What are Florida's Car Accident Laws?

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Introduction

This article has been written for you by a Gainesville car accident lawyer. You should read this article if you’ve been involved in a car accident in Florida or if you wondering what Florida's car accident laws are, and particularly how they may affect a personal injury claim after an accident. Everyone who drives or rides in Florida is better off knowing these laws. It will help you to be safer and to respond more quickly to emergencies.

This article covers the main topics related to Florida car accident laws. It talks about the rules of the road, what to do after an accident, Florida auto insurance requirements, pedestrian rules, reporting an accident to the police, filing an insurance claim for your injuries, working with a lawyer, and what to expect in a settlement.

The Florida Uniform Traffic Control Statute governs traffic laws in the state. The law works with Florida tort, or negligence law, which is the law that is found in Florida court rulings.

Am I required to wear a seat belt in Florida?

Yes. All passengers and drivers in the front seats are required to wear a seat belt by the Florida seat belt law. In addition, Florida's car accident lawys state that all passengers under 18 in the back seat must wear a seat belt. There are additional requirements for small children. Children 3 years old and younger must be in a federally approved child-restraint seat. Children 4 or 5 years old must be in a federally approved child seat or be wearing a safety belt. Seat belts reduce your risk of death in a car accident significantly. You should always buckle up.

In Florida, who has the right of way?

You might be wondering, who has the right of way in Florida?

Technically speaking, in Florida no one has the right of way. Rather, the Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law regulates who must yield the right of way in a variety of traffic situations. The reason for this is that every driver has a duty to try to avoid a crash at any given time. So under Florida's car accident laws, you never have the complete right of way. You’re always responsible for being aware of your surroundings and trying to avoid collisions. Even if the law states that the other driver should yield you the right of way in a specific situation, a jury can examine your behavior to make sure you were not being negligent in the situation. 

Florida statutes 3.16.003 defines right of way as “the right of one vehicle or pedestrian to proceed in a lawful manner in preference to another vehicle or pedestrian approaching under such circumstances of direction, speed, and proximity as to give rise to danger of collision unless one grants precedence to the other.” ()  This definition is a complicated legal way of describing how traffic rules work. Florida traffic rules explain which autos or pedestrians get to proceed first in a variety of situations. For instance, at a four-way stop intersection, we all learned that the car who stopped first at the intersection has the right of way to go first. Technically, under Florida law, the other cars would be required to yield the right of way to the car that was at the intersection first. A great way to review all the specific traffic situations is to read the Florida Driver’s License Handbook.

What should I do immediately after a car accident in Florida?

You probably are wondering what to do after a Florida car accident, especially when it’s not your fault. 

It’s best to leave your vehicle where it is and call 911. If your vehicle is in a dangerous position or in the middle of the road you should move it out of danger. Florida law requires you to move your car out of the roadway after an accident. People are often struck by other vehicles if their car is stopped on a busy road. You should turn on your caution lights. You should call 911 and wait for the police and medical personnel to arrive. Contacting the police after a crash is mandatory in most circumstances. The police will investigate the scene and take down the necessary license and insurance information from all the parties and witnesses involved.

If you have any pain or think you might be injured, you should go to the hospital emergency room. Sometimes people don’t feel any pain immediately after the wreck. Their adrenaline is flowing, and their body may be in shock. The pain often sets in hours or days later. It’s important to be treated as soon as possible, both for your personal injury claim and for your health and recovery.

You’re required to remain at the scene until the police arrive. You’re also required to provide your name, address, registration number, driver’s license information and name of your auto insurance carrier to the other drivers or injured parties. You are not required to make any statements that would incriminate you, such as admitting fault. After the police arrive, they will take down your information and provide you with a number so you can access their police report. If you are not too badly injured, it is helpful to take a few pictures of the vehicles and accident scene with your phone or camera.

How long do I have to report a car accident in Florida?

Florida's car accident laws say you must immediately report any crash that results in injury to a person. You must report it to the local police department. Even if there are no injuries, you still must report an accident that appears to have caused $500 or more of property damage (Florida Statute 316.065). Minor scrapes and dents to cars can easily cost more than $500 to repair. So most car accidents must be reported by law. If you don’t report these accidents immediately, then you can be cited with a nonmoving violation under chapter 318 Florida Statutes.

What are Florida automobile insurance requirements?

There are minimal automobile insurance requirements in Florida.

According to Florida's car accident laws, to register and drive a vehicle in Florida, the owner must how proof of insurance. The insurance requirements are:

  • $10,000 minimum Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
  • $10,000 Property Damage Liability (PDL)

There is no insurance requirement to drive someone else’s car if it is registered and insured.

Florida also requires non-residents to meet the Florida insurance requirements under certain conditions.

Florida also has a Financial Responsibility Law. Because of this law, most people also should buy Bodily Injury Liability coverage (BI) of at least $10,000 per person and $20,000 per accident. If you don’t have that minimum BI coverage and you cause a wreck that injures someone, you will have to post a bond for $10,000 or $20,000 to the state of Florida. If you can’t come up with the money, your license to drive will be suspended.

What does it mean that Florida is a no fault state?

This is one of Florida's car accident laws that confuses a lot of people.

It means that you get some money for your damages from your own insurer even if you were at fault. This is because of the Florida No Fault Law.

The name of the law is somewhat misleading, because the No Fault Law only covers some of your damages. So fault is always an issue in a Florida car accident claim.

The No Fault Law was intended to pay for auto accident injuries without the time and effort of making a claim on the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The law was passed in 1971 and has been amended many times since then. It’s current $10,000 minimum coverage was set in 1978. Ten thousand dollars doesn’t go nearly as far now as it did in 1978 to cover medical bills and lost wages.

Also, PIP or Personal Injury Protection, which is another name for the type of coverage required under the No Fault Law, only covers a percentage of damages, not 100%. So whenever you are injured in an auto related accident in Florida, PIP will probably cover some of your bills. But you will still need to bring a claim on a Bodily Injury Liability policy to be fully compensated. PIP also does not pay for any pain and suffering damages, also known as “non-economic damages.”

What is the statute of limitations for a car accident case?

Florida has a statute of limitations for auto accident lawsuits. This is a Florida car accident law that sets the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit from the date of the accident. If you are suing for wrongful death the statute of limitations is two years. If you are suing for injuries not including death, then you have four years to file the suit. If you are filing suit for property damage, then you also have four years from the date of the wreck.

Can someone sue you for a car accident in Florida?

Yes. Someone can sue you if you were at fault in causing the accident. Even if you were only partially responsible for the wreck, anyone injured in it has the right to sue you. If you are insured, they will probably first try to settle with your insurance company. If they reach a settlement, you won’t be sued.

What are the comparative fault rules in Florida?

Florida's car accident laws state that you are responsible for damages in a car accident equal to the proportion of fault you have in causing it. This is a pure form of comparative fault, unlike some other states. Ultimately, the jury will determine how much fault you bear in causing the accident, but your lawyer and the insurance company will also take it into account in negotiating a settlement. For example, if it is concluded that you were 20% at fault in causing the accident, you would be responsible for 20% of the damages to other people hurt in the accident. Also, you would only be able to recover 80% of your damages from the other at-fault parties.

How is fault determined in Florida?

Fault is determined by the investigating police officers at the scene. They may issue a citation for the drivers who they conclude violated traffic rules. They will include this information in their accident report. However, the police officer’s conclusion of fault is not the ultimate conclusion of fault in your case. Police reports are not admissible at trial and the police were not at the scene when the accident occurred. Thus, ultimately, if your case goes to trial, it is the jury who determines fault based on the evidence presented in court. If your case settles before trial, your attorney and the insurance company will seek to come to an agreement as to who was at fault. The police report is a very important factor in that determination.

If your case goes to trial, fault is determined by traditional negligence law. The jury will be tasked with determining if you were acting with reasonable care in the situation when the accident occurred. They will also ask the same question of the actions of the other parties involved in the car accident. We all are responsible for acting with reasonable care when we drive or use roadways. One of the main factors the jury will consider is who was obeying traffic rules and who wasn’t. That is usually the main indicator of who was acting with reasonable care and who wasn’t. The right-of-way rules in Florida give an exhaustive explanation of which driver or pedestrian is supposed to yield the right of way in all common traffic situations. The jury will also consider whether you were distracted, speeding, under the influence and a host of other factors in determining fault.

What if I’m hit by a car while walking in Florida?

Being hit by a car while walking can be a very serious situation. Cars and other automobiles are supposed to be aware of Florida pedestrian laws and do whatever they can to avoid hitting them. Especially at intersections and crosswalks, pedestrians frequently have the right-of-way and cars should yield to them. However, there are situations where pedestrians are supposed to yield the right-of-way to vehicles, like jaywalking across a street. Nevertheless, because cars have a heightened responsibility to pedestrians, even if you were breaking a traffic rule when you were hit by a car, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

Do I need a police report for my Florida accident?

Yes, a police report is the starting point for an investigation into your car accident claim. It is required that you report most car accidents to the local police. Calling 911 immediately after the accident is the best way to do this. The police officer who responds to the scene will collect important information about the parties involved in the accident, eyewitnesses, the location and damage to the vehicles and pedestrians, and the likely explanation for what occurred in the accident. Your lawyer will start your case by reviewing the police report. You will be able to access the police report for free, usually a few days after the accident.

What is the average car accident settlement in Florida?

It’s not that useful to think about an average car accident settlement amount because car accidents result in such different magnitudes of injuries. Many accidents will result in relatively minor injuries. Other accidents will result in death and or serious injuries. An average value would have to include all these settlement amounts, from a few thousand dollars all the way through multi-million-dollar claims. Also, most settlements are confidential and are never reported. So the amount of information available to come up with averages is lacking. That being said, one research institute says that the overall national average for bodily injury claims is about $15,000.

Should I contact a Florida accident lawyer?

You should definitely contact a Florida accident lawyer to discuss your car accident. Most car accident lawyers offer a free initial consultation. They will let you know if your case is one that needs the help of an attorney or not. They will do an initial analysis of liability, based on what you tell them, in order to explain whether you are likely to recover anything in a bodily injury liability claim. During the consultation, you can get an idea of whether you want to work with that lawyer or law firm on your case. You can always talk to more than one law firm in deciding who to have represent you.

How long does it take to settle a car accident settlement in Florida?

Most Florida car accidents settle. Very few go all the way to trial. If trial is necessary, a longer timeframe will result. For the majority of cases that do settle, several factors affect how long the case will take to settle. Ultimately, a settlement requires you and the insurance company to agree on a settlement value. If you can’t come up with an agreed value, the case will take much longer to settle. It’s much easier to come up with an agreed settlement value when the reasonable value of your case is higher than the available insurance policies. In that situation, the insurance company will want to pay sooner and close the case. However, if the insurance policy is greater than your damages, the insurance company will probably try to negotiate your value down and delay payment.

Another factor that affects how soon your claim settles is how long your medical treatment lasts. Unless your damages are clearly over the policy limits, it’s usually best to finish medical treatments before settling the case. This way you can make sure you get paid for all your medical treatments. 

Other factors that will affect the time to settle are whether there are any disputes about who was at fault, or liability. Insurance companies will not want to pay if their insured isn’t liable for your injuries. Investigations may be necessary before they are sure what happened or what can be proven in court if the case goes to trial.

So there’s no definite answer to how long it will take to settle your claim. In general, a settlement will take a few months to over a year. If you go to trial, it will take even longer.

"Eric Kem was a Fantastic Lawyer...knowledgeable, patient as well as kind. He helped me understand the law, know my rights and not feel like an idiot for asking so many questions. I had a better outcome then I ever expected. I would highly recommend him!!!"

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