When the Auto Accident is Not Your Fault

by Shapiro Goldman Babboni Fernandez & Walsh

A Florida Supreme Court ruling could change the way culpability for rear-end collisions is shared. The case involved a three car pileup in which Kerri Ann Rideout collided with the car in front after failing to slow down sufficiently at the crest of a hill while talking on her cell phone. Maria Cevallos, following Ms. Rideout up the hill, did not have enough time to stop her car before it hit Ms. Rideout’s vehicle. Ms. Cevallos sued Ms. Rideout for causing her injuries.

Florida law has had a general presumption for more than 50 years that the second driver in a rear-end collision is at fault. However, the Supreme Court ruled that a jury could determine that Ms. Cevallos’s negligence as the second driver was not the only cause of the injuries. This ruling could encourage attorneys and insurance companies to petition juries for comparative negligence verdicts in rear-end collisions, in which the liability for injuries and damage is split according to the culpability of each party. Whether they will be successful remains to be seen.

Can I sue the other driver for negligence?

If you were badly injured in an auto accident that was not your fault, such as a rear-end collision, you may be able to sue the driver at fault. Florida is a no fault insurance state, in which you can claim up to $10,000 for personal injuries and up to $10,000 for property damage suffered from auto accidents from your own insurance provider, whether or not you were at fault. However, in many cases these amounts do not cover your actual loss. In addition, if your injuries do not constitute an emergency condition, the maximum compensation available for your medical costs under your own personal injury protection coverage is $2,500. You can only sue the other driver for negligence if you suffered a significant and permanent loss of bodily function, a permanent injury such as a spinal cord injury, significant and permanent scarring, or death. In the case of death, surviving relatives bring the wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased.

What losses can I claim in a negligence lawsuit?

If your injuries qualify you to sue, you may be able to claim compensation for the following:

  • Medical bills for past, present, and future treatment related to your injuries
  • The cost of repairing or replacing your motor vehicle
  • Lost wages for time off from work
  • The cost of hired help for household duties
  • Pain, suffering and mental anguish caused by the accident

However, in many cases, the other driver’s insurance company will offer a settlement, and if a fair settlement can be reached, you will avoid a court trial.

What is the deadline for bringing a claim?

Florida has a statute of limitations of four years for negligence claims, which means you need to file a lawsuit before four years has passed since the date of the accident. You should bear this in mind if you are negotiating a settlement with the other driver’s insurance company, since negotiating a settlement does not stop the clock.

Posted in Auto Accidents

Tagged auto accident, auto accident attorney, negligence lawsuit

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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