Yes, a car accident lawyer can handle your insurance claim from start to finish. A lawyer can also help you navigate the intricacies of no-fault insurance laws to recover damages for vehicle repair costs and serious injuries beyond what is covered by your personal injury protection (PIP) benefits.
Everyone in the state of Florida is required to have PIP insurance and carry a minimum of $10,000 in coverage. This means that if you have less than $10,000 in costs associated with your injuries, your PIP benefits will cover the expenses. Your coverage will pay 80 percent of your medical expenses as well as 60 percent of lost wages as a result of the work that you missed because of your accident.
You must seek treatment within 14 days of the accident to get these benefits. Also, if your physician finds you did not have an emergency medical condition, your insurance company will only pay up to $2,500 in benefits.
Collision insurance, an optional coverage in your insurance policy, will pay for the repairs or replacement of your vehicle.
If your damages go beyond the state’s minimum insurance requirements, you may be able to recover additional compensation through the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You may also be entitled to compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. To qualify under no-fault laws, you must prove that your injuries from the accident were severe and resulted in:
- Physical scarring
- Physical disfigurement
- Permanent bodily injury
If your family member lost his or her life, you automatically meet the criteria for a wrongful death lawsuit and can pursue damages related to your case.
Even when you do have injuries that meet the criteria set by the no-fault insurance laws, the driver’s insurance company may still argue that you do not have sufficient proof to show that the accident caused the injuries.
In that case, you would need to gather evidence to build a valid insurance claim. Some of the evidence you may need includes:
- Statements from doctors about your prognosis and your future medical care needs
- Statements from friends and family members about how your injuries have altered your life
- Traffic camera video showing that the other party caused the accident
A car accident lawyer will deal with the insurance companies and manage this entire process, including demonstrating that the driver breached his duty to drive carefully, that the breach of duty caused an accident, and that his negligent actions resulted in serious bodily injuries.
How Long Does a Car Accident Claim Take to Settle?
Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer to this question because all car accident cases are different. Even though there is a legal process that is generally followed, there are factors that could potentially lead to a quick settlement or drag out the process longer than expected if the option for an appeal is taken.
When litigation is necessary, the legal steps that are generally followed from start to finish are:
- The complaint is filed, and the lawsuit officially begins.
- The defendant is served a copy of the complaint.
- The defendant is given a certain time period to file an answer to the complaint.
- Discovery is the exchange of critical information, from both sides, that could be used as potential evidence during a trial.
- A trial takes place.
- There is potential for an appeal that could drag out the timeline if one side or the other does not like how the trial concluded.
There are other litigation steps that can be taken to shorten or lengthen the timeline. Each case is different, and it depends on whether or not the plaintiff or defendant has substantial evidence that proves they are on the winning side of the dispute. If this is the case, either side may file a motion for summary judgment, and a judge will make the decision before the case has a chance to go to trial.
In most cases, the settlement will happen before going to the trial phase. Many times, when information is presented during the discovery phase that shifts favor to either side, a settlement may occur at that time.
However, if liability is particularly hard to prove because of a lack of evidence, witnesses, or professional opinion of the losses, the case can be dragged out indefinitely.
Florida law gives you four years to file a lawsuit in a personal injury or property damage case, including qualifying car accident cases. For this reason, you should call us as soon as your injuries stabilize to speak with a car accident attorney. We need as much time as possible to prepare and file the insurance claims in your case.Be aware that some cases have an even shorter statute of limitations. For example, if an employee of a government agency driving the agency’s vehicle struck your car, you may have much less time to notify them of the incident and of your intent to file a claim.
Do You Have to Go to Court for a Car Accident?
Depending on the circumstances of the case, there is a chance that you might have to go to court for a car accident. But the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine can represent you through the entire course of your case, including through litigation.
Florida is one of many states that follows a no-fault insurance system. Under normal circumstances, you must file a claim based on your personal injury protection policy (PIP) with your insurance provider to cover economic losses such as medical bills and lost wages.
Generally, no-fault insurance rules limit the amount of legal action you can take following a car accident. However, if your injuries meet a certain legal threshold, you may be able to file suit in civil court against the at-fault driver. This threshold would add pain and suffering as well as other non-economic losses that will likely make your case more valuable.
Fortunately, in many cases, car accident settlements are achieved without having to go to court. But many factors could result in a trial being a necessary part of the litigation process. Those factors include:
When a party cannot agree on who is liable for the car accident, the case may proceed to a trial where a jury will make decisions on the issues based on presented evidence.
Liability is a big factor when determining if a case is likely to go to trial. In some cases, when substantial evidence and information would prove liability in court, the liable party would most likely offer a settlement during the discovery phase of litigation.
Other times, the evidence may be significant enough to request a motion for summary judgment where a judge would make a final decision before a trial occurs.
Disagreement on Losses
There could be a disagreement about whether the plaintiff was actually injured during the accident, the extent of those injuries, and how much compensation they should receive for those losses.
The plaintiff carries the burden of proof when pursuing losses. It may be critical to the case that a medical professional, such as the treating physician, is a witness that provides a professional opinion regarding the extent of the injuries.
If your case has a considerably high value, the defendant will most likely give due diligence to the case to reduce or deny the claim for compensation. If the parties involved in a claim or lawsuit cannot agree on a fair settlement, the case may go to trial.
What Happens if the At-Fault Party Doesn’t Have Car Insurance?
If getting into an accident is not awful enough, learning that the driver who caused the accident does not have car insurance or is underinsured can be extremely frustrating.
Fortunately, in Florida, you have options for financial recovery after sustaining injuries in an accident with an uninsured driver. All drivers are legally required to have a minimum coverage policy, including:
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP): in the amount of $10,000
- Bodily Injury Liability: in the amount of $20,000
- Property Damage Liability: in the amount of $10,000
In most cases, your PIP insurance would kick in to cover a percentage of medical bills and lost wages up to your policy limits. Usually, this amount is enough to provide relief from the financial difficulties of needed medical attention for simple injuries suffered in a collision.
PIP can also cover up to $5,000 in funeral benefits. That being said, if a family member has passed away as the result of a car accident, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for wrongful death.
Because Florida is a no-fault state, there is not usually an option for filing a lawsuit against the other driver in civil court. However, if your injuries meet the threshold for serious injury as defined by Florida law, you may be able to file suit for pain and suffering against the uninsured driver who hit you.
Florida’s motor vehicle no-fault law describes the thresholds of bodily injury and loss to include:
- Permanent injury
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
Besides being personally responsible for your losses, the uninsured or underinsured driver could most likely face penalties, including but not limited to, license suspension, fees, confiscation of the vehicle license plate, and criminal charges.
In Florida, insurance companies are required to offer you uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) coverage. If you opted to add this coverage to your policy, you can file a claim for compensation if you have discovered the driver who hit you is uninsured, underinsured, or if you are the victim of a hit and run.
In Florida, uninsured motorist coverage for property damage is not available as an option with your insurance policy.
How Can I Reach a Jacksonville Car Accident Lawyer About My Case?
At the Law Firm of Anidjar & Levine, we understand how stressful it can be to worry about your family’s financial health while also trying to recover from your injuries. We can worry about fighting for the compensation you need to pay medical bills, cover lost wages, and take care of your family. Call us today at 800-747-3733 to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation.