Florida Car Accident Law

Florida Car Accidents

Florida motorists should be aware of the laws that pertain to car accidents. Millions of motorists are on Florida roadways every day and accidents occur each day, so it is important to understand what to do after an auto accident and the laws that may impact a claim.

Minimum Insurance Requirements

Florida law requires all motorists in the state to carry the following minimum insurance requirements:

  • Bodily injury coverage - $10,000 per individual and $20,000 per accident
  • Property damage coverage - $10,000 per accident
  • Personal injury protection - $10,000
  • Uninsured motorist coverage - $10,000 per individual and $20,000 per accident

Florida's financial responsibility law may impose higher requirements on certain types of drivers, based on their driving history. If a driver has been at fault in past accidents resulting in the injury of others, convicted of DUI, had their license revoked because of serious or repeated offenses or received excessive points against their license may be required to carry full liability insurance.

Teen Driving Laws in Florida

Florida uses a graduated licensing system, meaning that before a teen receives full driving privileges, he or she is permitted to gain driving experience until graduating to complete driving privileges. A teen may apply for a learner's permit when he or she reaches the age of 15. Within the first 90 days of having the permit, the teen can only drive until 10 p.m. during daylight hours and a licensed driver over the age of 21 must accompany the teen driver. After the teen has held the learner's permit for one year and completed 50 hours of certified practice, he or she can apply for a driver's license. When the teen reaches the age of 16, he or she can drive between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. When he or she reaches the age of 17, he or she can drive between the hours of 5 a.m. and 1 a.m. Most restrictions are removed when the driver reaches the age of 18.

Requirement to Report an Auto Accident

In Florida, motorists are required to report any accident that they are involved in if the accident resulted in death, injury or apparent property damage of $500 or more. Motorists must report the accident to the local police department if it occurred within a municipality or the sheriff's office or station of the Florida Highway Patrol if it did not.

What to do After a Car Accident in Florida

There are several steps that Florida motorists should take after a car accident. The first is to check if anyone has been injured. Motorists must stop at the scene of the accident and render aid if someone is injured. The motorists should also move their vehicles to a safe place to avoid further accidents and to avoid blocking traffic.

After reporting the accident, the motorists should share their contact, vehicle, license and insurance information with each other. If there are any witnesses, they should get their contact information as well. Motorists may wish to take pictures of the accident scene, including photos from different angles and of relevant information, such as traffic signs, traffic signals, weather conditions or road conditions. They may also photograph the damage to the vehicles and any debris on the roadway. They may also document their injuries by taking photographs of them when the accident first occurred and then as they progress.

If injured, it is important to seek medical treatment. Victims may request an ambulance and be transported to a nearby emergency room. They may choose to go to their family physician instead. Not all automotive accident injuries are readily apparent. Sometimes, a car accident victim may not realize that he or she has been injured until days or weeks later, but it is important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible to connect the accident and your injuries.

You should also get estimates on the costs to repair or replace your vehicle. Supply your lawyer with any reports that the mechanic provides you.

Motorists should report the accident to their own insurance carrier in accordance with Florida's no fault insurance system.

Florida's No Fault Insurance System

Florida is a no-fault insurance state for automotive accident claims. Every motorist must have a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection coverage, but they can have more. This insurance covers their own medical bills and lost wages they suffer in an accident, regardless of who is found at fault for the accident. Each motorist seeks compensation first from their own insurance policies. This is different than it is in most states that use an at-fault system in which the insurance carrier that covered the driver at fault is responsible for paying the damages that the party not at fault sustained, subject to the policy limits.

However, the personal injury protection only provides for payment for 80 percent of the medical bills that the insured incurs in an accident and 60 percent of his or her lost wages. The insured will also be required to pay the deductible. Therefore, if a person has $10,000 in the personal injury protection coverage with a $1,000 deductible, is hit by another driver and incurs $2,000 in medical bills and $3,000 in lost income, he or she would only receive a total of $2,400, even though he or she had damages of $5,000. This is because 80 percent of the $2,000 in medical expenses is $1,600 and 60 percent of the lost wages is $1,800, totaling $3,400, of which the motorist is still required to pay the $1,000 deductible. If you did not incur any permanent injuries in the accident and total damages are less than $10,000, this system prevents you from suing the at-fault driver.

Exceptions to No Fault Insurance Process

There are several exceptions to Florida's no-fault insurance process. The most significant one is if the accident victim suffers a permanent injury. Florida law defines this as suffering any of the following injuries:

  • Death
  • A significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
  • Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, excluding scarring and disfigurement
  • A significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement

If a driver who suffers this type of injury, he or she may be able to bring a claim against the at-fault driver for the damages he or she suffered, including medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Another exception is if the damages exceed the $10,000 threshold. In this type of claim, a motorist can sue the at-fault driver for the expenses that were not covered by his or her personal injury protection coverage.

Additionally, the at-fault party's car insurance can be pursued for payment for property damage caused by the accident.

Determining Fault in a Florida Accident Case

If the accident is not limited to the personal injury protection coverage, it may be necessary to determine fault. Insurance adjusters, judges and juries can determine fault based on the evidence regarding the case. These individuals may review evidence such as:

  • The statements of the motorists involved in the accident
  • Witness statements
  • Police reports
  • Photos or video of the accident scene
  • The damage to the vehicles
  • Damage reports to the vehicles
  • Medical records

Most car accidents are the result of negligence, which is driving in a manner that is not as cautious as a reasonably prudent would use. Negligence may be present if it can be shown that the accident was caused by:

  • Distracted driving
  • Intoxicated or drugged driving
  • Speeding
  • Running a stop sign or red light
  • Driving too closely
  • Driving in a careless manner
  • Not following traffic laws

Legal Action Against At-Fault Drivers

Florida's Bureau of Motorist Compliance can take enforcement action against a party that has caused an accident when the car accident victim has received a court judgment against him or her. If the at-fault driver had personal injury protection and property damage insurance but did not have bodily injury coverage, the bureau will provide the injured party with information about the driver's insurance coverage after the injured party submits a crash report and a certified copy of the final judgment against the at-fault party. The judgment is enforced for injuries the victim sustained. The bureau can suspend the driver's license, tags and registration for up to 20 years or until the judgment is satisfied.

If the at-fault party did not have insurance, it will automatically enforce the judgment by suspending the driver's license, tags and registration for up to 20 years.

Any time that a person is involved in an automotive accident and wants information about the other party's insurance, they can make a written request for this information to the following address:

Bureau of Motorist Compliance
2900 Apalachee Parkway, Room B260F, MS-87
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0585

They must include a complete copy of the crash report or driver exchange form.

Comparative Negligence in Florida

Florida law considers the degree of negligence of all parties involved in car accidents. The state's comparative negligence system determines the degree of liability of all parties involved, including that of the plaintiff. When the claim is not limited to the personal injury protection coverage, each individual at fault in the accident is liable to the extent of his or her portion of fault. The jury calculates the total dollar amount of the plaintiff's damages, as well as the percentage of fault that each party is responsible for. The plaintiff's damages are then reduced by a percentage equal to his or her own degree of fault. For example, if the defendant failed to yield and was found 80 percent at fault for the accident and the plaintiff was slightly speeding and was found at fault for 20 percent of the accident, the plaintiff's damages would be reduced by 20 percent. Therefore, if the plaintiff sustained damages of $100,000, he would only be able to recover $80,000 since he was responsible for 20 percent of the damages.

This principle applies regardless of how much the plaintiff is at fault. Many other states use a modified comparative negligence system in which the plaintiff can only pursue a case if he or she is 50 percent or less at fault for the accident. However, Florida's law does not limit the plaintiff in this way.

This principle applies in court. Judges and juries use this rule to apportion fault between the parties and make damages awards. Additionally, Florida insurance adjusters use this system when evaluating the value of a claim.

Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Florida

Every state has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims. The statute of limitations is the law that establishes a time limit on a person's right to bring a particular cause of action. There are different statutes of limitations for crimes, car accident claims, different types of personal injury cases and other legal actions against other individuals or businesses.

In Florida, the statute of limitations is four years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit in the case. If this deadline passes and you try to file your auto accident lawsuit, the court will likely dismiss the case unless a rare exception applies to the case.

While this timeline may seem long, it is important not to delay in protecting your legal rights. Your lawyer will need time to try to resolve the case first through an insurance claim and settlement with the insurance company. Additionally, the longer you wait to take legal action, the more difficult it will be to connect your damages to the accident and the more likely it will be for the insurance company to deny the claim.

How a Florida Car Accident Lawyer Can Help

Florida's no fault insurance laws make car accident claims in Florida complicated because an outside insurance company is not expected to cover damages except in limited situations. A Florida car accident lawyer is familiar with the state's insurance system and knows when a claim is outside the limitations of the personal injury protection laws. He or she can use this knowledge to assert a claim against the at-fault party's insurance company when an exception applies.

He or she can conduct a thorough investigation to determine the full extent of damages that you sustained. He or she can also review your claim to determine if you might be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. This investigation can also determine if there may be other parties who may share in liability, such as an employer if the at-fault driver was working at the time of the accident. He or she can handle all communications with all insurance companies involved and protect your legal interests.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Today

If you were injured in an automotive accident in Florida, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. He or she can review your case during a consultation in which you can learn about your rights and the potential value of your claim.

Most personal injury lawyers work car accident cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that their payment is contingent or conditioned upon you receiving compensation through an insurance settlement or court verdict. If you do not win your claim, you usually do not have to pay for attorney's fees. However, there may be a different between legal fees and legal costs. Legal costs consist of expert witness fees, filing costs, telephone costs and mailing costs that are out-of-pocket litigation expenses. Talk with your lawyer about how these costs are covered.

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