What Happens When You Are at Fault for a Car Accident in Fort Lauderdale?

If you cause a car accident in Fort Lauderdale (or anywhere else in Florida), it can be stressful and overwhelming.

Florida’s no-fault system will protect your ability to claim no-fault benefits from your insurer. But your ability to file a lawsuit for unreimbursed damages will depend on your role in causing the accident.

You could also face claims against your liability insurance or lawsuits for damages. 

Here is a guide to the consequences you could face when you are at fault for a car accident in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

What Happens With Your Injuries?

Florida uses a no-fault auto insurance system. All vehicle owners in Florida must carry $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This coverage pays 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your lost income after a car accident.

Your insurer pays these benefits regardless of fault. If you cause an accident and suffer an injury, you will receive the same benefits as if someone else caused it.

Under Florida law, these benefits constitute your exclusive remedy with two exceptions:

When Damages Exceed the Policy Limits

If you reach your $10,000 policy limit and still have additional damages, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. You can only recover economic damages, such as past and future medical bills, lost income, and diminished earning capacity.

When You Face a Substantial Permanent Injury

If you suffer a substantial and permanent injury, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. 

Substantial permanent injuries include:

  • Death
  • Loss of an important body function
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Injuries that will not heal with reasonable certainty

If you suffer a substantial permanent injury, you can sue for economic damages and non-economic damages. Non-economic damages include pain, suffering, inconvenience, and other factors that diminish your quality of life.

Availability of a Lawsuit

If you were the sole cause of the accident, you will have no way to recover any compensation beyond your PIP benefits. But if someone else contributed to the accident, you might have a path to recover additional damages.

For example, suppose that you were speeding and texting right before the accident. You swerved right before hitting another car. Your tire blew and your vehicle rolled.

You caused the accident, but a defective tire caused the rollover. In this case, you might recover both PIP benefits and damages from the tire manufacturer.

What Happens with Other People’s Injuries?

Other people injured in your accident have the same rights as you. They can file a claim with their insurance companies for PIP benefits. They will receive these benefits from their insurers even though you caused the accident. Your insurer will not need to pay anyone but you and your passengers.

If you are lucky, the other party’s insurers will cover all of their expenses. But if they do not, you may be liable for the damages resulting from the accident.

Insurance Claims

Florida does not require you to buy bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance. If you have BIL coverage, your insurer will pay for injuries you cause in a car crash.

To recover compensation, they will file a claim with your insurer under your auto insurance policy. Your insurer will assign a claims adjuster to the case and investigate liability.

If your insurer concludes that you were the sole cause of the accident, the insurer will negotiate a settlement with the injured parties. If your insurer concludes that the claimant contributed to the accident, the insurer can reduce the insurance payout accordingly.

Florida uses comparative negligence to allocate damages. Under Florida law, you are only liable for your share of the blame for the accident. 

If an insurer or jury finds you to be 100% at fault, you and your insurer would be liable for 100% of the damages. But if you share the blame with someone else, your share of the damages would drop.

For example, suppose that you attempted to change lanes without looking. You avoided an accident by slamming on your brakes. The driver behind you was following too closely and rear-ended your vehicle.

You caused the accident. Your negligence was the first event in the sequence that led to the accident. But the person who hit you was also at fault. 

If the person in the rear car filed an accident claim, the claims adjuster would allocate fault between you and the other driver. If you were 25% at fault and the tailgater was 75% at fault, the insurer would only pay 25% of the driver’s damages.

Personal Injury Lawsuit

The greatest risk to you comes from a personal injury lawsuit. If you do not have BIL coverage or the person you injured had damages that exceeded your BIL policy limit, they could file a lawsuit against you.

In this scenario, you would have no insurance protection. This would mean that you would have to satisfy a judgment against you from your personal assets. Your car, house, savings accounts, retirement accounts, and other assets would be at risk.

You may have defenses available. For example, you could argue that your actions were reasonable under the circumstances. You might have been having a heart attack and trying to pull over safely when you hit another car.

You can also argue about causation. Perhaps your brakes failed.

Your lawyer may even bring up the other driver’s contribution to the accident. Comparative negligence reduces the damages you owe from the lawsuit. In Florida, it cannot get you entirely off the hook unless you had no blame for the accident. But this strategy could help you save your financial future.

Role of an Injury Lawyer

If you suffered an injury in an accident you caused, you should consider speaking to an injury lawyer. The lawyer can identify sources of compensation to ensure you get medical treatment for your injuries.

The lawyer can also help you begin to plan a defense. If you have BIL coverage, your insurer must provide a legal defense for you. But if you lack BIL coverage or the damages exceed your policy limits, you will need a lawyer to defend you.

To learn more about the compensation you can get and your legal exposure to lawsuits for an accident you caused, contact Hollander Law Firm, P.A.