What Happens When You Are At Fault for a Car Accident in Jacksonville?
“What happens if I’m at fault in a car accident?” is a legitimate question that you should seek the answer to before, rather than after, you cause an accident. “What happens if I’m at fault in a car accident and I’m injured?” is another question you deserve an answer to.
The consequences of causing a car accident in Jacksonville vary greatly depending on the circumstances of the accident.
Florida’s “No-Fault” Auto Insurance System for Bodily Injury
Florida is one of a minority of states that applies a “no-fault” auto insurance system to car accident injury compensation.
Florida expects all of its automobile drivers to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) insurance with a limit of at least $10,000. PIP insurance pays up to 80% of the holder’s medical bills plus 60% of injury-related lost earnings up to $10,000. PIP insurance does not pay for non-economic damages. Each driver applies for PIP coverage from their own policy; it doesn’t matter who is at fault.
That means that you don’t have to worry about an injured party filing a lawsuit against you. It also means that you can demand coverage for your own injuries from your PIP insurance policy. One of the main purposes of Florida PIP insurance is to avoid clogging Florida courts with car accident cases.
Florida car accident law has a loophole that allows victims to escape no-fault compensation limitations. In Florida, your injuries meet the “serious” threshold if they constitute:
- a significant loss of a permanent bodily function;
- a serious permanent injury;
- significant and permanent scarring and disfigurement; or
- a fatal injury.
Once a party breaks through the “serious injury” threshold, they can sue the at-fault party directly. They can also seek non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
Your Potential Liability
Your civil liability could be immense if the person you injured manages to break through the “serious injury” threshold and sue you. Following are some of the types of compensation you might bear liability for.
Economic damages are what PIP insurance pays for. They can also include any other amount arising from the accident that is easily countable. It might include childcare expenses while the victim recovers in the hospital, for example.
Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other intangible losses. This type of damages frequently amounts to well over 50% of the total value of a personal injury claim.
A car accident can cause tens of thousands of dollars to the automobiles involved. Florida is not a no-fault state when it comes to property damage arising from a car accident. It is an at-fault state, and every Florida driver must purchase $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) insurance.
This means the owner of a car you hit can file a PDL claim against you, and your insurance will pay up to $10,000.
Florida designed punitive damages to punish a defendant for outrageous behavior, rather than to compensate the victim. You probably won’t bear liability for punitive damages unless your conduct was illegal (and maybe not even then).
If the victim dies from their car accident injuries, their personal injury claim will become a wrongful death claim in favor of the executor of their probate estate. If you cause an accident that kills somebody, your financial liability could be immense. In Florida, damages for wrongful death go to close relatives and the victim’s probate estate. They can include:
- Loss of support and services;
- Loss of companionship and protection;
- Mental anguish;
- Loss of parental companionship and guidance,
- Reimbursement for medical, funeral, and burial expenses paid by surviving family members or the probate estate;
- Lost earnings from the date of the injury until the date of death; and
- The amount of money the victim could have saved and left to estate beneficiaries if they had lived.
Not all of these damages are available in every case.
The Causation Loophole
Causation is one of the legal elements that must be present for you to bear either civil or criminal liability for a car accident. The opposing party must prove:
- Cause in fact: The accident would not have happened but for your deficient driving.
- Proximate cause: Given the fact of your deficient driving, the injuries that the victim suffered were foreseeable to a “reasonable person.”
Without both cause in fact and proximate cause, the accident victim has no case against you.
Comparative negligence is a way of distributing compensation when more than one party causes an accident. Florida applies a “modified comparative negligence” system. If the other party was 25% at fault, for example, a court would reduce your liability by 25%.
If the other party was 40% at fault, the court would reduce your liability by 40%. If the other party was more than 50% at fault, however, your liability would drop to zero even if you were partly at fault.
Depending on the circumstances, your criminal liability could be severe. If you cause a fatal accident and flee before the police arrive, for example, you could face up to 30 years in prison. Talk to a criminal defense lawyer if you have concerns about potential criminal liability.
Talk to a Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer
A Jacksonville, Florida, personal injury lawyer can help you minimize your liability from a car accident. In a best-case scenario, your lawyer might be able to prove that the accident was mostly the other driver’s fault. This might eliminate your liability altogether. Schedule an initial consultation to find out more about your options.
Contact the Jacksonville Car Accident Law Firm of Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers Today For Help
Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers – Jacksonville
9471 Baymeadows Rd #105,
Jacksonville, FL 32256
Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers – Downtown Jacksonville
121 W. Forsyth St. #170,
Jacksonville, FL 32202