If a Florida vehicle collision injures you, it may leave you with significant medical debt from the emergency treatment and hospital stay right afterward. You may have had a lengthy healing time or required surgery, physical therapy, or chiropractor care to help you regain your mobility and abilities.
You may have missed work because injuries made it difficult to do your regular job. The damage to your car could even have you out of a vehicle. In addition to your expenses, you may be experiencing emotional trauma and pain and suffering after your accident. It is crucial to understand how car accident settlements work.
When in doubt, consult with a skilled car accident attorney in your area as soon as possible after your collision.
Settlements After a Car Accident: What You Need to Know
To recoup the money you spent on medical bills and to cover your losses from an accident that you didn’t cause, you’ve probably considered retaining the services of a Florida car accident attorney.
An experienced car accident lawyer can help you get the best possible settlement after a collision to recoup everything you lost because of the incident.
As you’re working with your car accident attorney, it’s good to know how the settlement process works to fully understand your legal options and make decisions that benefit your interests.
Essentially, car accident settlements work on a fundamental proposition: if someone else caused an accident because they failed to do what they were supposed to (through recklessness or negligence), and you suffered injuries, trauma, and inconvenience because of their actions, then you have the right to be made whole.
Settlements put you back in the same position, financially, as you were before the accident. The money you receive can cover total costs and provide you with money to compensate you for your pain and suffering.
The Timeline and Process for a Car Accident Settlement
Although the circumstances of each collision are different, the process afterward—from determining who was at fault to contacting a car accident lawyer, negotiating with the other party, and settling your claim—are relatively similar.
What to Do After the Accident
When you're in a car accident, call the police or file a report. If the collision injured or killed anyone, notify the police right away. If it caused more than $500 in property damage, you must file a police report.
Suppose the accident doesn’t require a sheriff or local officer to file a police report. In that case, you still need to file an accident report with the municipality where the accident happened within ten days.
However, it’s always best to call 911 after an accident, even if it looks minor.
In Florida, drivers involved in a car accident must exchange name and contact information, driver's license number and plate number, and insurance information. Anyone involved in a Florida collision must offer reasonable assistance to any injured person.
We recommend gathering as much information as possible after the wreck and always notifying the police. The report that the responding officer makes will contain plenty of information that your car accident attorney needs to build a case for your settlement.
Additionally, the police officer can often determine who caused the accident and document whether an intoxicated driver was involved.
However, be careful what you say after the accident, even if you think it was your fault. Talk only to the first responders and avoid saying anything that could indicate that you believe you caused the accident.
When to Contact Your Insurance Company and What to Say
Florida’s car accident coverage is a little different than other states. Drivers must have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage Liability (PDL) with a minimum of $10,000 coverage.
The state has a no-fault insurance system, which means that each driver’s PIP insurance will cover the bills and expenses incurred after the accident, no matter who caused the accident. For minor claims, your PIP is usually sufficient.
However, if you pursue a lawsuit with your car accident lawyer, your expenses must exceed your PIP coverage, and you must prove the other driver caused the accident.
Florida law allows drivers to pursue claims against the at-fault driver in an accident for the property damage to the vehicle and medical bills. PIP and auto insurance policies have deadlines for reporting accidents, and you must meet them or risk voiding your policy.
However, you should talk only to your insurance company after the accident—never to the other party’s insurance company! Instead, your car accident attorney should handle all conversations with the other party’s insurance company.
What Compensation Does a Car Accident Settlement Recover?
Many people wonder how much they’ll get in a car accident settlement, especially if they are waiting to replace or repair their car or need to pay for additional medical procedures.
The amount in a settlement varies greatly depending on the accident’s severity, how many vehicles were involved, and even whether the at-fault driver was a commercial driver operating a commercial vehicle for work.
A medical professional determines the extent of your injuries and any treatment or follow-up care requirements. Your attorney will total your medical bills for your settlement, including the ongoing treatment you need to recover.
If your injuries were severe enough to render you temporarily or permanently disabled, or if you need long-term care after the accident (such as in a nursing home), that will be considered part of the settlement amount.
Pain and suffering compensation in a car accident settlement pays victims for current and future pain or discomfort stemming from their accident injuries. It's a little harder to quantify, and there are a few stipulations to get this kind of compensation.
Insurance will pay out only one settlement for pain and suffering compensation. You must complete your medical treatment and present a physician release stating this before your car accident lawyer submits this portion of your claim.
The majority of car wreck lawsuit settlements cover several categories of damages:
Most car collisions result in a visit to the emergency room just to get checked out for injuries that don't present right away, like soft tissue injuries or a possible concussion. More severe injuries may involve expensive ambulance transport and a lengthy hospital stay, including specialty care like radiology or surgery.
If you require a home health aide to help you recuperate after leaving the hospital or need to stay in a nursing home, you may add those costs to your settlement demand. Always keep copies of your medical records and bills for your car accident attorney.
If your vehicle sustained more than $500 worth of damage (which is easy to do, even in a minor accident), then you can ask for reimbursement from the other driver to repair or replace your vehicle.
If the accident damaged items in your car, or if you rode a motorcycle and a crash damaged your helmet and other gear, you may add the cost of replacing those items to your claim.
Many people end up with prescriptions to help them manage the pain of their injuries while they heal. If you require painkillers or anti-anxiety medication to help you with emotional trauma or PTSD you suffered after the accident, your settlement can cover those costs.
While your health insurance company usually covers those costs, your lawyer can add any copays to your settlement demand.
Hospital stays easily cost over $1,000 per day. While many car accident victims don't need to stay overnight, some people may need surgery or stay for extended observation periods if they have head injuries. Keep your hospital bill copies, too.
Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation
Serious accidents can leave you incapacitated, or the extent of your injuries may require rehabilitation to recover and regain your range of motion and independence. These things take time, though; your car accident lawyer often won’t file your claim until you’ve completed your physical therapy, chiropractor care, or post-surgery rehabilitation.
If you can’t work because of your injuries or you miss time at work to rest and heal, you may recover the wages you would have earned but for the accident. Sometimes, you cannot resume your regular schedule or complete the duties for the job you had before the accident.
If you’re reduced to part-time hours or given a different position with less pay because of your injuries, the other party may be required to make restitution for your lost earning potential.
Medical Equipment and Modifications to Your Home or Vehicle
A car accident may leave you partially disabled, either temporarily or permanently. Broken limbs or spine damage are common injuries, and some victims may need modifications to their homes to live independently. Or they may need a car modified for a disabled driver.
These expenses and other required medical equipment should also be part of your settlement. If you undertake home or vehicle modifications, ensure that you save all receipts for materials and labor so that your car accident attorney can add these to the claim they file for you.
Car Accident Lawsuit Settlement FAQs
You have questions, and your lawyer has answers! These are some of the more common questions car accident victims ask about their settlement. However, your car accident lawyer will answer specifics about your case during your initial consultation.
How Much Is My Car Accident Settlement Worth?
You may recover economic damages—the actual amount of money the accident cost you—and non-economic damages for pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and mental anguish. The amount depends on your injuries' severity.
Usually, the insurance company calculates non-economic damages as a multiple of your actual or economic damages.
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit?
Florida's statute of limitations to file a personal injury or car accident suit is four years. If you don't file within two years of the accident, the court will likely dismiss it.
How Much Will a Car Accident Lawyer Cost Me?
Many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning they assess fees on the contingency they win your settlement. Usually, it’s a percentage of what you recover, but your lawyer will address their fee structure in your initial consultation.
Can I Get a Settlement Without a Car Accident Lawyer?
Not a good one.
Car accident lawyers understand the statutes regarding car accident claims and know how to properly word all court filings. Furthermore, lawyers have the experience to go toe-to-toe with the other party in negotiations or court.
If a Car Wreck Injured You, Contact a Car Accident Attorney
Don't negotiate with the other party's insurance company on your own. If a driver hit you and the accident wasn't your fault, an experienced car accident lawyer can help you get a settlement that covers your losses.