Do I Have to Go to Court After a Car Accident in Florida?Request Free Consultation
If you get injured in a car accident, you may be reluctant to seek financial compensation for fear of having to take your case to court. The majority of car accident cases in Florida, however, are resolved with settlements. This means you most likely won’t have to go to trial to recover compensation for a car crash. If your case does require a court trial, a car accident attorney in Tampa can help and attend most hearings on your behalf – at no out-of-pocket cost to you.
How Do Car Accident Settlements Work in Florida?
Florida is unique in that it uses a no-fault car insurance law to determine liability, or financial responsibility, for a car accident. Under Florida Statutes, Section 627.7407, all vehicle owners in the state must carry at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. The other type of required insurance is property damage liability (PDL) coverage. PIP insurance pays for the policyholder’s necessary medical care after suffering an injury in an automobile accident, regardless of whether or not the policyholder is at fault for the crash.
When a car crash occurs in Florida, all parties involved should call their own car insurance providers to report the wreck. If a victim has medical bills from the accident, his or her own car insurance company will cover these costs using PIP insurance. If the victim has more than $10,000 in medical bills, the other driver’s car insurance may provide supplemental coverage. In Florida, it is not necessary to prove that someone else caused the accident to qualify for PIP coverage.
Since proving fault is not necessary, car accident lawsuits and court cases are rare in Florida. Instead of going to trial, an injured victim will generally reach a settlement with his or her own insurance company to pay for medical coverage. A settlement is an agreement made between a claimant and an insurance company to resolve the legal dispute for a specified amount of money. A settlement does not require going to court.
When Might Your Car Accident Case Need to Go to Court?
Although the vast majority of car accident cases in Florida reach settlements, going to court is a possibility. Going to court means bringing your car accident legal dispute before a judge and jury, who will determine the outcome of the case for both parties. Your case may go to court if it is particularly complex, such as a case that involves catastrophic injuries or wrongful death. Common examples of complications that could require a trial include:
- Serious injury threshold/tort exemption. If a car accident causes a permanent disability, significant scarring or disfigurement, or serious impairment of a bodily function, a victim can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party for greater coverage.
- Liability dispute. If there is a conflict regarding who or what caused the accident, the case may need to be brought before a jury for them to decide. Many of these cases will first go through mediation or arbitration (alternative dispute resolution) to try to reach a settlement before it goes to court.
- Insurance bad faith. Insurance bad faith means that the insurance company is not making an honest and good faith attempt to resolve a claim according to Florida’s insurance laws. In this scenario, the insurance company may be faced with a lawsuit for wrongfully rejecting a claim or refusing to offer a fair settlement.
During a car accident trial, you (or your attorney) and the defense will both have the opportunity to present facts, evidence and witness testimony to prove your version of events. Then, the judge or jury will determine if you met the burden of proof as the plaintiff. The burden of proof is “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant is at fault for your car accident. If you believe your car accident case may go to court, it is important to contact an attorney in Florida for assistance, as this legal process can be complicated.