Ocala Car Accident Lawyer
Recent Florida driving studies have revealed that in just a single year, traffic accidents caused 195,104 injuries and 2,444 fatalities. Of those fatalities, 794 were alcohol-related, while distracted drivers caused 1,796 crashes. These statistics may be shocking, but they don’t tell the real story—the whole story. The fact is each of these numbers represents a person whose life, and the lives of his or her family members, has changed—sometimes dramatically, sometimes permanently—due to the car accident. Ocala car accident lawyer Marianne Howanitz has made it her mission to tell the whole story and obtain fair and just compensation for car accident injury victims.
Helping Injury Victims Recover Physically, Financially & Emotionally after Car Accidents
When you entrust your car accident claim to Marianne Howanitz, P.A., we start by conducting a thorough investigation of the accident to determine the cause of the crash and who is responsible. Our inquiry may uncover a distracted driver, a drunk driver, reckless driving, dangerous road conditions, or even defective auto equipment. Ms. Howanitz has the perceptiveness and skill to pursue compensation from all possible sources, including the at-fault party’s insurer and your own uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
If you or a family member has been involved in a serious car accident, you may have already been contacted by an insurance company suggesting a settlement that won’t come close to covering your needs. You may also be wondering if you can handle this on your own—plead your own case, so to speak—without getting a car accident lawyer involved. The answer is no, you shouldn’t go it alone, especially if you have been seriously hurt.
Insurance companies will do everything they can to keep your payout as low as possible, and keep in mind, they negotiate car accident claims every day. It is extremely important to have the support and representation of a skilled car accident attorney in your corner to fight for payment of past and future medical bills, lost wages and decreased earning potential, compensation for your pain and suffering, and damages to your vehicle—everything in your life that has been affected by the car accident.
Types of Car Accidents
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2015 a total of 35,092 people was killed in car accidents in the United States. In addition, an estimated 2.44 million people were injured in these same accidents. Car accidents, or passenger vehicle accidents, account for the largest number of fatalities and injuries on the road every year. At the office of Marianne Howanitz, P.A. we are skilled at handling car accident cases and are prepared to help you navigate your case.
Most people assume that all car accidents are alike, but the type of accident can play a significant role in the types and severity of the injuries, the likelihood of fatalities, and the overall amount of damages. These are the most common types of car accidents:
- Rear impact: when one vehicle hits another from behind
- Side impact: also known as an angle impact, when one vehicle impacts another from either side
- Back-up collision: when a car is in reverse and hits another vehicle
- Head-on collision: when a vehicle hits another vehicle directly in the front
- Rollover: when a car makes a partial or full rotation following an impact
- Run-off-road collisions: typically occurring in distracted driving situations, when a vehicle goes off the road because of the accident
In addition, an accident may involve a secondary impact that can compound the injuries and damages. For example, a vehicle may be struck by another car from behind in a rear impact collision. However, that impact could push the vehicle into oncoming traffic and cause a side impact or head-on collision with a third vehicle.
Car Accident Statistics
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in 2017 there was a total of 401,209 car accidents across the state. These accidents resulted in 253,869 injured people and 3,088 deaths. As of July 2018, the department has recorded 207,881 passenger vehicle accidents statewide, with 131,598 injuries and 1,535 fatalities.
The most common type of car accident according to the NHTSA is the rear impact collision, which nationwide accounts for 23-30% of passenger vehicle accidents annually. About 25% of car accidents involve a side impact collision, whereas only about two percent of all car accidents are caused by head-on collisions. With the advent of back-up cameras and other safety features on cars, the percentage of back-up car accidents has decreased significantly over the last few years.
Drunk or drug impaired driving also plays a significant role in car accidents in Florida. In 2016, there was a total of 5,840 confirmed accidents statewide involving drinking or drug use behind the wheel. Of these, 3,481 people were injured, and 708 accidents involved a fatality.
What to Do After an Accident
A car accident can be a jarring, confusing, and painful experience. It’s difficult to know what to do if you are involved in an accident, but at Marianne Howanitz, P.A. we are here to help. These are the most important steps to take if you or a loved one has been involved in a motor vehicle accident.
Report the Accident to Police
Under Florida law, you are required to immediately notify the police after a car accident if anyone is injured, killed, or you estimate vehicle damage to be $500 or more. The police will come to the accident and make a written report. If a crash report is not filed immediately at the scene of the accident, you have ten days to report the accident to the police.
If you are able, gather as much information as possible at the scene of the accident. Get the name, phone number, address, and insurance information of anyone else involved in the accident. In addition, ask for the contact information of all passengers and witnesses to the car accident. Take pictures of the vehicles, the damage, and the scene. All this information can be helpful later for your claims.
Seek Medical Treatment
Even if you believe your injuries are minor, it is imperative that you seek medical treatment immediately following an accident. Some injuries don’t manifest immediately after an accident, so you could be hurt without even realizing it. Seeking medical treatment immediately after an accident also protects your injury claims. If you wait to seek medical treatment, the insurance companies will argue that you were never really injured or that your injuries are not as serious as you claim.
Finally, under Florida law all registered vehicles are required to have personal injury protection insurance, which covers immediate medical costs for people injured in an auto accident. However, personal injury protection only covers the first fourteen days after an accident. If you wait longer to seek medical treatment you will forfeit your personal injury protection coverage.
After an accident it is important that you maintain records pertaining to your injuries and damages. Keep all medical records and bills, quotes to fix your damaged vehicle, and any other costs. You should also keep a daily journal that details your recovery, or lack thereof, from your injuries caused by the accident. This is helpful in determining the amount of pain and suffering caused by the accident and can significantly affect the final settlement for your case.
File a Claim with the Insurance Company
Following an accident, you should also file a claim with your insurance company. This will activate your personal injury protection, which will cover your immediate medical bills after the accident as well as begin the process to settle your claims. The insurance company may offer you a settlement soon after the accident occurs, but you should discuss any settlement offers with a personal injury attorney before accepting. By accepting a settlement offer, it could preclude you from seeking additional damages that are a result of the accident.
Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
The best thing you can do following a car accident is to hire an experienced accident attorney to represent your interests. An attorney will negotiate on your behalf with the insurance companies and zealously defend your claims. If the insurance companies are being unreasonable, an attorney can take your case to trial to get you compensation for your injuries.
How to Determine Liability in a Car Accident
The single biggest factor in determining compensation after a car accident is how much you are determined to be at fault, or liable, for the accident. In Florida, the determination of liability is particularly significant because the degree of fault directly affects the amount of damages you receive. At Marianne Howanitz, P.A. we understand how important the determination of liability is to your case and the best defenses to fight for all the money you are owed after an accident.
Using Evidence to Determine Liability
After a car accident, investigators will look at a wide range of evidence to determine liability in an accident. This includes photos of the accident, witness statements, police reports, and medical records. If a driver admits fault at the scene or to the insurance company this will be taken into consideration, as well.
Insurance companies often make presumptions when determining liability based on the type of auto accident and other evidence. For example, in a rear end accident the rear vehicle is almost always found liable for the accident even if the front vehicle stopped improperly. In a similar vein, for accidents that involve a vehicle making a left turn the vehicle making the turn is almost always found liable unless evidence proves the vehicle moving straight across the intersection was breaking the law.
Pure Comparative Negligence
Florida law uses a pure comparative negligencedoctrine to determine the degree of liability in an auto accident. An insurance company or the court will decide the level of fault for each party involved in the accident, and damages are limited by the percentage of fault. For example, if you are involved in a car accident with $100,000 in damages and are found ten percent at fault, the total damages would be limited to $90,000.
Determining Liability in Multi-Car Accidents
In multi-car accidents, or accidents where more than two vehicles are involved, determining liability becomes an even more complex process. Typically, these types of accidents happen in high traffic, high speed areas such as interstates and can involve anywhere from three to dozens of vehicles. A multi-car accident typically involves intense research and investigation to determine the exact actions of every vehicle involved in the accident, whether any defense to liability exists for any driver, and then apportion fault to each party involved in the accident.
Pure comparative negligence also applies in multi-car accidents, and Florida law no longer recognizes joint and several liability. This means that even in a multiple car accident, a person is only responsible for their degree of liability. A victim of a car accident can no longer demand the entire amount of damages be paid by the driver with the best insurance policy, which is the basis of joint and several liability.
When to Hire A Car Accident Lawyer
One of the most common questions following a car accident asks when to hire an attorney. Even if the accident is minor, it is important to remember that the insurance company has an entire team of investigators and attorneys working to get it the best possible deal. Hiring an attorney is your best chance at receiving full and fair compensation for your injuries after an accident, and at Marianne Howanitz, P.A. we zealously advocate on behalf of our clients to the insurance companies and in court.
Florida is a “No Fault” State
Florida is considered a “no fault” state for auto accidents because of the requirement for all cars to hold personal injury protection. This protection covers the first $10,000 of medical bills and lost wages following an accident, regardless of fault. If you are involved in an accident where there are no serious injuries and the personal injury protection will cover any minor costs following an accident, you may be able to handle the process without an attorney. However, if the following issues arise during an accident, hiring an attorney is the most important step in defending your claims to compensation.
Accidents Involving Injury or Death
If an auto accident involves any injury or death, it is extremely important that you hire an attorney to handle your case. The damages in these types of accidents can be significant both for you and others involved in the accident. An attorney can establish and prove the extent of harm you suffered because of the accident in order to receive full compensation for your claims. An experienced attorney may even recognize additional damages you aren’t aware of and can fully represent your interests with the insurance company.
Accidents Involving Questions of Liability
It is vitally important that you hire an attorney following an auto accident if there is any question of liability, or fault, regarding the accident. While Florida is considered a “no fault” state for the personal injury protection coverage, any additional damages are awarded on a pure comparative negligence basis. This means that for every percent you are found liable for the accident, that amount is deducted from your overall damages. For example, if you are found 25% at fault, you can only collect 75% of your damages. Attorneys with experience handling car accident cases know the best defenses to liability and will be able to defend your interests in court.
Additional Benefits to Hiring an Attorney
Hiring an attorney can also provide additional benefits when it comes to handling a car accident case. Lawyers have the legal skill to navigate the complex court system. They know the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit, the proper motions to file, and how to put on a proper trial. An attorney can also help in negotiation with the insurance companies because they know how much your injuries typically settle for and can ensure that you are getting the most for your claims. Finally, a lawyer can prepare your case for the insurance companies or the court while you focus on recovering from your injuries.
Car Accident Lawsuit Process
The period following a car accident can be full of pain, confusion, and stress. What damages can be claimed following an accident, and how does the process work? Here at the office of Marianne Howanitz, P.A. we understand what our clients are going through and are ready to help.
Types of Car Accident Claims
There are several types of claims in a car accident case, and these claims arise when the damages from the accident exceed the amount of personal injury protection insurance. The most common claims include the following:
- Medical expenses
- Auto repair expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium or companionship
- Funeral costs and other death expenses
An experienced attorney is aware of all the claims that may arise out of an accident and can help walk you through the process to ensure that everything is included in your lawsuit for damages.
Under Florida law, you must immediately call the police if you’re involved in an accident that results in injury, death, or property damage you believe is $500 or more. The police will file a report that can be used later in the lawsuit process. You should also seek medical attention immediately following an accident, even if you believe the injuries are minor. Then, you should seek out an experienced personal injury attorney to help you negotiate with the insurance companies and build the best case for your accident claims.
The statute of limitations for filing a car accident lawsuit in Florida is four years from the date of the accident. You can file a lawsuit against the other party or parties involved in the accident if your total damages are more than the limits of your personal injury protection insurance. The lawsuit process following the filing of the case varies depending on the complexity and severity of the accident.
Attorneys from both sides will attempt to negotiate a settlement based on the facts of the case and the degree of fault for each side. If a settlement can be reached and the insurance companies approve, the case ends here. However, if a settlement cannot be reached, your claim will go to trial. This involves a discovery period, where attorneys will take depositions, review medical history, and gather other evidence of the accident, injuries, and costs. At trial, a jury will decide the degree of fault for each party involved in the accident and total amount of compensation that should be awarded for the claims. Florida is considered a pure comparative negligence state, which means that your compensation will be limited by your percentage of fault for the accident.
How Much Money Can I Expect from a Car Accident?
Being involved in a car accident almost always results in some form of damages, such as property damage to a vehicle, injuries, and even lost wages. If you are involved in a car accident and are filing a car accident claim for compensation, you may have questions about how much money you can recoup. At the law offices of Marianne Howanitz, PA, Attorney at Law, our car accident lawyer can help you to understand the value of your claim and how to maximize your settlement amount.
Sources of Compensation after a Car Accident
Car insurance is required in the state of Florida. Because Florida is a no-fault car insurance state, the first available source of compensation for your damages is your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. If you are involved in an accident that results in serious injuries, you may file a claim against the other driver’s bodily injury liability insurance. If the other driver does not have insurance, you make seek damages through your own coverage if you carry certain coverage types, such as uninsured motorist protection.
How a Car Accident Settlement Is Calculated
The value of a car accident settlement is calculated based on the extent of damages suffered. Things that the car accident adjuster may consider include:
- The value of your vehicle before and after the accident;
- Costs of repairs to your vehicle;
- Medical costs for treatment of your injuries;
- Future medical costs, such as the costs of future therapy or surgeries;
- Lost earnings and future loss of income; and
- Pain and suffering damages.
While the insurance adjuster may appear to be working for you, don’t be fooled; the primary job of an insurance adjuster is to save the insurance company money. This often means that you will be offered less than you deserve, or/and that certain damages, such as the value of your pain and suffering, will even be overlooked completely.
Each Car Accident Claim Is Unique
It is impossible to know what the value of your car accident claim is worth without a thorough investigation and collaboration with experts. This is especially true if it is assumed that you will suffer future damages (i.e. medical expenses and lost earnings) and noneconomic damages like pain and suffering. Each car accident claim is unique, and the amount of money a claimant can expect varies on a case-by-case basis.
Ocala Car Accident Lawyer Marianne Howanitz, P.A. Can Help
With years of experience defending the victims of car accidents, Marianne Howanitz is the experienced Ocala car accident lawyer you need to get you the compensation you deserve. To contact our office call 352-512-0444 or toll free at 855-512-0444 to schedule a free consultation of your case today.