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car accident dispute

Car accident cases have many moving parts, the most important of which concerns fault. As a major factor in your ability to recover compensation, fault should be a top focus for you and your attorney during investigations, claim construction, and – in some cases – when responding to disputes raised by the defense.

At Perry & Young, our award-winning attorneys have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for motor vehicle accident victims across northwest Florida, and have considerable experience helping clients investigate, dispute, and determine fault.

As we know all too well, disputes over fault and liability can create many challenges when it comes to securing justice. However, we also know that proper preparation and some keen insight can make the difference in delineating favorable fault allocations that set plaintiffs up for success.

Fault in Florida Car Accident Cases

Florida has a unique no-fault insurance system that requires motorists involved in car accidents to first file claims under their own PIP insurance, a mandatory form of no-fault insurance meant to provide benefits for medical bills and some lost wages, up to a certain limit.

PIP has real benefits for car accident victims, namely in that it can provide immediate benefits and that it provides these benefits regardless of fault. However, it typically only provides up to $10,000 in coverage, a sum that fails to fully compensate victims who suffer more serious injuries or more significant damages.

Fortunately, there are exceptions baked into Florida’s no-fault system that allow car accident victims to pursue compensation outside of their PIP claims – meaning that they can file civil personal injury claims. Generally, this is permitted in one of several circumstances:

  1. Serious Injuries: If a victim sustains serious injuries as defined by Florida law, they may step outside the no-fault system and pursue a claim against the at-fault party for additional damages.
  2. Permanent Scarring or Disfigurement: Victims who suffer permanent scarring or disfigurement because of the accident may pursue a civil claim against the at-fault party.
  3. Death: In cases where a car accident results in death, certain family members may pursue a wrongful death claim against the responsible party.

How Disputes Over Fault Happen

Despite Florida’s no-fault system, issues of disputed fault and liability still arise. Usually, these disputes happen in civil injury cases, where plaintiffs who bring claims have the burden of proving that defendants are at fault for causing accidents and liable for their losses. However, they can also happen when policyholders dispute findings of fault made by their own insurers to protect their driving record and avoid consequences such as increased insurance premiums.

In terms of civil car accident lawsuits, defendants and the insurance companies that represent them against claims may challenge fault for various reasons and through various means. Some examples include:

  • Comparative Negligence: Florida follows a pure comparative negligence system, which means that victims can still recover damages even when they are partially at fault for accidents. Because these damages are reduced by a victim’s percentage of fault, insurance companies may attempt to shift blame onto a victim to minimize their liability and how much they must pay.
  • Conflicting Accounts: In many cases, parties involved in car accidents have conflicting accounts of what happened. Eyewitness testimony, police reports, and expert opinions may be used to determine fault, but disagreements can still arise. Insurance companies, keen on protecting their bottom lines, are likely to use discrepancies and conflicting accounts to challenge fault.
  • Lack of Evidence: Insurance companies may dispute fault if there is insufficient evidence to support the victim's claim, or when the evidence provided fails to provide conclusive support for their allegations of fault. This underscores the importance of gathering as much evidence regarding a defendant’s fault as possible.

Beyond fault, insurers may raise disputes over liability – that is, the financial responsibility for paying a victim’s damages. As with fault, this can happen in various ways. Some examples include contentions that a victim’s injuries were pre-existing and not caused by the accident (which would reduce their compensation), a victim failed to reasonably mitigate their damages, or that a victim fraudulently fabricated or exaggerated their injuries or the circumstances of the accident. They may also raise disputes over policy coverage, the statute of limitations, and intervening causes, such as poor road conditions or actions of third parties.

How to Dispute Fault in a Car Accident Case

Regardless of how insurance companies or defendants dispute fault, their contentions can create major challenges for plaintiffs. If you find yourself in a situation where fault for a car accident is being disputed, there are a few steps you can take:

  1. Seek Legal Counsel: Contact a personal injury attorney with experience handling car accident cases in Florida. Attorneys like ours at Perry & Young can assess the circumstances of your case, gather evidence, and advocate on your behalf.
  2. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of the accident, including photos of the scene, medical records, and correspondence with insurance companies. This documentation can strengthen your case and refute any disputed claims.
  3. Negotiate Wisely: If fault is being disputed, your attorney may engage in negotiations with the insurance company or the other party's legal representation. It's essential to approach these negotiations strategically and with the help of experienced legal counsel to ensure you receive fair compensation. Insurers often try to capitalize when victims lack legal representation.
  4. Consider Filing a Claim: If negotiations fail to resolve the dispute, you may need to pursue legal action through the civil justice system, provided you meet Florida’s requirements for bringing actions outside of PIP insurance. A skilled attorney can guide you through this process and represent your interests in court.

Perry & Young: Fighting for Auto Accident Victims Across the Florida Panhandle

Navigating fault disputes in car accidents cases can be complex, especially in a state like Florida with its unique no-fault system. However, with the right knowledge and legal representation, victims can effectively dispute fault and seek the compensation they deserve.

If you've been injured in a car accident anywhere in Panama City, Tallahassee, Marianna, or the surrounding region, don’t hesitate to reach out to our award-winning team at Perry & Young for help. Since 2008, we’ve recovered millions of dollars in compensation for motor vehicle accident victims, and have prevailed in complex cases involving disputed fault, liability issues, and numerous other challenges.

Complete an online form or call (850) 215-7777 or to request a FREE consultation.