In 2015, there were over 370,000 car crashes in Florida, which adds up to over a 1,000 per day. Add to that 2,939 fatalities and 159,795 injuries, besides over 200,00 instances of property damage. These huge numbers can really shock a person.
Given the millions of snowbirds and family vacationers touring the Sunshine State every year, a good deal of these frequent Floridian auto accidents will involve out-of-staters. It is good to familiarize yourself, therefore, with Florida’s auto accident and injury laws before your departure.
Here are 4 things to be aware of:
1. Out of State Auto Insurance
The first thing to realize is that whatever mandatory state minimums your home state imposes as to auto insurance, Florida’s standard of $10,000 PIP (personal injury protection) and $10,000 property damage liability (PDL) will apply. Insurers have cooperated across state lines to allow for these types of situations, so you don’t have to worry about your car insurance “not working” with an out of state claim.
2. First Steps After an Accident
As in all states, you are required to stop at the scene of the accident and to assist anyone who may be injured to the best of your ability. Often, that may mean calling 9-1-1. Conversely, if you are the injured party, the other motorist owes this duty to you.
In any accident where more than $500 of property damage or any bodily injuries take place, you must report the accident to the local police as soon as possible. And if your vehicle is blocking traffic, you must move it or get it towed away if you are in a condition to do so.
Getting in-state legal advice early on is also key. In Tampa Bay, for example, the Doan Law Firm has a reputation for guiding both Floridians and visitors through the legal steps necessary to collect compensation after an accident. Don’t bear the pain and costs of injury and a wrecked car needlessly when you are entitled to be reimbursed.
3. Florida’s Comparative Negligence Law
In Florida, personal injury law is not so simple as simply identifying “the” at-fault party and having him or her pay for all losses suffered by the wronged party. Instead, your claim will be equivalent to the percentage of fault assigned to the other driver (and vice versa).
Thus, if you are deemed by the judge to be 30% at fault and the other driver 70% at fault, you can only collect 70% of the losses you suffered. And you will have to pay 30% of any losses suffered by the “mostly at fault” driver.
Insurance companies and defendants know about this law and they use it to try to diminish your claim unfairly at times. That’s why you need a local Florida personal injury attorney on your side. A good lawyer with a track record of success will bring “clout” that will force all involved to “play fair.”
4. Florida’s No Fault Car Insurance Law
But in order to be able to file a claim at all, you have to qualify for an exception to this state’s no-fault car insurance statute. Your insurance will have to pay regardless of fault unless you suffer a serious personal injury or the damages go beyond what the insurance policy will cover.
A “serious” injury is one that is permanent, leaves permanent scars or disfigurement, or that results in the loss of a bodily function. If that sounds a little vague to you, it’s because it is, and it takes a good lawyer to know how these phrases in Florida’s car accident laws will be interpreted in an actual injury case.