as many serious injuries present with delayed symptoms and the effects of an adrenaline rush from the accident could prevent you from realizing the extent of your injuries for several hours.
After You Leave the Scene
Once police permit you to leave the scene of the accident to seek medical treatment:
- Obtain copies of any documentation that diagnoses your injuries. You should also keep copies of any medical bills you receive, receipts for prescriptions, invoices pertaining to the repair of your car, and any other documentation of your expenses.
- Report the accident to your insurance, regardless of who was at fault. Even if you do not plan to file a claim against your own insurance policy, you likely signed a contract that states that you must inform your carrier of all accidents.
- Do not speak to an insurance representative until after you have spoken to our experienced car accident attorneys. Insurance companies are in the business to make money. One of the ways they do this is by avoiding third-party payouts in car accident cases. They do this by getting the claimant to make a statement that contradicts the police report or convincing the claimant to agree to a settlement offer far below the case’s value.
- Avoid posting about your accident on social media. This type of information can be—and is—often used against a claimant either by a posted account that differs from the statement given on the police report or to demonstrate that the claimant’s posted activities after the accident reveal that he or she is not as injured as claimed.
- Speak to our experienced car accident attorneys about your legal options for recovering damages.
Let Our Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorneys Help You
Car accidents are chaotic and complex events, and the pain and expenses that follow leave many people afraid, stressed, and in need of answers. If you’re looking for answers about your eligibility to pursue damages, the experienced Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys at The Levin Firm can help.