Oftentimes the phrase “motor vehicle collision” gets used to describe many different types of potential claims that can arise when another person causes a collision while operating a vehicle. However, not all motor vehicle claims are the same. Motor vehicle collisions can involve a semi-truck, automobile, motorcycle, bicycle, moped, pedestrian or any combination of the above. Each type of collision can have a different set of rules, regulations and laws that apply. Each may also require different litigation tactics to ensure that no evidence is lost and that your case can be pursued as vigorously as it deserves.
Consult with an attorney early
In all types of collisions, it is important that you seek legal advice as soon as reasonably possible. Make sure the attorney has specialized knowledge and experience handling the specific type of collision that you were in, and don’t just take the attorney’s word for it. In addition, retaining an attorney early on will ensure that critical evidence does not disappear. Further, the types of critical evidence vary depending upon the types of vehicles involved. For example, a semi-truck involved in interstate commerce is subject to both state and federal regulations, and preserving evidence such as log books, maintenance records, the actual tractor and/or trailer, employment records and load details can result in additional avenues of recovery against the driver and/or the business(es) who contracted with the driver. Not all of the above evidence is required under Florida law. Make sure the attorney you hire is an expert in handling the specific claim you need. For more helpful tips to ensure the attorney you are hiring is the right one for your claim, refer to the article “Is My Personal Injury Lawyer Right For Me?” in the March 2019 Ed. of Space Coast Business.
Know the applicable law
The law that applies to a collision depends on the types of vehicles involved. Knowing the nuances is critical to understanding what categories of damages you may be entitled to after a crash. For example, under Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Laws, Florida Statute § 627.737(2) states that when the collision involves a motor vehicle, you can only recover non-economic damages if you can prove that you: (a) sustained a significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function; (b) sustained a permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement; (c) sustained significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement; or (d) died, as a result of the collision. For more information see Alpizar Law’s article “The Importance of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage” in the January 2018 Ed. of Space Coast Business.
Non-economic damages include pain, suffering, mental anguish, disability, disfigurement, inconvenience and loss of the enjoyment of life, and § 627.737 is often referred to as the Tort Threshold. Depending on the types of injuries sustained in the collision, proving one of the above can be a difficult task, and insurance companies almost always dispute that the injuries meet one of the above criteria. However, Florida Statute § 627.737 only applies to “motor vehicles,” and Florida Statute § 627.732(3) defines “motor vehicle” in part as having four or more wheels. If you were riding a motorcycle when the collision occurred, you are not subject to Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault laws, including the Tort Threshold. It is critical for your attorney to know these nuances to secure maximum value for your claim. Insurance companies will never volunteer this information to you, and they hope that your attorney isn’t familiar enough with the nuances of Florida Law.
Similar examples can be given for inter-state trucks and intra-state trucks, which are subject to Florida Laws while operating their vehicles on the roads in the State of Florida. They may also be subject to Federal laws and regulations if they are operating across state lines. There is a tremendous amount of differences in trucking cases in comparison to automobile cases. Likewise, mopeds have their own subset of laws that apply depending on the size of the engine and the speed it travels at.
Protect and pursue your claim
When you are injured because another person chose to operate their vehicle in a negligent manner, you have the right to seek reimbursement for the damages that person caused to you. Almost always, reimbursement comes from an insurance company and not the person directly. Despite what is advertised on TV, insurance companies are for-profit companies that are in the business of collecting premiums from their customers and paying out as little as possible when a claim is made. You only have one chance to bring a claim. Ensuring you hire the right attorney who knows the distinctions of Florida law as it applies to your unique facts is essential to ensure the right evidence is preserved and you are reimbursed fully and fairly for your injuries. For over 40 years, Alpizar Law, LLC has specialized in handling all types of collisions and can help navigate you through the complexities involved in collision claims.