Florida Car Accident Laws

A look at the Florida deadline for filing a car accident lawsuit, the state's rules on shared fault for a crash, and drivers' legal duties to report a car accident in Florida.

By , J.D.
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  • If you've been involved in any kind of traffic accident in Florida, there are a number of state laws to understand—including a few that could have a big impact on any insurance claim or lawsuit you decide to file, including:

    • Florida's no-fault car insurance system
    • the four-year deadline for filing most car accident lawsuits in Florida's civil court system
    • Florida's "pure comparative fault" rule, which applies when the claimant was partly responsible for causing the car accident, and
    • the rules for reporting a car accident in Florida.

    Florida Is a No-Fault Car Insurance State

    Florida is one of a dozen or so states that follow a no-fault car insurance scheme. That means injured drivers and passengers must typically turn first to the driver's own personal injury protection (PIP) car insurance coverage to get compensation for medical bills and other losses after a crash, regardless of who might have been at fault.

    An insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver is only possible if car accident injuries meet a certain threshold. Get the details on the Florida no-fault car insurance rules.

    What Car Accident Losses Are Compensated In Florida?

    The answer here depends on whether:

    • you're making a no-fault/PIP car insurance claim with your own car insurance company, or
    • the extent of your injuries means you're able to step outside of Florida's no-fault system and make a liability claim against the at-fault driver.

    First, with a no-fault/PIP claim, Florida law mandates the following benefits to claimants:

    • 80 percent of reasonable medical expenses to treat car accident injuries
    • 60 percent of income lost because of the accident and injuries, and
    • $5,000 in death benefits (paid to the estate or relatives of the deceased person).

    If you're able to circumvent no-fault and file a liability insurance claim or lawsuit, you're entitled to compensation for the full spectrum of your losses (these losses are called "damages" in the language of the law), including:

    • full payment of your medical bills stemming from your car accident injuries
    • compensation for your mental and physical pain and suffering (a category of damages that can come with significant compensation, and which isn't available in a no-fault/PIP claim), and
    • lost income and other economic losses related to the accident.

    The Florida Car Accident Statute of Limitations

    A "statute of limitations" is a law that sets a time limit on your right to bring a lawsuit. Let's assume your car accident injuries qualify to let you step outside of Florida's no-fault car insurance system and file a car accident lawsuit against the driver who caused your crash. If you miss the time limit set by the statute of limitations and you try to file your lawsuit after the deadline has already passed, the Florida court system is almost certain to dismiss your case, unless some rare exception applies to extend the deadline.

    In most situations, you have four years, starting from the date of the crash, to get your car accident case started in the Florida court system. For the details, learn more about the car accident statute of limitations in Florida.

    Comparative Negligence in Florida Car Accident Cases

    If the other driver was entirely at fault for your car accident, and you're able to step outside of no-fault because of the seriousness of your injuries, the other driver (or more often their insurance company) will be liable to pay for medical bills, lost wages, and other losses you suffered. But what happens if you were partly at fault for the crash?

    Florida follows a "pure comparative fault" rule when both parties are found to share blame for an accident. In most car accident cases, the jury is asked to calculate two things based on the evidence: the total dollar amount of the plaintiff's damages, and the percentage of fault that belongs to each party. Under the pure comparative fault rule, the plaintiff's damages award is reduced by a percentage equal to his or her share of fault.

    For instance, suppose that in your case, the jury decides your total damages award should be $100,000 (including your medical bills, lost income, vehicle damage, and "pain and suffering"). But the jury also decides you are 40 percent responsible for the accident (maybe you were speeding). Under Florida's comparative fault rule, you are entitled to get 60 percent of the $100,000 total, or $60,000 -- still a significant sum, but not as much as the grand total of your damages.

    The comparative fault rule in Florida applies even if you are found to be more responsible for the accident than the other driver. For instance, if the jury decides you are 90 percent at fault, you are still technically entitled to 10 percent of your total damages, but of course the other side of the coin is that you'll be on the hook for 90 percent of the other driver's damages.

    (Not all states treat comparative fault this way. Most follow a "modified" comparative fault rule that only allows the plaintiff to receive damages if his or her fault was 50 percent or less. Once the plaintiff's fault exceeds 50 percent, the damages award drops to zero in most of these states.)

    Not only does the comparative negligence rule bind Florida judges and juries (if your car accident case makes it to court), it will also guide a car insurance claims adjuster when he or she is evaluating your case. A claims adjuster makes decisions based on what is likely to happen in court, after all. But don't let that prevent you from pursuing an auto accident settlement or lawsuit. Instead, talk to an experienced car accident attorney about your situation and your best course of action.

    When Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in Florida?

    If you're a driver who was involved in a car accident in Florida, and the crash resulted in injury or death, and/or vehicle damage (or damage to any other property) in an apparent amount of at least $500, you must report the accident to the local police department, if the accident occurred within a municipality.

    If the accident did not occur within a municipality, you must report the accident to the office of the county sheriff or to the nearest office or station of the Florida Highway Patrol. These rules can be found at Florida Statutes section 316.065.

    Get more tips on what to do after a car accident.

    Getting Help After a Florida Car Accident

    If you've been hurt in a Florida car accident, and especially if you may be entitled to shed the restrictions of the state's no-fault rules, you might need more than just information. Learn more about when you might need a lawyer after a car accident. And if you're ready to reach out for help now, you can use the features right on this page to connect with a Florida car accident lawyer in your area.

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