St. Petersburg Car Accident Attorney

Car Accidents Attorneys

in St. Petersburg, Florida

Accident Attorneys Serving Pinellas County, Florida

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RECOGNITION

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n all  auto accident cases, the rules for recovering compensation are complex and comprehensive. Sit down with a St.Petersburg Car accident attorney as early as possible in the process to discuss a game plan in your auto accident claim. To get started click on our contact form, or keep reading to learn more.

Due to the long commute times and many miles travelled by commuters to get around Pinellas County, the Tampa Bay Area sees a disproportionate number of auto accidents.

HIRING A ST. PETERSBURG CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEY: THE BENEFITS

1. Insurance Adjusters handle these cases daily and you don’t. You lack the bargaining power of a car accident injury lawyer.

2. An attorney that threatens with a lawsuit will increase the probability that an adjuster will take the case seriously.

3. When it comes to working with your doctors to be sure the right steps are taken to preserve medical records, an attorney is your best option. They can also ensure that the right tests are taken and the corresponding documentation of your injuries abide by Florida Law.

4. A lawyer will also:

  • Investigate the scene of the accident and, if appropriate, hire experts to reconstruct the scenario.
  • Interview witnesses and use subpoena and deposition power to gather relevant information when necessary.
  • Track medical records and work with doctors.
  • Negotiate with insurance companies to maximize the award amount.
  • Negotiate with doctors to settle medical bills in a way that increases the amount of compensation for the client.
  • File lawsuits when it’s deemed absolutely necessary.

When a  car accident attorney handles your case, he or she will need to have a thorough understanding of the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, at-fault insurance coverage issues, and, if need-be, your uninsured motorist coverage.

PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION COVERAGE GIVES YOU MEDICAL COVERAGE IMMEDIATELY

A person involved in a car accident is entitled to at least a certain amount of coverage for his or her medical bills, regardless of whether they caused the event.

Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to car accidents. That means that a person involved in a car accident is entitled to at least a certain amount of coverage for his or her medical bills, regardless of whether they caused the event.

DEFINITION OF MOTOR VEHICLE

The term motor vehicle in the PIP statute includes not only cars or automobiles, but also “any self propelled vehicle with four or more wheels designed for use in this state and any trailer or semi trailer designed for use with such vehicle”.

Motorcycles, motor homes, city buses and other vehicles designed for mass transit are specifically excluded from the definition of a motor vehicle, meaning insurance companies are not required to provide PIP insurance for the owners of these vehicles.

However, motorcycle drivers often purchase PIP insurance on their own as additional coverage. It is imperative to check the individual policy coverage every time at the outset of the case.

PIP BENEFITS AVAILABLE FROM THE OTHER INSURANCE COMPANY

PIP benefits are not only available from your own insurance company. If you are a pedestrian walking down the road, or a passenger in a vehicle, you may be entitled to PIP benefits from the insurance company representing the at-fault driver.

BEWARE THE INDEPENDENT MEDICAL EXAMINATION

Insured drivers are required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in PIP coverage for medical bills and lost wages. This is primary coverage for 80% of the first $10,000 in reasonable expenses for medically necessary treatments, including x-rays, rehabilitative services, ambulances, hospital, and nursing.

This covers medical bills for treatment from your primary doctor, as well as any providers you may be referred to. PIP also covers 60% of any lost wages or income from the injured party and all reasonable expenses incurred by the injured party for ordinary services that, if not for the injury, they would have performed for the benefit of his or her household.

WHAT PIP COVERS

The term “independent” is a misnomer; the medical examiner is hired and paid by the insurance company, and is therefore inherently biased.

The insurance company has the right to require the injured party to submit to an independent medical examination (IME) for mental or physical conditions. The term “independent” is a misnomer; the medical examiner is hired and paid by the insurance company, and is therefore inherently biased.

The reports from these IME exams can be used by the insurance company to deny or withdraw benefits. Always sit down with your attorney before submitting to the required independent medical examination. It’s imperative to be as honest and upfront as possible, completely articulating problems to the examiner without exaggerating.

Sometimes, a person’s insurer will limit or outright deny a PIP claim payment. Depending on the recovery options below, your car accident attorney may have to file suit to collect on the claims.

LIABILITY: WAYS TO PROVE FAULT

After the PIP is exhausted, any additional compensation must come from the at-fault driver and his insurance, or your uninsured motorist coverage. In law, liability is used to denote someone who is at-fault. This comes in the form of a negligent driver and, in some circumstances, the at-fault party can be liable simply for operating an inherently dangerous machine or device.

Negligent Driver: A driver on the road fails to exercise reasonable care with their vehicle and injures you or another person. This can be the result of careless activities, such as speeding or following too closely. Alternatively, it could be the result of driving while tired or drunk driving.

Strictly Liable: In certain circumstances, the driver of the vehicle can be strictly liable by the very act of operating the car or truck. In these cases, the operator (or designer of the vehicle) may have not been negligent, but the law will impose liability on them for the damages they caused.

WHERE TO FIND LIABILITY:

1. Check the Police Report First to See Who the Police Think Is at Fault

The first place \ Auto Accident lawyer checks is the accident report. While the police report is not admissible into evidence in a trial, the report does summarize what a Pinellas County Sheriff or St. Petersburg police officer would testify to if called at trial. In most cases, Florida Highway Patrolmen and other police officers can be called upon as expert accident reconstruction witnesses.

If the officer opines that the other driver is liable, the insurance company will give strong weight to this conclusion. The insurance company may even concede the liability issue altogether in certain cases, such as rear end accident collision cases, DUI accidents, and other related incidents.

2. Check the Report for Witnesses

Opinions and recanting of the incident from the perspective of a relative or friend is typically not as reputable.

Look for any witnesses that may have seen the accident. A witness statement can be strong evidence of liability, and will be given weight by the insurance company as well. The relationship between the witnesses and the client is important, especially if the other party could have a bias.

An insurance company will naturally give greater credibility to the statements of an independent witness on the side of the road. Opinions and recanting of the incident from the perspective of a relative or friend is typically not as reputable.

3. Any Admissions Made by the Other Party

In many cases the other party will admit to fault at the time of the accident. These statements are admissible into evidence as an exception to the hearsay rule. An interview with the investigating officer or other witnesses can provide you with potential statements made by the other driver.

4. Check for Red Light Cameras in Intersection Cases

The red light cameras are everywhere in Pinellas County. Use this to your tactical advantage and see if red light cameras snapped a photo at the time of your accident. A simple public records request or subpoena can provide you with photo evidence that can help prove your liability case.

If you have any more questions about car accident liability, click over to our personal injury section.

UNINSURED MOTORIST INSURANCE: THE LAST LINE OF COVERAGE

What if PIP benefits are used up, the at-fault party is either insured or nominally insured, and the injured party needs more compensation, you ask? As the name implies, uninsured motorist (UM) coverage provides compensation to an injured party for the damages they sustained when the at-fault party is uninsured or doesn’t have ample insurance coverage.

This insurance is called first-party insurance, meaning the person who was injured purchases the UM coverage of their own volition. If the injured car driver has UM coverage, then they are allowed to collect the same amount he would otherwise collect if the at-fault driver had the same insurance coverage. If you have UM coverage, your limits will be at least as high as your liability limits, although you can purchase more.

If you are not sure if you have this form of insurance, take comfort in knowing that for there to be a valid waiver of uninsured motorist coverage, you must have waived it in writing at or after the time you purchased or renewed your insurance policy.

DAMAGES FROM A CAR ACCIDENT

Human beings were not designed to withstand the force and trauma of being struck by a multi-ton vehicle traveling at high speeds. Auto accident injuries are varied, and include the following:

1. Head injuries, include brain damage

2. Loss or impairment of limbs

3. Burns and/ or scarring

4. Disfigurement

5. Muscle and neck injuries

6. Back injuries, including herniated disks and other impairments

7. Whiplash

8. Wrongful death

9. Paralysis or death

Damages that are recoverable by a St. Petersburg car accident lawyer for an injured party are usually divided into two types: Compensatory and non-financial.

COMPENSATORY DAMAGES

1. Medical Expenses: These are the first damages that are quantified in a car accident case, and include the initial hospital visit, ambulance ride, MRI’s, CT scans, and rehabilitative treatment, including chiropractic care.

2. Future Medicals: In many cases, doctors will want to continue treatment at varying intervals to maintain and rehabilitate the injured driver even after the case is settled. The amount of rehabilitation required is determined by the doctor.

3. Lost Income or Wages: If an injured driver misses time from work and loses wages, these are quantifiable and included in auto accident settlements.

4. Future Lost Wages: Much like lost wages, if the injured person is unable to work in the foreseeable future for period of time, or if the injured party will need to take time off from work to have a future surgery, then compensation will be considered for these wages.

5. Mileage Reimbursement: Going back and forth to treatment during your rehabilitation phase after an auto accident will likely put substantial miles on your vehicle. Your tampa car accident attorney can factor in these costs when arguing your case.

NON-FINANCIAL DAMAGES

1. Pain and Suffering: Pain and suffering is the term of the emotional and physical stress caused from the car accident.

2. Mental Anguish: This is the mental sensation of pain, and includes fear, fright, anger, and other mental emotional responses. One common example in auto accidents is the anguish felt when thinking about getting behind the wheel again after a serious wreck.

3. Loss of Consortium: This refers to the loss of the ability to enjoy time with your family due to the accident. This includes the loss of the ability to play with your children or to be intimate with your wife.

In any car accident where no-fault insurance is involved, they may receive compensation when the following occur:

  • Significant and/or permanent loss of an important bodily function
  • Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability
  • Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
  • Death

This is referred to as the tort threshold. Most pain and suffering cases in automobile accidents revolve around the issue of “permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability”. Accordingly, expert medical testimony from your treating doctor must be established by expert medical testimony.

COMPENSATION AND TEMPORARY HEALTH INSURANCE

What can I do to help my St. Pete auto accident attorney maximize my compensation?

First and foremost, be thorough when discussing your pains and symptoms with the treating physician. With that said, be honest and do not exaggerate.

We find at the end of the day, whether in settlement or in front of a jury, credibility is everything. Every case is evaluated in settlement proceedings as though it was going to trial.

Jury members are smart. If they like you and feel you are dealing with them honestly, they will compensate you fairly. If, on the other hand, they feel you are being dishonest, they will penalize you.

Second, always speak with your car accident attorney before making any statements to any insurance company or preparing written disclosures. Again, credibility is key. Insurance adjusters are professionals who handle cases like yours daily. Their entire job is to minimize financial payout for their employers.

They will try to elicit statements or writings from you that will paint a picture in the best light for their benefit. Let a professional guide you through the process.

I don’t have health insurance. How can I get treated?

If you don’t have health insurance, you need to turn to PIP insurance as a primary source of coverage. In most cases, PIP will apply, and allow you to get treated while continuously paying for a high percentage of the medical costs.

 

SEMI-TRUCK ACCIDENTS: A SPECIALIZED TYPE OF CAR ACCIDENT CASE

Semi-truck or big rig cases are a specialized sub-set of car accident case. The technology on the trucks and the catastrophic damage that comes with these accidents require specialized care.

A St. Petersburg truck accident attorney will:

1. Assemble a crash team: Florida trucking cases require a team of specialized individuals to analyze the accident scene, dig through the big rig for evidence, and draw conclusions as to who was at fault in the trucking accident. These experts include:

  • Accident reconstructionist
  • Investigator
  • Videographer
  • Towing Company

2. Preserve evidence immediately: Most trucking companies are have document destruction policies whereby they will order documents destroyed after a set period of time. A Semi-Truck attorney in Tampa or elsewhere in Florida should immediately send a “spoliation” letter, or a letter demanding the trucking company preserve any evidence that might be relevant to your lawsuit.

3. Obtain black box and electronic on board recording device, computer downloads, and drivers logs: The amount of technology in a semi-truck collecting and preserving information is intense. Experts insist that the computers and sensors recording data are completely different than the ones recording data five years ago, and they will continue to evolve at a rapid rate.

The amount of technology in a semi-truck collecting and preserving information is intense.

Yet, the sensors and computers above a Florida big rig can tell the story of travelling speed, braking reaction time braking performance, and more. The driver logs can tell the story of where the driver has been, where he or she is going, and when he or she slept last.

4. Coordinate Your Medical Records and Treatment: Much like a traditional car accident case, your job, if you have been injured due to a trucking company’s negligence, is to get better. However, dealing with multiple treatment providers can be overwhelming, Your attorney will coordinate with your treatment provider to obtain your medical records and present them to the insurance adjuster at settlement negotiations in the light most favorable to you.

5. Obtain police reports: Police reports and statements by the investigating law enforcement officials can help reinforce what the data on the truck illustrates and establish liability.

6. Negotiate with the Insurance Company’s Adjusters and Lawyers: Your Tampa semi-truck accident attorney will negotiate with the insurance company to seek a resolution that is fair to the injured or the deceased’s family. Often, due to the severity of trucking cases, insurance company lawyers get involved near the very beginning of the case.

7. Go to Trial When Needed: In every case, an attorney will try to settle the matter before setting trial in a fair resolution that gives the hurt driver or the driver’s family justice and peace of mind. In some cases however, the insurance company is unwilling to fairly compensate the victim, and trial is needed

SPECIAL TYPES OF BAD DRIVING IN TRUCKING ACCIDENT CASES

1. Driver Fatigue: Arguably the biggest problem with the highways today is driver fatigue.

Trucking is big, big business. The more semi-truck drivers drive in a given set of hours, the more they get paid, and the more money the trucking company makes.

As a result, drivers of semi-trucks and 18-wheelers would regularly log hours behind the wheel that make them fatigued, tired, unsafe to themselves and a hazard to everybody on the road.

Section 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) limits the number of hours drivers may drive in a given day or a given week. Also the FMCSR limits the semi-truck drivers from driving 60 hours on duty over 7 consecutive days, or 70 hours on duty over 8 consecutive days. For more on regulation see here.

2. Drivers with History of Health Problems: The truck company owes every other driver on the highways a duty to make sure the drivers they hire are physically able to withstand the requirements of driving. A driver whose medical records reflect problems with weight, blood pressure, diabetes, spine problems, or depression may be unfit to drive. Your truck accident attorney will pull the medical records of the negligent driver to see if he had a history of medical problems his employer should have known about.

3. Reckless Driving by Truck Driver: The big rig driver may have simply driven in a reckless manner, endangering the lives and welfare of the other citizens of the road, and causing your accident.

4. Texting and Driving by Truck Driver: According to former FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, people who drive while texting are 23 times more likely to have an accident than a non-distracted driver.

…people who drive while texting are 23 times more likely to have an accident than a non-distracted driver.

The National Highway Safety Administration has stated that people who text are six times more likely to cause an accident than those who are drinking and driving.

Research from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration demonstrates that a truck driver who texts while driving takes his or her eyes off the road for an average of five out of every six seconds. Imagine then, the situation where a truck driver drives his 80,000 pound vehicle on Florida highways while texting! Unfortunately, it happens every day.

5. Drunk Driving by Semi-Truck Driver: Few actions are more devastating than drunk driving accidents. In Florida, drunk driving, or DUI, is defined as being under the influence of alcohol or an illegal substance to the extent that normal faculties are impaired.

While drunk driving can lead to terrible damages in car accident cases, in semi-truck or big rig accidents, drunk driving can lead to serious catastrophic injuries or death.

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