Involved in an Accident Caused by a Distracted Driver?
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The U.S. Government defines distracted driving as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety.” Distractions while driving take a driver’s attention from the primary task of driving, which can result in the driver missing critical events, objects, and cues or abandon control of the vehicle, all potentially leading to a crash. There are three basic types of distraction while driving:
Examples of distracted driving include, but certainly are not limited to:
In a no-fault state like Florida, accident victims turn to their own insurance company first to pay for their medical bills, lost earnings, and the costs incurred for replacement services, i.e., any service needed due to the loss of ability caused by the accident such as housekeeping. This is true no matter which party or parties caused the traffic accident.
Yes! Call your insurance company after any traffic accident, regardless of who’s at-fault. Florida is a so-called “no-fault” state. This means that after a crash you’ll have to file a claim against your own insurance company, regardless of which party or parties are at-fault.
You should also contact an experienced traffic accident lawyer immediately to help guide you through the no-fault claims process. It’s an extremely complex system comprised of a maze of highly technical rules, deadlines, and procedures that’s difficult for victims to successfully navigate on their own. An experienced traffic accident lawyer will eliminate the stress and take the guesswork out of dealing with the insurance company and ensure you receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled.
Personal Injury Protection
Florida’s no-fault insurance law requires all motorists to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) insurance. It’s this PIP insurance that covers all accident victims up to their policy limit no matter who is at-fault for the crash. Your PIP insurance coverage also protects you when you’re a passenger in someone else’s motor vehicle, a pedestrian, or a bicyclist in the event you sustain injuries in a crash involving a motor vehicle.
It’s extremely important to act promptly after your traffic accident. In order to make a successful PIP claim, you must receive initial medical treatment by an authorized healthcare provider within 14 days after the traffic accident. Failure to comply with this deadline along with the many other technical rules governing the PIP insurance claims process may result in a denial of benefits.
The total cost of medical expenses and lost income can quickly exceed the legally required minimum PIP coverage limit even in cases involving relatively minor traffic accidents. When PIP benefits are exhausted, you must then look towards other forms of insurance coverage, such as Medical Payments, Uninsured Motorists, etc., and possibly the at-fault parties involved in the crash. This interaction of the PIP claims process, other forms of insurance coverage, and the at-fault parties and their insurance companies results in a tremendous degree of complexity that easily overwhelms accident victims.
That is why it’s essential to have an experienced traffic accident lawyer working for you to guide you through the PIP insurance claims process and help ensure that you receive all the compensation to which you are entitled under the law.
The unfortunate reality is fair and reasonable compensation to help victims become whole again, i.e., placed in approximately the same physical, mental, and financial state as before the accident resulting in injuries and loss through financial compensation, is not simply given to victims automatically based on justice and fairness. In fact, insurance companies often aggressively fight even obviously legitimate claims.
The fact is insurance companies make money by denying claims and paying out as little as possible. This holds true for both the victim’s own insurance company as well as those of the other parties involved in the traffic accident. Victims are forced to take the initiative and proactively seek out and fight for fair and reasonable compensation within a system that is strategically stacked against them.
This entails going up against insurance companies and a variety of other very sophisticated parties all with self-serving interests in paying as little compensation as possible, regardless of the severity of injuries to victims or how despicable the behavior of reckless and distracted drivers may be. Insurance companies are notorious for establishing claims procedures and institutional mechanisms that make it as difficult as possible for victims to obtain fair compensation.
They have been known to deliberately make the claims process as complex and frustrating as they can in the hopes that victims will feel overwhelmed, give up, and accept lowball settlement offers. This strategy is highly effective with respect to victims who don’t have an experienced traffic accident lawyer on their side.
To make the situation even worse, victims are faced with this seemingly impossible task at a time when they are likely at their most vulnerable and desperate point in their life. Even under the best of circumstances, it is virtually impossible for the average person alone to successfully battle insurance companies and their army of lawyers and paid expert witnesses. No matter how obviously deserving of compensation a victim may be, no insurance company is going to simply provide a fair and reasonable settlement offer to the victim merely because he or she deserves it.
Don’t let the insurance companies decide what your claim is worth. And don’t let them bully you into giving up valuable rights or accepting less than what you are entitled to under the law.
Contact us today for a free initial consultation and case evaluation. We have the experience, expertise, and resources to successfully take on the insurance companies.
Victims do not have to take on at-fault drivers, insurances companies, defense lawyers, and their array of paid experts by themselves. In the American legal system, traffic accident victims are entitled to their own lawyers and experts following an accident. This right to legal representation can effectively level the playing field for victims. But victims must exercise extreme care in choosing a lawyer whose experience, temperament, and expertise are well-suited to handling rear end traffic accident cases in Florida, which are notoriously complex, technical, and emotional.
In general, it is best to seek a lawyer who specializes in traffic accident cases, especially one with extensive experience specifically representing victims of distracted driver traffic accidents. You would not turn to your primary care physician to perform open heart surgery on you or a loved one; instead, you would naturally go to a surgeon who specializes in performing open heart surgeries. It is similarly advisable to retain a traffic accident lawyer who specializes in rear end traffic accident cases. Our renowned West Palm Beach traffic accident lawyers have well over 50 years of combined experience in Florida successfully representing victims of rear end accidents.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a distracted driving traffic accident, contact us now to learn how our compassionate and highly successful team of West Palm Beach traffic accident lawyers can help you recover everything to which you are entitled under Florida, as well as federal, law. There is no charge for our professional case evaluation, so contact us today worry-free to begin the process of preserving your rights, obtaining fair and reasonable compensation, and holding the at-fault driver responsible for your suffering accountable for his or her actions.
Negligence and Duty of Care
Distracted driving is a form of negligence. In order to recover compensation, an accident victim must establish that the other driver is legally liable, which can be complex and difficult. In general, a victim must show:
Florida law imposes a duty of care on all drivers, which requires them to exercise due caution and ordinary and reasonable care to ensure the safety of others sharing the roads. A driver is negligent when he or she fails to act with reasonable care thereby breaching the duty of care and causing injury to others.
Distracted driving can constitute a breach of a driver’s duty of care owed towards others while driving. But it’s important to understand that even in an accident where distracted driving was present, that fact alone is not enough to impose legal liability on the other driver and thereby entitling the victim to compensation. While it’s a solid start for a successful claim, it’s still not sufficient by itself to recover compensation. The victim must still prove that the act of driving while distracted itself actually caused the accident and resultant injuries to the victim.
Distracted Driving Hypothetical Case
Let’s take a look at an example to illustrate the point. Assume that Driver 1 is inputting an address into a GPS while driving through an intersection on a green light. At that very moment, Driver 2 runs the red light for cross-traffic, resulting in a side impact collision with Driver 1’s vehicle. It’s true that Driver 1 was, in fact, driving while distracted at the time of the accident, but his distracted driving didn’t actually cause the accident. That is, Driver 1’s focus on the GPS didn’t prevent him from being able to avoid the collision. Even if he hadn’t been using the GPS, the accident would still have occurred. Driver 2’s running the red light was the actual cause of the accident, and Driver 1 is the victim in this scenario.
The point is distracted driving alone is not sufficient for the assignment of liability and claim for compensation. Proving which driver or drivers were at-fault for an accident can still be a difficult and complicated task. All the facts and details involved are crucial in making that determination.
Insurance companies work hard to deny liability outright, shift as much blame to the victim as possible (see Comparative Negligence discussion), or minimize the severity of injuries. They employ a team of adjusters, lawyers, doctors, and technical experts to help them pay out as little as possible. It’s extremely difficult for an accident victim alone to obtain full compensation from insurance companies when up against those odds. But having an experienced traffic accident lawyer on your side helps level the legal playing field and can dramatically improve your likelihood of receiving full and fair compensation.
Florida is a comparative negligence state. This means that after a traffic accident fault is determined and apportioned among the parties involved, and how much compensation injured parties can recover is limited by each party’s relative share of fault for causing the accident. As a result, an injured party’s recovery is limited by his or her assigned percentage of fault for causing the accident.
For example, in a traffic accident where the injured party is deemed to have been 30% negligent in contributing to the crash, his or her total damage award will be decreased by 30%. So the maximum amount the injured party can receive is 70% of the total monetary recovery. Thus, if the total monetary recovery is $100,000, the injured party is entitled to only 70% of that amount or $70,000. Comparative negligence helps explain why insurance companies work so hard to shift as much blame for an accident as possible to victims. That’s also why traffic accident victims must be extremely careful if they decide to talk with other drivers’ insurance companies. Statements made to them can be used to help establish victims’ share of fault for the accident. No matter how friendly and sympathetic their representatives may seem, they are not looking out for victims’ best interests.
It’s vital for traffic accident victims to consult with an experienced lawyer before talking with anyone from an insurance company. A traffic accident lawyer has the knowledge and experience to protect victims’ rights when dealing with the insurance companies. In addition, an experienced traffic accident lawyer knows how best to use the available evidence and which experts are needed, if any, to accurately establish the parties’ relative fault for an accident.
Damage awards in cases involving distracted driving accidents can be quite substantial, especially when very high speeds and other reckless driving behaviors are present. They are generally described as ‘enhanced value’ cases. These types of rear end crashes can implicate a legal concept commonly referred to as ‘aggravated negligence,’ which frequently leads to much higher damage awards and settlement amounts for victims than accidents involving ordinary negligence.
Virtually all traffic accidents are the result of negligence by at least one of the parties involved. For example, when a driver rear-ends the vehicle in front because the driver was following too closely, his or her negligence was the cause of the accident. But the driver’s behavior wasn’t an egregious and wanton disregard for the safety and welfare of others. It was an instance of ordinary negligence.
In contrast, for example, in a situation where a driver is traveling 20+ mph over the speed limit, weaving in and out of traffic and cutting off other drivers in the process, passing other vehicles on the shoulder of the road, and eventually causes a serious crash, the driver’s behavior will likely be characterized as reckless. As such, the degree of negligence involved will also likely be classified as ‘aggravated,’ meaning the damage award or settlement amount for the victims will likely be much higher than if the driver had been guilty of ordinary negligence.
Simply put, cases involving aggravated negligence will generally result in a sizable damage award or settlement amount. Our traffic accident lawyers have been successfully handling aggravated negligence cases on behalf of clients for decades. We have the experience and expertise to help you with your aggravated negligence claim.
Damages Awarded Depend on the Facts of the Case
Naturally, the specific types of damages and amounts that may be awarded depend upon the facts and circumstances of each individual case. There are literally dozens of factors that contribute to the settlement value or jury award amount of an injury claim. As such, what someone you know received or the amount an injured victim claims to have obtained in a law firm’s advertisement will have virtually no bearing on the actual value of your claim. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable traffic accident lawyer who specializes in reckless driving cases in order to protect your rights and provide a fact-based, experience-driven assessment of the potential value of your injury or damage claim.
Otherwise, without an objective and reasonable valuation of your case based on an experienced traffic accident lawyer’s expert opinion, you could unwittingly accept a settlement offer that is dramatically lower or holdout in vain for an offer that is unrealistically higher than the generally accepted valuation range of your case based on all the facts and circumstances involved. In either scenario, the very real possibility exists that you will not be fairly and fully compensated, if at all, for your injuries, personal property, out-of-pocket expenses, and/or lost income.
Below is a list of the most common types of compensatory damages awarded in distracted driving accident cases. As the name implies, compensatory damages are intended to compensate the injured party and help him or her return to the physical, emotional, and financial state he or she was in prior to the injury. They are generally classified as either Noneconomic Damages or Economic Damages.
In some limited traffic accident cases, punitive damages may also be recovered in addition to any compensatory damages. This type of damage award is generally available only when the offender’s conduct is especially reprehensible and reckless. Punitive damages are typically available only when the offender acted with malice, willfulness, moral turpitude, or reckless indifference for the safety and welfare of others. That is, punitive damages are not available in cases involving only simple negligence, which is present in virtually every traffic accident. The offender’s behavior must go beyond that of simple negligence before punitive damages are even a possibility.
Some examples of behavior that can potentially lead to punitive damages include scenarios in which the offender:
The primary purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate the victim for any actual loss; rather, it is to punish and deter the offender’s particularly heinous behavior. Although punitive damages are intended to punish the offender, their purpose is not to bankrupt him or her. The offender’s financial situation is taken into consideration when determining the amount of punitive damages. Under Florida law, for most personal injury cases, punitive damages are capped at either three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
It’s important for victims to understand that simply because punitive damages may be available to them in light of the facts involved they are not awarded automatically. Victims must specifically plead (or request) and prove entitlement to them. If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident due to the reckless actions of another driver, you need to have an experienced traffic accident lawyer on your side, so you receive everything to which you are entitled under the law.
When you’ve been injured by a distracted driver, you need an experienced West Palm Beach car accident lawyer—our firm has been helping victims like you for over 20 years.
Being the victim of a distracted driver can be devastating. Victims often sustain agonizing, potentially life-threatening and life-altering physical and emotional injuries; face the prospect of financial ruin; and experience a catastrophic disruption to their entire way of life.
The team of traffic accident professionals at our West Palm Beach law firm understand what you’re going through. You have questions about how much your claim is worth and how long it’ll take to get a fair settlement.
Our experienced traffic accident lawyers will give you straight, simple answers to all your questions, including medical payment coverage, personal injuries, property damage, and lost income, as well as assist you with completing necessary paperwork and guide you every step of the way through the legal and insurance claims processes.
Contact Us Today for Your Free Case Evaluation!
Don’t try to take on the insurance companies by yourself—get one of our experienced West Palm Beach traffic accident lawyers on your side and working hard for you.
Contact us today and get the legal help you need and deserve!
I was in a horrific car crash. The only bright spot in that time of my life was meeting attorney Bill Bone and his staff. He, along with his staff provided support, concern, guidance and tenacity. Mr. Bone is an outstanding attorney and he has surrounded himself with a top notch team of intelligent, compassionate people. I am so very pleased to say that Mr. Bone is the most honest and trustworthy attorney I have ever met. Although I would have chosen to meet him under different circumstances, I am a better person for knowing him. I am grateful for the respectful way in which he treated me and conducts himself. In addition to his personal attributes, Bill Bone is an experienced, intelligent and highly successful attorney.