Frequently Asked Questions
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What are the federal guidelines regarding commercial truck underride guards?
While all truck accidents can be serious, an underride truck accident is particularly catastrophic. This happens when a smaller passenger vehicle is trapped underneath the truck’s trailer in a side impact or rear-end collision. The windshield of the auto can be shorn off and the vehicle crushed by the much heavier truck trailer.Victims can suffer tragic injuries, such as traumatic brain injury, paralysis, amputation, and decapitation.
Fortunately, new legislation is being proposed to increase the requirements regarding big rig underride guards.
Current Regulations Regarding Commercial Truck Underride Guards
To reduce the dangers of underride truck accidents, the National Highway Safety Administration implemented federal regulations in 1996 requiring underride guards to be installed on many commercial trucks.
These guards attach to the back of the truck’s trailer to prevent a passenger vehicle from sliding underneath in a rear-end collision.
In 1998, the regulations for underride guards were strengthened, and all commercial trucks with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds after January 26, 1998 were to follow the mandatory guidelines. These regulations increased the number of trucks required to install underride guards and set specific requirements for the height, weight, and strength of the guards.
New Federal Law Proposed to Strengthen Underride Guard Requirements
Not all truck underride accidents are rear-end collisions. A passenger vehicle can be trapped under the truck’s trailer in a side impact crash, and it can also become lodged under the truck in a in an override accident. To prevent these deadly wrecks, The Stop Underride Act of 2017 was introduced in Congress. One of the bill’s sponsors is Senator Marco Rubio from Florida.
The law would apply to commercial trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or more require the following:
- Strengthened rear underride truck guards
- Installation of additional underride guards on the sides and front of commercial trucks
- Development of side and rear guards, tested to prevent a passenger vehicle traveling at 35 mph from sliding under a truck’s trailer
- Periodic inspection of underride guards, with a mandate that a truck is placed out-of-service if guards need replacement or repair
Were you injured in an underride or other truck accident? You could be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation to learn about our extensive experience handling these cases and how we can help you.
What is comprehensive auto insurance and why do I need it?
Florida requires all drivers to have a minimum amount of insurance in order to drive legally.
While comprehensive coverage is one of the many types of Florida auto insurance not required by law, it can be highly beneficial for drivers to purchase this kind of insurance—especially if they drive rare or valuable vehicles.
Common Events Covered by Comprehensive Auto Insurance
Comprehensive insurance covers your vehicle for damage caused by something other than a crash with another vehicle. Since a wide range of damages is covered, comprehensive insurance can be an expensive option for your car. However, it might be extremely useful if you drive frequently or live in a big city.
Covered events under comprehensive insurance can include:
- Animal strikes. Striking smaller animals such as opossums or squirrels can pop tires, while hitting larger wildlife may cause major damage to your car.
- Running off the road. If you manage to swerve off the road in time to avoid hitting an obstacle, comprehensive insurance can cover the damage sustained to the undercarriage or body work.
- Glass repair. Comprehensive insurance reimburses you after incidents with falling or missile objects, including windshields broken by tree limbs, rocks, or flying debris.
- Weather damage. Hurricanes, flooding, hail, and landslides may all be covered.
- Theft and vandalism. Comprehensive insurance can restore your property if your car is stolen, burgled, or vandalized.
- Fire damage. An engine that catches fire from a mechanical problem is not only a deadly occurrence, but also costs thousands of dollars to repair.
Comprehensive insurance may also be used to cover the overflow costs of an accident. For instance, liability insurance doesn't pay for damage to your vehicle in a crash, nor will it help with the financing or interest costs of your car if you're still making payments.
If you're unsure which insurer should be paying for your damages, simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule a consultation with our car accident attorneys.
Who's supposed to pay for my medical bills after a car accident?
While filing a personal injury lawsuit will help you recover the costs of your crash, you may have to wait several months—or even a year—before your damages are awarded.
So who's expected to pay for accident-related medical bills in the weeks after your injury? This article explores the most common sources of payment for medical bills incurred by a car accident.
Entities That May Be Liable for Your Medical Bills
The first place to turn for accident payment is your no-fault insurance. Florida requires all drivers to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance in order to drive legally. Under Florida's personal injury laws, your PIP insurance pays for 80 percent of your bills and 60 percent of lost wages, regardless of who's at fault for a crash.
If medical costs exceed your no-fault insurance policy limits, you may be able to file additional claims through:
- Your optional car insurance. Although they're not required by Florida law, additional forms of car insurance coverage such as bodily injury liability and uninsured motorist coverage will pay for crash-related injuries. If you purchased these policies, they might benefit you in the long run.
- Your health insurance provider. If your medical bills exceed the limits of your PIP coverage, your health insurance provider may pay for the remainder of the costs. This includes insurance provided by an employer, Medicare, or a state-run Medicaid insurance program.
- Workers’ compensation. If your accident occurred in the course of your employment, your workers’ compensation insurer is responsible for all of your medical costs. You don't have to exhaust your PIP, pay any copays or deductibles, or pay for travel expenses to and from doctors’ appointments.
- The at-fault driver’s insurer. If your insurance is exhausted, you may be able to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance carrier.
If you're having trouble paying your medical bills after a car accident, we can help. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation and have our attorneys explain your options.
Will full coverage car insurance pay for all of my accident losses?
Many drivers assume a “full coverage” policy is all they need to recover after a wreck. However, full coverage car insurance doesn't actually guarantee “full” payment.
Full coverage refers to the combination of several types of insurance that help a driver pay for auto damage—and often doesn't take into account the complete cost of medical and wage losses.
A Full Coverage Policy May Not Cover All Costs of a Florida Crash
Unfortunately, there's not a singular insurance requirement that can be called “full coverage,” and the term may mean various things in different states.
In Florida, most people who purchase the following policies may be said to have “full” coverage:
- State-required no-fault insurance coverage. All motorists are required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) and a minimum of $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) in order to drive in Florida. If an accident occurs, each driver and insured passenger file claims under his or her insurance policy. Each driver’s plan may also cover additional members of his household, authorized drivers of their vehicles, and passengers who don't have PIP coverage because they don't own a vehicle.
- Collision coverage. While state-required PDL pays for the damage to someone else’s car in a collision, it doesn't cover damage to a driver’s own vehicle. Collision coverage is an optional form of insurance that reimburses any relatable costs after a collision with another driver, striking a sign or pothole, or even backing into a parked car.
- Comprehensive coverage. Just as with full coverage, comprehensive is a somewhat misleading name for this type of insurance. Simply put, comprehensive coverage is an optional policy for damage to your vehicle caused by any non-accident event. This coverage can be used for losses such as fire, vandalism, theft, storm damage, or striking a wild animal.
Optional insurance coverage can make a big difference in the amount of compensation you collect after an accident. For example, while not required by Florida law, policies for bodily injury liability and uninsured motorists offer additional payments for crash-related injuries.
If you're having trouble getting full compensation from an insurer, we can explain your options at no cost to you. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule a free case evaluation.
How can Bodily Injury Liability and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage help me if I'm involved in a crash?
Car insurance is invaluable to avoid financial hardship after an accident. While the State of Florida requires minimum levels of insurance, these amounts are often far too low to compensate a victim for the full costs of an accident.
It pays to have as much auto coverage as you can afford, especially optional extras such as bodily injury liability or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Optional Insurance that Can Help After a Florida Car Accident
Florida law requires all drivers to carry two specific types of car insurance:
- A minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP)
- A minimum of $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL)
Under Florida’s no-fault system, PIP provides payment for any medical expenses or lost wages a policyholder incurs in an accident. PDL provides payment when a policyholder is responsible for damage to another person’s vehicle or property.
Unfortunately, $10,000 doesn't cover a lot when it comes to the effects of a car accident—and neither type of insurance protects a driver who causes injury to another person. However, optional coverages that can help pay bills after a crash include:
- Bodily injury liability (BIL). This coverage provides payment for injury or death expenses incurred when the policyholder causes an accident. If you're a driver and cause injury to another person, he or she will only be able to seek payment through the limits of your BIL policy.
- Uninsured motorist coverage. The no-fault insurance system works best if all drivers are insured. However, one in every four Florida drivers doesn't have car insurance, making them vulnerable in the event of a crash. An uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) policy is an extra insurance policy that compensates drivers if they're struck by an at-fault driver without coverage, or has too little coverage to pay the full cost of your injuries.
State laws don't require anyone to carry BI or UM coverage. But as you can see, these policies might make a big difference in the amount of compensation a driver receives after a crash.
If you're having trouble getting full compensation from an insurer, we can explain your options at no cost to you. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation.
What does “filing suit” mean in a personal injury case?
Many people are unaware of the legal difference between filing a lawsuit and pursuing an injury claim. Simply put, an injury claim is the process of obtaining compensation from an insurer, while “filing suit” is a legal action that requires a response from the other party. Both are ways to secure payment for your injuries and losses after an accident, and which one is best for you depends on the circumstances of your case.
Steps to Take Before Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Under Florida’s no-fault insurance system, all victims are required to seek payment through their individual insurance providers after an accident. The first step to take if you're injured is to notify your insurance company of the accident and request payment for your losses. The insurance company then begins investigating your claim. If the insurer accepts the claim and offers payment, you may accept the offer and your claim will be closed.
However, if the insurance company denies the claim or offers a low settlement offer, the injured party may respond with:
- Negotiation. An injury victim and an insurer may negotiate a settlement if the first offer isn't acceptable. This involves writing a letter to the insurance company—known as a demand letter—detailing why the amount offered isn't sufficient to cover the claim. These letters may contain receipts or estimates from medical providers and documents from employers outlining your future ability to earn a living. If the insurance company doesn't change its decision, you may proceed to mediation.
- Mediation. If you and the insurer agree on some points, you may be able to resolve the claim through mediation. This is a chance for you and the insurer to explain your points to a neutral third party, and the third party gives a recommendation on a settlement. If the mediator’s recommendation isn't sufficient or the insurer is still denying fair payment, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit.
- Filing suit. Filing a lawsuit—the process of actually filing legal papers at the courthouse with the Clerk of the Court—is typically only done after all other efforts to resolve the case have failed. At Johnson & Gilbert, P.A., we only file suit after exhausting all pre-suit options and thoroughly discussing them with our clients, and we always get our client's permission before filing suit.
If you're having trouble getting proper compensation for your injuries, our experienced personal injury attorneys can explain your options at no cost to you. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation.
How much is my injury case worth?
Calculating the full costs of an injury is a complex process, and many victims underestimate how much they've truly lost after an accident. While each case is different, there are a few general rules to help you total your losses and calculate how much your case may be worth.
Estimating the Damages in Your Florida Injury Case
The first category of losses in an injury case is called economic losses, or the out-of-pocket costs you have endured directly because of the accident. These include the costs of past medical treatment, future medical expenses, property damage, lost time from work, lost future lost income, and other expenses.
In addition to economic damages, the value of your case may be increased or decreased depending on:
- Your pain and suffering. An injury lawsuit allows victims to recover an additional amount for severe or permanent suffering. Called non-economic damages, these may include compensation for emotional suffering, inconvenience, loss of companionship of a family member, lost enjoyment of life, or permanent disability.
- The degree of negligence. If a person or entity showed extreme disregard for safety, you may be able to recover punitive damages to punish the wrongdoer.
- Insurance limits. Most injury claims are paid by insurance companies on behalf of the guilty party. In car accident cases, the amount you can recover depends on the available amounts of insurance coverage, including bodily injury and uninsured motorist coverage.
- Your condition. An insurer may devalue your claim if you've been involved in previous accidents or suffered prior injuries to the same part of the body. In order to get maximum compensation, your attorney has to gather evidence that clearly shows how the accident led to your injury.
- Your liability for your injuries. Florida’s injury statutes rely on a comparative fault system, which allows victims to recover payment even if they are partly to blame for an injury. However, the amount you recover is reduced according to your percentage of fault.
If you've been injured through someone else’s negligence, we can help you get the compensation you deserve while you take the necessary time to heal. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation.
How long will it take to resolve my personal injury case?
Victims often ask how long it will take to get compensation from a lawsuit. The truth is that resolving a personal injury case can take anywhere from a few months to over a year.
The exact length of time depends on the specifics of your case. However, there are many things you and your attorney can do to help the process along.
Factors That Affect the Length of an Injury Case
One of the biggest factors that impact a case is whether a victim accepts a settlement or goes to trial. Generally, cases that settle take less time than those decided in court, but faster isn't always better. Insurance companies often take advantage of a victim’s unwillingness or inability to wait for payment, offering low settlements soon after the accident occurs. Such payments usually aren't adequate to cover the full cost of injury, lost wages, or pain and suffering. Your attorney should carefully consider the amount offered before you accept payment.
The length of time it will take to resolve your injury case also depends on:
- The severity of your injuries. As it is important to get compensation that covers the full extent of your injuries and the need for any further medical care, your condition must be medically stable before accepting a settlement. Your past and future losses must be carefully calculated, as well as your ability to earn a living and enjoy life after the accident.
- The type of accident. During the discovery process, both parties obtain evidence through interviews, depositions, and documentation, which may take several weeks to complete. The circumstances of your accident play a large role in your case, and each one has unique details that need to be addressed. A car accident case will involve different investigative methods and insurance issues than a work injury case, and these both differ from slip and fall cases.
- Who's at fault. Liability can affect the length of a case, especially if more than one party is responsible for your injury costs. For example, in work injury cases, victims may be able to collect workers’ compensation and file a lawsuit if a third-party was negligent. In addition, Florida law allows a victim’s damages to be reduced if he or she shared some fault for the injury.
- Settlement negotiations. Negotiations typically begin after discovery, with offers changing from week to week depending on the strength of each party’s position. Cases may be settled at any time, and negotiations often continue throughout the discovery and trial process.
Whether we secure a settlement or go to trial, our Florida injury attorneys diligently work to get fair compensation for our clients’ suffering. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation with Johnson & Gilbert, P.A.
What if a defective seat belt made my crash injuries worse?
Many people are injured every year because the features of their vehicles failed to perform effectively. If you suffered significant injuries because of a defective auto part, you may be able to hold the carmaker liable.
The Widespread Problem of Defective Seat Belts
Seat belts are incredibly effective in minimizing bodily harm in a crash. When these devices fail, injuries are much worse and may prove fatal, even at low speeds. Drivers and passengers can suffer whiplash, internal injuries, chest trauma, or even be ejected from the vehicle if the seat belt doesn't restrain them properly.
Many vehicle manufacturers have come under fire for defective seat belts that have caused a number of problems, including:
- Defective latches. Poorly-made seat belts may unbuckle suddenly with light pressure, upon impact, or when the strap is pulled.
- Inadequate straps. Cheaply-constructed belts are more likely to develop rips and tears in the straps, causing a lack of tension that can result in injuries.
- Design problems. Some seat belts aren't designed in a way that will adequately protect a user. Belts that create gaps due to buckle placement or don't restrain the torso may suffer from defective design.
- Inadequate passive restraints. Passive restraints are devices that automatically slide down over the rider’s shoulder when the door is closed. These are meant to work in conjunction with lap belts, but they can still cause significant upper body trauma when they fail in an accident.
- Tension failure. Seat belts automatically tighten with hard braking or when the vehicle strikes an object. The belt should contract long enough to restrain the user during impact with another vehicle as well as the secondary impact of striking objects within the car. Faulty devices may not place enough tension in the belt, release tension too early, or constrict so tightly they impair breathing or prevent escape from a damaged vehicle.
If your injuries were made worse by a defective seatbelt, you may be able file a lawsuit against the manufacturer or automaker, even if your insurance already covered some costs of the crash. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation with one of our car accident attorneys.
Can I sue if I was injured in an ATV accident in Florida?
Accidents involving recreational vehicles differ from car accidents, even when they involve other cars. The victim may have more severe injuries due to the lack of protection in an ATV accident, and the victim may be found liable if he or she was riding in an area where that type of vehicle is restricted.
If the rider wasn't following Florida road rules pertaining to ATV operation, he or she can be found negligent, and may not be eligible for injury compensation.
With that in mind, it's important to know where and when operators of off-road vehicles may ride.
Florida Laws on the Use of ATVs and Other Off-Road Vehicles
Just as there are Florida laws regarding different types of motorcycles, the state also has regulations on operation of the many types of off-road vehicles, including:
- All-terrain vehicle (ATV). Florida classifies an ATV as any motorized off-highway vehicle that travels on three or more tires and is designed for use by a single operator or a single operator and one passenger. In Florida, an ATV may be operated on a public roadway only during the day, if the roadway is unpaved, and the posted speed limit is less than 35 mph.
- Recreational off-highway vehicle (ROV). Florida law considers an ROV to be a motorized recreational off-highway vehicle under 60 inches in width that travels on four or more non-highway tires, and has non-straddle seating and a steering wheel, such as a motorized go-kart. Like ATVs, these vehicles are forbidden to ride on public streets or highway unless it's during the day on an unpaved road with a speed limit less than 35 mph.
- Off-highway motorcycle (OHM). An OHM similarly can only be ridden on public roads on an unpaved road with a speed limit less than 35 mph during daylight hours. These vehicles are motorized bikes with a seat or saddle for the rider and travel with not more than two wheels in contact with the ground. It's also illegal to carry a passenger on am OHM unless the vehicle has been specifically designed by the manufacturer to carry both an operator and a single passenger.
- Low-speed vehicles. Florida laws are more generous regarding the use of low-speed vehicles, which include four-wheeled electric vehicles with top speeds between 20–to– 25 mph. Low-speed vehicles may be operated only on roads where the posted speed limit is 35 mph or less. Operators of low-speed vehicles are required to carry a valid driver’s license and to register and insure their vehicles.
- Golf carts. Sporting or recreational golf carts may only be operated on public roads with a posted speed limit under 35 mph; roads that are specifically designated for golf cart use; or roads that are part of the State Park Road System (and only if the operator is over 14 years old).
We can help you determine who was at fault, whether defects in the ATV manufacturing or design led to the crash, and how much you could be owed for your injury. Contact the injury attorneys at Johnson & Gilbert, P.A. by filling out the quick contact form on this page and scheduling your free case evaluation.