Getting into a car accident is always a frightening experience. On the relatively minor end of the spectrum, you deal with shock, wondering how it all happened, and hoping that repairs won’t be too costly. On the more serious side, you’re left dealing with injuries, substantial time missed from work, and — in a worst-case scenario — maybe even the death of a loved one. When an accident involves two cars or more, you know you may have legal recourse to hold the guilty driver accountable. But, what happens if it was a single-vehicle accident? Is it always your fault?
Single-Vehicle Accidents in Florida
While most accidents occur when two or more vehicles collide, it’s still possible to collide with a tree, railing, wall, or a residential or commercial building. They can be startling and cause a lot of damage — from bodily injuries to repair costs. The most common reasons for these types of accidents include:
- Slippery roads
- Street signs that are obstructed by branches
- Construction zones
- Defective parts in your car
- Another driver’s conduct
- Road hazards — such as potholes, inadequate lighting, or anything that minimizes visibility
What to Do After a Single-Vehicle Accident in Florida
1. Get Your Vehicle Out of Traffic
If you’ve been involved in such an accident, if at all possible, move your vehicle so that you’re not obstructing the flow of traffic. If the car won’t start, call a towing company. This is a requirement imposed by Florida Statutes Section 316.61.
2. Call the Police
Florida law requires filling out a police report when an accident results in the personal injury or death of anyone involved — or if a party simply complains about pain. This requirement also applies if the crash rendered your motor vehicle inoperable, if you were driving a commercial motor vehicle, or if the crash was caused by someone driving under the influence. For example, if you swerved to avoid a collision with someone who seems to have been driving while impaired, you would need to get a report filed.
3. Take Pictures
Document everything that might be helpful in litigation. This includes evidence that the roads were in poor conditions or visibility was obstructed, and the extent of the damage caused to someone else’s property as well as your car. This will be helpful for liability issues as well as for accident reconstruction efforts.
4. Go to the Doctor
Every car insurance policy in Florida is required to offer personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. These cover up to 80% of medical bills and 60% of lost wages, for a maximum of $10,000. This is available to you regardless of whether you were at fault for the accident. It also covers injuries sustained by you, anyone who lives with you, passengers in your car, and anyone struck by your vehicle. However, in order to file a claim, Florida Statutes 627. 736 requires that you do so within 14 days from the date of the accident.
5. Speak with an Attorney
If you know the accident wasn’t your fault — or if you have reason to believe that someone else may be held liable — consult with an experienced car accident attorney. This way you can make an informed decision about whether to move forward with a claim against a third party.
Who could be held accountable for a single-vehicle car accident in Florida?
Although there are several individuals or entities that could be held liable for a single-vehicle accident, it all comes down to negligence. Someone who had a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused the damages. Those who could be held accountable for such negligence include:
There are scenarios when another driver is the catalyst for a single-vehicle accident — such as slamming on the brakes, having cargo that falls off their vehicle, or driving in an erratic manner. All of these instances could cause a person who’s driving behind to swerve to avoid an accident, only to end up colliding against something else. If this is the case, the other driver will be held liable for your injuries. However, this liability is not absolute. A court will look at whether you were partly to blame for the accident. If so, the amount you can recover will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Most consumers have seen either news stories of product recalls, or have received recall notices in the mail for something they’ve bought. However, it’s not necessary for a manufacturer to be held strictly liable for damages caused by their products. Florida law specifically establishes this liability for damages caused by the manufacture, construction, design, formulation, installation, preparation, or assembly of a product. This also includes injuries that were greater than what you would have experienced but for the defective product. Therefore, if you had an accident — or if your injuries were worsened — due to a defect in your car, the car manufacturer could be held liable.
Mechanic or Auto Repair Shop
The same way a car manufacturer can be held strictly liable for injuries arising out of a product defect, a mechanic or auto repair shop could be held liable for injuries sustained in an accident if they failed to repair something you paid them to fix prior to the crash. This also applies if you took the car for regular maintenance and the issue was supposed to be discovered during the regular course of such maintenance.
The Department of Transportation
This type of case is harder to prove, but it’s possible. Florida Statutes Section 337.195 establishes that in a civil action for the injury or death of a person against the Department of Transportation will be presumed that it occurred by the driver’s operation of the vehicle. However, this presumption can be overcome by a showing that there was either gross negligence or intentional misconduct by someone at the Department. An example would be construction, maintenance, or repairs that are done in violation of compliance requirements.
Let’s face it. Sometimes, even the most well-intentioned individuals could be guilty of distracted driving. Whether due to thinking about work or family responsibilities, replying to a text, or reading a billboard, it’s sometimes too easy to unintentionally run a red light or drive too fast when the roads are wet. In that event, you would be responsible for your own damages — and for someone else’s damages, if the accident harmed somebody else’s property.
Call Clark Law If You’ve Been in a Car Accident in Tampa Bay
If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Law, we have experienced attorneys who regularly represent clients involved in motor vehicle accidents, and we can help you determine the best next step.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.