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South Florida has a high volume of tourists year-round due to its warm weather and popular vacation destinations.  In fact, Miami is one of the best places to visit in the United States, according to new rankings from U.S. News & World Report. Not surprisingly, there are many car accidents involving victims who are not Florida residents. It is not uncommon for a tourist who is lost or confused to cause a car accident. It can be confusing for a Florida driver who is involved in one of these accidents to understand the legal steps to take, if an accident occurs with an out-of-state driver.

If you have been involved in a car accident with an out-of-state driver and you are pursuing a lawsuit to obtain damages you suffered in the accident, you will likely have many questions for an attorney. Will the lawsuit be filed in Florida or the state where the at-fault driver’s license was issued? What if the other driver returns to their home state before I file the suit? What if the other driver’s insurance is from another state? What if the required coverage is different than coverage in Florida? What if I never see the other driver again? 

Understanding Jurisdiction

To understand where the lawsuit will be filed requires a good understanding of jurisdiction. The term jurisdiction deals with the court’s authority to hear a case. A judge cannot rule on a case unless he or she has jurisdiction to do so. To have the case be heard in Florida means Florida courts need to have jurisdiction. Two different types of jurisdiction exist: personal and subject matter jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction deals with the court’s authority to rule on a case involving a specific person. Subject matter jurisdiction involves the court’s ability to decide on a specific type of case or subject. 

Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Subject matter jurisdiction involves a court’s authority to hear a type of case. In a personal injury case, subject matter jurisdiction determines which court hears the case. It determines which court the injured party will file the lawsuit following the car accident involving the out-of-state driver. Normally, the first step would be a trial court in the county where the accident or injury occurred. 

Personal Jurisdiction

Several different ways exist for a Florida court to have jurisdiction over a person. Courts normally look at the person’s contacts to the state and determine whether it is reasonable for that person to be asked to come to a court in that state when it comes to personal jurisdiction. With respect to a car accident, if a person causes an accident while in Florida and the injury occurs in the state, then the lawsuit can be filed in Florida. Consent to jurisdiction can be express or implied. It is often said that the consent is implied because the person chose to drive a car on Florida roads.

Under Florida Statutes, Section 48.193, a person who is or is not a resident of Florida who commits a tortious act or causes injury to persons or property within the state subjects himself or herself to the personal jurisdiction of the State of Florida. Even if the person who caused the accident returns to his or her home state outside of Florida, that person can still be served with the legal proceedings anywhere, not just in the state where the lawsuit was filed. It may be tricky to find the individual in a different state, and the assistance of attorney may be needed to ensure that service on that out-of-state driver is successful. 

No Fault Insurance

When it comes to car insurance claims following an accident, Florida is a no-fault car insurance state. What this means is the person who is injured in a car accident will need to file a claim under his or her own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to be compensated for medical bills and other financial losses, no matter who caused the accident. If the injury meets certain requirements, the injured individual can bring a claim against the at-fault driver, however. Florida’s law identifies four types of injuries where a person can sue for intangible injuries, such as pain and suffering or loss of earning capacity. These injuries include: permanent injuries; significant, permanent scars or disfigurement; significant, permanent loss of a bodily function; or death. If the individual’s injuries fall into one of these categories, however, it is recommended that an attorney be consulted regarding a potential lawsuit.  Florida auto accident victims have only 14 days to seek initial medical attention to receive insurance benefits after an accident, so it is important you are seen by a doctor as soon as possible following the accident.

FREE CONSULTATION WITH A MIAMI AUTO ACCIDENT PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident in Florida, it is very important to consult with an experienced Miami auto accident attorney immediately.  Spencer Aronfeld is a Board Certified Trial Lawyer, and he and the lawyers at Aronfeld Trial Lawyers understand Florida’s complex personal injury laws and since 1991 we have fought hard to protect the legal rights of the injured and their families- and hold auto insurers like State Farm, Allstate, Progressive, GEICO and others accountable for the pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages and other damages suffered by our clients. Contact us today and speak with an experienced Miami auto accident attorney toll free 1-866-597-4529, local 305-441-0440, or by email.  We offer a free initial consultation at your home, office, hotel or hospital.  Call us today, we are ready to help.