If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, there are probably many questions going through your mind, including:
- What should I do to protect my legal rights?
- How can I see doctors I cannot afford, such as surgeons and specialists?
- How am I going to pay medical bills and who will pay for my medical bills?
- What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage and how does it work?
- Who will pay me for missed work if I have to miss several weeks or months of work due to my injuries?
- Will I be fairly compensated for my pain and suffering from the accident?
- What claims can I make against the negligent at-fault driver?
In 2012, an estimated 2.36 million people were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes, compared to 2.22 million in 2011 according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an increase of 6.5 percent. While there have been several statistically significant decreases in the estimated number of people injured annually in the United States, this is the first statistically significant increase since 1995.
At the Ortiz Law Firm, we understand the problems, difficulties, and disruptions that occur in your life after a car accident. Mr. Ortiz has handled personal injury claims in the Pensacola, Florida area for years, and has witnessed first hand the injuries and damage that can happen due to a wreck. Our office understands the struggle some victims may endure in trying to recover fair and just compensation for their losses from the at-fault driver or the driver’s insurance company.
In Florida, there are specific rules and regulations that apply to auto accidents. Although intended to regulate the insurance claims process, these laws sometimes only complicate insurance claims and the victim’s ability to recover sufficient damages for his or her losses—even in cases of severe injury or death. For example, pain and suffering damages are not recoverable in every case. You must have a “permanent injury” to recover “pain and suffering” damages.
To help ensure you receive full and fair compensation for your losses, it is important to contact a Pensacola attorney who is experienced in Florida-specific laws regarding auto accident claims.
At the Ortiz Law Firm, Mr. Ortiz is a car accident attorney with a history of success handling automobile accident cases, from the initial claim to a jury trial in court. Mr. Ortiz can help make sure your legal rights are protected.
If you have been in a car accident and are unsure of what to do next, please fill out our free case review form. Pensacola car accident attorney Nick A. Ortiz will review your claim, at no cost to you, to determine if our law firm may be able to help you.
Major Causes of Motor Vehicle Accidents:
- Distracted driving: Distracted drivers are the leading cause of car accidents. A distracted driver is one who is not paying attention to the road, usually to talk on a cell phone, send a text message on a smart mobile phone, change the radio, reach for an object in the vehicle or eat food.
- Speeding: Driving over the speed limit. Traveling at a speed that is greater than deemed safe for conditions under the circumstances is a common cause of accidents.
- Drunk driving: Driving under the influence of alcohol, or “drinking and driving.”
- Reckless driving: Recklessness is usually more than careless driving, improper driving, or driving without due care and attention. Reckless driving is a mental state where the driver displays a wanton disregard for the rules of the road. A reckless driver often misjudges common driving procedures, causing accidents and other damages. Examples include speeding, changing lanes too quickly or tailgating.
- Tailgating: Tailgating is when a driver follows the vehicle in front of him or her too closely and does not maintain a proper distance between them. The problem with driving so close is that the following driver may not be able to react in time if the car in front brakes suddenly.
- Running red lights: Failing to stop at a red traffic light.
- Driving under the influence of drugs: As is the case with alcohol, some drivers still take to the road despite consuming drugs and being impaired. Moreover, driving under the influence does not only apply to street drugs. It also applies to driving under the influence of prescription drugs, which can also impair one’s ability to fully function as a driver.
- Weather conditions, including snow, ice, wind, fog, and rain: Bad weather is a major cause of accidents. For example, water from rain creates slick and dangerous surfaces for cars, trucks, and motorcycles and may cause automobiles to spin out of control or skid while braking.
- Running stop signs: Each year, thousands of car accidents happen because one driver ran a stop sign.
- Unsafe lane changes: When drivers do not make safe lane changes properly, accidents often occur.
- Wrong-way driving: Examples include driving on the wrong side of the road or driving the wrong-way on a one-way street.
- Improper turns: For example, failing to yield the proper right-of-way before making a turn, or turning left in front of oncoming traffic.
- Road rage: We all get a little frustrated on the roads every now and again. Some take it too far and tailgate another driver in anger or in speeding past another driver only to pull in front and brake.
- Road hazards, such as potholes: Drivers can experience a loss of control of their car or blow out a tire when they drive over potholes.
- Drowsy driving: Accidents can occur when the driver is not fully alert when driving.
- Tire blowouts: Tire blowouts can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. They are especially dangerous for bigger automobiles like semi-trucks.
- Deadly curves: Drivers can lose control of their cars along a dangerous curve, causing personal injuries and even wrongful death.
- Animal crossings: Wild animals have been known to stand in the middle of the street and cause accidents. However, claims are not limited to wild animals. Domesticated pets may also cause accidents. If the animal should not have been off a leash or behind a fence and the pet causes an accident, a claim is possible against the owner of the pet.
- Teenage drivers: Teens are not often known for their carefulness. When teen drivers are licensed to hit the roads they do not always know what to do, and that lack of experience ends up causing car accidents.
- Street racing: Street racing is an underground culture of fast cars and deadly car wrecks.
- Design defects: No product is ever made perfectly. Automobiles have hundreds of parts. Any of those could be defective parts and could cause a serious car accident.
How Can a Pensacola Car Accident Attorney Help Me?
An attorney in Pensacola can help make sure you receive your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits and full benefits from the at-fault driver and his or her insurance company. An experienced personal injury attorney can also help determine whether you can file additional claims for damages, such as claims against the other vehicle’s owner or against any other party who shares fault for the crash.
PIP and Its Limitations
Here in Florida, all drivers are required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance benefits that will cover up to 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages in the event of an accident. Florida is a “no fault” state, which means that you have PIP coverage regardless of who was at fault in the accident. PIP laws were originally enacted to try and reduce the number of crash-related civil lawsuits filed in Florida courts, as well as to try and lower insurance premium rates. Unfortunately, as many injury victims learn, this coverage may not be enough to cover the total cost of their medical bills and lost wages. Moreover, PIP is not designed for—and does not cover—property damage, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Types of Accident Cases Our Pensacola Florida Law Firm Handles
The Ortiz Law Firm handles a variety of personal injury cases resulting from car accidents, including those involving:
- Drunk Driving and Driving Under the Influence (DUI/DWI)
- Reckless driving
- Rear-end accidents
- Side-impact collisions
- Sideswipe collisions
- Head-on collisions
- Single car accidents
- Multiple party or multi-vehicle accidents
What We Do
We assist our clients with all aspects of the insurance claims process, including claims for:
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefit claims
- Bodily Injury compensation claims, also called liability
- Uninsured Motorist claims
- Underinsured Motorist claims
If you have suffered a serious injury in an accident, we may be able to help you collect damages for compensation beyond that which is available through insurance claims.
Many claims for more serious injuries or wrongful death are not able to be resolved in settlement out of court. Some claims that often result in personal injury lawsuits involve serious injuries such as:
- Brain damage or traumatic brain injury
- A significant head injury
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement, and
- Broken bones
Once you have exhausted your PIP benefits, you can still bring an insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver and/or the owner of the vehicle at fault for the crash. As an experienced Florida attorney, Mr. Ortiz can begin preparing your claim by:
- Collecting police and Florida Highway Patrol accident reports
- Locating and questioning witnesses
- Reconstructing the accident scene
- Taking photographs of the scene, damage to the vehicles involved, and injuries to the victims
- Requesting, obtaining, and analyzing medical records
- Taking statements from your medical providers concerning the extent and severity of your injuries
- Contacting expert witnesses to review evidence and form opinions on issues such as causation
- Speaking with the insurance company adjuster on your behalf
- Advising you which forms you must sign for the insurance company and which ones you should not sign
Permanency and Pain and Suffering Claims
Remember that pain and suffering damages are not available in every car accident claim in Florida. You can only make a recovery for your pain and suffering if you have suffered a permanent injury. The insurance company or negligent party from which you are attempting to make a recovery will, of course, work to categorize your injury as temporary rather than permanent. Your attorney can collect and organize evidence on your behalf to refute the defendant’s attempts to deny that your injuries are permanent in nature.
Common Injuries in Car Accidents
Car accidents can cause a wide variety of different injuries to virtually any part of the human body. The extent and severity of an injury depend on the circumstances surrounding the crash, including such factors as the safety features of the vehicles involved and the speed of impact. A review of insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits involving auto accidents reveals that some injuries occur more often than others. The most common car accident injuries include the following:
- Brain and head injuries – One of the most common injuries suffered by drivers and passengers in a car accident is a closed head injury, which can range from a mild concussion to a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Even if there is no sign of physical trauma (i.e. cuts or bruises), the human brain may jostle around inside the skull in the impact of a car crash, such that bruising and other injuries can result.
- Neck injuries – Neck injuries, also called cervical injuries, are also common in car accidents. Minor neck injuries include whiplash and neck strain. More severe or serious injuries include cervical radiculopathy and disc injury, such as a herniated disk.
- Back injuries – Further down the spine is the thoracic spine and lumbar spine. The impact of a car accident and the resulting torque on the spine can cause thoracic and lumbar back injuries such as a sprain, strain, compression fracture, disc injury, ruptured disk, thoracic spine injury, lumbar radiculopathy, and lumbar spine injury. As is the case with neck injuries, sometimes the symptoms of even the most severe back injuries can take awhile to show up after an accident. Back injuries can cause long-lasting pain and discomfort.
- Facial and head injuries – In a car accident, injuries to the face can be caused by impact with the steering wheel, dashboard, airbag, windshield, side window, car seats, or shattered glass. These injuries range in severity from minor scrapes and bruises to more severe lacerations and fractures. Other injuries to the head may include Temporomandibular disorders of the jaw (TMJ) and serious dental injuries.
- Shoulder injuries – Shoulder injuries in car accidents include:
- Fractures involving the clavicle (collar bone), proximal humerus (top of the upper arm bone), and scapula (shoulder blade).
- Dislocations, including dislocation of the acromioclavicular joint (sometimes called a “separated shoulder”), dislocation of the sternoclavicular joint which interrupts the connection between the clavicle and the breastbone (sternum), and dislocation of the glenohumeral joint (the ball and socket joint of the shoulder) toward the front or toward the back.
- Soft-tissue injuries or tears of the ligaments, tendons, muscles, and joint capsules of the shoulder, such as rotator cuff tears and labral tears.
- Hip injuries such as strains, dislocations, and fractures.
- Knee injuries which include ligament tears, such as Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears and Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) tears; knee sprains; meniscus tears; and knee cap injuries.
- Fractures or broken bones – Types of fractures include: compression fractures, axial burst fractures, flexion or distraction (chance) fractures, transverse process fractures, and fracture-dislocations. Fractures may happen to any bone in the body, including bones in the face, arms, legs, chest, ribs, sternum, joints, pelvis, and more.
- Muscle and whiplash injuries – Whiplash is an injury to the neck that typically occurs during rear-end automobile collisions, when the victim’s head suddenly moves backward and then forward upon impact—similar to the motion of someone cracking a whip. These extreme motions push the neck muscles and ligaments beyond their normal range of motion, tearing them and causing pain.
- Psychological injuries – Injuries caused by car accidents are not always limited to physical injuries to the body. Injuries may include psychological injuries as well. This is especially true in cases involving severe injuries and the loss of life. Drivers and passengers may suffer short- or long-term psychological injuries. Injuries include emotional distress and post traumatic stress disorder.
Other common injuries include:
- Burns and scarring: including keloid scars, contracture scars, and hypertrophic scars
- Loss of limbs, including hands, arms, legs, and feet
- Spinal cord injuries, and injuries to nerve roots causing pinched nerves
Florida Car Insurance Companies
We handle car accident claims involving all auto insurance companies, including (but not limited to):
- Auto Club Insurance Company of Florida
- Bristol West / Security National
- Direct General
- Farmers / 21st Century
- Gainsco / MGA
- The General
- GMAC / Integon
- The Hartford
- Imperial Fire / Omni / Redland
- Kingsway Amigo
- Liberty Mutual
- Sentry / Peak Property / Dairyland
- State Farm
- United Auto
- Victoria and
You may be asking yourself, “Should I even try to pursue a case?” I can answer that question quite simply. The answer is, “Yes!” There is always a chance that a case can be won, and if you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident and has missed work as a result, you are entitled to financial compensation.Should You Pursue a Claim?
Please take a few moments to browse my website where I answer the other questions and others to help you understand what is needed to win a car accident case.
I can tell you now that the most basic evidence needed for a car accident case is proof that the other driver involved in the incident was negligent. You and your lawyer must have a convincing reason to determine that the other driver was not acting in a way that a careful and reasonable driver would.
The best way to do this is to show that the driver has broken one or more of your state’s transportation laws. A police report and an officer’s testimony can also be essential to the case. You can obtain a police report at the local police department that was involved in the accident investigation. It usually takes two to five days for the report to be made public and will cost about $6.
These accident reports are very important because they offer the opinion of an unbiased investigating officer, and many claim decisions will lean the way of the report. Even if the report incorrectly indicates that you were at fault or that you were not injured, it is still an important piece of evidence and your lawyer should still have a case if proof of the other driver’s guilt and approval of a doctor can be provided.The Ortiz Law Firm represents accident victims. We handle claims where the victim has suffered severe and permanent injuries as a result of a car accident. If you have been in a car or automobile accident in Florida, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. There is a limited window in which to file a PIP claim, a bodily injury insurance claim, or bring a claim against another party. To learn how experienced car accident attorney Nick A. Ortiz may be able to help you, please fill out our no-cost case review form for a free case evaluation today or call our office at (850) 308-7833.