Florida car accident lawyer, Anthony J. Milano, represents clients throughout the state of Florida in all personal injury cases, including car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip and falls, and wrongful death cases.
Florida Car Accident Statistics 2010 – 2019
Whether you live in Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa or anywhere in the great state of Florida, an auto accident can happen to any of us. In Florida, with over 21 million residents and over 100 million visitors each year, our roads can present significant dangers. With all these people on the road, distracted driving accidents, drunk driving accidents, hit and run accidents and every other type of accident have steadily amounted to over 400,000 for the past couple years. Of those accidents, over 166,000 of them involved an injury and over 2,900 were fatal crashes.
In the last 10 years, motor vehicle crashes in Florida have almost doubled. In 2010, there were 235,461 vehicle crashes and in 2019 there were 400,567 vehicle crashes. This is a surprising statistic due to the fact that the population in Florida has only increase by about 15% in those years, but the increase in vehicle crashes has increased by 70%!
IMPORTANT: If you’ve been involved in a vehicle accident in Florida, and especially if you’re injured, you should immediately call a Florida car accident lawyer to learn about your rights. Time is not on your side.
When to Get an Attorney for a Car Accident?
In some cases, you may not need the help of an attorney for your car accident case, especially if the accident was relatively minor and you are not injured. However, in many cases it’s best to be safe than sorry. A Florida personal injury attorney can advise you on whether you have a viable case and what are your rights under Florida law. If you’re involved in a car accident in Florida and not sure if you need a lawyer, it is highly recommended that you speak to a lawyer as soon as possible, especially in the following cases:
The good news is that Florida is a pure comparative fault state, meaning that even if you’re 99% at fault in an accident, you can theoretically still receive compensation. However, your compensation will be reduced by the amount of your fault. For example, in an accident where you were determined to be 75% at fault and if you had $10,000 in medical bills and your car had $4,000 in damage, you would only be able to recover $2,500 of your medical bills and $1,000 for your property damage. In cases like this, it’s best to have an attorney handle your case.
Commercial Vehicle Accidents
If a commercial vehicle, such as an 18-wheeler, truck, or van caused your accident, you need to call a Florida car accident lawyer immediately. Time is of the essence in these cases. Preserving evidence is very important in commercial vehicle accidents. The insurance company typically sends an adjuster out immediately to the accident site to gather evidence, getting a jump-start on defending any claims.
Your Claim Was Denied by the Insurance Company
There are many reasons why your claim may have been denied but the most likely reasons include the at-fault party had no bodily injury coverage or if you were determined to be at fault for the accident. You’ll need the expertise of a lawyer to present the best case possible before the insurance company and seek any other liable parties.
Complex Accident Facts
Most car accidents are fairly straight forward. Some aren’t. Some involve multiple vehicles, multiple injured parties and at-fault parties, and extensive property damage. Some cases involve strange case facts such as phantom vehicle accidents, where no actual physical contact was made with the at-fault party’s vehicle.
Low-Ball Offer from the Insurance Company
If you’ve been handling your own case and the insurance company makes a low-ball offer due to the lack of “damages,” it’s time to call a lawyer. Insurance companies will try to settle your case as soon as possible before you hire a lawyer. They will try to offer you a nominal amount, known as a “nuisance offer.” A nuisance offer can be anywhere from $500 to $2,500 and they may even attempt to pay your initial medical bills, at a reduced rate, on top of that.
An Uninsured/Underinsured Driver Caused the Accident
In Florida, bodily injury coverage is not required, which can create issues when your damages exceed your personal injury protection (PIP) $10,000 limits. An attorney will investigate liable parties and determine if there are any defendants and/or insurance policies that exist that can cover your losses. If you have uninsured motorist coverage on your policy, your attorney will file a claim against your own insurance company and navigate you through that process.
Defective Vehicle Accident
Defects such as faulty brake systems, defective airbags, defective tires, or some other vehicle component can cause serious injuries and death. Proving a manufacturing or design defect requires the expertise of an attorney. Handling these types of cases on your own can be disastrous.
How Common are Car Accidents in Florida?
In 2019, there were 400,567 motor vehicle crashes in Florida. Of those crashes, there were 254,296 injuries, and 3,215 fatalities. An alarming 105,340 crashes were hit and run crashes. Of those hit and run crashes, 22,366 resulted in injuries and there 211 fatalities. Knowing these numbers will provide perspective on how common car accidents are in Florida and how dangerous they can be. Florida is the second most visited states in the U.S. In 2018, over 120 million tourists visited Florida. With all these tourists on the road, unfamiliar with Florida roads, streets, and landscape, coupled with those potentially indulging in alcohol creates significant risk to everyone who uses Florida roads.
According to data collected in 2019 by the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 25 of the 67 counties in Florida accounted for over 90% of the total auto crashes. Miami-Dade had the most, Broward came in second, and Orange came in third.
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How Much Does a Car Accident Lawyer Charge?
Personal injury attorneys typically work on a contingency fee basis. This means that they only get paid if they achieve a settlement or a favorable verdict in your case. Florida law dictates how much attorneys may charge under a personal injury/property damage case contingency fee agreement.
The amount depends on:
- The stage you are in your case,
- The amount of money involved,
- Whether the defendant admits liability, and
- If you filed a lawsuit in your case, whether the defendant filed a response (“Answer”) to your lawsuit.
If a settlement is reached from before a lawsuit is filed up until before the defendant files an Answer, the fee will be no more than:
- 33 1/3% for any recovery up to $1 million;
- 30% for any recovery above the $1 million, between $1 – $2 million; and
- 20% for any recovery over $2 million.
If a recovery is achieved after the defendant files an Answer, the fee will be no more than:
- 40% for cases in which up to $1 million is recovered;
- 30% for any recovery above the $1 million, between $1 – $2 million; and
- 20% for any recovery over $2 million.
If the defendant admits liability, the fee will be no more than:
- 33 1/3% for any recovery up to $1 million;
- 20% for any recovery above the $1 million, between $1 – $2 million; and
- 15% for any recovery over $2 million.
Plus 5% can be added on when an appeal is filed.
Florida Personal Injury/Property Damage Case Contingency Fee Examples:
Paula Plaintiff was injured in a car accident and she agrees to settle with the defendant who caused her injuries for $1,000,000. She has $100,000 in outstanding medical bills. Paula is represented by an attorney. Paula’s attorney has not yet filed a lawsuit. The attorney’s fees in this case are 33 1/3% of $1,000,000, or $333,333.33. This means Paula will receive the remaining $566,666.67.
Paula Plaintiff was injured in a car accident and she was unable to agree to settle with the defendant who caused her injuries. However, the defendant has admitted that he was at fault for the accident. She has $100,000 in outstanding medical bills. Paula is represented by an attorney. Paula’s attorney files a lawsuit. Once the lawsuit is filed, the defendant and Paula, without filing an Answer, decide to settle the case for $2,000,000. The attorney’s fees in this case are 33 1/3% of the first $1,000,000, or $333,333.33, and 20% of the next $1,000,000, or $200,000. So, total attorney’s fees are $533,333.33. This means Paula will receive the remaining $1,366,666.67.
How Much Can I Get for My Car Accident Injury Case?
According to data collected by the Insurance Information Institute, in 2017 the average bodily injury claim was $15,270 and the average property damage claim was $3,638. What do these figures tell us? Well, the first thing these figures tell us is that most injury and property damage claims are minor in nature. The second thing we can learn from these figures is that averages can be pretty useless. What if your injuries were less or more serious, or what if you needed surgery? This average can only give you a picture of what was paid out on each claim averaged over several thousands of claims. So, how do you figure out how much your car accident case is worth? Well, the best way is to speak with a Florida car accident attorney. But, if you want a quick, back-of-a-napkin way to calculate it, you’ll need to calculate your “damages.” Damages are the actual losses you sustained as a result of the at-fault party’s negligence.
- Past and Future Medical Expenses
- Lost Past and Future Wages
- Physical Pain & Suffering
- Mental Pain & Anguish
- Scarring and Disfigurement
- Loss of Capacity for the Enjoyment of Life
Calculating Non-Economic Damages
Calculating your economic damages may be quite straightforward. However, things can get very difficult once you attempt to calculate the non-economic damages, such as physical pain and suffering. The fact is, there is no easy way to calculate non-economic damages. Insurance companies calculate them using claims software, such as Colossus, previous settled claims databases, and past jury verdicts. Juries, on the other hand, are instructed to award what’s fair and just in light of the evidence.
Two Common Methods
Two common methods for calculating non-economic damages that you will often see are the Multiplier Method and Per Diem Method.
The Multiplier Method takes your economic damages and multiplies them by a factor of 1.5 to 5, with 1.5 being the least severe injury and 5 being the most severe.
The Per Diem Method calculates non-economic damages by taking some number that represents compensation for your daily pain and suffering and other non-economic damages. Many times, this Per Diem rate will be equal to your daily salary or wage that you earn at your job. This daily rate is multiplied by the number of days that you have experienced the pain and suffering since the accident.
Both of these methods are not used by insurance companies or juries. However, years ago insurance adjusters used somewhat of a multiplier method when evaluating soft tissue injury cases. Nowadays insurance companies use claims software to calculate non-economic damages and overall settlement offers.
Factors Affecting Non-Economic Damages
To properly evaluate your case, there are several factors that will affect your non-economic damages compensation, including:
Florida law requires that the injury be permanent “within a reasonable degree of medical probability” in order to recover non-economic damages, including pain and suffering. If you only have minor scrapes and bruises, it may be difficult to prove your injuries were permanent. On the other hand, if you have a herniated disc in your neck, your chances to recover pain and suffering will greatly improve.
The more severe your injuries are, the more your non-economic damages will be. If you have a broken bone, it’s likely you’ve suffered extreme pain and the insurance adjuster or jury will acknowledge that fact. With soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash and muscle sprains and strains, insurance adjusters and juries tend to give very little for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
Injuries that can be proven through diagnostic testing, such as MRIs, or your physician’s diagnosis, will increase the amount of your non-economic damages. On the other hand, your subjective complaints to your healthcare provider or attorney may not help much to increase your non-economic damages compensation.
Preexisting injuries and conditions can increase your non-economic compensation. However, there are two sides to the preexisting injuries and conditions factor when it comes to any personal injury case. The positive side is Florida law recognizes the “eggshell skull” rule, meaning that the negligent party is responsible for worsening the already deteriorated condition of the injured party’s preexisting injury or condition. For example, if the injured party had a preexisting herniated disc that was asymptomatic (i.e., experience no symptoms) and the accident caused the herniated disc to become symptomatic with radiating pain, numbness, or weakness in the extremities, the negligent party would be responsible for those damages. The negative side to preexisting injuries and conditions factor is that the insurance company may argue that the injury was already present and was not made worse by the accident. Sorting out and proving the aggravation of the preexisting injury may be difficult and can reduce your overall compensation.
Just as injury severity affects your non-economic damages compensation, the amount of medical treatment will, as well. If you have very little medical treatment, it makes sense from the insurance company’s perspective that you are not that injured and are not entitled to any non-economic damages compensation. The more reasonable and necessary medical treatment you receive, the greater your pain and suffering and other non-economic damages will be, generally.
Physical Impact Caused Your Mental Distress
Florida law requires that there be a “physical impact” in order to recover mental or emotional pain and suffering. This means anxiety alone caused from the accident isn’t sufficient to receive compensation for mental distress. The anxiety needs to manifest from the physical injury. For example, if the accident caused a broken bone that’s extremely mentally and physically painful, mental pain and anguish compensation would be recoverable.
Calculating Your Case Value:
In calculating your own case value, a starting point can be to add your total outstanding medical bills plus any medical bills paid by your insurance/Medicare/Medicaid plus your lost wages. This will give you your economic damages.
Outstanding Medical Bills + Medical Bills Paid by Insurance + Lost Wages = Economic Damages
Next, you will need to assign some dollar figure to your non-economic damages. If you only experienced minor injuries such as muscle strains, sprains, and bruises, it’s likely your non-economic damages figure will be in $1,000 to $10,000 range. If you experienced more serious injuries, such as a herniated disc, broken bones, or a traumatic brain injury, your non-economic damages can range anywhere from $10,000 to several hundreds of thousands. It’s these types of cases where you will need the assistance of an attorney to value your case.
The last part of the calculation will be to multiply your comparative fault, if applicable. If the other party was 100% at fault, then this number would be 0. If, for example, you were 50% at fault, this number would be .50.
[(Economic Damages + Non-economic Damages) x Comparative Fault %] = Case Value
Case Value Example:
Paula Plaintiff has $9,000 in outstanding medical bills. Her health insurance paid $4,000 for some of her other medical bills. She missed two weeks of work due to her injuries and lost $1,000 in wages. She received minor injuries in her accident, including whiplash and a sprained shoulder. It was determined that she was 25% at fault for the accident. She experienced minor pain and suffering. Paula thinks her pain and suffering is worth $2,000. Her case value may be the following:
[($9,000 + $4,000 + $1,000 + $2,000) x .75] = $12,000
How Long Will It Take for My Case to Settle?
In our experience, most cases, where a lawsuit is not filed, typically settle within three to six months. However, not every case is the same and some cases require a lawsuit to be filed, which can extend the timeline significantly. The time in which a case settles depends a lot on you. You will need to be completely done with treating with your doctors. We can’t settle your case until this happens. If a settlement cannot be had and a lawsuit is required, this timeline can be extended anywhere from one to two years.