Frequently Asked Questions
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If My Car was Totaled in an Accident, Do I Still Need to Make Payments?
Yes! If your car or truck was totaled in a collision, you need to inform your lender of the incident right away. Your vehicle is the collateral on their loan to you and they have a legal right to know it’s been destroyed. You also need to continue to make any regularly scheduled payments on the vehicle until the entire loan has been paid off.
It can take several weeks to determine liability for a collision and negotiate a fair price for your vehicle (insurance companies call that price the actual cash value). During that time, you will be responsible for making payments on your loan. Once the actual cash value has been agreed upon and a check has been issued, any payment from the insurance company for the value of the vehicle will be applied to the end of the car loan agreement. This means you are responsible for making all scheduled payments until the amount is completely paid off. You do not get any credit on the front end of the loan.
If the actual cash value of your vehicle is less than what you owe on your car or truck, GAP insurance coverage (also called loan or lease payoff coverage) purchased through your auto insurance carrier or the dealership where your car was purchased will cover the difference in price. Check the terms of your GAP policy, however, because some only pay up to 25% of the actual cash value towards the price difference. So, even with GAP coverage, you could be left to pay the bill if your vehicle is worth substantially less than the amount you owe.
For example, if you owe $15,000 on your car loan, but the at-fault driver only had $10,000 in property damage coverage AND you do not have GAP coverage, you must continue making your regularly scheduled payments until you pay off the remaining $5,000.
Imagine the same example, but with Gap coverage up to 25% of the actual cash value. The GAP coverage would cover $2.500 on top of the $10,000 provided by the property damage coverage. You would be responsible for the balance of $2,500.
Now, let’s look at the same set of facts but with full GAP insurance. Your GAP insurance will pay the remaining $5,000 on the loan after the property damage coverage provides the initial $10,000.
If you were injured in a car accident and need an attorney to help you navigate through the rules regarding vehicle repair or replacement and medical treatment, contact our team at 727-446-0840. We offer free consultations to all accident victims.
Should I Buy Rental Car Reimbursement On My Auto Insurance Policy?
Absolutely. It is inexpensive and hugely convenient when you need it. Here’s why: very often after an accident caused by another driver, there is a delay of days or sometimes weeks before their insurance company can be determined or they accept responsibility for the crash.
Many times the other driver fails to report the crash, or the driver does not have an insurance card at the time of the accident, or they are driving someone else’s car and do not know the owner's insurance company. Other times, the driver has no insurance or it was cancelled. These and other situations may delay having the driver’s insurance company provide you a rental, if there is an insurance company at all.
We had a caller recently who was involved in an accident with someone in a rental vehicle who did not purchase the rental coverage. To make matters worse, the police did not give our caller enough information about the driver to reach them by phone. The driver was in Florida on vacation. Writing them would take time.
Going through the rental company to get their information could easily take a week. Florida is brimming with rental cars this time of year. Having rental coverage allows you to get a car without paying out of pocket and it avoids a big hassle for you. The coverage probably costs less than $15-20 every six months and is well worth having.
What are the Penalties for Hit and Run Drivers in Florida?
In 2014 the Florida legislature stiffened the penalties for drivers who flee the scene of an accident involving an injury. The new law was the result of the outcry after the death of Aaron Cohen, a cyclist, who was killed by a hit and run driver in Miami in 2012.
The law created increased penalties for someone convicted of leaving the scene of an accident in which someone was injured. There are four levels of penalty:
- First, fleeing from an accident with injury which is not serious bodily injury is punishable by up to five years in prison (a third degree felony).
- Second, if the victim suffered serious bodily injury, the penalty is increased to up to fifteen years (a second degree felony).
- Third, if the victim was killed, the penalty increases to up to thirty years of incarceration (a first degree felony) and there is a four year mandatory minimum sentence.
- Fourth, if the driver was driving under the influence at the time, they are subject to a four year mandatory minimum sentence as well.
The law also imposes requirements for restitution to the victim or their family and a required driver’s license suspension.
These enhanced penalties are designed to give the sentencing judge greater discretion to impose longer jail time after a conviction, especially when there are aggravating circumstances involved.
If you have questions about a hit and run injury accident in Florida we would be happy to help you. Simply call us for a free comprehensive case evaluation or contact us online. There is never any cost for discussing your case.
What are the Most Common Misconceptions About Car Accidents in Pinellas & Hillsborough Counties?
Many people believe they know how to avoid an accident by driving at certain times or being extra careful in certain places. The truth is, you never know when someone else is going to doze off behind the wheel or decide to send a text message instead of watch the road. You have to stay alert the entire time you are driving your car, riding your bike or walking near the street.
Myth: Most accidents are caused by drunk drivers.
Truth: Less than 7% of all crashes in Pinellas County involved alcohol impairment. However, 46% of all fatal crashes in the county were a result of intoxication. So, while most accidents are caused by sober drivers, nearly half of all deadly accidents involved alcohol intoxication or drug impairment.
Myth: The elderly community is responsible for the dangerous roads.
Truth: Only 11% of crashes in Pinellas involved people ages 65 or older, but drivers aged 15 to 34 were involved in almost 30% of accidents. Although the elderly are an at risk population of drivers, their decreased mobility keeps them driving less as they adapt their driving pattern to accommodate their limitations.
Myth: Most severe accidents occur at low speeds and close to home.
Truth: Accidents occur within 5 miles of the driver’s home. That being said, over 75% of severe crashes in Hillsborough County occurred on roads with posted speed limits of 45 miles per hour or greater. What does this tell us? Although the drivers may have been ‘close to home’, these accidents weren’t little fender benders inside the subdivision. A vehicle moving at 45 mph can cause a lot of damage and is surely not moving at a law speed.
Myth: If you don’t feel any pain at the time of the accident, you are injury free.
Truth: Often, people leave the scene of an accident pain free. Once the shock wears off and the adrenaline in your body returns to normal levels, the pain may start to kick in. Some injuries, like whiplash or neck and back pain, may not be apparent immediately. It may take a few days to feel your injuries. In fact, certain injuries get worse with time as they go untreated. If you are involved in an auto accident, you should seek treatment from a medical professional immediately to determine whether you have any injuries.
Myth: Morning rush hour is the deadliest time to be on the road.
Truth: Most fatal crashes in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties occur at night, a shocking number considering less than 30% of all crashes occur at night.
Request our free Glove Box Accident Kit today. It includes all the information you need to be prepared for an accident. We have more free literature available here.
If you or someone you care about was injured by a vehicle, give us a call to discuss your options. You may be able to recover compensation for your injuries, time away from work and pain and suffering.
The Driver Who Ran into Me Didn’t Get a Ticket, Do I Have a Case?
It’s pretty common for people to assume the police must ticket the other driver in order to have a case against them. Don’t fall into that trap. It doesn’t matter whether the police wrote a citation to them or not. We’ve brought many accident claims for people who were seriously injured where no ticket was issued.
What’s most important is what the other driver did to cause the crash. Were they speeding? Did they violate your right of way or fail to stop in time? Did they drive carelessly? Having an independent witness who will describe how the other driver caused the accident helps even more.
For example, let’s say you were in a car accident in Florida and the driver who caused it was not ticketed. You can still bring an injury claim against them. Proof the driver was ticketed is not part of a claim. In fact, if an accident case has to be tried in front of a jury, they will not be told whether the driver did or didn’t get the ticket. This is because it’s the jury’s job to decide if someone was negligent or at fault in causing the accident. What a police officer decided is not part of the case. Juries have to make their decision without being influenced by what a police officer thought.
If you've been injured in a car accident please feel free to contact us online or call us directly at 888.815.6398 for your free consultation.
Driver Hit the Gas Instead of the Brake, Do I Have a Case?
A driver who hits the gas pedal instead of the brake is responsible and could be at fault if they injure someone. The injured person may bring a claim against the driver’s insurance company. In the event the driver at fault doesn’t have insurance or not enough of the right kind, the person who was hurt would look to the Uninsured Motorist coverage on their own car insurance policy.
These accidents are sometimes called gas pedal accidents or wrong pedal accidents. They frequently occur in a parking lot. A recent study by the National Traffic Safety Administration found women were responsible for about 60% of gas pedal accidents.
When a driver hits the wrong pedal the injuries suffered by someone who was run over can be quite serious. When the pedal mix up occurs the driver believes in their mind they are putting on the brakes, but the car suddenly takes off in drive or in reverse. The natural tendency then is to press harder, thinking the car should be slowing. As a result, the car accelerates rapidly. This results in cars being driven into buildings or over long distances before crashing into something that stops them. In a recent pedal mix-up case in Florida, three innocent people were killed when a woman hit the gas instead of the brake in a parking lot.
How Long Will it Take to Settle My Auto Accident Claim in Florida?
The amount of time it takes to settle an auto accident claim in Florida will depend on a variety of factors. A lawyer will evaluate your case to determine who was negligent, what the extent of your injuries are and what types of compensation (money) you may be entitled to pursue as well as what insurance is available. All of these factors, plus others will impact how long your case may take to resolve.
It’s not uncommon to be concerned about how long it will take to settle an auto accident claim in Florida, especially if you have suffered serious injuries. You may be out of work and facing a lot of expenses which require immediate financial help.
Florida personal injury claims can be very complex. Although many are resolved within a year, cases that require a lawsuit or cases that are complex will take longer to resolve. The process can be made even more complicated where there are devastating injuries requiring prolonged treatment.
Factors to Consider When Determining How Long it May Take to Settle an Auto Accident Claim
- whether fault is admitted by the other driver’s insurance company or when they dispute their driver caused the accident and a lawsuit is required to decide the issue.
- how long it takes to complete medical treatment required for your injuries.
- whether a settlement amount can be agreed upon or the insurance company refuses to pay a fair amount to settle and
- whether your attorney has the experience to make sure your case is not being delayed.
Choosing the right attorney is one of the most important things you can do when pursuing a Florida injury claim. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us today at 727-446-0840 for a no-cost evaluation of your case.
When a Car Crashes into the Back End of the Car Ahead, is that Driver Automatically at Fault?
The driver of a car who rear ends the car ahead is presumed to be at fault in Florida. However, the presumption of negligence is rebuttable, and can be overcome if the driver has evidence they were not at fault.
Five Reasons Why the Driver Hitting the Car Ahead May Not Be at Fault
- The car ahead made an abrupt and arbitrary stop where it would not be expected or made an unexpected lane change;
- Sudden brake failure made the rear car hit the lead car;
- The brake lights weren’t working on the lead car;
- The lead car was illegally and unexpectedly stopped; or
- The lead car turned out onto the road in front of the rear car.
This list is not exhaustive. Every accident involves a unique set of circumstances which requires careful analysis by an experienced attorney. At Jim Dodson Law, we understand the importance of every detail. If you were injured or lost a loved one who was involved in a rear end collision, call us today. We look forward to helping you through your recovery.
What are the Common Causes of Intersection Car Accidents?
When drivers ignore traffic laws and disregard red lights and signs around intersections, accidents are common. These are some of the most frequent causes of intersection car accidents in Florida:
- Failing to obey traffic signals
- Failing to come to a full stop at a red light before making a right turn
- Making a right turn at a red light when a sign prohibits right turns
- Running a stop sign or red light
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
Intersection crashes often result in fatalities or very severe injuries. In 2010, 829 people died in Florida intersection car accidents — nearly a third of the state’s total traffic deaths. Nearly 9000 people died in intersection accidents nationwide that year.
To reduce the number of these very serious accidents, traffic safety experts have proposed building more roundabouts and installing red-light cameras at intersections.
If you have been injured in an accident at an intersection or elsewhere due to another person’s irresponsible driving, you may have a claim to recover money to compensate you for your losses. To find out more, contact Jim Dodson Law at 727-446-0840. Jim has been helping accident victims for more than 25 years, and he will be happy to discuss your case with you free of charge.
What Determines Who Is Responsible for a Florida Traffic Accident?
In any Florida traffic accident, someone is liable. The simple rule is, whoever was careless was the liable party. In some cases one party violated a traffic law in which case determining negligence fairly straightforward. Others instances aren’t so clear-cut.
Some states, including Florida, use what is called comparative fault to measure damages. This means that negligence in a Florida traffic accident can be shared among involved parties. For instance, let’s say Tricia was involved in an accident with Allison. It was determined that Tricia was 80% responsible and Allison was 20% responsible for the accident. Total damages to Allison’s car were $10,000. Allison would be able to recover $8,000, or 20% less than the total amount. She would be liable for the remaining $2,000 in damages.
The insurance claims adjuster will initially determine comparative liability in a car accident. This can be based on the accident report, an assessment of the vehicles involved, and other factors.
This is where hiring an attorney can be very useful and a financially astute move. An attorney is experienced in negotiating with insurance adjusters and can help compile evidence to prove the other party’s liability in your case.