Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of injury and death in the state of Florida and across the United States every year. Not only are they shockingly common – almost everyone has been in a crash or knows an immediate family member who has been in an accident – but they are also almost always entirely preventable. Indeed, they are most often caused because drivers neglect their duty of care to others on the road, like drowsy driving.
At the law offices of Whibbs Stone Barnett, P.A., our experienced attorneys have been representing those harmed in car accidents for decades, and are prepared to provide you with the competent legal representation you’re looking for.
Types of Motor Vehicle Accidents
Automobiles have the potential to collide in different ways, with some types of collision (such as a head-on crash) being inherently more dangerous than others (such as a rear-end crash). At the law firm of Whibbs Stone Barnett, P.A., we have experience representing those injured in all types of motor vehicle accidents, including:
- Rear-end crashes. While rear-end crashes are the type of crash that is least likely to result in serious injury, serious injuries are possible, especially when vehicles are traveling at high speeds at the time of impact.
- Sideswipe crashes. A sideswipe collision refers to an accident type in which the sides of vehicles collide, often as the result of an illegal and improper lane change.
- T-bone crashes. A T-bone crash is one of the most devastating accident types, and injuries to drivers and passengers in both vehicles are very possible. A T-bone refers to an accident in which the front end of one vehicle crashes directly into the side of another, forming a ‘T’ shape. These accidents are common when one driver fails to yield in an intersection.
- Head-on collisions. Head-on collisions are the least common, yet most deadly, type of accident. These collisions often occur as a result of a driver traveling in the wrong direction of the roadway, or drifting into the lane of oncoming traffic. Head-on crashes have the potential to be fatal.
You might think that aches and pains resulting from a fender-bender are just minor, and they will go away in a day or two. This is not always the case, however. Some injuries from rear-end collisions can be moderate to severe, especially if you are the lead driver (the driver of the vehicle that was rear-ended). Some of the most common injuries that result from rear-end accidents include:
- Whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries;
- Neck and back injuries;
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI);
- Spinal cord injuries;
- Internal injuries.
These injuries can have lasting effects, and in some cases (such as with injuries to internal organs), they can be life-threatening. This is why it is always best to get medical help as soon as possible, even after a seemingly minor accident.
In addition to the accidents listed above, which refer to the positions of vehicles at the time of impact, consider that truck accidents, drunk driving accidents, and motorcycle accidents also occur in Florida more often than they should. If you have been in an accident involved any type of motor vehicle, our lawyers can represent you as you seek damages.
Why Do Most Car Accidents Occur?
In Florida alone, there are nearly 400,000 vehicle crashes each year. The most common times of the day for car accidents to occur are between 8 AM and 9 AM, and between 3 PM and 6 PM. However, nearly half of all fatal accidents take place at night. Rear end collisions are the leading type of car crash, accounting for nearly a quarter of all vehicle accidents.
For decades, experts have been analyzing the question of why car accidents occur, and although there are certainly external factors such as bad weather that contribute to some crashes, most result from some type of human error. A few years back, Stanford Law School identified several reports and studies that looked at the cause of vehicle crashes, and although the exact percentages vary, every single report found that human error is a main contributor in more than 90% of all car accidents.
Human error can mean a lot of different things, but in a large number of cases, it refers to some type of driver negligence. Some of the most common ways that drivers contribute to car accidents include:
Because Florida has great weather most of the year, speeding is an ongoing temptation here in the Sunshine State. People seem to be in more of a hurry these days, and it is easy to push the limits by driving faster than is legally allowed. There are reasons why we have speed limits, however. The faster you drive, the less time you have to react when adverse conditions arise on the roadways. In addition, crashes that occur at higher speeds tend to cause greater vehicle damage and more serious and catastrophic injuries.
Excessive speeding, which generally means driving 15 or 20 mph or more over the speed limit, is one common form of aggressive or reckless driving. Others may include tailgating, running stop signs and red lights, unsafe lane changes, unsafe or illegal passing maneuvers, sharp or illegal turns, and street racing. These types of driving behaviors greatly increase the risk of a collision.
Florida takes reckless driving very seriously, and those guilty of this offense will likely face both criminal and civil liability. Sadly, for those injured because of the reckless actions of another driver, their lives can be altered severely in a matter of seconds. A major injury can suddenly mean facing the prospect of being out of work for several weeks or even months, skyrocketing medical bills, untold pain and suffering, and the uncertainty of not knowing when (or even if) your life will return to normal.
At the Law Offices of Whibbs, Stone & Barnett, P.A., we routinely go up against large insurance companies, and we are not intimidated by their vast resources. We know the common tactics they frequently use to diminish the value of a personal injury claim, and we know how to successfully thwart these tactics and secure full and fair compensation on behalf of each client we serve. We are skilled litigators and strong negotiators. When possible, we look to secure a settlement that justly compensates you for your injuries. If the other side is not willing to be reasonable, however, we are ready and able to aggressively pursue full damages at trial.
Common Examples of Reckless Driving
Florida requires drivers to exercise ordinary and reasonable care and due caution to help ensure the safety of others they share the roads with. As we are all aware of the potential for deadly consequences when we collide with another vehicle, most drivers follow these requirements. Unfortunately, there are those who, for whatever reason, breach this duty of care, often with catastrophic results.
Some of the most common behaviors that may constitute reckless driving in Florida include:
- Excessive speeding (i.e., driving more than 20 MPH over the speed limit);
- Street/drag racing;
- Playing “chicken”;
- Running stop signs or red lights;
- Following the vehicle too closely (i.e., tailgating);
- Weaving in and out of lanes;
- Passing other vehicles in the dangerous manner;
- Passing a school bus illegally;
- Failing to yield the right of way;
- Driving without headlights on after dark;
- Texting while driving and other forms of electronic activity while behind the wheel;
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Alcohol is a factor in approximately one third of all vehicle collisions. In addition, almost 40% of all speeding drivers who are involved in fatal car crashes are intoxicated. It is well-known that intoxication impairs a motorist’s ability to operate a vehicle safely, but unfortunately, far too many people still make the horrible and often fateful decision to get behind the wheel after having too much to drink.
Distractions are one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents today. This has largely been driven by the widespread use of smartphones and the need to “stay connected”. Texting while driving and sending and receiving other types of electronic messages are especially dangerous, because they distract drivers visually, manually, and cognitively. The end result is that a driver is entirely focused on his/her phone and away from the road where it should be.
Drowsiness is one of the leading causes of auto accidents after dark. According to the CDC, drowsy or fatigued driving is responsible for approximately 83,000 crashes, 37,000 injuries, and just under 900 fatalities in an average year. But the CDC goes on to say that these are most likely very conservative estimates, because most people who are involved in car crashes do not admit that they were tired or sleepy at the time. It is believed that the real number of fatal crashes (caused by drowsy driving) is closer to 6,000 each year.
Who is Most Likely to Drive while Drowsy?
- Commercial Drivers: Individuals who drive for a living are far more likely than the general population to drive without having enough sleep. This is especially common among drivers of commercial vehicles, such as big rig trucks and buses. It can also happen to delivery drivers, cab drivers, and those who drive for a ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.
- Shift Workers: People who work long hours, extended shifts that include overtime, and shifts that run into the evening and overnight hours tend to have more difficulty staying awake while driving home when their shift is over.
- Drivers with Untreated Sleep Disorders: Individuals who have sleep disorders such as sleep apnea run a greater risk of “micro sleep” episodes (i.e., nodding off to sleep for a few minutes at a time). These episodes are relatively harmless if you are at home watching TV, but when they happen while driving, it is a much different story.
- Travelers: Individuals who drive long distances and particularly during overnight hours have a greater tendency to get sleepy while driving. This can also happen to those who fly a lot and frequently change time zones, such as business travelers.
- Intoxicated Drivers: Driving while under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or sleep-inducing medications can cause motorists to become drowsy, increasing the likelihood of falling asleep while driving.
Not all car accidents that stem from human error are caused by one of the drivers involved. There are other parties whose actions could be responsible for an auto accident, including:
- Vehicle Passengers: A passenger of a vehicle could contribute to an accident by distracting the driver, encouraging the driver to drive recklessly, or even through direct actions like grabbing the steering wheel.
- Mechanics: A mechanic or repair shop could be at fault if their negligence caused or contributed to the accident. Examples of negligence may include installing incorrect or defective vehicle parts, failing to identify a needed vehicle repair, or causing vehicle damage while making repairs.
- Vehicle Part Manufacturers: If a car accident happened because of a faulty vehicle or vehicle part, it may be possible to bring a claim against the product manufacturer or distributor. Common examples when this might occur include faulty brakes that failed to bring the vehicle to a stop to avoid a crash, and defective tires that blow out after being newly installed on a vehicle.
What Percentage of Car Accidents Are Caused by Human Error?
Each year, nearly 40,000 individuals are killed, and millions are injured in motor vehicle accidents throughout the country. We know that there are many reasons for car accidents, and according to a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, 94% of them are caused by driver error.
Who is At Fault for a Multi Car Accident?
One of the most common ways that a multi-car accident might happen is when one car rear ends the vehicle in front of them, setting off a domino effect in which several other vehicles get rear-ended. For a chain reaction accident like this to occur, the initial collision usually happens at a higher speed with the momentum of the crash triggering the subsequent crashes. Chain reaction rear end crashes often happen on the highway when there is a sudden slowdown and one of the drivers is not paying attention.
Another type of multi-vehicle accident that often occurs on the highway is one that is triggered by a semi-truck that jackknifes and blocks several lanes of traffic. For example, the truck may be traveling at 55 mph when one or two of its tires blow out and the driver loses control of the vehicle. This happens so quickly that other drivers rarely have the opportunity to slow down and avoid a collision.
During a chain reaction collision, the driver who caused the first crash is often looked to as the one responsible for the accident. This makes sense since that driver is seen to be in the best position to prevent the collision.
Upon further investigation, however, it might turn out that the vehicle the first driver collided with did not have functional brake lights and therefore the driver did not have proper warning of a slowdown. Or it might turn out that the driver of the vehicle that was crashed into was sending a text at the time of the collision and as a result, they were driving slower than the rest of the traffic.
Our attorneys have decades of experience handling complicated Pensacola accident lawsuits. We understand how insurance companies and opposing attorneys evaluate cases, and we use that knowledge to our clients’ benefit.
Handling Every Detail of Your Auto Accident Claim
It is essential to seek the counsel of one of our Pensacola car accident lawyers as soon as possible when you suffer injuries caused by an auto accident in Pensacola. We analyze your case, determine if you have a viable claim, help you file a lawsuit and guide you through the legal process of accident litigation in Pensacola. Throughout the process, we ensure you understand as much as possible about your claim.
We also keep abreast of changes in Florida accident laws. Of significance at the moment is a change beginning January 2013 to Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits in Florida. Car accident victims must seek medical care from a doctor or hospital within14 days of the accident, and they will no longer be able to seek acupuncture or chiropractic treatments without the permission of the treating physician.
Thinking of Talking to a Lawyer? Do Not Wait.
A delay in contacting a Pensacola car accident attorney at our firm can have devastating results for your claim. A victim must file a claim within a certain time period, known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations varies depending on a variety of factors, including:
- The circumstances surrounding the case
- Whether or not a minor was involved
- Whether or not a municipality is somehow at fault (for example, because broken street lights made it too dark to see)
Our firm handles all types of motor vehicle accidents, including those involving pedestrians, drunken drivers, trucks, buses and motorcycles, and those caused by dangerous Pensacola highways. A Pensacola distracted driving accident attorney at our firm can help if you were injured by someone using a cell phone or other electronic device while driving.
Following devastating fatal accidents, such as a reckless driving accident, a compassionate Pensacola wrongful death lawyer at our firm is here to help with the difficult financial and emotional circumstances families face.
Will My Pensacola Car Accident Case Settle?
It is difficult to predict how long Pensacola accident litigation will take to resolve. However, most Pensacola auto accident lawsuits settle before going to trial.
We prepare all of our motor vehicle accident cases as though they will go to trial. This increases the likelihood that opposing attorneys and insurance companies will agree to our settlement terms.
One key factor in proving your case is proper documentation of your injuries. It is important that you get a medical evaluation immediately following your accident, even if you think you did not suffer any injuries. Many injuries are not noticeable until days or even weeks following an accident.
Some serious injuries that often go undetected immediately following an automobile accident in Pensacola are:
- Herniated discs
- Fractured bones
- Spinal injuries
- Closed head injuries
Understanding Fault and Recovering Compensation after a Motor Vehicle Accident
Even if the other driver was 100% to blame for your crash, Florida’s no fault insurance laws prevent you from bringing a claim against that driver. In fact, under Florida’s no-fault laws, all drivers involved in a crash, regardless of fault, must file a claim with their own insurance company’s PIP (personal injury protection) coverage first.
There are some circumstances in which drivers are permitted to step outside of the no-fault system, though. Indeed, if a driver suffers injuries that are considered severe as defined by Florida’s serious injury threshold, a claim can be filed against the at-fault driver’s insurance, or a lawsuit can be filed directly against the at-fault driver.
If you do step outside of the no-fault system and want to pursue a tort against an at-fault driver, you will need to prove that the other driver was to blame for your crash. This will typically include proving that the driver committed a negligent, careless, reckless, or illegal act that was the direct cause of crash, such as speeding, texting while driving, driving while impaired, driving while fatigued, illegally changing lanes, tailgating, etc.
Let’s not forget that boating accidents, bus accidents, and distracted driving are also considered under this category, and our attorneys have many years of experience with precisely these types of incidents.
Dos and Don’ts of Car Accident Claims
- Do compile information and details about your accident. Immediately following the accident, you should put together a file with information and details about what happened. Take multiple photos of the accident scene showing as many angles as possible and take pictures of your injuries. Create a detailed report with your version of events while everything is fresh in your mind and obtain statements and contact information from any individuals who witnessed the accident.
- Don’t admit liability for the accident. You should never apologize or admit fault for an auto accident, even if you believe that you may have been partially to blame. There are a number of factors that contribute to a vehicle accident, and it is best to leave it to the experts to sort that out. Admitting fault when you really are not to blame could cost you in your injury claim as your damage award may be reduced.
- Do report the accident to your insurance company. One of the first things you should do after a car accident is to contact your insurer and report it. You are obligated under the terms and conditions of your policy to do this promptly so they are aware of it and so you can get the claims process started.
- Don’t give a recorded statement to the at fault party’s insurer. Soon after the accident, you may get a call from the other driver’s insurance company asking how you are doing and asking for a recorded statement to give your version events. They might present this as a formality that is needed to process the claim, but the reality is that you do not have to give them this statement, and it is not a good idea to go on the record – at least not until you have talked to an attorney and know all of the facts in your case.
- Do follow all of your doctor’s recommendations. As we talked about earlier, your number one priority after an auto accident injury is to get healthy. This means keeping all of your doctor’s appointments and following through on recommended treatments. You should also refrain from any physical activity that your doctor tells you you’re not ready to do yet.
- Don’t give the insurance company a blanket release of your medical records. The insurance company might want to see medical records regarding any injuries or conditions that are related to the car accident injury you just suffered. But be very careful what you sign. Sometimes, they will ask for a release that covers your entire medical history. There is no need for them to have your whole history, and this would only be used to look for information that could undermine your claim.
- Do contact an experienced auto accident attorney. If your injuries are moderate to severe and/or there are any other complications with your claim, it is always a good idea to at least talk with an attorney to review your case and find out what your legal rights and options are. Almost all car accident attorneys provide free consultations, so you have nothing to lose but a little bit of your time to find out where you stand and decide whether or not you should retain legal representation.
- Don’t accept a quick settlement offer. If you were hurt in an accident and it is pretty clear that the other driver was at fault, it is not unusual for their insurance company to contact you early on in the process with a settlement offer. Although it is tempting to take the money right away, the offer you receive is likely to be for far less than what your claim is worth. Unless your injuries are minor, it is generally much better to wait until you know the full extent of your injuries before you consider a settlement.
How Are Damages Calculated in Accident Cases in Florida?
Accident damages do not have a set amount because they vary from case to case, depending on the severity of the accident and the injuries involved. There are specific categories, however, for which claimants can file for damages. According to Florida State Law under Section 501.2 which addresses personal injury and property damages, “There is no exact standard for measuring such damage. The amount should be fair and just in the light of the evidence.” The following categories fall under accident damages in Florida:
- Pain, injury, disfigurement, disability, and loss of capacity for enjoyment of life, past or future for the injured party.
- Medical expenses for the claimant or for minors injured in an accident, past or future.
- Lost wages, lost time, and lost earning potential, past or future.
- Loss of companionship and services to a spouse of the injured, past or future.
- Parental damages for caring for an injured child, and the resulting loss of services, earnings, and earnings ability, past, present and future, until the child reaches legal age.
- Loss of a child’s love, companionship, affection, social activities, and solace due to a significant injury resulting in permanent disability, including future loss until the child reaches legal age.
- Loss to an unmarried dependent of their parent’s comfort, services, companionship, and society in the past or future due to a significant injury to the parent.
- Property damage to the vehicle and other personal property including repair, towing, storage, and loss of use.
Why Work with Whibbs Stone Barnett, P.A.
There are a number of different attorneys in Florida that you can work with. What sets our law firm apart?
One reason our law firm is one of the best choices for legal representation throughout the state is that we have decades’ worth of combined legal experience, which has allowed us to perfect our method and strategy for building clients’ claims. We also have trial experience.
In addition to our experience, we also stay abreast with all changes in the law so that we always know the best approach to your claim, and are always aware of which laws might affect your ability to recover compensation.
We also have multiple highly skilled lawyers working for our firm, as well as a large staff that is able to handle all aspects of your car accident case, from an initial investigation to a final settlement award. We have the connections and resources your case demands.
We know that a car accident can change your life. We want to be here for you to help you recover the compensation you need to improve your future. Please visit our law firm today, send us a message.