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 lawsuit after being involved in an auto accident. At Kelley/Uustal, our team wants Broward County drivers to stay safe while on the road and know they can turn to our experienced Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers for legal counsel in the event of an auto accident. Unfortunately, getting injured on the road is not something you can predict or plan for, but is is important to get informed and not rush to make a decision too soon. In a high populated city such as Fort Lauderdale, car accidents can happen at any time. They can range from fender benders to major wrecks which could cause a lot of serious injuries that can last a long time. This is why it’s important to make an informed decision before hiring an attorney.
Accident lawyers at Kelley/Uustal are available 24/7 to speak with you about your case. We will put your needs first and make sure you are getting the justice you deserve. Collectively, our team has more than 300 years of experience and over a quarter of a billion dollars in compensation total. Founders, Bob Kelley and John Uustal have worked for years to make sure they build a strong team to represent those who need justice the most, putting clients before anything else. Reach out to the team of dedicated accident 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. Call and schedule your consultation today (954) 522-6601 we are open 24/7
Do I need a Car Accident Lawyer?
If you were hurt in an automobile crash, you may have many questions running through your mind. One of the biggest, however, may be how to find a lawyer? After all, choosing the right accident attorney is crucial to winning your case and receiving the maximum compensation you deserve. So how do you find the right lawyer for your case?
To start, it is important to find a lawyer whose firm focuses on your specific injury or type of accident. You wouldn’t hire a divorce attorney to represent you after a car accident. Right? You need someone who represents auto crash victims every day. That attorney will know how to best represent you and what tricks the insurance companies and defense lawyers will use to minimize your claim.
Before you start calling the first lawyers you find, consider asking friends and family members for any recommendations. It may be that someone you know has used an attorney in the past and can recommend them favorably. If no one you know has any recommendations, you can contact the Florida Bar Association. They can help you find a lawyer with the right experience and practice concentration for your needs.
5 Things to Consider When Hiring An Auto Accident Lawyer
- Check Qualifications
- Experience is Everything
It is important to take the time to find the right Fort Lauderdale accident attorney. Your lawyer will be the one negotiating with insurance companies, investigating the crash, and fighting for you in court—should your case go to trial. You need to ensure that your lawyer has your best interests in mind and that he or she has the time to devote to you and your case. Choosing a lawyer is one of the biggest decisions you can make, be sure you take the time to choose the one that is best for you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
I recently had a minor accident and was jarred a bit from impact. I feel fine, so why should I go to the expense of seeing a doctor?
- Attorneys at any top accident law firm will tell you that often the injuries experienced in a car accident don’t make themselves apparent at first. You could feel fine, yet still have a concussion or other injuries, and you won’t know unless a physician checks you out.
Should I sign the insurer’s forms so they’ll pay my claim?
- Call a Fort Lauderdale accident law firm before signing anything from the insurance company. They may well be shortchanging you, and your attorney can often negotiate a much better settlement on your behalf.
I think there may be video from a convenience store near the accident. Is this important enough to follow up?
- If you believe your accident was caught on video, tell your attorney right away. Video is not always saved, and if there is video evidence, your attorney needs to obtain and see it to find out if there are factors involved in the accident that should be considered.
Why should I call a lawyer?
- If you sign off on an insurance settlement without obtaining the advice of a car accident attorney first, you could make things worse later. It is better to take the time up front to consider all aspects of your accident, including the possibility of vehicle defects and road conditions so that you can get the best possible settlement. If you sign an inadequate settlement, you could experience medical complications later that will make it even harder to put the situation in the past.
What to do After a Car Crash
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 auto 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.
Here is a checklist of things to keep in mind after a collision:
- First of all, check for injuries. See if anyone needs help.
- Call the police.
- Call for paramedics if necessary.
- If you have or suspect an injury, see a doctor.
- When you have a chance, write down how each vehicle was damaged.
- Try to get the names, the addresses and the driver’s license numbers of the drivers, passengers and witnesses involved in the accident.
- Take pictures of car damage, skid marks on the road or other obvious injuries
- Write down a description of the other vehicles and license plate numbers.
- Notify your insurance agent about the accident.
- Don’t sign any document and don’t give any statement except for the police.
- Contact an auto accident attorney at Kelley/Uustal
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.
Tips to Remember While Dealing With Insurance Companies
As if auto accidents themselves weren’t stressful enough, dealing with car insurance and health insurance companies tends to add to the stress after an accident. Their goals are clear: they want you to accept as little as possible as soon as possible. While it may seem caring for an insurer to contact you while you’re recovering, it is not your health they are concerned with, but their own.
Don’t Sign Anything Until You Speak With an Attorney
- You could be asked to sign papers from the insurance company while you’re still recovering, and you should refuse to do so until after you have spoken with a Fort Lauderdale auto accident lawyer. Even if you do end up agreeing to their settlement it is still best if you have an attorney go over the documents thoroughly so that you fully understand what you’re signing.
The Other Driver May Not Be the Only Liable Party
- If someone runs you off the road or hits you after running a stop sign, it’s pretty obvious who is at fault. However, there could be other liable parties, if, for example, a safety mechanism in your car fails to work properly. A defect in the vehicle of the liable driver could contribute to the severity of the accident too. A good attorney knows how to examine all possible contributors to the accident.
You Have the Right to Demand the Care You Need
- Getting the medical care you need so you can get your life back is not being selfish. It is your right if you were injured because of the actions of others. Contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible after being injured so you can get the care you need.
Florida is a “No Fault” Auto Accident State
- Florida is a “no fault” automobile liability state, and this limits your ability to bring suit against another driver after an accident. Your automobile policy must take care of medical bills for you and those riding with you even if someone else caused the accident. But that doesn’t mean a Fort Lauderdale car accident attorney is of no help. A lawyer with experience in car accident cases can work with your insurer to help maximize your settlement.
Required Automobile Insurance Coverage in Florida
- In Florida, you have to carry at least $10,000 in liability coverage for one individual injured in an accident, $20,000 in maximum liability coverage for each accident, and $10,000 in property damage liability per vehicle. It’s obvious why you want to get the maximum settlement after an accident.
Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Risk
Fort Lauderdale 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, making it more common to see an auto accident and car wrecks.
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 drivers to stay safe on the road by taking these potential dangers into account that could result in automobile collisions.
Car Accident Statistics in Florida
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 road accidents. In 2016, Florida came in third place for most deadly car accidents per state. There were more than 3,000 deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the state.
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.
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 Fort Lauderdale 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
- This includes 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
- This includes 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
- This 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 Driving Distractions
- 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 causing you to merge into another lane and causing a serious traffic accident.
Distracted Driving Statistics:
- Distracted driving accidents result 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 wrecks 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 in an auto accident can affect a family. If a crash 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 auto crash attorneys at Kelley/Uustal will also look at what led to those results, which could help build a stronger case.
Rollover Car Accidents
Rollover crashes 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 wrecks. 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 crash, 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 wrecks 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 a rollover collision. 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.
Factors Contributing to Rollover Accidents
- Road conditions
- Driver behavior
Almost three-quarters of fatal rollover wreck 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.
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.
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.
What if Your Neck Was Injured After a Car Crash?
It may surprise you to learn that neck pain often originates in areas other than the neck. Injuries to the head and upper back can result in muscular tightness in the neck, or the pinching of nerves in the neck’s vertebrae.
Neck injuries like whiplash are very common after automobile accidents, but every case is different. Whereas one person may heal quickly with no lasting effects, neck injuries can be debilitating and cause chronic pain.
Complications of Whiplash
Whiplash injuries, which are the most common injuries reported after auto accidents, result in more than just neck pain. Complications from whiplash may include:
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems with the temporomandibular joint (jaw)
- Blurred vision
- Weakness, numbness, and tingling in arms and hands
These symptoms may not emerge until well after an accident. If you are now experiencing symptoms of whiplash after an automobile accident, do not hesitate to contact our Fort Lauderdale injury attorneys at Kelley/Uustal for legal representation.
When Are Drivers liable?
In some car accidents, there is a party that can be held liable for compensating an injured person. Liability can result from:
- A driver driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Speeding or other reckless vehicle operation
- A driver failing to observe traffic lights or signs
- Drivers operating a vehicle while distracted (by talking on a phone, for example)
- A driver falling asleep behind the wheel
After a personal injury, it is important for medical attention to be summoned, and for police to be called so that the details of the accident can be documented as completely as possible.
What do do after losing a loved one in an auto accident?
Car crash 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 driver 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 After a Car Wreck
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 Collision
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.
Vehicle collisions 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 a personal injury attorney in Fort Lauderdale 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.
Kelley/Uustal is made up of the best car accident attorneys in Fort Lauderdale, give us a call today to get the help you need and deserve (954) 522-6601 We are available 24/7
“I want to commend my attorney, Todd Falzone and his paralegal Jody Marie Hansel for an extraordinary job in bringing my case to a very satisfactory conclusion. This week, exactly one year to the day of my accident, the settlement check was deposited. Moving forward, as the healing process continues, they have enhanced my sense of security that will last for the rest of my life.” -ROBERT