Being blamed for a car accident will often not affect your right to compensation. Florida uses a no-fault system. Unless your injury damages exceed Florida’s no-fault limits, you will receive injury compensation regardless of who caused an accident.
But if you exceed Florida’s no-fault limits, blame becomes a central issue in your claim. In this case, you can pursue the driver who caused the accident. The at-fault driver and their insurance company can also attempt to reduce your compensation by shifting some or all of the blame to you.
Here is some information about the ways a personal injury attorney can help if the insurance company tries to blame you for an accident.
No-Fault Insurance in Florida
No-fault insurance provides guaranteed injury benefits to everyone involved in an accident, including the driver who caused the accident.
When you buy auto insurance in Florida, you must purchase at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP). PIP coverage represents the “no-fault” protection required under Florida law.
After a car accident, you will file a PIP claim with your insurer. Your insurer will not care who caused the accident. Instead, the insurer only determines whether the accident caused your injuries and whether your treatment was reasonably necessary.
If you meet both these elements, the insurer will pay 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your lost wages.
Blame plays no part in the decision. The at-fault driver receives PIP benefits, just as the innocent passengers and drivers will receive them.
In certain circumstances, Florida law releases you from the no-fault system.
Specifically, you can file a lawsuit to recover damages that are not covered by PIP if:
- Your medical bills exceed your PIP policy limits or
- You suffer a permanent injury
In either situation, you can recover any damages above your PIP policy limits. PIP benefits only cover 80% of your medical bills. This means that you would exhaust a minimum policy of $10,000 when your medical bills hit $12,500.
If you suffer a permanent injury, you can sue for your uncompensated economic damages and non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
Under Florida law, a permanent injury includes:
- Permanent loss of an important bodily function.
- Permanent injury
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
If Florida law releases you from the no-fault limits and you file a lawsuit, you will likely be able to recover compensation if you can prove the other driver caused the accident. However, a judge will reduce your damage award if the other driver proves that you contributed to the accident.
Blame for a Car Accident
Under Florida’s no-fault system, blame arises in two ways:
Others that Are Injured in the Accident Blame You
Suppose that the accident victims blame you for causing an accident and they meet Florida’s requirements for release from the no-fault system. In this case, they can file a liability claim against your auto insurance or file a lawsuit against you.
In this situation, your insurer will defend your case. The insurer will take the lead in defending you and paying for any legitimate claims — even if you have a personal injury lawyer to pursue claims against others involved in the accident.
The At-Fault Driver Tries to Shift Blame to You
If Florida law releases you from the no-fault limitations, you can file a liability claim or personal injury suit against the at-fault driver.
These actions stem from negligence law. If a driver’s negligence causes a car accident, their insurer is responsible for injury victims’ damages.
To prove negligence, you must show four things:
All drivers have a duty to others to follow traffic safety laws and drive in a reasonably prudent manner.
A driver breaches this duty by violating traffic laws and failing to exercise reasonable care while driving.
The breach of duty must have been the cause of the damage.
You must suffer an injury or property damage in order to pursue a negligence claim. If you suffer no damages, you cannot win your case.
If you can prove all four elements, a claims adjuster or jury can award you damages to compensate you for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Florida provides a defense to negligence claims. Under the doctrine of comparative fault, a negligent driver is only liable for damages caused by their negligence.
If you or someone else contributed to the accident, the negligent driver’s liability drops based on the other contributing causes.
For example, suppose that a car pulls out of a driveway in front of you. Your cars collide in a T-bone collision. If the car pulling out of the driveway left you no time to stop, that car’s driver would bear 100% of the fault for the accident.
Suppose the car pulling out of the driveway left you time to stop, but you did not see the car because you were sending a text. In this case, you may share in the responsibility for the accident.
In this case, a jury or claim adjuster might assess your share of the blame at 15% and only award you 85% of your damages.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help?
When an at-fault driver tries to shift blame to avoid or reduce their liability, a personal injury lawyer can take steps to counteract them.
An injury lawyer can collect evidence that shows you did not contribute to the accident or that the at-fault driver’s actions left you no way to avoid the accident.
For example, physical evidence like skid marks can prove that you were traveling below the speed limit and you tried unsuccessfully to stop.
An injury lawyer can also attempt to present witnesses that can exonerate you from blame. A bystander or passenger might testify that the other driver moved into your lane, causing a collision.
By making sure that the blame for an accident falls on the driver who truly caused the accident, a personal injury lawyer can avoid any reductions to the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
To learn more about what a personal injury lawyer can do when you are blamed for a car accident, contact Catania & Catania, P.A. We’ll review your case with a free consultation and help you to determine your best legal options. Give us a call at (813) 222-8545 or contact our Tampa personal injury lawyers online.