This guide will give you a complete understanding of the Florida car accident laws. You will learn about:
- What you have to report after an auto accident
- When a crash report must be completed
- Your legal duties after an auto accident
- The minimum auto insurance you must carry
- No fault and the permanent injury threshold
- Comparative fault
- The deadline for filing a Florida car accident lawsuit
Florida Car Accident Reporting Laws
When you are in a car accident, the law assigns to car drivers several duties they must fulfill. Those duties depend on what happened. According to Florida Statutes §316.027, the first thing you must do is stop without unnecessarily obstructing traffic. You must also remain at the scene.
If someone is injured or dies, it is a felony if you willfully fail to do so and you could be subject to losing your driver’s license for at least 3 years.
In addition, according to Florida Statutes §316.062, you must give your address, driver’s license, and vehicle registration number to the injured person or anyone attending to a vehicle involved in the crash. You must also give this information to any law enforcement officer that arrives on the scene.
Lastly, you must render reasonable assistance to any injured person including making arrangements for them to get medical assistance and when necessary actually carry them to medical assistance when necessary or requested. If no law enforcement officer arrives at the scene, you have a duty to report the crash to the nearest law enforcement officer as soon as possible after the crash.
Reporting an Accident with No Injuries
According to Florida Statutes §316.061, if no one is injured but there is damage to property including the cars themselves you still have a duty to remain at the scene until you have made every effort to report the crash to the owner of the other vehicle and or property that was damaged. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor.
Furthermore, under Florida Statutes §316.063, you have a duty to try and locate the owner if the vehicle or property is unattended. If you cannot locate the owner, you must securely attach in an open and obvious place a written notice that includes your name, address, and vehicle registration number.
You must also notify law enforcement.
When a Florida Traffic Crash Report Must Be Completed
Florida Statutes §316.066 describes what the officer must document and what crash participants must do. The officer must complete either a long-form or a short-form crash report.
The circumstances when law enforcement must complete a long-form traffic crash report are as follows:
- A crash involving death, personal injury, or complaints of pain;
- When the vehicle is not operable and requires a tow; or
- When a commercial motor vehicle is involved.
In all other circumstances, the officer must complete a short form crash report or provide a driver exchange of information form to be completed by all drivers and passengers in the crash.
Cooperation with Law Enforcement Is a Requirement
Everyone involved in the accident must cooperate with law enforcement. At a minimum, the participants must provide the officer at the scene with:
- Their name
- Driver’s license, and
- Proof of insurance
Any statement by a driver to law enforcement about how the accident happened cannot be used as evidence in a trial whether the trial was civil or criminal. However, law enforcement can testify about what they observed at the scene.
Florida Auto Insurance Requirements
In Florida, the auto accident laws that govern auto insurance are subject to changes by the legislature. But, as of this writing, you have to carry very little auto insurance.
The first coverage you must carry according to Florida Statutes §324.022 is $10,000.00 worth of property damage. This covers you for damages you may cause to other people’s property including damage to their car.
PIP benefits cover you for medical expenses you may incur as the result of an accident. As part of Florida’s no-fault law, you get 80% of your medical expenses paid for by your own car insurance regardless of whether you were a fault for the accident.
No-Fault Coverage and the Permanent Injury Threshold
In exchange for not having to prove fault to get medical payments, you give up your right to pain and suffering damages unless you can prove in your car accident lawsuit that you sustained a permanent injury in the crash.
The tradeoff seems very unfair for two reasons. First, the law was passed in the 1970s and the amount of medical payments has never been increased. $10,000.00 provides very little medical today. The second reason the law is unfair is that you are only entitled to $2,500.00 of medical care unless you have an emergency medical condition.
Comparative Fault Law in Florida
Determining fault in a car accident depends on the type of car accident that occurred. However, in general, in order to hold someone accountable in a car accident lawsuit, the person has to be negligent and that negligence must cause or contribute to the accident.
Florida jury instructions define negligence as either doing something a reasonable person would not do or failing to do something a reasonable person would do under the same or similar circumstances. But oftentimes, more than one person can contribute to an accident. This is called comparative fault because you compare the amount of fault each person has for what happened.
Florida Statute §768.81 applies comparative fault to all types of personal injury cases, including car crashes. Under the law, a jury assigns a percentage of responsibility to every person involved in the accident.
So, in a Florida car accident lawsuit, you can only collect from a particular party the percentage of damages assigned to that particular party. In addition, if you were partially at fault, the amount you can collect is reduced by your comparative fault.
Rear-End Presumption of Negligence in Florida
When you’re involved in a rear–end collision, it is difficult for the car in front to determine what the car behind you is doing. On the other hand, the rear driver has a clear view of what is ahead. The rear driver should also drive in such a way to be able to safely come to a stop before hitting the car ahead of it.
For these reasons, the Florida Supreme Court has concluded the rear-end driver is presumed to be negligent in a car accident lawsuit in Florida. This presumption can be overcome by showing the rear driver had to come to a sudden stop because of an unexpected emergency. But this is very difficult to do.
Deadlines to Bring a Florida Car Accident Lawsuit
A statute of limitations puts a limit on how long you have to bring a lawsuit. After that time passes, you are forever barred from filing a car accident lawsuit.
In Florida, the statute of limitations is governed by Florida Statutes §95.11. Under the law, for car accidents involving injuries, the statute of limitations is four years from the car accident. For car accidents involving death, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death. If you do not bring a lawsuit before these times expire, you are forever barred from doing so.
When Should You Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you were injured or a family member died in a car accident, you should definitely hire a personal injury lawyer. The type of personal injury lawyer that represents people injured in car accidents is called a car accident lawyer.
It’s important to hire this type of attorney because they know how to use Florida car accident laws to hold the responsible party accountable for what has happened. At Distasio Law Firm, we are here to help.