If you drive anywhere within Tampa Bay, you’ll see that there are almost as many billboards for personal injury attorneys as there are cars on the road. Car accidents in Florida are so common that they rank amongst the nation’s highest number of crashes. And, you don’t even have to look up statistics to see it. A simple commute on I-4, I-275, or the Courtney Campbell Causeway usually comes with backed-up traffic as a result of an accident.
While there are certain things that tend to be common knowledge regarding crashes — such as exchanging insurance information, waiting for the police to arrive to prepare a report, and filing claims with insurance companies — these factors only involve the drivers who were part of the accident. But, what about the passengers?
What to Do If You’re a Passenger in a Car Accident in Florida
Although car accidents are never good news, there is a small silver lining for a passenger filing an injury claim. Unlike drivers involved in a car accident, passengers don’t have to worry about the possibility of being held partly liable for the crash. This is crucial because Florida is a comparative negligence state. This means that if a person is found to be somewhat responsible for an accident, the amount of damages they can recover is reduced.
If you suffer any type of damages — whether medical or lost wages — you’re entitled to file a claim for full recovery. But, if it was a two-car accident, you may have to file a claim against both drivers. Obviously, each accident is different, and sometimes, only one person is liable for the crash.
Other times, both parties may be at fault. If this is the case, liability would be apportioned appropriately. For example, if you suffer $50,000 in damages, and evidence points to the fact that both drivers are equally at fault. You’d be able to recover $25,000 from each of them. By the same token, if it turns out that one driver is 80% responsible, that driver will have to pay 80% of the damages, while the other driver would have to pay the remaining 20%.
If the accident was partly caused by a friend or family member, you might have to file a claim against their insurance company. Now, if your amount of damages is $10,000 or less, your claim doesn’t have to involve extensive litigation to be resolved. This is where Florida’s no-fault law comes in.
How does a passenger no-fault claim work?
- The named insured
- Relatives who live in the same home as the insured
- Persons driving the insured’s car
- Passengers in the insured’s car
- Other persons struck by the insured’s car
PIP covers 80% of the medical bills of those individuals listed, as well as 60% of lost wages, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. All you have to do is file a claim within 14 days of the accident.
At Clark Law, we recommend doing it as soon as possible so that injuries can’t be blamed on something other than the accident — such as playing sports or falling a few days after the crash. The insurance company does have the right to investigate the claim but is required to issue payment within 30 days. Overdue payments are subject to interest rates.
If your damages are more than $10,000, then you could file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party or parties for anything more than the 10K amount. This could also include claims for pain and suffering.
If your friend or family member was partly at fault, you can file a claim against them as well as filing a claim against the other driver. Or, you could file a claim against the other driver alone and pay the difference out of your pocket.
What happens during litigation?
Just because you were the passenger doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically receive everything you think you’re owed. For example, if the accident was caused by something out of the control of all drivers involved — such as a tree falling or an alligator walking in the middle of the road at night — you wouldn’t prevail on your negligence claim.
And, your injuries have to be the direct result of the accident. So, if you had acute back pain before the crash, and you include damages for back pain in your lawsuit, the Defendant or person suing can request prior medical records or ask you questions under oath to find out more details about the previous injury. This may reduce the amount received for damages based on which portions pre-existed the accident.
If there were several passengers involved in the accident, then your money received could also be reduced. If everyone suffered injuries and lost days at work, everyone is still bound by the negligent person’s insurance policy limits, so the amount you could collect would be reduced if there are several hands in the pot.
If the car accident happened while you were working, such as traveling in a company car, making deliveries, or otherwise being in a motor vehicle as part of your job obligations, you may have a Worker’s Compensation claim that could affect your personal injury claim. You’ll have to resolve both claims, and all the special considerations will be taken into account for each.
How an Attorney Can Help
Fortunately, you don’t have to go through all of this alone. Even if you were a passenger in a car accident, an attorney could ensure you receive the best payout possible. A lawyer is essential during the discovery process. They’ll schedule depositions of opposing parties, witnesses, and applicable experts (such as doctors and accident reconstruction experts) to determine fault. During a deposition, the lawyer prepares and asks a list of questions. The party who’s getting deposed has to answer them under oath. If the party being deposed has an attorney, their lawyer can object to any questions they don’t deem appropriate or applicable.
Once everything starts coming together, the parties can begin settlement negotiations. If there’s no settlement agreement, the case moves on to trial. Your attorney will present all the evidence they’ve collected during the discovery process to help you receive the maximum payout.
Contact the Car Accident Lawyers at Clark Law If You’ve Been Involved in a Car Accident
There are many things that can affect the outcome of a car accident claim, regardless of whether you’re the driver or the passenger. This is why it’s crucial to talk to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Not doing so could greatly affect your chances of receiving an adequate recovery for your damages.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.