Last night when I got a call that my grandfather was sick with pneumonia in the hospital and I needed to come right away. I was in a hurry to get there, and I forgot to put on my seatbelt. While waiting at the light, some old lady in a convertible Mini Cooper was putting on her lipstick. I could see this in my rear view mirror. The light turned green and all the cars started to move but someone ran the red light causing me to stop suddenly. Of course, that lady hit me.
The cops came and the guy who ran the red light got a ticket- but so did I for not wearing my seatbelt. As far as I can tell the old lady did not get a ticket for hitting me- but I am not sure. The cops asked me if I was hurt- and I told them I was going to the hospital anyway to see my grandfather and I would have it checked out there. Which of course, I didn’t.
Today when I woke up and was getting ready to go to work- I felt very stiff and sore. And now I want to see a doctor. My roommate says since I got the ticket and didn’t go right away to the hospital I missed my chance.
What do you recommend I do?
Hurt in Hialeah
Dear Hurt in Hialeah:
Thank you for your email and I am sorry to hear you were involved in this accident. Most importantly, we recommend that our clients seek medical care as soon as possible. We recommend hospital emergency rooms and not your local urgent care as they have far more resources to properly diagnose and treat your injuries.
Assuming you do what I recommend today and not delay going to the hospital for more than two weeks your PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance should cover it. Assuming you have the mandatory minimum coverage required by Florida law.
As for a claim for your injuries (pain and suffering) – you have three hurdles to cross- all of them are surmountable but they must be cleared for you to get monetary compensation.
Seatbelts Save Lives and Your Case- Failure to Wear a Seatbelt
Everybody knows or should know that they are more likely to be injured in a car accident if they are not wearing a seatbelt. I understand you were distracted- and between us- I once in a while forget myself- especially if I get a call or something distracts me when I am getting in the car.
This is precisely why Florida has mandatory seat belt laws. Seat belt laws apply to all automobiles including pickup trucks and vans. Under Florida law, all passengers in the front seat must wear a seatbelt and all passengers under 18 must wear a seat belt regardless of where they are seated.
The legal consequences for not wearing a seat belt pursuant to the Florida Supreme Court Case of Ridley v. Safety Kleen Corporation, the failure to use a seat belt “would henceforth be raised by an affirmative defense of comparative negligence.” That means that the jury will have to decide how much of your injuries are caused by your failure to wear the seatbelt- versus being rear-ended. In other words, if you had been wearing the seatbelt- would you have been hurt anyway? And if so, how much?
This will require expensive expert analysis on both sides- we would need to consult with your doctors and probably have to hire a biomechanical engineer to figure this out. Long story short, you can still make a claim but expect the amount of your damages to be discounted severely by your not wearing a seatbelt.
Rear-End Presumption and Sudden Stop
Florida law has what is called a rebuttable presumption of negligence on the rear end driver in a rear-end collision. That means, that it’s assumed if one is rear-ended it is the other driver’s fault.(( Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles v. Saleme, 963 So. 2d 969 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007). )) So it will be assumed that the Mini Cooper driver caused your accident. However, there are some exceptions to the rear end presumption- which I imagine she and her insurance company lawyers will put up if and when you make your claim. The most likely is called the Sudden Stop exception- which implies that she only hit you because you suddenly stopped at the light because of the other car that ran the light.
For the sudden stop defense to work- the stop has to be unexpected. And lucky for you Florida’s courts have already considered a scenario much like yours. To illustrate the bizarre nature of the rear-end rebuttable presumption of negligence, consider the recent Florida decision of Sorel v. Koonce, 2011 WL 521447, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D358 (Fla. 1st DCA, Feb. 16, 2011), where the lead driver stopped suddenly at an intersection to avoid another vehicle (not a party) which ran the red light. Sound familiar? The jury returned a defense verdict in favor of the rear-ending driver finding he was not at fault.
This verdict was overturned on appeal when the appellate court held directed verdict should have been entered against the rear-ending driver noting that the front driver’s stop, while possibly “sudden”, was not “unexpected”. Specifically, the court found a stop at an intersection should always be expected, as one never knows whether a pedestrian, emergency vehicle or vehicle running through a red light may be approaching.
You see under certain factual scenarios, the “simple” application of the rear-end collision rebuttable presumption of negligence certainly can become confusing and complicated. Don’t feel bad- not all personal injury cases are easy- but your situation is a very good example as to why people who are involved in traffic accidents in Florida need to consult with experienced personal injury car accident lawyers.
Consult With an Attorney for Your Rear-End Car Accident in Florida
Our personal injury law firm in Miami is pleased to offer anyone involved in a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, van accident, pedestrian accident or bicycle accident a free initial consultation. We recommend that you call us as soon as possible after your accident so that we can collect your evidence as soon as possible such as inspecting the scene of the accident, interviewing witnesses such as the investigating police officer, and inspecting the vehicles. Most vehicles have black box information that can help us understand how and why an accident occurred.
Contact us today: toll-free at 1-866-597-459, local 305-441-0440 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have over 30 years of combined legal experience helping people like you get past this accident, get the medical care and treatment you need and obtain fair and reasonable compensation for your lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering.
Thank you for your email we look forward to being of service.
Miami Car Accident Lawyer