Being blamed for a car accident that you did not cause is frustrating. It can also be costly. If you are blamed for the accident, you cannot pursue an injury claim against the other driver.
Before you accept what an insurance adjuster tells you or what the police officer concluded at the accident scene, talk with a car accident lawyer. A lawyer can help you defend yourself against allegations of fault after a traffic accident. The attorney can also help you seek compensation for your injuries, economic losses, and other damages.
Car Accident Claims in Florida
Florida requires that drivers carry minimum insurance coverage. The state requires that drivers have a minimum of:
- $10,000 Property Damage Liability (PDL) insurance coverage
- $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage
PDL insurance pays for damage caused to another person’s property by you or another person driving your vehicle. PIP insurance is no-fault insurance. It pays up to 80 percent of your medical bills, regardless of who causes the accident.
Florida does not require drivers to purchase liability car insurance. However, many people decide to purchase bodily injury liability insurance to protect themselves if they cause a car accident. Liability insurance compensates accident victims for injuries and damages for an accident that you cause.
If you do not have liability insurance, the victim could file a personal injury lawsuit against you seeking compensation for damages. Without liability insurance, you could be personally liable for the victim’s damages.
However, before an accident victim can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance provider or file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, the victim’s injuries must meet the serious injury threshold. If the person’s injuries do not meet the statutory definition of serious injuries, they are limited to filing a claim under his PIP coverage.
Florida’s Comparative Fault Laws and Car Accidents
If your injuries meet the serious injury threshold, the at-fault driver’s insurance company might try to blame you for the car accident to avoid paying your claim. There are two ways the insurance company can use fault against you in a car accident case.
The insurance company might claim that you were fully responsible for causing the car wreck. If you were entirely responsible for the cause of the crash, you could not recover compensation for your injury claim. The other driver, if his injuries meet the threshold, could sue you for compensation.
The second way the insurance company tries to avoid paying your claim is by using the state’s comparative fault laws.
Comparative fault is a method of apportioning damages based on the party’s fault. When multiple parties share responsibility for causing a traffic accident, their compensation is reduced by their percentage of fault.
The insurance company argues in court that you were partially responsible for the cause of the accident. Had you not been in the intersection trying to run a yellow light, the other driver would not have hit you. The jury must decide what percentage of fault you and the other driver have for the car accident.
Suppose the jury decides that you are 40 percent at fault and your damages are worth $200,000. The most that you could receive for your car accident claim is $120,000 (total damages less 40 percent).
Some states limit the amount of fault that a victim can have for an accident and still recover compensation for an accident. Florida uses a pure comparative fault standard. There is no restriction on the percentage of fault you could have for a car crash and still seek compensation from the other driver.
What Tactics Does the Insurance Company Use to Blame You for the Accident?
There are several ways that the insurance company might try to shift blame to you for the cause of the car accident. A claims adjuster might tell you that, based on the company’s investigation, it appears that you contributed to the cause of the accident. Therefore, the amount the insurance company will pay for your claim is lower.
The company hopes that you agree and accept the settlement offer. When you sign a settlement agreement, you give up your right to sue the driver for more money, even if you discover that you were not at fault and should have received a more considerable settlement amount.
The claims adjuster might tell you that you must provide a written or recorded statement to the insurance company to process your claim. The adjuster asks you about your day. He asks you about your family and your work.
These questions are designed to obtain information the company could use to claim you contributed to the cause of the accident. For example, the adjuster is chatting about how busy his day has been. He then asks you how your day was on the date of the accident.
You innocently state that you were up late working on a project, and then you overslept. You had to rush to take your children to school and get to work.
The insurance company may argue to the jury that you were rushed and stressed. Because of your morning, you were in a hurry and driving fast, which contributed to the cause of the accident.
Juries are unpredictable. In a case involving substantial damages, it can be worth trying the argument to reduce the claim’s value.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help You Avoid Being Blamed for a Car Accident?
There are many ways that a car accident lawyer can help you after a traffic accident. An attorney protects you from insurance tactics designed to deny and undervalue your injury claim. The lawyer helps you avoid pitfalls, such as providing statements or accepting a low settlement offer.
A personal injury lawyer works to uncover the truth about how the car accident occurred. He investigates how the crash occurred to gather evidence such as:
- Police reports and accident reports
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Cell phone records
- Weather and road condition reports
- Videos and photos from the accident scene
- Videos from traffic cameras and nearby surveillance cameras
- Statements made by the other driver
- Physical evidence from the accident scene
- Onboard vehicle data
- Analysis by experts and accident reconstructionists
A lawyer analyzes all evidence and works with forensic experts to determine precisely how the accident occurred. If you were not at fault, the evidence should support your position.
Throughout the process, your personal injury lawyer protects your best interest. The insurance company does not have your best interest in mind when it tries to shift the blame to you or trick you into accepting a low settlement offer. Make sure that you receive your legal advice about liability and comparative fault from a trusted personal injury lawyer.