Car accidents are an unfortunate reality for Americans every day. Drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely, obey all posted traffic signs and use their best judgment while on the road. While some auto accidents happen due to severe weather, poor road conditions or vehicle malfunctions – the majority happen due to negligence. Drivers should understand their legal obligations and strive to make good choices behind the wheel to minimize the chances of causing accidents.
When innocent people suffer injuries and damages at the hands of negligent drivers, the injured parties should know their rights, what to expect after an accident, and how to approach a personal injury lawsuit. At Kelley/Uustal, our team wants Fort Lauderdale drivers to stay safe while on the road and know they can turn to our experienced Florida car accident lawyers for legal counsel in the event of an auto accident.
Concerns for Commuters in Fort Lauderdale
Florida drivers face a few unique issues on the road compared to drivers in other parts of the country. The Fort Lauderdale area is more than 35 square miles with a population density of roughly 4,700 residents per square mile, according to 2010 Census data. The area is very flat with streets arranged in a grid system and, while this type of metropolitan area would seem perfectly fit for alternative transportation options, more than 80% of Fort Lauderdale commuters drive their own vehicles to work. This creates an incredible amount of traffic congestion.
Fort Lauderdale area residents face a higher degree of risk while riding bicycles than in many other parts of the country. Bicycling is a popular choice for those who want to save money and cut down on pollution and fossil fuel consumption while exercising. Unfortunately, Fort Lauderdale consistently reports higher than average pedestrian and bicycle fatality rates and has the highest bike crash rate in the region.
The large, dense population and high percentage of commuters who use personal vehicles also takes a toll on the area’s infrastructure. Road conditions suffer when resources are spread thin over a large and well-travelled area. Fort Lauderdale’s roads, weather, population, as well as other trends concerning driver habits, should encourage Florida drivers to stay safe on the road by taking these potential dangers into account.
Auto Accident Statistics in Florida
In 2014, there were 344,170 recorded car crashes in Florida, 2,336 of which led to fatalities. That number increased nearly 9% to 374,342 crashes and 2,699 fatalities in 2015. The number of injuries increased almost 8% from 225,608 in 2014 to 243,316 in 2015. While it’s impossible to predict when a crash may happen, statistics show certain driver behaviors that affect Florida in particular compared to other parts of the country.
A recent Safe Driving Report from EverDrive for 2016-2017 reported that Florida ranks forty-ninth out of fifty states for distracted driving accidents. While most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, for example, distracted driving is a prevalent issue that many drivers unfortunately do not acknowledge until it is too late. According to the EverDrive report, 44% of driving trips in Florida include at least one period of distracted driving. It is crucial for Fort Lauderdale drivers to understand distracted driving to minimize the risk of accidents.
Distracted Driving Accidents
Distracted driving is a problem that has reached epidemic levels in the United States. In today’s interconnected, on-the-go world, it is no surprise that behind-the-wheel distraction is one of the leading causes of preventable auto collisions in Florida and throughout the country.
“Distracted driving” describes any time a driver pays attention to something other than safe driving practices. Distractions generally fall into one or more of three categories:
- Visual distractions are things that cause drivers’ eyes to wander off the road. This could include turning to look at a roadside accident or police presence (commonly called “rubbernecking”), scenery, or looking at a phone.
- Manual distractions are anything that requires a driver to take his or her hands off the wheel. This may include fiddling with a stereo, typing a text message, or rummaging through the car or a purse.
- Cognitive distraction describes a driver’s mind wandering from the task at hand. A driver headed home after a stressful day at the office may be mulling over the day’s events and lose track of what is around him or her. Carrying on a conversation while driving can sometimes be distracting as well.
Common behind-the-wheel distractions include:
- Texting or emailing
- Talking on a cell phone
- Looking at GPS devices or reading maps
- Eating and drinking
- Listening to overly loud music
- Using car infotainment systems
- Reaching for an object
One of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving is texting while driving. Since smartphones hit the mainstream market, text messaging exploded as many Americans’ preferred method of quick communication. However, texting behind the wheel is one of the deadliest hazards on the road. Texting is essentially all three types of distraction rolled into one; drivers must use a hand to operate the phone, their eyes to read the message and type a response, and their attention is on the device, not the road ahead. At high speeds, taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds could mean essentially driving blind for quite a distance.
Here are some alarming statistics on distracted driving:
- Distracted driving results in approximately 5,000 deaths per year
- One out of every four U.S. automobile accidents is caused by texting while driving
- Eight people are killed every day in the U.S. in auto accidents caused by distracted drivers
- Using a handheld phone while driving increases a driver’s crash risk three times
When two cars are traveling at full speed and they have a head-on-collision, the results can be devastating. Some people walk away with catastrophic injuries, spinal injuries, paralysis, broken bones or brain injuries, while others never walk away at all. These sometimes fatal accidents only account for about 2% of all auto accidents, but sadly, they account for 10.1% of all auto accident fatalities.
Causes of Head-On Collisions
This type of auto accident can be caused by many factors. Drunk drivers sometimes crash head-on into an oncoming car, causing devastation. In addition, negligence is a common reason that head-on-collisions occur, either by that of the driver at fault, or from of a lack of maintenance on the road. Sometimes an automobile manufacturer will produce a defective part that contributes to the accident. But whatever the cause, the results can be devastating.
Our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers at Kelley/Uustal understand just how much a head-on-collision can affect a family. If the accident results in a catastrophic injury, the financial implications can be overwhelming. The injured party may not be able to continue to work, will likely have mounting bills and probable continued pain and suffering due to a forced lifestyle change. If the head-on-collision resulted in the death of a loved one, the impact will be long lasting and emotionally devastating.
It takes an experienced and dedicated attorney to do the preparation and work in order to get justice for the family or victim of a head-on-collision. It also takes sufficient resources to forensically study the scene of the accident, analyze the car for defective parts, and investigate the actions that lead to the tragedy. Many attorneys simply look at the results of a head-on-collision and try to build a case from there. But our attorneys at Kelley/Uustal will also look at what led to those results, which could help build a stronger case.
Rollover Car Accidents
Rollover accidents are among the most dangerous motor vehicle accidents, and statistics show that this type of accident has a higher fatality rate than any other type of crash. Serious injury is also a common result of rollover accidents. Although only around 3% of motor vehicle accidents are rollovers, this type of accident accounts for nearly one-third of vehicle accident fatalities. More than 10,000 people each year are killed in rollovers, and more than 70% of these deaths happen to vehicle occupants who are not wearing seatbelts.
Which Vehicles Are Most Prone to Rollover Accidents?
While many people think that by not driving an SUV they are protected from a rollover car accident, the truth is that any type of car, van, truck, or bus – can roll over in an accident. The vehicles most likely to be involved in rollover accidents are those with a higher center of gravity and those that are narrow and tall. While SUVs certainly fit this description, minivans and pickup trucks also have a higher risk of rolling over than a sedan or coupe.
The simple fact is that sport-utility vehicles are among the most dangerous vehicles on the road. Handling is cumbersome and braking is slow – some SUVs need more than 40 extra feet to stop when decelerating from 60 mph. This has lead to many more collision accidents that could have been avoided, and SUVs pose extra dangers in those collisions. Cars crumple in an intended predictable mode of deformation during head-on collisions, which absorbs some of the force and protects the occupants.
SUVs generally have truck frames that magnify the force on the occupants. Incredibly, some car dealers under-inflate the tires because they know most SUV drivers never take the vehicles off road. This can smooth out the rough SUV ride, but it causes significant stability problems and increases the chance of rollover. It also leads to tire delamination. The bottom line is that rollovers in sport-utility vehicles are as much as five times more deadly than accidents in other vehicles.
Other Factors Contributing to Rollover Accidents
- Road conditions
- Driver behavior
Almost three-quarters of fatal rollover crashes happen in areas where the speed limit is 55 miles per hour or higher. Speeding is involved in 40% of rollover deaths. When roads are poorly maintained, rollovers are more likely, and 70% of rollover fatalities happen in rural areas with higher speed limits.
Types of Rollover Car Accidents
Tripped rollovers happen when a car leaves the road and rolls over after being tripped by a curb, loose pavement, or a steep slope. Most single-vehicle rollovers are tripped rollovers. Un-tripped rollovers happen due to driving maneuvers, and occur without the car hitting another object. Un-tripped rollovers are more common in top-heavy vehicles that are speeding, but are rarer than tripped rollovers.
Read-End Auto Accidents
Because rear-end collision accidents are the most common types of auto accidents, many people tend to not take them seriously when it comes to injuries. But the truth is that studies have shown that 85% of all neck injuries stem from auto accidents, and of those collisions, 85% are rear-end collisions. These same studies show that cars going as slowly as 5 MPH can result in significant symptoms.
Some of the main factors that determine whether or a rear-end collision will result in injuries are:
- The speed that each car is traveling at
- The types of automobiles involved in the accident
- The weight of the automobiles involved in the accident
- The location of the accident
- The direction of the impact
- Whether or not the automobile seat, seatbelt, and airbag performs its job
It’s estimated that about 10% of people involved in a rear-end collision will develop whiplash. Of those, 10% to 15% will fail to fully recover from the injury. The constant pain and discomfort of a neck injury can last for years. Because there is no way for medical experts to “see” it with diagnostic tests, it can be difficult for a victim to be taken seriously by insurance companies.
Who is Responsible in a Rear-End Car Accident?
Most people assume that when a rear-end collision occurs, it’s automatically the fault of the person who crashed into the other car, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes things are not in the control of the driver, and the accident can occur because of improper road conditions or a parts defect on their automobile, such as faulty brakes.
Fatal Car Accidents
Car accident deaths have been decreasing over the years due to factors like enhanced car safety features, increased seat belt use, airbags in cars, and more aggressive prosecution of drunk drivers. However, in 2009, over 30,000 people lost their lives in catastrophic automobile accidents.
Of these, over 17,000 victims were drivers, and nearly 7,000 victims were passengers. Motorcyclists accounted for nearly 4,500 fatalities, while pedestrians accounted for nearly 4,100 deaths, and bicycle riders made up over 600 of the fatalities.
Litigation for Fatal Car Accidents
Each state has different laws, but legal claims after fatal car accidents have several features in common:
- Police involvement and official records of the accident
- A vehicle operator being found at fault and accident cause identified
- Insurance companies that aggressively try to protect themselves from liability
- Experienced attorneys who work with independent experts to reconstruct the accident and establish the cause of death
Successful Wrongful Death Claim
In general, wrongful death claims require two things to succeed:
- The accident must be caused by someone other than the victim. That may be the driver of the car the deceased person was riding in, or the driver of another car. The other person must have been acting negligently by driving poorly, or else a defective automobile design can be proved.
- There must be enough assets for a recoverable legal claim. Sadly, many car accident deaths that clearly result from negligent driving go uncompensated because there simply is no money or assets with which to compensate the victim’s family. Successful attorneys in wrongful death cases are skilled at finding assets in the form of homeowner’s insurance policies or business policies.
What to Expect After a Fatal Car Crash
In most cases of fatal car accidents, the employer or insurance company representing the party at fault immediately begins a plan to defend the insured or the employee who was at fault. If your loved one was the victim of a fatal car accident, the insurance company representing the party at fault is not interested in compensating you. Immediate investigation by an experienced wrongful death attorney is essential to countering the actions of the other party’s employer or insurance company.
What to do After an Automobile Accident in Florida
The steps you take immediately after a car accident can improve (or diminish) your chances of making a financial recovery. The following information is designed by our Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys to help you understand common problems that car accident victims face and how you can avoid them. Additionally, this information can help you prepare for an accident claim or personal injury lawsuit, should you decide to seek financial compensation for your injuries and other damages.
After an auto accident, your first priority should be to seek medical attention. If your injuries aren’t immediately serious, you may wait at the accident site for first responders and police to arrive. After the vehicle stops, assess your injuries and exit the vehicle if you are able. If not, call 911 and wait for paramedics to arrive. If you can move around, take pictures of the accident scene, including the damage to all vehicles involved, any obvious injuries of others, skid marks on the road, and the resting places of the vehicles involved. These photos could be valuable in a future lawsuit.
If the police arrive, answer the officer’s questions honestly and concisely, but be careful of the words you use. The police or insurer may interpret something as harmless as “I’m sorry” as an admission of guilt, when all you meant to convey was that you were sorry the incident happened. The police will interview the people involved, and you should exchange your insurance and contact information with the other drivers. After the police wrap up the scene and you’ve been given the go-ahead to leave, visit your doctor for a medical examination, even if you don’t believe you suffered serious injuries.
Many injuries may not manifest immediate symptoms, and some seemingly slight injuries could actually indicate something more serious. Your doctor will be able to assess your condition and provide a medical report of your injuries, their possible long-term effects, and your treatment plan. This medical report and the police report from the accident will be invaluable for building a lawsuit against a negligent driver.
Proving Negligence in an Auto Accident
Car accidents that lead to civil claims fall under the purview of personal injury law, and personal injury law hinges on the legal concept of negligence. To prove negligence, an injured plaintiff must demonstrate:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to act with reasonable care. This could include following posted speed limits, signaling for a lane change, or yielding the right of way.
- The defendant breached this duty in some way. This may include texting while driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or speeding.
- The plaintiff’s injuries were the direct result of the defendant’s breach of duty. Plaintiffs can only recover compensation if they sustain injury or property damage. If you suffered no actual harm, you have no claim.
The statute of limitations – or legal time limit for filing – a personal injury lawsuit for an automobile accident is generally two years from the date of the incident. However, if your injuries from the incident did not manifest until later, the statute of limitations begins on the “date of discovery,” or the date you realized you were injured.
Poor Road Conditions
For automobile accidents caused by poor road conditions, drivers may wonder what options they have for securing compensation. If a local government agency or municipality is responsible for your accident, the process of filing a lawsuit to recover your damages is much more complex. Consult an auto accident attorney as soon as possible because the statute of limitations for filing claims in the state of Florida is 4 years. Additionally, the process of filing a claim against the government involves meeting various strict filing requirements, and failing to meet these guidelines could have your claim thrown out.
Contact Our Experienced Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyers
Fort Lauderdale drivers can reach out to the team of dedicated personal injury lawyers at Kelley/Uustal for guidance after being involved in a severe automobile accident. We help our clients recover compensation for their medical expenses, pain and suffering, property damage and loss of income after an accident. We offer free case evaluations to potential new Florida clients, so reach out to our attorneys today to schedule your consultation.