Automobile accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., affecting people of all ages, sizes, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Although auto accident rates have been on a downward trend overall, they are still an area of concern for drivers and passengers everywhere.
What Is Considered a Car Accident?
A car accident refers to an incident where an automobile hits another object. The objects the car hits can include other cars, trees, buildings, people, or animals.
Car accidents can cause serious, life-threatening, and sometimes fatal injuries. They also cause other unwanted consequences such as pain, suffering, and loss of income.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, about 1.35 million people around the world die each year in car accidents, with about 3,200 of traffic-related deaths being recorded in the state of Florida.
Automobile collisions are caused by a variety of factors, such as:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Distracted driving (e.g., texting, eating, adjusting the radio)
- Reckless driving (e.g., speeding, driving too closely behind another vehicle, taking corners too quickly)
- Inclement weather
- Hazardous road conditions
What to Do Immediately after Your Car Accident
If you are in a car accident, you’ll want to do the following things to follow the law and to help keep yourself safe:
- Make sure everyone is safe.
- Move to a safer area, if possible.
- Call the police and file an accident report.
- Exchange insurance information with other drivers involved.
- Record details about the accident.
- Seek medical attention, if needed.
How Fault Is Determined in an Automobile Accident
There are two ways fault is determined: at-fault and no-fault. The laws of the state you live in typically determine the way fault is assigned.
An at-fault car accident happens in states that do not have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage laws. The at-fault driver’s car insurance is responsible for covering any injury and property damage claims.
To illustrate, if you hit someone’s car while it’s parked, your liability insurance coverage would be allocated to pay for the other driver’s car damage repairs.
A no-fault car accident happens in states, like Florida, where they have no-fault insurance laws. In states like these, drivers are required to have personal injury protection on their car insurance policy. This helps you pay for your medical expenses after an accident, no matter who caused it.
However, property damage claims are still required to be paid in no-fault states on an at-fault basis. For instance, if your car is damaged by another driver, their car insurance coverage may help you pay for vehicle repairs.
How insurance companies determine fault and negligence in an automobile accident depends on the details of the accident and state laws.
The state of Florida and 11 other states use comparative negligence, which means fault and negligence can be shared by both drivers.
For instance, if one driver is 60 percent at fault, their insurance is responsible for paying up to 60 percent of your repair bills and medical expenses. The remaining 40 percent is paid by the other driver (or their insurance) involved in the automobile accident.
Modified Comparative Negligence
Modified comparative negligence is used by 33 states. If a driver lives in a state that uses modified comparative negligence, they are not allowed to gain expenses from another driver if they are more than 50 percent at fault for the car accident.
In states with this law, a driver must pay for their own medical expenses or damages, even if the other driver was found to be partially at fault.
The remaining six states (including the District of Columbia) use contributory negligence, which means that a driver may not recoup costs if they were found to be any part responsible for a car accident. Even if a driver was only five percent at fault, they would not be able to get paid from the other driver’s insurance.
The Types of Cases and Lawsuits for Automobile Accidents
The most common types of automobile accident lawsuits are:
- High-speed collisions
- Head-on collisions
- Rollover accidents
- Side-impact collisions
- Drunk driving accidents
The most common reasons for car accidents include:
Aggressive driving, also known as offensive driving, refers to driving that is rushed and dangerous to other cars on the road. It involves making unnecessary maneuvers such as bobbing and weaving through traffic and cutting off other vehicles without sufficient regard for the safety of other vehicles.
This is the most common cause for injuries and accidents on the road. It occurs when drivers operate a motor vehicle above the posted legal speed limit. Speeding increases the likelihood of an accident because of the time it takes to bring the vehicle to a complete stop.
Reckless driving is similar to aggressive driving. It refers to the risky operation of an automobile that is characterized by willful and blatant disregard for traffic and road laws. Reckless driving often occurs at high speeds — creating hazardous driving conditions.
Road rage happens when drivers become angered and provoked by other vehicles on the road who make mistakes, fail to signal, or execute another frustrating driving maneuver. A driver who displays road rage may display aggressive and violent behavior as a way to retaliate against other drivers.
Drivers who operate a vehicle while they are excessively tired or fatigued pose a threat to other drivers on the road. Their reaction times are slowed and they run the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. Fatigued driving can take place at any time, but it is most common at night or on highways with long stretches.
Texting While Driving
Texting or using an electronic device while driving is an increasingly common and dangerous practice that increases the likelihood of auto accidents. It causes the driver to become distracted and affects their ability to focus on the road.
Inclement Weather Conditions
Poor weather can create dangerous road conditions and it affects and influences the way people drive on motorways.
Inclement weather conditions include:
- Heavy rain
- High winds
- Extreme heat and cold
- Hail or sleet
The Cost of Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been in a car accident and the other driver was found at fault, you may want to hire a car accident lawyer. However, you need to understand the cost of legal representation.
Most car accident or personal injury attorneys have a unique way of charging for their services. They often charge a contingency fee to take on your case, meaning the law firm won’t get paid attorney fees unless you are awarded money in your personal injury case.
Once you recover your money from the case, the lawyer gets paid a percentage of the money you receive from a car insurance settlement or verdict.
The percentage that a lawyer receives from your settlement depends on the car accident attorney that you choose. However, contingency percentages typically range from about 25 to 40 percent.
For instance, if you recover $100,000 in your case and agreed to a 30 percent contingency fee, your attorney would receive $30,000.
Typically, an attorney’s share in your settlement will increase if the case proceeds to trial and cannot be settled before going to court.
The Value of Winning a Car Accident Case
The total of most settlements are equal to about three times the cost of your medical bills. A judge takes a variety of factors into account such as treatment plan, injury type, loss of income, length of therapy, and severity of the wreck. Permanent injuries also influence the amount you recover in a settlement.
For instance, let’s say you were out of work for two weeks, causing you to lose $2,000 in pay. Additionally, you injured your neck and paid $6,000 in medical expenses. Your average settlement will be approximately $24,000 — though it could vary depending on the specific circumstances of your case.
If you’ve been involved in a car accident that was caused by another driver's negligence, the driver’s insurance is responsible for compensating you for damages, pain and suffering, and any losses. This amount may not be enough to cover what you need it to.
If you want to maximize your settlement, it is best to do more than file a claim with an insurance company. An attorney works with your insurance company to negotiate a settlement that is fair.
Your Next Steps for an Automobile Accident Case
The first thing you need to do to ensure you get the settlement you deserve is to find a great car accident or personal injury attorney to take your case.
Where to Look for a Good Car Accident Attorney
Don’t settle for an attorney you’ve seen on a billboard or an online ad. Take the time to do your research so you can hire the right attorney for you.
Here are some of the best ways to find an attorney:
- Start by asking friends, family, and co-workers for recommendations. Personal references are some of the most reliable resources, and one of your contacts may refer you to someone they had a good experience working with.
- Ask a lawyer you know and trust that works in a different field if they have any recommendations for personal injury attorneys.
- Search online using a trusted legal database such as Nolo. With this site, you can find lawyers by location, practice area, fee types, languages spoken, and the amount of years attorneys are licensed. You may also refer to your state bar association’s attorney directory that lists all of the practicing attorneys registered in your state.
What to Look for in a Car Accident Attorney
After you have a list of possible attorneys for your case, you can begin setting up interviews with about three to five attorneys. When you speak with them wither over the phone or in person, pay attention to the following things:
- Experience level
- Whether or not they have a good understanding of your case
- Good communication skills
- Being available and prompt in their responses
- Rapport-building skills
Questions to Ask a Potential Car Accident Attorney
Focus on the attorneys background and related cases when thinking about questions to ask a potential attorney.
Some questions you should always ask an attorney include:
- How involved will you be with my case?
- What out-of-pocket expenses should I expect to pay?
- What is the average settlement amount for cases similar to mine?
- How much experience do you have with this injury?
- How much of your practice is dedicated to car accident cases?
- What is your fee structure?
Information to Provide to Your Automobile Accident Attorney
Gather as much information as you can about your automobile accident as possible before speaking with any lawyer so you have accurate information to provide them with.
Provide your potential attorney with information such as:
- Proof of fault: Explain the details of your car accident and provide documentation of fault. If you do not have proof of fault, discuss how the attorney plans on determining the at-fault driver.
- Evidence: Include medical documents, police reports, witness testimonies, and even a reconstruction of the accident scene, if you have it.
- Severity of injuries: Discuss your injuries to see if the lawyer will even take your case. Sometimes minor accident claims will not be accepted.
- A calculation of pain and suffering: Provide a specific pain and damage suffering amount, and hand over any medical bills you’ve already received so they can get an idea of how much you are owed.
Get Started on Your Automobile Accident Lawsuit in Florida
Lowman Law Firm is a team of dedicated and ethical attorneys and staff that bring their wealth of experience and knowledge to personal injury cases in Central Florida. We offer free comprehensive case consultations on all personal injury matters, and clients only pay fees or costs if the case is won.
With Lowman, you are not just a case number. You are a client who will gain access to the best legal guidance, and you'll be treated with compassion. Lowman gets you the results and settlement you deserve.
Our lawyers provide statewide representation, handling personal injury cases in 34 Florida counties, including Hernando, Citrus, Pasco, Hillsborough, and Pinellas. We also manage cases in several other states.