Car accidents are stressful on a number of levels. Aside from the obvious damage to or loss of your vehicle, there may also be negative effects on one’s emotional and physical health. Loss of transportation may affect your commute to and from work. This leads to greater stress on the emotional state as well as financial strain. If you feel you were not at fault for the accident, a Pinellas Park personal injury attorney may be able to help you navigate and ultimately mitigate these issues. These are our tips to find an experienced car accident attorney to make your injury claim process smoother.
What are the causes of car accidents in Florida?
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were a total of 340,512 car accidents in Florida in 2020. 14,311 of those car accidents happened in Pinellas County, and over half of these accidents resulted in injuries. Below you will find some of the common causes of car accidents in Florida:
Texting while driving
The Wireless Communications While Driving Law, as issued in the Florida Statutes Section 316.305, allows police officers to issue citations to drivers that are texting behind the wheel. The National Safety Council reports that 1.6 million crashes each year are the result of drivers using their cell phones at the wheel. Visually distracted drivers, or those whose eyes are not on the road, are unable to perceive hazards. Therefore, they wouldn’t have the proper amount of time to react.
Speed limits ensure that a driver is able to operate their vehicle properly on a given road. And also that they are not a danger to other drivers or pedestrians. When a driver exceeds the speed limit, they put themselves and others in danger. Speeding makes it less likely that a driver will be able to brake or change lanes safely.
Running red lights
If a driver is already driving above the speed limit and approaches a yellow traffic light, it is unlikely that they will be able to stop their vehicle before it turns red. If the drivers at the other intersection have a green light, there may be a collision. Side-impact collisions are common in cases where a driver runs a red light, and these accidents are often fatal.
Driving under the influence (DUI) impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. A driver may be impaired by alcohol, prescription or illicit drugs, or over-the-counter medications. There are five signs of impairment:
- Slowed reaction time;
- Subnormal hand-eye coordination;
- Inaccurate perception of distance and time;
- Reduced short-term memory capacity;
- Dulled concentration
Wrong way driving
Wrong way crashes happen when a motor vehicle has not paid attention to pavement markings or posted traffic signs and drives down a lane in the wrong direction. This car accident cause is especially common in Tampa Bay, which has many one-way streets. Vehicles are most often hit head-on in wrong-way driving accidents. This makes these some of the most fatal accidents that occur in the area.
Reasons to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney After a Car Accident
Do you really need to hire a car accident attorney for your accident? Legal representation may be especially beneficial in car accidents involving any of the following:
- Fault is disputed or denied
- Hospital admittance
- Medical bills totaling several thousands of dollars
- Missing several days of school or work
- Emotional trauma
- Questionable accuracy of police or insurance paperwork
- Insurance company not acknowledging full extent of claim
Latent injuries and damages
Not all injuries appear immediately. For injuries like whiplash, the damage may not be felt until days after the accident. Likewise, damages to your vehicle may not be immediately detectable. Some damages that appear to be surface-level may belie structural damage.
Navigating the legal system
The legal system is an erudite and arcane system. There is a reason it takes years to become a personal injury lawyer! Car accident attorneys know the jargon so you don’t have to. Much of the verbiage and processes of the legal system make little sense to the layperson. You need a car accident lawyer to make sense of everything for you and to streamline the process.
Handling insurance companies after an accident
The automobile insurance company covering the opposing party will do everything they can to minimize your claims. This is so that they can pay out the least amount possible. Due to their experience working with many insurance companies in many different cases, Largo car accident lawyers know the right information and how much of it to supply. Dealing with insurance companies on your own could cost you a lot of money.
Know What to Find in a Car Accident Attorney That’s Right For Your Case
Before selecting a St. Petersburg car accident lawyer to handle your case, there are many things to consider.
Your choice of car accident lawyer will directly influence your settlement which will help pay for your medical bills, vehicle expenses, and time missed from work. Simply typing in personal injury attorney near me or car accident attorney near me on Google may not be the best approach. Below are some considerations to find a car accident attorney that’s a good fit for you.
Be sure to ask friends and family if they have sought legal action for a car accident, and if so, who represented them and how their experience was. This is the easiest way to find the right car accident attorney for you, especially if the recommendation comes from someone with whom you are close to and trust.
If you do get legal recommendations from personal sources, it would be wise to ensure that the personal injury lawyer in question still meets all of the following criteria:
How much experience does the Kenwood car accident lawyer have with cases similar to yours? Additionally, be sure to ask potential accident lawyers for references – any St. Petersburg accident lawyer that doesn’t provide professional references when asked should not be considered for representation.
While you definitely want to stick with a personal injury lawyer, make sure also that they have experience representing claimants (or “plaintiffs”). Car accident lawyers who are used to representing insurance companies may be used to seeing things from that angle. You want to find a car accident attorney with experience handling cases similar to your own to represent your injury claim.
You want to be sure that the personal injury lawyer you choose is available to reach when you have questions about your case, especially if you are recuperating in a hospital or suffering from injuries that make it difficult for you to get around. Be sure to ask the car accident attorney if you can expect to hear case updates at reasonable intervals.
Car accident legal fees
Make sure you understand the fees before signing any documents. The last thing you want is to find a car accident attorney you can’t afford!
Most personal injury lawyers offer their services on what is called a “contingency fee” basis. This means that the car accident lawyer does not receive any money from the case unless you do, or until the case is won. The contingency fee is usually around 25-40% of the total amount awarded at the closing of a successful case. It is most common for a car accident lawyer to receive 33 percent, or about a third, of the settlement.
If you won $30,000 for your case and had signed an agreement for a 33% contingency fee, your personal injury lawyer would get $10,000.00.
This does not include the various costs and expenses accrued throughout the case, including but not limited to: medical records, postage, state and county filing fees, depositions (if necessary), transcripts, and police reports. Normally an accident attorney’s office will initially cover these expenses for you and then bill you for these fees when a settlement is reached.
There are several lawyer registries that are well regarded for their reputation and reliability. The Martindale-Hubbell Bar Registry, The Best Lawyers in America, Avvo, and Super Lawyers are all wonderful resources where you can find a car accident attorney by location, type of law practiced, disciplinary record, and reviews.
There are many Kenneth City car accident lawyers listed on these sites, as well as St. Petersburg car accident attorneys and Gulfport car accident lawyers.
Be wary of any uninvited solicitation for legal representation. In Florida, legal solicitation (outside of general advertising) within 60 days of an incident is a third-degree felony. Personal injury attorneys who send letters to your home following an accident are breaking the law, so it is highly advised that you do not seek counsel from them. If you do decide to go this route, be sure to ask them the following questions before signing any documents for representation.
What questions should I ask a potential car accident lawyer?
- What is your personal philosophy on how to have a successful case?
- How many years of experience do they have practicing personal injury law?
- What percentage of your overall caseload is related to personal injury?
- What percentage of your overall caseload is related to personal injury resulting from car accidents?
- How many cases have you represented that were similar to mine?
- What is the total amount of anticipated out-of-pocket expenses?
- What is the fee structure?
- How long do you expect the case to run?
- What is the anticipated timeline of my case?
- How many of your cases are referred by other personal injury lawyers?
- What is the average or expected settlement for a case such as mine?
What information should I provide to an accident attorney to determine if they are right for me?
It is important to have as much relevant documentation as possible pertaining to your accident. The more evidence you have, the less time your case may end up taking and the more likely it will be that the outcome is in your favor.
Amount of evidence
The amount of relevant evidence available greatly determines both the outcome and duration of your case. It is essential that you gather evidence that supports your version of the events leading up to the car accident as well as your claims of physical injury and lost wages. Evidence from the scene of the accident includes police reports, driver and witness information and statements, and photographs. Evidence of damages is also pertinent. It will behoove you to provide receipts for any repairs made shortly before the accident, as this may increase the perceived value of your vehicle. It is recommended to keep a personal log of healthcare appointments to bolster the necessary bodily injury documentation such as medical bills and records from providers.
Calculation of pain and suffering
Pain and suffering in personal injury cases refers to the mental and emotional detriments endured by a person during and following the accident that led to bodily injury. Pain and suffering, therefore, regards non-economic damages for which there are no receipts or invoices.
The following factors may contribute to a client’s pain and suffering:
- Mental health repercussions including but not limited to anxiety, insomnia, depression, memory loss, and overall increase of stress
- Physical pain and discomfort
- Stress brought on by financial hardship due to absences from work related to your accident
- Temporary or enduring physical pain and discomfort
- Lack or loss of consortium (supportive relationships) with family members
- Any other trauma relating to the client’s emotional or psychological state
There are two basic methods used to calculate such damages: the per diem method and the multiple method.
Per diem method
The per diem method (“per diem” is Latin for “by the day”) is utilized to calculate pain and suffering by allotting a monetary value for a single day and then multiplying this value by the number of days that the person was afflicted by their relevant injuries. This amount is usually tantamount to the client’s daily pay from their place of employment. This method is seldom utilized for cases in which there is an insurance settlement.
Insurance settlements often use the multiple method, in which the injured person’s documented economic damages are multiplied between 1.5 and 5 times. Higher multipliers depend on several factors including clarity of fault on behalf of the opposing party, how visible or detectable your injuries are, length of recovery, and the existence of permanent aftereffects. Compensation is particularly increased in cases where the accident resulted in one or more fatalities, traumatic brain injuries, amputations, disfigurements, or injuries to the spinal cord.
Severity of injuries
Severity of injury is measured by the Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS©) using an anatomical-based scoring system that classifies each injury by its region on the body and its ranking on a six point scale, with the score of 1 representing a minor injury and a score of 6 determining virtually lethal injuries. The Injury Severity Score (ISS) is determined by the sum of the squares of the greatest AIS from the three most affected regions of the body to calculate a number from 3 (least injured) to 75 (most injured). Impact of the injuries depends on the extent of tissue damage, physiological responses, and potential variables that interfere with the injury’s outcome.
Proof of fault
Police officers sometimes include who they thought was at fault in an accident’s crash report. The crash report for your accident may also state moving violations and citations issued. These details can help prove who was at fault. Reviewing state laws can also help you determine who was at fault in your accident.
When do you NOT need a car accident attorney after a car accident?
While there are many accidents that require car accident lawyers, there are others in which hiring an accident attorney is not necessary. It is important to make sure that you really need a personal injury lawyer before committing to it so that you do not incur unnecessary expenses or added stress.
No one was hurt
If no one was injured in the accident, it is unlikely that you will need to hire a car accident attorney. However, be sure to clear this with a doctor before making a decision, as some injuries do not appear immediately. This is an especially crucial step if you have preexisting conditions that may have been worsened by the accident.
The insurance company is offering you a fair settlement amount
If the insurance company is offering you a fair settlement for your losses, taking legal action may prove to be detrimental to your situation. If you are unsure, contact a St. Petersburg accident attorney today to see if they believe further compensation is needed. Remember, this is your only opportunity to be compensated for your injuries. If your injuries are found to be more severe than you originally thought, you will be stuck with the deal you negotiated.
Call the Attorneys at Jones Law Group for a Free Consultation
Whether your accident happened on US 19N, or at a dangerous intersection on Park Blvd, 34th St or 49th St or anywhere in between, it is important that you seek experienced representation. Jones Law Group is an award winning law firm that has fought for the residents of Pinellas Park when they have been injured in an accident.
Our dedicated team will thoroughly investigate the factors that led to your accident. And we will aggressively seek compensation from each responsible party. For a free consultation, contact us online or by phone at 727-571-1333.