Were You Involved in an Auto Accident in the Miami Area?
Miami car accident lawyer, Anthony J. Milano, handles all personal injury cases including car accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, drunk driving accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, slip and falls, and wrongful death cases.
Miami Car Accidents
Miami-Dade County leads the state of Florida for total motor vehicle crashes, with 64,627 crashes in 2018 and 64,530 in 2019. Car accidents in Miami-Dade County have increased over 50% since 2010!
Injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents in Miami-Dade County have also increased significantly over the last 10 years. Since 2014 they have been steady at over 30,000 injuries per year.
Miami-Dade County also leads the state of Florida in motor vehicle fatalities with an average of 276 killed each year since 2010. Most recently the total number of fatalities are far above the average with 337 killed in 2019.
In addition, according to a study conducted by Geotab, a Canada-based global fleet management company, U.S. 1 is the deadliest highway in the United States. U.S. 1 runs all the way through Miami-Dade County up through 13 other Florida counties. There were 1,011 fatal crashes causing 1,079 deaths over the past 10 years.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident in Miami
1. Call 911 and Wait for Police to Arrive
Your safety and the safety of others in your vehicle is the number one priority. After you’ve been involved in a car accident, you may feel disoriented and frightened. Your adrenaline will be pumping, and your body may even feel numb. This is the result of the body’s fight or flight mechanism. It’s important to assess the degree of injury that you or your passengers may have experienced. Even with only minor injuries, it’s always best to call 911.
If you need to move your vehicle to avoid greater injury or damage, do so. However, try not to interfere with the accident scene too much. You want any later accident investigation to be as accurate possible.
Wait for the police to arrive. When the police arrive, be as calm and courteous as possible. When they ask for your statement, be as concise as possible. Do not yell or cuss at the police or the other party. You do not want that to come out later in the crash report or later in the case when the police officer is called to give his/her testimony about what he/she witnessed. That can hurt your case.
2. Get Immediate Medical Attention
It’s very important to immediately seek medical attention following the accident for four reasons:
If you are uncertain as to the degree of your injuries, play it safe and go to the emergency room. If they offer to take you by ambulance, go. This not only mitigates a potentially life-threatening health emergency, such as a fracture or internal bleeding, but will help your case further down the road. Car accident injuries have a way of being dormant initially and will only surface later when it’s too late.
Strengthens Your Case
Getting immediate medical treatment shows the insurance company that your injuries are legitimate, and your claim should be seriously considered.
Increases Your Case Value
Generally, the more reasonable and necessary medical treatment you receive, the greater your case value. Establishing a solid treatment history from the beginning of your case can only help your case and increase it’s overall value.
Florida Personal Injury Protection (PIP) 14-Day Rule
Section 627.736(a), Florida Statutes, requires that you seek medical treatment within 14 days after a motor vehicle accident, otherwise your insurer can deny your claim for PIP benefits.
3. Do Not Admit Fault
Car accidents are very dramatic and emotional. You may become irate at the fact that the other party was so careless and has taken his/her privilege to operate a vehicle for granted. You may also think you were completely responsible for the accident. Be careful not to rush to judgment. Let the process work itself out. The police will take statements from both parties, gather eyewitness testimony and other evidence, and use their training and intuition to draw conclusions. Although these may just be assumptions, they may shed some light on facts that weren’t clear to you at your particular vantage point during the accident.
Avoid speaking to the other party. Absolutely DO NOT admit fault. Keep your conversation cordial, only asking them if they are OK or need any medical help. Be kind, brief, and avoid conflict. When police arrive on the scene and ask for your side of the story, be honest, be concise, and do not assume anything if you do not know for certain. It’s fine to say, “I don’t know.”
4. Gather Evidence
We have one of the best tools to keep track of major events in our lives—the smartphone. Be sure to take as many pictures as you can. Take pictures of:
- The scene of the accident
- The other party’s driver’s license, license plate, insurance card
- Damage to each car
- Skid marks or tire marks
- Debris in the road
- The condition of the road (e.g., wet, dry, gravel, potholes)
- Damaged road signs, light poles, or fences
- Any injuries, including cuts, scrapes, bruises, burns, etc.
- The presence of any security cameras
- Speed limit, construction zone, or school zone signs
- Street signs where the accident occurred
- The sky to show the weather conditions (e.g., clear, cloudy, foggy)
Whether you have an iPhone, Samsung, Nokia, or some other type of smartphone, they all have some sort of notes application where you can type a narrative of the facts of the accident and jot down any other notes that are important. Include as much as you can immediately after the accident when things are fresh in your mind. Detail your speed, how the accident occurred, and note whether the other driver was texting while driving or was distracted, drunk, or impaired. You want to keep these notes to refresh your memory when you need to tell your side of the story to the police, your attorney, or the insurance company.
5. Get Your Florida Traffic Crash Report
Florida law mandates in Section 316.006, Florida Statutes, that a traffic crash report MUST be completed and submitted within 10 days after an investigation is completed by the officer if the crash:
- Resulted in death, personal injury, or any indication of complaints of pain or discomfort by any of the parties or passengers involved in the crash;
- Involved a hit and run or a driver driving under the influence;
- Rendered a vehicle inoperable to a degree that required a wrecker to remove it from the scene of the crash;
- Involved a commercial motor vehicle; or
- Caused at least $500.00 in damage.
You can get your Florida Traffic Crash Report online HERE for $10.00.
You may also request your crash report by mail or in person but must complete a sworn statement if you’re requesting a crash record within the 60-day period after the date of the crash. Requests for 10 or fewer crash reports may be fulfilled at the Florida Highway Patrol Troop Station closest to where the accident occurred. For requests of more than 10 reports, the request must include a letter detailing the requested crash report and a signed statement for each crash report requested. The requests with payment should be mailed to:
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
2900 Apalachee Parkway, MS 28
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
For all other minor crashes Section 316.066(1)(e), Florida Statutes, requires that the driver of a vehicle that was in any manner involved in a crash resulting in damage to a vehicle or other property which does not require a law enforcement report MUST with 10 days after the crash, submit a written report of the crash to the Florida Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles. Keep a copy of this report for your records and for insurance purposes. Submit this report via email to SelfReportCrashes@flhsmv.gov or mail this report to:
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
Self Report Crash Team
2900 Apalachee Parkway, MS 28
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
6. Consult with a Miami Car Accident Lawyer
The insurance claims process has many twists and turns. It’s very difficult to be prepared if you don’t know what to expect. Insurance adjusters are extremely skilled in commanding the conversation and talking you out of your rights. Before you communicate with the insurance company either by phone, email, or mail make sure you’ve discussed your case with a Miami car accident lawyer. No matter how you choose to handle your case, NEVER EVER agree to give a recorded statement to the other party’s insurance company! If your own insurance company requests a recorded statement, it’s likely you’ll be required to under your insurance policy. However, don’t think that just because it’s your own insurance company, the relationship is not adversarial. It’s just as important to seek the advice of an attorney in these cases, as well.
7. File a Claim with the Insurance Company
Filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance company or your own without a lawyer is not advisable. We recommend that you have your attorney do this for you. You do not want to say too much or misspeak when speaking to the insurance company. These calls are all recorded, and you can be certain they will use anything you say against you. If you must file your own claim, before you even think of picking up the phone, prepare, prepare, prepare! Make sure you have reviewed all your notes, the crash report, and any other evidence you have gathered. Be consistent with the story you gave the police. Be as general as possible when describing your injuries.
8. Do Not Agree to Any Early Settlements
Insurance adjusters will do everything they can to convince you that your case isn’t worth anything and that you don’t deserve much of anything. They will certainly attempt to minimize your injuries, question your integrity, and cast doubt on their liability in your case. They are trained to wear you down, so you settle for as little as possible before you speak to a lawyer. They know that once an attorney gets involved, they have lost their lopsided power advantage. DO NOT AGREE to anything in writing or over the phone, and that includes payment of your medical bills or lost wages without talking to a lawyer first.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Minor Car Accident?
If you are not injured and there was little damage to your vehicle, it’s likely you can handle your own case. But remember even with little damage to your car, you can still be injured. Car bumpers and body parts are much better at absorbing energy than they were years ago. So, even though there may not be much damage to your car, it doesn’t mean that your body didn’t experience any physical trauma. Newtons First Law of Motion proves this that an object in motion stays in motion at the same speed and direction unless acted upon by an external force. Your body is still in motion at the time of impact, traveling at the same speed as your vehicle. The other driver’s vehicle impact abruptly causes your vehicle and body to decelerate, absorbing all that kinetic energy.
Another factor to consider in a minor accident is the type of vehicle you were driving at the time of the accident. If you were in a truck and the other driver hit you in a small economy car, it’s likely you will have little to no visible damage. In these cases, it’s important to point to the other driver’s vehicle to demonstrate the severity of the impact.
Minor impact cases where there are only soft tissue injuries (e.g., whiplash), also known as M.I.S.T. (Minor-Impact-Soft-Tissue) cases, are some of the most difficult cases to prove there was an actual injury caused by the accident. Experienced car accident attorneys know how to handle these types of cases.
What Will an Attorney Do For Me?
Provide Legal Counsel
The body of personal injury law is extremely complex and takes years of intense education and experience to grasp. This is one area in life that you don’t want to do-it-yourself. Handling your case in most instances can be disastrous. An attorney will guide you and provide some certainty in such an uncertain event as an accident injury case.
Act as Your Advocate
Your attorney’s job is to fight for your cause. He/she has a duty to act with your best interest in mind. Your attorney will tirelessly argue your position and will do everything in his/her power to achieve the best outcome for your case.
Deal with the Insurance Company
Once you hire your lawyer, the adversarial party may not communicate with you. All communication must flow through to your attorney. This includes any communication with an insurance adjuster. This takes a large load off your shoulders not having to deal with the shenanigans of the insurance company.
Help You Obtain Medical Treatment (Letter of Protection)
Unfortunately, many folks do not have health insurance or the funds to obtain necessary medical treatment after an accident. To remedy this situation, a personal injury attorney uses a “Letter of Protection.” A Letter of Protection is sent to a medical provider and agrees to protect any settlement funds attained in a client/patient’s settlement or verdict. Once a settlement or verdict is achieved, the attorney pays the medical provider with the proceeds of the client/patient’s settlement or verdict.
Negotiate Your Settlement
Your attorney will use his/her experience as a negotiator to negotiate your settlement. One of the most important tasks that an attorney does for a client is negotiate a settlement. An attorney uses his/her skills, experience, and education to reach the insurance company’s maximum settlement authority.
Negotiate Your Medical Bills
Once your case has been resolved, you may have several outstanding medical bills or will need to reimburse your health insurance/Medicaid/Medicare for what they paid in benefits. Instead of paying these in full and reducing the amount of your net settlement, your attorney will do his/her best to negotiate these obligations down as low as possible.
File a Lawsuit
If you are not able to reach a reasonable settlement with the insurance company, your attorney may recommend filing a lawsuit against the responsible party or your own insurance company. Filing a lawsuit and the litigation process is extremely complicated and non-lawyers would be doing themselves a disservice to ever attempt to do this on their own. Don’t take any chances handling a personal injury lawsuit without an experienced lawyer.
How Do I Know if My Lawyer is Good?
Some of the most important characteristics of a good lawyer are those that place the main priority on your needs and your best interests. The following are several of the most important things that separate a great lawyer from the rest:
Your Lawyer Always Tells You the Truth
Unfortunately, lawyers get a bad rap nowadays for not being the most ethical people. This, I believe, is inaccurate. It’s what’s called a “hasty generalization” based on a handful of bad apples that get media attention and cast a poor light on our honorable profession. The fact is the vast majority of lawyers put their clients’ interests ahead of their own and would never violate their clients’ trust.
Your lawyer should always be honest with you, even if it may hurt your feelings. Specifically, in the context of a personal injury case, they should never tell you that your case is worth or will settle for a specific amount if they haven’t done their due diligence in examining all the evidence first. This is irresponsible and sets high expectations that will only create conflict in the end. The client service mantra, “under promise and over deliver,” couldn’t be more applicable here. We, as lawyers, should always set our clients’ expectations to a level that is within reason, based on the available facts and evidence known at that particular time.
Your Lawyer Always Tells You to Tell the Truth
If your lawyer ever tells you to say anything other than the truth, it’s time to find another lawyer. In no way does it ever help your case to lie. Specifically, in a car accident injury case, faking or exaggerating your injuries will only hurt your case. The truth always comes out in the end and you will never gain an advantage by being dishonest. Insurance company adjusters and insurance defense counsel both know who the dishonest lawyers are and highly scrutinize claims brought by those lawyers. Reputation is everything as a lawyer. Your case will automatically be questioned if you are represented by an attorney with a dubious history of honesty. With online reviews, it is much easier now to get an idea of a lawyer’s reputation in the community. A good lawyer will work hard to preserve his/her reputation and avoid any act that would put his/her reputation into question. Benjamin Franklin once said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one to lose it.”
Communicates with You
The single largest complaint to the Bar from clients is that “My lawyer never returns my calls.” It is your lawyer’s duty to keep you in the loop on your case. He/she should be providing you with updates periodically. Whether that be every week or two depends on your particular case. The best lawyers set up a process in keeping their clients updated on their cases. Your lawyer should also not solely leave it up to his/her non-attorney staff to communicate with you about your case. This is a common problem in most large personal injury law firms where case managers and paralegals are the only points of contact in a client’s case. You should be given the respect you deserve and speak with the lawyer you hired.
Experienced in Motor Vehicle Accidents
You would not go to a podiatrist (foot doctor) if you’re having heart problems and you shouldn’t go to a family lawyer or a criminal defense lawyer for help on a car accident injury case either. You should choose a Miami car accident lawyer who mainly handles car accident injury cases. Experience matters.
Can I Handle My Own Case?
In certain circumstances, you may be able to handle your own case without a lawyer. You may be able to handle your own case where there is little damage to your vehicle, and you were not injured in the accident. However, even if you had minor property damage and injuries, it is highly recommended that you get the advice of a Miami car accident lawyer first before you discuss your case with the insurance company.
What If I Was at Fault?
In Florida, we have what’s called “Pure Comparative Fault,” which means that even if you were 99% at fault for an accident, you may still be able to recover 1% of your damages. This is good news. Some states bar recovery if you are anywhere from 50% to 1% at fault. Florida law is much more forgiving. So, even if you were determined to be partially at fault for the accident, you may still be able to recover some of your damages.
How Much Does a Miami Car Accident Lawyer Charge?
Personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means that they only get paid if they are able to get a settlement or achieve a favorable outcome at trial.
The Rules Regulating the Florida Bar regulate how much an attorney may charge under a contingency fee arrangement. Under Rule 4-1.5(f), in a case for personal injury or property damage, in a case up to where a lawsuit is filed but a defendant has not yet responded with an “answer,” a lawyer may not charge in excess of the following:
- 33 1/3% of any recovery up to $1 million; plus
- 30% of any portion of the recovery between $1 million and $2 million; plus
- 20% of any portion of the recovery exceeding $2 million.
If an answer is filed, a lawyer may not charge in excess of the following:
- 40% of any recovery up to $1 million; plus
- 30% of any portion of the recovery between $1 million and $2 million; plus;
- 20% of any portion of the recovery exceeding $2 million.
If the defendant admits liability at the time of filing their “answer,” then a lawyer may not charge in excess of the following:
- 33 1/3% of any recovery up to $1 million; plus
- 20% of any portion of the recovery between $1 million and $2 million; plus
- 15% of any portion of the recovery exceeding $2 million.
An additional 5% may be charged in cases where an appeal is required for recovery.
What is the Average Settlement for a Car Accident Case?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2017 the average claim for bodily injury was $15,270. In our own experience, the majority of cases we settle are anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000, on average. Of course, there are several that settle above and below that range. The reason for most cases settling within that range is due to the fact that most bodily injury claims are for soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash, strains, sprains, and bruises.
Fortunately, most accidents are not serious. There are other factors that will determine how much your settlement will be. One of the most significant factors is whether the defendant has bodily injury coverage. In Florida, bodily injury coverage is not required by law. Therefore, if the other driver didn’t have any bodily injury coverage, and you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, it’s possible you may not get anything at all. In these cases, you’ll need a lawyer to evaluate your case and seek any possible defendants.
As for property damage, the same data from the Insurance Information Institute showed that the average amount paid for property damage was $3,638. This is in line with the aforementioned discussion on average bodily injury claims above. Even with minor damage to your vehicle, it isn’t difficult to reach the several thousands of dollars in repair costs for today’s technologically sophisticated automobiles.
What Makes a Strong Auto Accident Case?
Liability is Clear
Determining who is at fault in a car accident isn’t always clear. Some accidents involve several vehicles and several drivers, who may all share some amount of liability. However, the vast majority of accidents involve two vehicles and the facts are rather straight forward.
For instance, rear-end accident cases tend to be a great example of a case where liability would likely be clear. The “following” driver tends to be the party at fault. However, that’s not always the case. Nevertheless, if liability is clear in your case, you will have one less obstacle to overcome in order to achieve maximum compensation for your case.
Immediate Medical Treatment
Insurance adjusters and juries will take your case more seriously if you immediately went to the hospital after your accident. Even more so if you went by ambulance. This will undoubtedly strengthen your case. Of course, this is assuming it’s reasonable that a hospital visit is justified given the degree of property damage involved. A small fender may not justify an immediate emergency room visit by ambulance.
Another consideration here is the Florida PIP 14-Day Rule, discussed above. If you do not seek medical treatment within 14 days of the accident, your insurer may deny you claim for PIP benefits.
The more serious your injury, the stronger your case will be. A case involving a broken bone will always be worth more than a soft-tissue injury (e.g., whiplash) case. This is for several reasons, but the main reasons are that you will have larger medical bills, which will increase your “damages,” and will experience greater pain and suffering, which will increase your general damages compensation.
Consistent Medical Treatment
If you are injured, it makes sense that you would seek medical treatment as often as possible to alleviate your symptoms of pain. That’s not only common sense but the view of an insurance adjuster and a jury. Waiting to get medical treatment and missing appointments will only hurt your case.
Preexisting injuries, such as a herniated disc, or preexisting conditions such as fibromyalgia, can either help or hurt your case.
How Preexisting Injuries/Conditions Help Your Case
The legal doctrine called the “Eggshell Skull Plaintiff,” places responsibility on a defendant who worsens the delicate condition of an already medically vulnerable plaintiff. Even if the actions of the defendant wouldn’t cause any damage to a healthy individual, the defendant is still responsible for even the slightest amount of contact causing an aggravation of a preexisting condition, such as a small fender bender.
How Preexisting Injuries/Conditions Hurt Your Case
A preexisting injury/condition can also hurt your case if you’re not able to prove that the accident actually worsened your injury or condition. Sorting out an aggravation of a preexisting injury may be difficult and may require more extensive proof beyond testimony from the injured party. You’ll likely need diagnostic testing such as an MRI to prove your condition was worsened.
Objective Finding of an Injury
Proving your injury is extremely important when considering the value of your case. Subjective injuries, such as those that only you can attest to through your complaints of pain, do not carry the same weight as those injuries that can be proven through diagnostic testing, such as MRIs, CAT Scans, or x-rays. Similarly, speculative injuries, or those injuries that could have occurred but didn’t, will not be taken into account at all when valuing your case.
How Long Will It Take to Settle My Case?
In our experience, in cases where no lawsuit is filed, on average, cases settle anywhere from three to six months from the date of the accident. Some will take less time to settle and some will take longer to settle. The main variable in the time-span of settling is when medical treatment is complete. You can’t settle your case if you are still treating for your injuries. You should be completely released from treatment before you should settle your case.
Common Types of Miami Car Accidents
- Rear-end Accidents
- Head-on Collision Accidents
- Hit-and-Run Accidents
- T-bone Accidents
- Left-turn Accidents
- Rollovers Accidents
- Side-swipe Accidents
- Single Vehicle Accidents
- Distracted Driving Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- DUI Accidents
- Following-too-closely Accidents
- Rideshare Accidents
- Red-Light Running Accidents
- Different Driver/Owner Accidents
- Commercial Vehicle Accidents
- Rental Car Accidents
- Stolen Vehicle Accidents
- Excluded Driver Accidents
Typical Causes of Miami Car Accidents
The following are a list of common causes of motor vehicle accidents in the Miami-Dade area.
- Distracted Driving
- Texting While Driving
- Driving Under the Influence
- Falling Asleep
- Reckless Driving
- Road Conditions (e.g., potholes)
- Faulty Traffic Lights/Signage
- Construction Sites
- Bad Weather
- Inexperienced Driver
- Running Red Light
- Road Rage
- Failing to Yield
- Animals in the Road
- Defective Design
- Equipment Failure (e.g., tire blowout)
- Medical Conditions
- Unfamiliar with the area
- Unfamiliar with local laws
Common Types of Miami Car Accident Injuries
If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms and/or conditions after a motor vehicle accident, it’s very important to talk to a Miami car accident lawyer immediately for advice.
- Vertebrae Fractures
- Broken/Fractured Bones
- Skin Lacerations/Abrasions
- Facial Injuries
- Rib Injuries
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Radiculopathy (Numbness, Tingling, and Pain in the Extremities)
- Muscle, Tendon, or Ligament Sprains, Strains, and Tears
- Disc herniation
- Lower (Lumbar) Back Pain
- Middle (Thoracic) Back Pain
- Internal Bleeding
- Organ Injuries
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Aggravation of Preexisting Injury/Condition
- Blurry Vision
- Eye Injuries
- Anxiety / Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome