Experienced Fort Myers Car Accident Attorneys
Don’t Deal With the Insurance Company Alone. Call Viles & Beckman Today!
Automobile accidents happen in the blink of an eye. They are incredibly disruptive to one’s life, emotionally traumatic, and often cause accident victims significant pain. Some car accidents are serious enough to cause devastating injuries, long-term pain and suffering, and even wrongful death. Regardless, almost every Fort Myers car accident causes some degree of economic hardship or personal distress.
At Viles & Beckman, LLC, we understand how frustrating and difficult any car crash experience can be. We have helped countless car accident victims in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida during our more than 40 cumulative years in the practice of law.
Some car accidents result in severe, catastrophic, and fatal injuries. If you have suffered injuries in a car accident caused by another party’s negligence, Florida law entitles you to seek compensation for damages related to your injury in civil court. You shouldn’t have to shoulder the financial burden which often accompanies severe accident injuries, when another person’s careless decisions behind the wheel caused an accident.
The skilled Fort Myers car accident attorneys at Viles & Beckman have experience dealing with insurance companies, investigating accidents, and helping clients recover damages for their injuries. Let a qualified attorney handle the details of your case.
Advocating for Those Injured in Car Crashes Since 1995
The legal team at Viles & Beckman has more than 40 years of experience helping injured clients recover the compensation they deserve for losses related to car accidents and injuries caused by negligent parties. The firm’s continued dedication in advocating for their clients has led to the recovery of millions of dollars from negotiated settlements and court-awarded damages. It’s impossible to guarantee results because each case has distinctive characteristics, but our team will advocate for you, and do our best to build a strong case against liable parties to obtain the best outcome for your individual situation.
Holding Negligent Drivers Accountable for Causing the Crash
It is important from the start that victims of negligence know that they are not responsible for the costs of someone else’s carelessness. Even when the at-fault driver doesn’t mean to cause anyone harm, victims may be able to recover financial compensation for their injuries and any relevant suffering.
Car accidents can occur for many reasons, but most are preventable. Traffic collisions are often a result of the negligence of one or more drivers. Some negligent driving behaviors which often lead to accidents include:
- Speeding. Drivers are in a hurry to reach their destination. Maybe they are impatient or maybe they are running late. In any case, speeding causes severe, sometimes fatal, accidents. Drivers who speed put others in danger because they have a higher likelihood of losing control of their vehicle. At the very least, reacting to other vehicles and road hazards becomes more difficult, especially in high winds and stormy weather.
- Drowsy driving. Driving without proper rest remains a problem for Florida drivers. Fatigued drivers have slow reaction times and impaired senses, which can affect vision and spatial perception. Drowsy drivers can fall asleep at the wheel and cause catastrophic and fatal accidents. Shift workers, professional drivers, and those with untreated sleep disorders pose the most risk to other drivers on the road.
- Driving while impaired. Although driving under the influence typically involves alcohol, drug use also impairs Florida drivers. In either case, unwinding on the weekend, having a few drinks after work, celebrating a holiday with alcohol or drugs, or enjoying too much wine at dinner, result in too many drivers choosing to get behind the wheel. The most dangerous aspect of using alcohol and drugs is the fact that they affect each person differently. While a driver might think they haven’t had enough to impair driving, they are often wrong. This mistake can lead to severe and deadly collisions.
- Distracted driving. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) defines distracted driving as “anything that takes your hands of the wheel, your eyes off the road, or your mind off driving.” Drivers need to be focused on the road so they can see and react to other vehicles and hazards. Those who are distracted cannot react and put others at risk for severe accidents. Some examples of distractions besides cell phones include eating, adjusting climate controls or the radio, daydreaming, personal grooming, interacting with passengers, or watching another event outside of the vehicle.
- Tailgating. Impatient, careless, and inexperienced drivers often follow other vehicles too closely. Driving instructors recommend leaving a two to four second gap between vehicles. Those who tailgate don’t allow enough space or time to react to a vehicle which needs to turn or stop quickly. Tailgating often results in rear-end collisions, which can be severe at medium to high speeds.
- Not using turn signals. Data about using turn signals is sparse, but a recent landmark study revealed more than half of 12,000 drivers didn’t use their signals when changing lanes, and about a quarter didn’t signal their turns. The study concluded that up to two million car crashes per year are a result of drivers who don’t use turn signals. Using signals conveys a driver’s intentions to other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, so they can react appropriately.
- Not clearing blind spots. All vehicles have blind spots which require drivers to use all of their mirrors and maybe even glance to the side to make sure another vehicle isn’t present when they are turning or changing lanes. Inexperienced drivers or those who only focus on the view directly in front of them are in danger of striking another vehicle, a motorcycle, a bicycle, or a small car, all of which can easily be missed in a blind spot.
- Accelerating through yellow lights. Some drivers make it a habit to speed up to make it through a yellow stoplight before it turns red. Many times drivers don’t make it completely through the light because they don’t know exactly how long the yellow light will last. In heavy traffic, this can result in serious car accidents, which cause severe injuries or fatalities.
Fatal Car Accident Statistics in Lee County, Florida
Common Injuries after a Florida Car Accident
Car accidents are one of the most common causes of injuries. It is a simple equation. Car cause humans to go way faster than they could with their own two feet, combined with heavy hard objects, and you get injuries. Some of the most common injuries after a car accident are:
- Whiplash, strain to the neck and back
- Soft Tissue Injuries, like bruises and strains
- Scrapes and Cuts, like lacerations to the face
- Head Injuries, like a Traumatic Brain Injury
- Broken Ribs, often caused by steering wheel or seatbelt
- Broken Bones, like a broken femur in the leg
- Herniated Disc, which is a common source of long-term pain for injury victims
- Internal Bleeding, which can be serious and life threatening
- Spinal Cord Injuries, which can be extremely painful and have life-long consequences
- Knee Trauma, which can take months or years to rehab from
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which can debilitate a person’s ability to drive after accident
- Emotional Distress, which is much more common than people talk about
Florida Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance Coverage
Under Florida’s no-fault insurance laws, drivers who register a vehicle must carry a minimum of $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and $10,000 of property damage liability (PDL) coverage. When a car accident occurs in Fort Myers or elsewhere in Florida, injured parties must file a claim under their PIP coverage before seeking compensation from the other driver or his insurance company.
In Florida, PIP covers 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages from an accident. Being involved in a moderate to severe car accident often meets or exceeds policy limits quickly. Once this happens, you can seek compensation for damages from the other driver and/or his insurance carrier. Your car accident attorney will guide you through this process and ensure you bring any necessary lawsuit within the statute of limitation that applies to your particular case.
Defense Strategies in Florida Car Accidents
Those who are named in a personal injury lawsuit as a result of a car accident will go the extra mile to avoid liability. Some strategies which the defense might use to reduce the value of a claim include:
- Blaming the plaintiff. Florida courts apply comparative fault to personal injury cases, including those involving car accidents, to assess the extent to which a plaintiff might have contributed to causing an accident. If the court finds the plaintiff partially at fault, they reduce any awards by the corresponding percentage of fault they assigned to the plaintiff. Comparative fault motivates the defense to blame the plaintiff and they might argue that he or she was violating traffic regulations such as speeding, driving under the influence, or driving while texting.
- Downplaying the plaintiff’s injuries. In order to pay less in a settlement or court-awarded damages, the defense might claim the plaintiff’s injuries aren’t as bad as they claim. They specifically might argue about the cost of medical treatment and the amount of recovery time needed before returning to work. The defense might also claim the car accident did not cause the plaintiff’s injuries; instead, the plaintiff had a preexisting injury which is causing distress.
- Offering a low settlement. When parties to the defense, especially insurance companies, know they hold some or all liability for damages, they might make a quick and low settlement offer shortly after the accident. Initial offers are meant to entice plaintiffs to avoid going to court, so the defense doesn’t have to pay out a much larger claim later on. These offers are often far lower than what a plaintiff deserves to compensate them for losses incurred as a result of a car accident. Once a plaintiff settles, they waive their right to litigation.
A skilled personal injury attorney anticipates the tactics the defense might use in a particular case, and can fight against them to ensure liable parties are held accountable for their actions.
Florida Car Accident FAQ
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), more than 400,000 traffic accidents occurred on Florida’s roads and highways in 2018, including 3,150 fatalities and more than 250,000 injuries. Car accidents might occur because of a variety of environmental, mechanical, and human factors, but most are preventable. Poor choices behind the wheel and driver negligence often lead to severe, sometimes fatal car accidents. If you have recently been in a car accident in Southwest Florida, you might feel overwhelmed and unsure about what actions you should take. Below we provide answers to frequently asked questions about car accidents in Florida for you to review, so you can find the right path for your circumstances.
Do I Have to Report a Car Accident to the Police?
Under Florida law, certain car accident scenarios require law enforcement to file a police report. They include:
- Any crashes involving bodily injury;
- Any crashes resulting in one or more fatalities;
- Any crash where a party leaves the scene of the accident;
- Any crash involving a party who has been driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol;
- Any crash that requires a wrecker to remove a vehicle from the scene of the accident:
- Any crash involving a commercial motor vehicle; or
- Any crash where property damage obviously exceeds $500.
If any of the previously listed scenarios applied to your car accident, you should have waited for police to arrive at the scene of the accident and fill out an accident report; however, you do have 10 days to report the accident before you have broken the law.
How Do I File a Crash Report After a Car Accident?
If your car accident was serious enough, it’s likely emergency response teams including local police and/or Florida Highway Patrol came to the scene of the accident to help, investigate, and complete full accident report. Yet, for whatever reason, situations do occur where you might not have the opportunity to immediately file a report with law enforcement. In these cases, you can self-report online or by mail to the Crash Records Department in Tallahassee, or contact your local FHP Troop Station. When you self-report you need to fill out a “Driver Report of Traffic Crash“ form to submit online. You can also self-report minor accidents to ensure you have a record of the event; even minor accidents can cause injury.
How Can I Obtain a Copy of the Crash Report Detailing My Car Accident?
Any driver or passenger involved in a Florida car accident has the legal right to obtain a copy of the final crash report. In Florida, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles maintains copies of the crash report. It can take up to 10 days before your report is completed and copies are available to you. You can request your copy online, in person, or via snail mail.
- Online. If you visit the Florida Crash Portal online, you can request a copy of your crash report for $10 plus a $2 per transaction convenience fee. After you complete your purchase, your report will be immediately available for download, which you must complete within 48 hours.
- In person. If you want to obtain a copy of your crash report in person, you can visit the Florida Highway Patrol troop station closest to the scene of the accident, and pay the $10 fee for up to 10 copies of the report.
- Snail mail. You can request individual records by snail mail, but this option is typically for more than 10 records. Also, it will take at least a month to receive your record when you use snail mail. You have to send a sworn statement for each report and a check or money order for the total amount of reports to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Crash Records, 2900 Apalachee Parkway, MS 28, Tallahassee, FL 32399.
Do I Have to Go to the Doctor After a Car Accident?
If you were in a severe car accident, you likely were transported to the nearest emergency department via ambulance soon after the crash. Yet, you might have been fortunate enough to walk away from the accident or you were involved in a minor accident. In the event you refused medical treatment at the scene of the accident and haven’t visited a doctor since your accident, you need to get checked out as soon as possible.
After a car accident, your health and safety should be top priority. Some common car accident injuries such as traumatic brain injuries and whiplash don’t show symptoms for days after an accident. Yet, with a thorough medical examination, a doctor might be able to diagnose these injuries sooner. If you avoid medical treatment, you risk causing more damage. In the most severe cases, avoiding treatment might even be life-threatening.
Medical documentation of your injuries is also important for insurance claims and lawsuits. Part of avoiding a claim denial or prevailing in a lawsuit includes proving your injuries were a result of the car accident, not some previous event or accident. Your medical record provides this evidence to lawyers, insurance investigators, and the court, making it difficult for any party to claim you have preexisting injuries. The doctor who examines you can also serve as a witness to speak to your prognosis and chances for recovery, if you have suffered injuries.
I’ve Exceeded My Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage Limits. Now What?
Florida is a no-fault insurance state that requires all who register a motor vehicle to carry a minimum of $10,000 each of property damage liability (PDL) and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This means when you get in a car accident, regardless of fault, you file a claim under your PIP policy, which covers a portion of medical expenses and lost wages. Although there are some exceptions, Florida PIP coverage typically covers 80 percent of medical costs and 60 percent of lost wages. Even though PIP doesn’t cover 100 percent of economic losses, $10,000 of coverage does not go very far in a severe accident.
Once you’ve exceeded your PIP limit, you are responsible for your medical costs and will have to endure a loss of income until you can return to work, unless you take further action. You can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s auto insurance carrier or file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver. For most, this is the time to involve an attorney who can handle communication and negotiations with the insurance company to fight for full and fair compensation for your accident and injuries.
What Compensation Can I Receive if I Sue for Damages?
If you have exceeded your PIP limits and sue the at-fault driver for damages you might receive compensation for the following damages in a settlement or a verdict in your favor:
- Cost of medical expenses beyond PIP coverage, including emergency response services, hospitalization, diagnostic imaging, followup visits, medication, and surgery
- Cost of future medical expenses when a severe injury requires extensive recovery or results in a permanent disability or conditions requiring lifelong care
- Lost wages beyond PIP coverage
- Future lost wages when a severe car accident injury prevents you from returning to your job or seeking gainful employment
- Cost of rehabilitative services such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, and any other specialists who help you regain function and learn to cope with your injuries
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Any other non-economic damages that might apply to your case
- Punitive damages reserved for rare cases of intentional harm or gross negligence
What Can I Do if I Was Hit by an Uninsured Driver?
Florida does not require you to carry uninsured motorist (UM) coverage; however, your auto insurance provider was supposed to offer it to you. If you chose to reject the coverage, you would have done it in writing. If you have been hit by an uninsured driver, you need to double check your auto insurance coverage to see if you have UM coverage. If you have purchased uninsured motorist coverage, often coupled with underinsured motorist coverage, your policy will kick in after you have exhausted your PIP policy limits.
If you have not purchased UM coverage, you will be shouldered with the financial burden of property damage to your car, medical expenses, lost wages, and all other economic losses related to your car accident. You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver to seek compensation for damages, but it’s unlikely you will be able to recover any money, even if the court rules in your favor. If the driver had large financial resources, it’s likely he or she would not have been uninsured. Your attorney can help you investigate your accident and look for third parties who might share liability with the uninsured driver, allowing you to recover some or all of your losses.
Should I Accept an Early Settlement Offer From the at-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company?
Once you bring suit against another driver after a car accident, the insurance company will thoroughly investigate the accident to place a value on the claim and determine liability. Insurance companies will do whatever they can to deny a claim or reduce their financial liability, especially if they know their policyholder caused the accident. Offering an early settlement to car accident injury victims is one way insurance companies try to reduce the amount they must pay out on a claim. These early offers are meant to entice you to take the money and sign away your right to sue for compensation, so they might look attractive on the surface. Yet, if you have suffered severe injuries, these offers are typically far less than you deserve and far less than potential court-awarded damages.
Accepting an early offer is your choice, but it’s almost always in your best interest to consult with a personal injury attorney before you make a decision. Consider an early offer as starting off point for negotiations. A qualified attorney can handle negotiations, causing the insurance company to take you seriously. Once a lawyer is involved, many insurance companies will quit playing the low-ball offer games. More often than not a good lawyer can negotiate a much higher settlement for you. When insurance companies don’t want to settle or pay, your attorney can advocate for you in court and litigate your case, giving you a better chance to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Seeking Damages After a Fort Myers Car Accident
Once you’ve exceeded PIP limits and choose to sue for damages, you might receive compensation for a variety of expenses and loss related to a car accident. Settlements and verdicts in your favor potentially include punitive and compensatory damages. Florida courts reserve punitive damages, intended to punish the defendant, for rare cases of extreme negligence or intentional harm. Courts most often award compensatory damages which might include compensation for the following:
- Medical treatment costs including ambulance rides, emergency room visit, hospitalization, radiology, surgery, aftercare, and prescription medication
- Future costs of medical treatment when an injury requires multiple surgeries or extensive recovery, or when a permanent injury creates the need for long-term care
- Rehabilitation costs including physical therapy and other specialties as well as assistive devices such as crutches, wheelchairs, artificial limbs, canes, and walkers
- Lost wages for missing work due to treatment, hospitalization, and recovery
- Future lost wages when an injury prevents a victim from returning to a job, requires a reduction in hours, or requires a change in profession
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Loss of quality of life
- Mental anguish
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Any other non-economic cost which might apply to a specific case
Your Rights. Your Recovery. Our Responsibility.
Having been involved in a car accident, not only have you suffered the physical pain of injury and healing, but it’s likely you have added emotional and financial stress in the aftermath of the accident. You shouldn’t have to financially struggle because of another party’s negligence; you deserve full compensation for losses related to the accident. At Viles & Beckman, we understand this is a difficult time for you and your family, and we are here to advocate for your rights and hold liable parties accountable. Let our skilled Fort Myers car accident lawyers handle the details of your case, including investigating the accident to uncover the facts which we can use to build a case against the defense.
If you have sustained injuries or lost a loved one in a car accident, contact us online or at (239) 208-5223 to schedule a free consultation and learn the ways we might be able to help you after a car accident. If you chose Viles & Beckman to represent you in your car accident claim, we take cases on contingency, which means we deduct attorney fees from any compensation we secure for you.
Call Now to Schedule Your Free Case Evaluation
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a car crash anywhere in the state of Florida, the deeply experienced and fiercely passionate legal team at Viles & Beckman, LLC can help. Our mission is to make a meaningful difference in your case.
Our services are available to the residents of Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral, and any other area in Florida.
About the Author of this Page: The above information was written or reviewed by one of the attorneys at Viles & Beckman LLC who have a combined experience of nearly 60 years: Marcus Viles, Michael Beckman or Maria Alaimo. The information provided in this article comes from years of experience trying legal cases outside and inside courtrooms throughout Florida along with extensive research.