As everyone who lives in Florida knows, tourists are everywhere. All you have to do is look at the beaches to see for yourself. Even with social distancing measures in place, News 4 in Jacksonville reported that their beaches were swarmed with tourists over the Memorial Day weekend — and they weren’t alone.
Unfortunately, due to the demand for attractions that can’t be found anywhere but Florida, there are some bad circumstances that actual Sunshine State residents may find themselves in. Such as a car accident with a tourist.
What should you do if you’re involved in an auto accident with someone from out of state — or even an international visitor? Here’s what you need to know to ensure that you are taken care of when involved in an accident with an out-of-towner.
Florida Has No-Fault Car Insurance
Florida is a no-fault car insurance state. This means that drivers and passengers involved in an accident must first contact their own insurance to deal with any injuries that may occur, as well as to receive any compensation for things such as lost income, losses, and medical bills.
Claims can only be brought against other drivers in certain situations involving serious injury. A serious injury in an accident is defined as one involving:
- Bone fracture
- Permanent limitation of the use of a body part or organ
- Full disability for 90 days
- A significant limitation of the use of a body system or function
If you have an injury that meets this definition, then you are not limited to your own policy. You can hold the other driver responsible for the accident accountable via a third-party insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit.
When Floridians Should Report an Auto Accident
If you’re involved in a car accident in Florida (even with an out of state driver in the other vehicle), you need to report the accident if:
- It resulted in injury or death
- There was vehicle damage or damage to other property in the amount of $500 or more
Contact the local police department in the municipality where the accident occurred, the country sheriff if it occurred outside of a municipality, or the Florida Highway Patrol.
Comparative Negligence in Florida
Another factor to consider in a Florida car or truck accident is comparative negligence. Our state follows something called a “pure comparative fault” rule.
This means that when both parties are found to be at fault for the accident, the damages are calculated by the percentage of fault that belongs to each party.
For example, if you were found to be 20 percent at fault for the accident in court, then a damage award of $10,000 would be brought down to $8,000 to reflect your percentage of fault. This is decided by a jury.
Bringing a Claim against an Out-of-State Driver in Florida
If you want to bring a claim against another driver but they are not from Florida, what can you do? Luckily, many insurance companies are national or international — even if their coverage varies from place to place. Out-of-state drivers should still be covered by their insurance when driving in Florida, even if they’re in a rental car.
After an accident, you are entitled to a copy of the other driver’s insurance information that allows you to see what is and isn’t covered by their insurance.
Florida’s Long-Arm Statute
In our state, there is something called the Long-Arm Statute that can help you if you are involved in an accident with someone from out of state. This law states that as soon as a person crosses the state line into Florida, they give their consent to appear in Florida courts if they are involved in an accident.
This can help to ensure that you can file a claim for damages if you want to. However, it can be a complicated process to navigate, which is why legal representation is important.
Florida Statute of Limitations for Auto Accident Injuries
In Florida, there is a statute of limitations law that declares a time limit for a right to bring a lawsuit or claim against someone else. If you miss this deadline, then your case is likely to be dismissed by the Florida courts.
The time you have to file a claim depends upon whether the crash resulted in death or injury. In most injury cases, you have four years to file a claim from the date of the accident. The same four-year deadline applies if you wish to file a lawsuit to seek damages for your vehicle. If, however, the accident resulted in another’s death, a wrongful death suit must be filed within two years.
Getting in an accident can be complicated, but rest assured you have the right to seek damages whether the other driver is a native Floridian or not.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and named one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators. Mr. Winston is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2020 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite,” recognized by Expertise as one of the 20 Best Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys, named one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015-2017, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida for 2015-2017 and 2019.