St. Petersburg is the fifth-most populated city in the Sunshine State and the second-largest city in the Tampa Bay Area. Even though it is known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant arts, culture scene, and sunny weather, the large population makes it one of the most dangerous cities for drivers.
Data shows more than 800 people were killed in car accidents in this region in 2021. Even more alarming is the fact that the number of crashes in the county went up by 48% from the previous year.
If you or a loved one has been involved in such an accident, you may have to face medical bills, lost wages, and property damage while dealing with unyielding insurance companies that are actively trying to minimize or deny your claim.
At Lewis & Castagliola, P.A., our car accident attorneys have over 40 years of experience fighting for the rights of St. Petersburg residents and their families who have suffered injuries and losses in vehicle collisions. Whether you were injured by a drunk driver, a distracted driver, or a negligent government entity, we can help you hold the at-fault party responsible and get justice. Call our St. Petersburg personal injury attorneys today at 727-343-3477 or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation.
Florida’s No-Fault System for Auto Accident Claims
Depending on the circumstances of your accident and the type of insurance coverage you have, the answer as to who will compensate you for your losses may vary. To know how this system works, you first have to understand Florida’s no-fault insurance system.
Florida is one of the few states that follow a no-fault system, which means:
- Drivers must carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and property damage liability (PDL) coverage of at least $10,000 each.
- Regardless of who is at fault in a vehicle collision, each driver’s own insurance company is responsible for covering their medical expenses and property damage, up to the limits of their PIP coverage.
So when reckless driving accidents occur, each party involved must first turn to their own insurance provider for compensation for their injuries and losses.
PIP coverage pays for the medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses of the policyholder, their children, household members, and certain passengers up to the policy limit. PDL coverage, on the other hand, pays for the damage to someone else’s vehicle or property in an accident caused by the policyholder.
If your insurance policy doesn’t have collision coverage, you will have to pay for your car damage yourself, unless you can prove that the other driver was at fault and pursue a claim against their insurance provider. Let’s break it down:
- If the other driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or they were driving recklessly, you can file a claim for your property damage.
- If the other driver was uninsured or underinsured and you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim against your own policy for your car damage.
- If the other driver was an employee or agent of a business or government entity and was acting within the scope of their duties at the time of the accident, you can file a claim against the employer’s or entity’s commercial liability coverage or sovereign immunity waiver.
- If your car damage exceeds $10,000 (the minimum PDL coverage required in Florida), you can file a claim against the other driver’s bodily injury liability coverage or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for the excess amount.
To summarize, the no-fault rule says you have to file your truck, car, motorcycle or rear-end collision injury claim with your own insurance provider regardless of who caused the crash. However, there are some exceptions to this rule:
- If the accident caused permanent injuries that meet the injury threshold set by law
- If the medical bills and lost wages of a person exceed $10,000
- If the accident involved damage to property or bodily injuries of another car’s occupants
In these cases, you may be able to sue the at-fault driver or their insurance company for additional compensation. With an experienced St. Petersburg car accident lawyer on your side, you can pursue the maximum compensation for your injuries and losses.
Am I Entitled to Compensation if I Was Partially Responsible for the Crash?
The answer depends on when you filed your claim and how much you were responsible for the crash. If you filed the lawsuit before March 24, 2023, then you may still be entitled to compensation if you were partially responsible for the head-on collision, but your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Florida used to follow the pure comparative negligence rule, which allowed plaintiffs to recover damages from defendants even if they were mostly to blame for the accident. If you were 30% at fault, for example, and your total damages were $100,000, you could still recover $70,000.
However, if you filed your lawsuit after March 24, 2023, then you may not be entitled to any compensation if you were more than 50% responsible for the crash. Under House Bill 837, Florida has now changed its comparative negligence law to a modified comparative negligence rule, which bars plaintiffs from recovering any damages if they are more than 50% at fault for their own harm. The only exception to this rule is if your claim is for medical malpractice, in which case the pure comparative negligence rule still applies.
Regardless of the date of your lawsuit, to determine your percentage of fault, you will need to prove how the other driver was negligent and how their negligence caused your injuries. You will also need to defend yourself against any allegations that you were negligent. Some of the factors that can affect your percentage of fault are:
- Speeding, distracted, impaired, or otherwise reckless driving
- Violating traffic laws or rules
- Failing to wear a seat belt or a helmet
- Failing to seek medical attention within 14 days of the accident
- Having pre-existing conditions or injuries that worsened due to the accident
Keep in mind that the other driver’s insurance company or lawyer may try to shift as much blame as possible to you to reduce or deny your claim altogether. They may also try to pressure you into accepting a lowball settlement or signing a release that waives your right to pursue further compensation.
To protect your rights and interests, get in touch with an experienced auto accident attorney at Lewis & Castagliola, P.A. We can help you gather evidence and witnesses to prove the other driver’s fault and minimize your own. We will negotiate with the insurance company or the at-fault party on your behalf, and if it comes to it, take them to court.
What Is the 14-Day Accident Law in Florida?
If you are ever involved in a negligent or aggressive driving accident in Florida, you must remember the 14-day accident rule. This law requires you to seek medical care within 14 days of your accident to qualify for personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. PIP is a type of insurance that covers some of your medical expenses and lost wages after an accident, regardless of who was responsible.
A seasoned car accident attorney can advise you that if you fail to go see a healthcare provider within 14 days of the accident, you will:
- Lose your PIP benefits: You will forfeit your right to receive any PIP insurance benefits – even if you have paid your premiums and have a valid policy. This means you will have to pay for your medical bills and lost wages out of your own pocket or rely on your health insurance or other sources of income.
- Risk worsening your injuries: Injuries like concussions, whiplash, internal bleeding, or spinal cord damage can take days or weeks to manifest. If you don’t get checked out by a doctor immediately after the accident, you may risk aggravating your injuries or developing chronic or permanent conditions that could affect your quality of life and ability to work.
- Weaken your claim: If you decide to pursue a claim against the at-fault party for damages that exceed your PIP coverage, such as property damage, pain and suffering, or future medical expenses, you will need to prove that the other driver was careless and that their actions caused your injuries and losses.
The other driver’s insurance company or lawyer may argue that your injuries were not caused by the accident, that they were not as serious as you claim, or that you failed to mitigate your damages by seeking timely treatment. This could reduce any settlement offer they may make or jeopardize your right to compensation entirely.
How Long Does It Take to Settle an Auto Accident Claim in St. Petersburg, FL?
The time it takes to settle a claim and receive compensation varies from case to case. We wish there was a simple, straightforward answer to this question, but there are a lot of factors that come into play, including:
The Severity of Your Injuries
If you have serious car accident injuries that require extensive medical care, it may take longer to determine the full value of your claim and reach a fair settlement. You may also need to wait until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI), which is the point at which your condition stabilizes and no further improvement is expected. Make sure you have legal representation from an auto accident attorney in St. Petersburg, FL, to protect your right to compensation.
The Clarity of Fault and Liability
If it is clear who caused the accident, it may be easier to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company or the at-fault party. However, if there is any dispute or uncertainty about who was at fault or how much they are liable for, it may take longer to investigate the accident, gather evidence, and prove your case. You may need an aggressive car accident attorney with the skills and resources to establish the liability of the negligent parties.
The Cooperation of the Parties Involved
If the insurer or the at-fault party is willing to cooperate and offer a reasonable settlement that covers your damages, you will obviously be able to resolve your claim quickly and amicably. However, if they are uncooperative, dishonest, or offer a lowball settlement that does not reflect your losses, you may need to fight for your rights and pursue legal action.
The Availability of Evidence
If you have strong evidence that supports your claim, such as police reports, photos, videos, medical records, expert opinions, and witness statements, you may be able to expedite the process and secure a favorable settlement. However, if you have insufficient evidence or witnesses, there will be delays in proving your claim.
The Complexity of the Legal Issues Involved
If your case is as simple as proving negligence and causation, your St. Petersburg car accident lawyer may be able to settle your claim without much difficulty. On the other hand, if there are multiple parties, bad faith insurance practices, comparative fault, or statutory exceptions, your lawyer may need more time and resources to resolve your claim.
Based on these factors, it could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years to settle a claim for a distracted driving accident in St. Petersburg. Hit and run accident claims can be even more complex. The best way to estimate how long it will take is to consult with an experienced car accident attorney at Lewis & Castagliola, P.A. who can evaluate your car accident case for free and advise you on the expected timeline and outcome of your claim.
How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident in St. Petersburg, Florida?
If you or someone in your family was injured in a car accident, you have two years from the date of the car crash to file a personal injury lawsuit. Before House Bill 837 was enacted in March 2023, this statute of limitations was four years.
If the car or pedestrian accident victim dies, their family also has two years from the date of the death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of suit can compensate the victim’s loved ones for funeral expenses, loss of support, loss of companionship, and other losses related to the death.
There are some exceptions that may allow you to file the suit after the deadline:
- The defendant hid their identity or location on purpose or changed their name or appearance to avoid liability.
- The defendant moved out of Florida before you could sue them.
- You were legally unable to sue at the time of the accident because of a permanent or temporary mental condition. You can still sue within seven years of the accident date, so this exception also has a deadline.
However, none of these extensions are guaranteed. Your Lewis & Castagliola, P.A. attorneys can review the facts of your case, determine the applicable statute of limitations, and advise you on the best course of action. Don’t wait too long, as missing the deadline could result in losing your right to recover compensation.
Choose Experienced St. Petersburg, FL, Attorneys
A car crash can change your life in an instant. If it is serious enough, you may be forced to incur huge medical bills, lose your income, and experience prolonged pain and suffering for months or years to come. Unfortunately, that’s not all. You may also have to deal with strong-willed insurance companies and their armies of lawyers who may try their best to minimize or deny your claim.
Don’t go through it alone. With decades of experience in representing people like you, we at Lewis & Castagliola, P.A. know what tactics the defendant’s insurance company may use to undermine claims regarding car accidents. Most importantly, we know how to counter them with solid evidence and persuasive arguments.
We have the skills and resources to handle a variety of claims, from minor fender benders to fatal crashes. Our lawyers are determined to maximize your compensation no matter how bleak the situation may seem at the moment. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t have to pay us a dime unless we win your case. Schedule your free, no-risk legal consultation today by calling 727-343-3477 or reaching out to us online.