Car Accident Lawyer in Gainesville, FL
Gainesville is an active place, as frequently witnessed by the amount of traffic congestion throughout areas of the state. Between tourism and exports that help the regional economy thrive to the population growth experienced as more individuals realize their dream of retiring in Gainesville or moving here for work, there are plenty of opportunities for a car accident here. According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), more than a thousand crashes occur on Florida’s roadways each day, resulting in the deaths of more than 3,000 people each year and injuries to more than 225,000.
If you were injured in a car accident, a Gainesville car accident lawyer from Steven A. Bagen & Associates, PA, can pursue the maximum compensation available for your claim. We have been fighting for Gainesville’s injured for more than 35 years and have garnered hundreds of millions of dollars worth of settlements and awards for our clients.
Some of the car accident cases in which we’ve successfully recovered compensation for clients include:
- $2,500,00 award for a client who was severely injured by a semi-truck driver with a blood-alcohol level of four times the legal limit.
- $1,125,000 wrongful death award for the family members of an elderly individual who was on their way to church when a distracted driver killed them in a high-speed rear-end collision.
- $1,000,000 award for a client who was seriously injured on a rural highway when a semi-truck pulled out in front of them.
How Can a Gainesville Lawyer Help After a Car Accident?
If you suffered injuries in a car accident, you may assume that the liable driver’s insurance company will handle your claim effectively. Car insurance protects the victims of serious accidents, providing them with financial compensation for their injuries. However, in many cases, car insurance companies will not provide the compensation that victims need to cover the full cost of their injuries. Instead, you may have to fight to get compensation after your accident. An experienced car accident lawyer can help with:
1. Our Gainesville Car Accident Lawyers Can Help Evaluate All The Conditions That Led To Your Car Accident.
Often, car accident victims do not realize that more than one party can contribute to car accident injuries. An experienced car accident attorney can go over all the conditions that led to your accident and determine whether more than one party may share liability for the accident, which may allow you to pursue compensation from each party that shares liability. Often, that can increase the compensation you may recover for your car accident injuries.
2. A Car Crash Lawyer Can Give You Advice About The Value Of Your Case.
No attorney can guarantee the compensation you will recover for your car accident injuries, but an attorney can give you a better idea of what to expect from the insurance company.
Your attorney will look at the insurance policy that covers the liable driver or another liable party, the extent of your injuries, the bills you have faced, and the losses that went along with your accident to calculate the compensation you should expect for your injuries.
Your lawyer will also make sure that you understand the compensation you need to cover the full cost of your injuries, so you can determine when to accept a settlement and when to fight for additional compensation.
3. An Auto Accident Attorney Can Fight On Your Behalf.
Dealing with the liable driver’s insurance company after your accident can feel like an ongoing headache. When you retain an attorney, they can take over negotiations with the insurance company for you or provide you with more information about your next steps following a serious accident. When looking for an attorney, make sure to retain one with experience handling cases similar to yours.
Seeking Compensation for Your Injuries
Individuals in Gainesville who were injured in a car accident are usually required to initially seek compensation from their own personal injury protection (PIP) policy. Registered drivers in the state are required to purchase a policy providing at least $10,000 in PIP coverage to be used to pay for all reasonable medical treatment and a portion of wage loss incurred after an injury. Once this policy limits out or if the individual’s injuries meet the state’s serious injury threshold, plaintiffs can file a lawsuit in civil court to seek compensation from the at-fault party’s liability insurance policy.
The serious injury threshold in Florida includes injuries that result in:
- Significant and permanent loss of bodily functions.
- Permanent injuries, within a reasonable degree of medical probability.
- Injuries that result in significant scarring and disfigurement.
Car Accidents Can Affect Every Facet of Your Life
Car accidents impact every facet of your life, including:
- Finances: The individual is incurring medical expenses while also missing work because of the injury and facing other costs, such as the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle they were using when the accident occurred.
- At work: Car accident injuries often result in permanent disabilities that can impact the sufferer’s ability to earn in the same capacity as they did before the accident.
- At home: Family relationships are often changed as a result of a serious injury, as parents, spouses, and children of the injured may need to take on more caregiving roles while often suffering a loss of the ability to participate in hobbies or activities they shared with their loved one.
- In society: Individuals who suffer serious injuries often endure not only a loss of productivity in the workplace but also a loss of position in society.
These impacts are often shown to the court in personal injury cases as evidence of the economic and non-economic harm that the sufferer faced because of their injuries.
Proving Who Is Legally Responsible for Causing Your Injury
To obtain compensation for your injuries, you must be able to show that someone else was liable for the car accident that caused the injuries.
Your lawyer can prove liability in a car accident case by showing:
- The at-fault party had a duty to drive safely and legally to prevent physical harm and property damage to others.
- There was a breach of this duty when the driver chose to engage in unsafe or illegal behaviors, such as speeding, distracted driving, or alcohol impairment.
- The breach resulted in the accident that caused your injuries and made you incur expenses and impacts.
The Types of Gainesville Car Accidents
Not all car accidents are created equal. Many accidents are more severe due to the speed of the vehicles when they collide. However, others are more severe simply due to the type of accident that occurred. Among the most common accidents to result in fatal injuries is a head-on collision, which occurs when the front of one car collides with the front of another. These accidents pose such a high risk of fatalities because of the increased direct force of both vehicles when they collide.
Other types of car accidents include:
- Broadside (T-bone) collisions occur when the front of one vehicle collides with the side of another. While head-on collisions are relatively rare but often deadly, T-bone accidents also produce a high risk of fatal injuries to vehicle occupants but are one of the most common types of accidents to occur in an intersection. Broadside collisions are generally the result of a failure to yield the right-of-way, such as failing to stop at a stop sign or a red light. The doors of most vehicles provide very little protection or cushion from the impact of the other vehicle’s front bumper. The occupants on the side of the vehicle tend to sustain particularly severe injuries when a semi broadsides a passenger car.
- Rear-end collisions are the most common type of accident to occur at an intersection. This accident happens when the front of one vehicle collides with the rear of another. Rear-end accidents are generally the fault of the following driver, often for following too closely or distracted driving. However, the driver of the lead car can be at fault if the lead car was traveling in reverse when the accident occurred, the lead car’s brake lights were not working, or the lead car’s driver intentionally slammed on the brakes to brake check another driver.
- Sideswipe accidents occur when the side of one vehicle collides with the side of another. This type of accident is often the result of an at-fault driver failing to ensure a lane was clear before pulling into it.
- Single-vehicle accidents. While only one vehicle is in a single-vehicle accident, victims outside the vehicle, such as pedestrians or bicyclists, may suffer injuries.
- Rollovers can occur with nearly any accident type if an obstacle on the roadway trips the tires of one vehicle or the driver turns the wheel sharply to avoid an accident. Rollovers are another type of accident that has a high likelihood of catastrophic injuries or death.
Common highways and interstates where car accidents occur:
What Are the Most Common Causes of Gainesville Car Accidents?
The vast majority of motor vehicle accidents are the result of human error.
Some of the common errors that lead to car accidents in Gainesville include:
- Alcohol or drug-impaired driving: Using alcohol or drugs before operating a motor vehicle is dangerous as these substances can result in deficits in the skills needed for safe driving, such as the ability to brake effectively, maintain lane position, or exercise good judgment. More than 650 drivers die in motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol or drug impairment in the state each year, along with more than 100 of their passengers, more than 200 pedestrians, and more than 40 bicyclists.
- Speeding: Speeding is a contributing factor in more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities, reducing the time the speeding driver has to perceive an accident and respond by braking and increasing the distance the vehicle will travel before the brakes stop it. Speeding also increases the severity of the accident while decreasing the effectiveness of vehicle safety equipment such as seat belts and airbags.
- Distracted driving: There are three forms of driver distractions, including visual distractions that cause the driver to take their eyes from watching the roadway; cognitive distractions, which cause the driver’s thoughts to wander away from the task of safe driving; and manual distractions, which cause the driver to take their hands from the wheel. Texting is of particular concern to traffic authorities, as it presents all three types of distraction. Other forms of driving distractions include eating or drinking, visiting with passengers, adjusting vehicle or stereo controls, and other cell phone use, such as checking email or making a phone call.
- Fatigued driving: While any driver can become fatigued while driving, the issue is most pronounced among specific workers, including those who drive during night shifts or swing shifts and long-haul truck drivers who drive during late-night hours. The body’s circadian rhythm—the instinct to sleep at night—is the culprit of many fatigued driving accidents, as is the use of medication that induces drowsiness.
- Aggressive driving/road rage: While the terms are somewhat interchangeable, aggressive driving refers to a series of traffic infractions that individuals commit, often when trying to evade traffic congestion. These behaviors include speeding, tailgating, red-light running, and improper lane changes. Road rage, on the other hand, occurs when a driver intentionally causes injury or harasses another driver to punish them for perceived bad driving. Road rage can include behaviors such as honking and gesturing, getting out of the vehicle to confront another driver, or even attempting to bump or ram another vehicle from the roadway.
- Failure to yield: Failure to yield is an extremely common cause of accidents in intersections, where numerous traffic lanes converge, and all drivers must yield the right-of-way.
- Wrong-way driving: Wrong-way driving can happen because of alcohol impairment as well as tourists, truck drivers, and new residents in the area for the first time who don’t know the roads. Wrong-way driving is a major cause of deadly head-on collisions.
Car accidents in Gainesville usually involve many different factors, which can make it difficult to determine who contributed to the accident. A police report from the accident scene can determine which driver, or which driver’s vehicle, contributed to the accident. The drivers involved in the accident may also share liability with other parties who contributed to the accident.
Working with an experienced Gainesville auto accident attorney can offer a much more comprehensive look at all the factors that contributed to your accident, which may help you determine who you need to sue for compensation.
Gainesville Car Accident FAQs
Did a driver on the clock cause your accident?
In some cases, you may have a car accident in Gainesville with a driver on the clock: a truck driver, a delivery driver, or even a driver out on an errand for his employer. The employer may share liability for the accident, including when a trucking company forces a truck driver to exceed the federally limited number of hours they can spend on the road each shift or in cases in which a delivery driver must go out despite potentially dangerous conditions. An attorney can help evaluate the employer’s policies and how they may have contributed to the accident, which may give you a better idea of whether the employer shares liability.
Did a mechanical failure contribute to your accident?
Mechanical failures, from tire blowouts to locked steering, can spell serious trouble on Gainesville roads, particularly along I-75. If a mechanical failure causes your accident, liability may rest with the owner of the vehicle who failed to properly maintain it, a vehicle manufacturer who put out a vehicle with a serious issue, or a mechanic who recently worked on the vehicle but failed to repair it properly.
Did you have an accident with a drunk driver in Gainesville?
Florida’s dram shop laws do not hold bars, restaurants, or liquor stores liable for providing alcohol to a guest over the age of 21. However, Florida’s dram shop laws hold entities that provide alcohol to a habitual offender or a known alcohol addict liable if that individual causes an accident. Consult an attorney to learn more about your rights following a drunk driving accident.
Common Car Accident Injuries
Car accidents frequently result in severe injuries that can cause immense problems for many people. Some victims suffer permanent changes to their lives, from the activities they can enjoy to their ability to care for themselves, because of car accident injuries. Even more minor car accident injuries, however, can pose immense limitations for the victim.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Head injuries can lead to serious cognitive problems for many accident victims. A serious head injury can result in long-lasting memory problems, including gaps in both short-term and long-term memory. Furthermore, traumatic brain injury patients may lose emotional control and regulation, loss of focus and concentration, or changes in sleep habits and overall behaviors.
While some victims with minor traumatic brain injury may eventually recover, symptoms may linger for more than a year after the initial accident. Victims with more severe traumatic brain injury may suffer some limitations for the rest of their lives.
Back and Neck Injuries
Back and neck injuries can impact every area of the victim’s life. Many car accident victims find that ongoing back and neck pain prevents them from enjoying their usual leisure activities. Injured individuals may have trouble sitting down, standing, or walking around. Back and neck injuries can make it difficult to leave the house or work normally.
Injuries may include:
- Spinal cord injuries, which can result in paralysis
- Herniated discs
- Sprained or pulled muscles
Physical therapy may restore some mobility and strength for the victims of relatively minor back injuries. Other times, however, the victims may suffer from ongoing pain for some time after their accident or even for the rest of their lives.
Amputation following a car accident may result from the immediate trauma of the accident or occur later because of severe crushing damage to the limb. Some amputees choose to use prosthetic devices to help restore some normal function after the accident. Those prosthetics may aid in independence and mobility, but they also represent an ongoing expense since they will require regular replacement. The cost and frequency of replacement may depend on the complexity of the device and the victim’s overall activity level.
Car accident victims frequently suffer from multiple broken bones following a serious accident. Frequently, those broken bones interfere with the victim’s mobility for some time following the initial accident. Victims with broken bones may have a hard time performing their usual work tasks, whether a broken leg makes it impossible for the victim to move around a warehouse or broken arms make it hard for the victim to take care of computerized tasks. Broken bones may also require the victim to turn to others for care and assistance with basic tasks at home. That lack of independence can prove very difficult for many car accident victims to manage.
Some car accidents can result in heat burns, often because the vehicle catches on fire, or friction burns, as an accident drags the victim across the pavement. Severe burns not only cause immense pain, but also they may leave substantial scarring behind. Burn victims often have a very long road to recovery, including skin grafts, surgeries, and even a stay in a burn unit that may help prevent infection.
Victims sitting in the front seat of a car during a serious accident may have a higher risk of suffering serious facial injuries, either due to striking the dashboard or steering wheel or due to broken glass in the car. Facial injuries frequently cause severe emotional trauma, since they may cause a permanent change in the victim’s appearance or lead to considerable scarring.
Which Insurer Handles Your Car Accident Claim?
Auto insurance companies handle most car accident injury claims.
After suffering injuries in a motor vehicle collision, you generally have the option to file:
- A first-party claim with your own insurance company
- A third-party claim under the other driver’s insurance policy
The person who pays for the insurance coverage is the first party, and the second party is the insurance company. The third party is the person who sustains injuries or property damage because of the first party’s actions.
When deciding which type of claim to file, you will need to examine the facts of your accident and Florida’s insurance laws. A Gainesville car accident attorney can provide valuable insight and guidance on what to do, depending on the circumstances of your accident.
No-Fault vs. At-Fault States
State laws will determine which type of claim you can file. There are 12 no-fault states, including Florida, that have enacted no-fault laws to help minimize the number of potentially frivolous lawsuits.
In no-fault states, motorists must have their own insurance to cover their injuries instead of filing the claim with the other party’s insurance company. Drivers must carry a minimum amount of personal injury protection (PIP) and Property Damage Liability (PDL) coverage. For example, Florida’s no-fault system requires drivers to carry a PIP minimum of $10,000 and a PDL minimum of $10,000.
Sometimes called no-fault insurance, PIP coverage pays the medical expenses for you and your passengers in an auto accident up to the policy limits. If you reside in a no-fault state, you will need to file a first-party claim with your own insurance for your injuries.
Suppose your medical expenses or property damages exceed the limit of your own PIP or PDL cover. In that case, you can file a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. That driver’s insurance will cover your expenses up to the policy limits after you exhaust your own PIP and PDL limits.
How Insurance Companies Calculate the Value of a Claim
Insurance policies are supposed to compensate drivers and passengers fairly when an accident occurs, but unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.
After an auto accident, you rely on an insurance company to make you whole again. In other words, insurance companies have an obligation to put an insured individual in the same financial situation after the accident that they were in before the accident.
Of course, auto insurers can’t rewind the clock to make it as if your accident or injuries never happened. However, with financial compensation, they can and should put you in as close to a position as you were before the accident. The insurance company should pay for your financial losses, such as property damage and medical bills, as well as non-economic losses, like pain and suffering.
For claims involving property damage and bodily injuries, the insurance claims adjuster will provide a settlement offer for each. Your Gainesville car crash attorney will discuss any settlement offers you receive with you. Then, you get to decide whether to accept the offer or not.
The claims adjuster will determine the cost of repairs to your vehicle. You have the right to ensure that their estimate covers the costs of any necessary repairs. Insurance companies typically require claimants to get at least one repair estimate.
Don’t be surprised if your adjuster chooses the lowest estimate for the repairs. You want to protect your interests by getting your vehicle repaired. At the same time, they want to protect the insurance company’s interests by only paying what they must to get your car repaired.
For example, if the repair shop replaces your car’s parts with brand-new parts, the insurance company might argue that your car’s new parts enhance its value. They can use this point, commonly referred to as “betterment,” to reasonably reduce the value of your claim.
In addition to your vehicle’s value and any repairs that it needs, property damage also extends to other property you own that the accident might have damaged, such as:
- GPS devices
- Car seats
The insurance adjuster will also offer a settlement for the losses you suffered due to your physical injuries. Unfortunately, they are often more likely to push back on any attempts to negotiate a reasonable settlement offer for your injuries than your property damage. This is because property damage is objective, whereas some bodily injury losses are more subjective and open to various value interpretations.
Your losses can include both special and general damages. Special damages have a predetermined value, such as medical expenses or lost wages. General damages don’t have a predetermined value and can include things like pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
Your Gainesville auto accident lawyer will highlight significant factors and strengths in your case during settlement negotiations, such as:
- Pain your injuries caused
- Difficulty of your recovery
- Potential long-term effects of your injury
- Apparent negligence of the at-fault party
- Anxiety you’ve experienced from being out of work
- Type and actual value of your out-of-pocket costs
Personal Injury Calculators
About half of all insurance carriers use computerized personal injury calculators to determine settlement offers. Calculators like the widely used Colossus program help insurers save money on special damages. Still, they don’t do car accident victims any favors. You can’t opt out of this program, and it doesn’t allow any direct specific victim input.
The program relies on data from the claimant’s medical records and assigns severity points to their injuries.
The points and hundreds of other factors control how much insurance companies offer claimants for their special damages, including:
- If the claimant obtained a personal injury attorney
- How willing the attorney is to go to trial
- The average settlement amounts for similar claims in or near the same location
- If the claimant needed hospitalization
- The type and length of the medical treatment
- If the claimant required medications or physical therapy
How Do Insurance Companies Calculate General Damages?
Generally, insurance companies calculate special damages first. Then they will select a number called a multiplier and multiply your economic damages by it to determine your non-economic damages.
Insurance adjusters typically use lower multipliers with more minor injuries and higher ones with more severe injuries. For instance, someone who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or spinal cord injury (SCI) in a car accident will likely receive a larger multiplier, but insurers will always use the smallest multiplier they can get away with. You need our car accident attorneys in Gainesville to ensure they use the largest multiplier that you deserve.
Insurance Company Obligations
Under the law, insurance companies must:
- Provide timely and ongoing communication with the claimant
- Defend their insured if someone pursues an accident liability action against them
- Acknowledge, investigate, and approve or deny a claim within a realistic amount of time (usually a specific amount of time under state laws)
- Provide prompt, fair, and reasonable settlements of claims
- Give thorough explanations for claim denials
Suppose an insurance company doesn’t fulfill these obligations and follow Florida’s insurance statutes. In that case, you can file a bad-faith legal claim against them. You can also submit a complaint to Florida’s insurance commissioner.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a legal deadline for taking action. In Florida, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, including those arising from motor vehicle accidents, is four years from the date of the accident. Therefore, if a lawsuit becomes necessary, the injured party must file one within the four-year deadline.
It’s also crucial to keep in mind that sometimes the statute of limitations can change based on the circumstances. For example, if the claim is against a government entity, the statute of limitations can be shorter. Or, if the injured party is a minor child at the time of the accident, the four-year statute may be paused until they are older. This is one reason why hiring a seasoned Gainesville car crash lawyer is imperative after being involved in a Florida car accident. If you don’t file your claim on time, you likely cannot obtain compensation for your injuries.
What Are Contingency Fees?
Nearly all personal injury lawyers work on contingency fees alone. Instead of requiring a retainer or upfront fees, you pay them nothing unless or until they settle your claim or obtain a court award on your behalf. If they cannot get compensation for your injuries, you don’t owe them anything for their services. If they do obtain compensation, their fees are paid from those funds once they are received.
What Are Good Faith and Fair Dealing?
All contracts, including auto insurance policies, contain an implied duty of good faith and fair dealing. When complying with this duty, neither party will do anything that will compromise or destroy the right of the other party to obtain their benefits under the contract.
“Good faith” typically means honest conduct by the parties in an agreement. Contracts, such as insurance policies, come with an obligation for all parties to act in good faith. For example, if you file a fraudulent claim or exaggerate your damages, you aren’t acting in good faith.
Fair dealing means more than just honesty; it means supporting the purpose of the contract. But on the other hand, if an insurer continually delays the approval of your claim, they are not dealing fairly.
Generally, acting in good faith and fair dealing requires the parties to a contract to avoid:
- Performing incorrectly on purpose
- Evading the essence of the contract
- Slacking off or lack of diligence
- Abusing their power when specifying the terms of a contract
- Interfering with or failing to cooperate in the other party’s performance
How Steven A. Bagen & Associates, PA Can Help With Your Gainesville Car Accident Claim
A Gainesville personal injury lawyer can be one of your most powerful tools for pursuing the maximum amount of compensation available to you. Let one of our attorneys explain the legal personal injury claims process to you and provide more information about the services that Steven A. Bagen & Associates, PA, can provide to assist you. For your free case evaluation, contact us online or by calling (800) 800-2575.
6241 NW 23rd Street, Suite 300
Gainesville, FL 32653
Phone: (352) 570-5765
Downtown Gainesville Office
111 SE 1st Ave, Suite 150
Gainesville, FL 32601
Phone: (352) 268-1883