A car accident can leave you with physical, mental, and financial distress. Although insurance exists for the express purpose of helping you recover from the effects of a crash, insurance companies take advantage of your desperation. They do so by victimizing you after you have already been battered and traumatized.
You may not need a car accident lawyer after a crash. If you only experienced property damage and had no injuries, the insurer will appraise your damaged property and offer a settlement. But when you suffer an injury, you have much more at stake. A lawyer can protect your interests and help you avoid the tricks insurers use to lowball your payout. Keep on reading to learn more about how a car accident attorney can help you after a car crash in Florida.
How Accident Claims Work
To understand when you may need a lawyer, you must first learn the injury claim process. Florida uses a different insurance system from the one you may know. Vehicle owners in Florida must buy auto insurance with personal injury protection (PIP). This coverage pays 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your income losses up to a limit of $10,000.
Florida law prohibits you from seeking compensation from the at-fault driver unless you have over $10,000 in losses or you suffered a significant, permanent injury. If you do not fall into either of these categories, you can only pursue a claim under your no-fault policy.
When you meet either of those conditions, you will usually start your case by filing an insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. The insurer assigns an adjuster to investigate and resolve your claim. Their goal is to protect the insurer from unnecessarily paying claims. As a result, the adjuster will require you to prove you are legally entitled to seek benefits.
If you cannot settle, you must file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. When you take this step, the insurer will join the case as a necessary party. The insurer will pay any settlement or damage award up to the auto policy limits. The driver will bear responsibility for any amount over that limit.
Situations In Which You Might Need A Lawyer in Florida
The injury claim process rarely proceeds smoothly. Insurers have a financial incentive to pay as little as possible for claims. For that reason, the adjuster may employ any number of tactics to frustrate you into dropping your claim or settling for less than your claim’s value. Three of the most common tactics include:
● Delaying your claim for as long as is legally allowed
● Denying your claim or your expenses to reduce your payout
● Defending the driver against your claims, including by shifting blame to you
An experienced lawyer knows how to deal with these tactics. They can also make sure that the insurer complies with Florida insurance law by meeting all applicable deadlines.
A lawyer can help you with almost any circumstance you face during your accident case. But some specific situations where you may need legal representation include:
You Suffered Catastrophic Injuries
Catastrophic injuries have no single definition. They tend to include any injuries that:
● Damage the brain or spinal cord
● Cause permanent disabilities
● Incur significant medical costs
When you face any of these circumstances, you may need someone else’s help to handle your claim while you focus on your health. Your lawyer can take the lead in dealing with insurers and insurance defense attorneys so that you don’t need to.
The Other Driver Blames You
Florida uses comparative negligence to allocate damages after an accident. Under this doctrine, the claims adjuster or jury assigns a share of the blame to each driver. If you did nothing wrong, you get 0% of the blame and recover 100% of your losses.
If the at-fault driver and their insurer can shift any blame to you, their liability drops proportionally. Suppose that they shift 25% of the blame to you. The insurer then only needs to pay 75% of your losses. Thus, they will often fight hard to identify any evidence that you did something wrong.
A lawyer can help in a few ways. First, they can investigate your claim and gather evidence establishing the other driver’s fault. They will also search for evidence that reduces your share of the fault as much as possible. Second, the lawyer can present legal arguments proving that you did not contribute to the cause of the crash, even if you did do something wrong.
For example, suppose that the insurer tries to place blame on you by asserting you were speeding at the time of the crash. If the other driver hit you in the side when they ran a stop sign, your attorney can argue that speed did not cause the crash or worsen your injuries.
The Adjuster Denied Your Claim
Adjusters can deny your claim for many reasons, including the following:
● Your injuries were pre-existing conditions
● You didn’t suffer any injuries
● Their policyholder didn’t cause the collision
● The policyholder’s actions weren’t negligent
You can respond to claim denials with additional evidence or legal arguments. A lawyer can help present your response to try to overcome them.
You Need To Negotiate A Settlement
If the insurer accepts your claim, the adjuster will offer a settlement. This initial offer will probably be far less than you need. Often, it will even fail to cover the expenses you have already incurred. For example, if you had $15,000 in medical costs, you might receive an initial offer of only $12,000.
Adjusters do this for two reasons. First, you might accept the offer, saving the insurer thousands of dollars. Second, low initial offers give the insurer room to negotiate. Even if you counteroffer, the insurer may still save a significant amount of money.
You overcome this problem by hiring a lawyer. They can assess the value of your claim to determine a range of values. You will use this evaluation to determine when you receive a fair settlement offer.
Lawyers have negotiation skills. Your lawyer can negotiate with the adjuster by presenting arguments and supporting documents for a full and fair payout.
Choosing A Car Accident Lawyer in Florida
Most car accident lawyers in Florida offer free consultations to new clients wherein you can talk to a lawyer about how they might help you without any obligation to hire them. These consultations help you gather the information you need to decide whether to hire an attorney.