Tampa Car Accident Lawyer
The Tampa Bay area is famous for many things such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Busch Gardens, and the Tampa Bay Lighting to name a few, and by all accounts, our city’s population is growing at a rapid, consistent rate from an estimated 335,842 residents in 2010 to 385,430 in 2017, according to the United States Census Bureau. Unfortunately, Tampa is also infamous in certain respects one of which is the alarming number of car accidents that occur within Hillsborough county every year. In 2016, Hillsborough county had more car accidents than Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus county combined. Moreover, the number of car accidents in Hillsborough county are steadily increasing each year along with the number of car accident fatalities.
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), there were an estimated 27,660 car crashes that occured in 2016, which represents a 6.52% from the estimated 25,967 car crashes that occured in 2015, and the number of car crash related fatalities increased at an alarming rate of 20% from 190 fatalities in 2015 to 228 in 2016. These statistics demonstrate that even the most cautious drivers will almost inevitably be involved in a car accident at least once if they live, work, or travel around the Tampa Bay area for any extended period of time. As such, it is important for you, as a driver, to be aware the unique set of laws that govern car accidents in the state of Florida, and the impact these laws can have on your case if you are ever involved in a car accident in Tampa.
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Insurance Laws in Tampa, FL
Florida, like other states, requires all drivers to carry a certain amount of insurance by law. Fla. Stat. § 324.022 and Fla. Stat. § 627.736 combined establish the minimum amount and type of insurance each driver has to carry in our state.
- Personal Injury Protection Insurance: $10,000 limit per accident
- Property Damage Liability Coverage: $10,000 limit per accident
Florida’s Financial Responsibility Law
Although the state of Florida does not require drivers to carry bodily injury insurance in order to legally own or operate a motor vehicle, it does require them to have bodily injury insurance with the following limits if they determined to be at-fault for a car crash that resulted in injuries and property damage:
- Bodily Injury Insurance: $10,000 limit per person and $20,000 limit per accident
If a driver, who does not have bodily injury insurance, is found to be at-fault for an accident that results in injuries and property damage, the injured party can obtain a judgment against the at-fault driver for damages incurred by the injured party as a result of the accident. The judgment can then be sent to the Florida Bureau of Motorist Compliance, and the at-fault driver will have their driver’s license suspended for up to 20 years unless they:
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- Pay the injured party an amount of money that is equal to the bodily injury insurance limits they should have been carrying at the time of the accident. This scenario applies when the injured party’s damages meet or exceed the bodily injury insurance limits that the at-fault driver should have been carrying at the time of the accident.
- If the value of the damages sustained by the injured party is less than bodily injury insurance limits that the at-fault driver should have been carrying at the time of the accident, the at-fault party will have to fully compensate the injured driver or passenger for their damages.
Moreover, the at-fault driver will have to obtain a signed release form from the injured party stating that they have been fully compensated for their injuries, in a manner that is in compliance with the requirements listed above, in order to have their driver’s license reinstated.
Comparative Negligence Laws in Tampa, FL
When you are involved in a car accident involving one other driver, you might be tempted to believe that only one of you can be found to be the at-fault party, but this is a common misconception. The fact is, both drivers can be deemed to have been partially responsible for the accident under Fla. Stat. § 768.81(2). This is known as Florida’s comparative negligence law. Under this provision of the Florida statute, each driver is assigned a percentage of fault by a jury ranging 0% to 100%.
If you are found to have been partially responsible the accident, your recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you by the jury at trial. For example, if you were found to have been 25% responsible for your accident and you were awarded $100,000 in damages at trial, your $100,000 award would be reduced by 25% to $75,000 under the comparative negligence statute. However, it is also possible for a jury to determine that the other driver was 100% responsible for the accident in which case you would be given the full $100,000 award.
How Long do I have to File a Claim in Tampa, FL?
Fla. Stat. § 627.736(1)(a) states that you have 14 days after a car accident occurs to seek medical care under your personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, and Florida has a four year statute of limitations on personal injury claims based on negligence and property damage claims. As such, you have 14 days to seek medical care through your own insurance company and four years to bring a claim against the at-fault driver.
However, you should always get evaluated by doctor after a car accident, regardless of whether the accident was minor or serious, because missing the 14 day deadline to seek medical care can result in your insurance carrier refusing to pay any PIP benefits in connection with your accident. Similarly, waiting to bring a claim against an at-fault driver can cause evidence to lost, witnesses to forget how the accident occured, etc. Due to this fact, you should always contact an attorney as soon as possible if you are ever involved in a car crash.
Do I Need a Car Accident Attorney?
Being involved in a car accident can be a life changing event that leaves you feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and upset. However, finding an attorney who will fight for your rights and a team of qualified doctors to treat your injuries can make this difficult time in your life a lot easier to handle. 1-800-INJURED is a lawyer and medical referral service that connects injured drivers in Tampa, FL with a network of local car accident attorneys that stand ready to seek the compensation they deserve for their injuries. Don’t wait until it is too late to file your claim. Call 1-800-INJURED today.