Here, I am going to concentrate on 15 factors that are unique to car accident cases. These factors may affect settlement value.
1. Was the negligent driver intoxicated? (E.g. drunk or on drugs)
If a drunk driver’s negligence caused your injuries, then you may be able to get punitive damages in Florida. The threat of punitive damages generally results in a liability insurer offering more to settle than if their insured was not drunk.
For example, we settled a case where a drunk driver hit our client. Our client was later diagnosed with a herniated disc.
We settled the personal injury claim with Geico for $95,000. This was in addition to Geico paying our client for the total loss of his car.
If Geico’s insured had not received a DUI, they probably would have offered a fraction of that amount. I have had numerous other Florida DUI accident settlements where the insurer offered more money because of the threat of punitive damages.
Newer cars are more likely to have services such as Onstar, which provides a wealth of information about the speed of the vehicles at the time of the impact as well as the location of the impact. You should see if your car has Onstar and if so request the report immediately.
The speed of the impact can be very important because even though it can take little force to herniate a disc, adjusters want to see evidence that the vehicles were traveling at a high rate of speed immediately prior to impact.
The time of the impact is important to verify whether the negligent driver was on a cell phone at the time of the crash. If they were on a phone, then in Florida you may be able to get punitive damages in addition to pain and suffering, medical bills and lost wages.
The location of the impact is important, particularly if there is little to no damage. Onstar may show that an impact actually occurred and it can help corroborate the mechanism of injury.
In our initial client car accident questionnaire, we ask each client whether they had Onstar or a similar provider at the time of the crash.
3. Did an Airbag Deploy?
4. Was a car(s) towed from the scene?
It helps the injured person’s case if a vehicle(s) was towed from the crash scene. For lack of a better word, it makes the case more “exciting” to a jury because it shows that it may have been a serious accident. The general rule of thumb is that juries tend to award more money for pain and suffering in exciting cases as opposed to boring cases.
5. Was a moving violation issued?
One great thing about car accidents from an injured person’s perspective is that traffic tickets are usually issue after an accident. While the jury won’t get to hear about who received a ticket for a moving violation, a ticket is usually a good indicator of who was at fault in the incident.
The crash report may also provide the names of witnesses who can make or break a case. It may also mention statements made by the parties involved in the crash as well as witness statements. The crash report also contains a wealth of other information.
6. Are there skid marks?
A professional traffic accident reconstructionist can determine vehicle speeds from looking at the skid marks. The basic point to know is that you can calculate vehicle speeds with skid marks. This can be helpful in proving causation as well as proving that the defendant was speeding.
7. Is there damage to the vehicle(s) involved?
Generally speaking, cars with minor damage lead to smaller injury settlements than when there is large damage. I often hear clients say that they were rear-ended at 50 miles per hour, yet when I look at the rear of their car there is no damage. Juries generally do not believe that someone has sustained serious soft tissue injuries if there is no, or minimal damage, to the car.
It does help if the driver that caused your accident says that he was going 10-15 miles per hour or more, but you will most likely only find this out during his or her deposition (after a lawsuit is filed.) You should request the 911 call to see whether the negligent driver or any witnesses commented on the speed of the vehicles or other material issues.
8. Do you have a written estimate of the damage to vehicle(s) involved?
Pictures are worth a 1,000 words. But sometimes you may not have access to pictures of the vehicle damage, or sometimes pictures show minimal damage. Often times there is damage to the chassis or undercarriage of the car that cannot be seen by simply looking at the body of the vehicle. So be sure to send a copy of the damage estimate to the liability adjuster if there appears to be minimal damage to the vehicle(s).
9. Red light cameras/Video
Red light cameras record motorists as they enter an intersection after the signal turns red. The camera photographs the vehicle from the rear – not the driver, so you probably can’t see whether the driver was using a cell phone. The camera records the date time, lane, location, and speed of the vehicle.
Red light cameras are located throughout the city. For example, in Miami Beach, Florida red light cameras are located at the following intersections.
10. Was it a rear end crash or an intersection crash?
Rear end accidents tend to be less exciting than intersection accidents (like a T-bone crash or head on collision). Therefore as a general rule of thumb rear end accidents are worth less than intersection or other types of car accidents. That being said, you may still have a great case if you were hit in the rear by another vehicle.
I settled a case for $210,000 for a driver of a truck who suffered a shoulder tear when he was hit in the rear by a truck. All settlements on this site are before deduction for attorney’s fees and expenses. Most cases result in a lower recovery. It should not be assumed that your case will have as beneficial a result.
11. Was the injured person wearing a seat belt?
The value of the injured person’s case may be reduced if they were not wearing a seat belt. Florida seat belt law depends on the age of the occupants as well as whether they were a front or back seat passenger.
12. Type of vehicle in which you are a passenger
In Florida, the type of vehicle that you were in occupant in may affect whether you are entitled to PIP coverage and therefore who will pay your medical bills and lost wages. The type of vehicle that you are in will determine whether you need to prove that you have a permanent injury in order to get non-economic damages (e.g. damages for pain and suffering, etc.).
13. Type of vehicle that was driven negligently
If you are hit by certain types of vehicles in Florida, then you do not have to prove that you have a permanent injury to get money for pain and suffering. So type of vehicle that hit you may be a huge factor in whether you get money for pain and suffering.
14. Does the car or truck have an Event Data Recorder?
Some cars contain an event data recorder, which is a box that states whether the vehicle was involved in a crash and, if so, the date and time of a crash. Older model cars, even as old as a 2009 Lexus IS, have event data recorder.
15. Did the impact cause your vehicle to move?
In all car or truck accident cases, but particularly minor impact soft tissue cases, the claims adjuster will want to know whether the car, within which you were an occupant, moved after it was hit. If it did move, this may indicate that the impact was moderate. The injured person’s case may become stronger if there is testimony that the car moved a long distance after the impact.
If you (and/or the other occupants of the car within which you were an occupant) testify that the car did not move, this may decrease the full value of the case in a minor impact soft tissue case.
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