A Florida Attorney Answers Your Auto Accident Injury Questions
If you have a question about recovery after an auto accident, we’ve probably heard it before. In fact, we’ve compiled the common questions and answers about car, truck, and bike crashes on our searchable FAQ page. Browse through our answers before you file your injury claim!
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What should I do if my child was hurt in an ATV accident?
Whether you knew your child was out riding on an ATV or not, the crash came as a complete shock. If his injuries are serious, you know he needs to get to a hospital right away, but you don’t know what you need to do after that.
Should you call the police? Talk to an insurance company? Confront the owner of the ATV? Here is our advice for handling an ATV crash involving your child.
Take Care of the Most Important Thing First
ATVs can travel up to 65 miles per hour, and people drive them over rough terrain. When one crashes into a tree or flips over, the riders can suffer broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, organ damage, and disfigurement. These injuries can result in permanent disability and death.
On average, 30 percent of riders injured in ATV crashes each year in the United States are under the age of 16. If your child is in an ATV crash, you should get medical attention as soon as possible—even if his injuries do not seem serious at first. Once you have handled his medical needs, you should find out what happened in the crash.
Who Is Liable When a Child Is Injured?
Under Florida law, if a child is under the age of 16, he or she should be supervised by an adult while riding an ATV. If your child took out the family’s ATV without permission and crashed, or was injured when a parent crashed, there is no liability to consider. However, if your child was injured while riding a vehicle belonging to a friend, neighbor, or relative, the driver or owner of the ATV may be liable for your child’s injuries in the following situations:
- Your child was given permission to drive the ATV without supervision.
- Your child was not wearing a helmet and other protective gear, as required by Florida law.
- Your child was a passenger on a vehicle driven by an adult who drove recklessly or violated traffic laws.
- The ATV was not properly secured, and your child was able to take it without permission.
If another child is responsible for causing the accident, his or her parent can be held liable. A personal injury attorney will be able to give you an idea of who may be held liable for your child’s injuries. An automotive or homeowner's insurance policy may provide liability coverage for this kind of accident.
Contact Us to Learn More
When you contact the personal injury team at Browning Law Firm, we will conduct a full investigation, advise you of your child’s rights, and, if applicable, pursue a legal recovery. If your child was injured in an ATV accident in Navarre, Crestview, or Baker, please don’t hesitate to contact us in our Fort Walton Beach office.
How long do I have to file a slip and fall injury claim in Florida?
In our experience, people wait to take legal action when they are injured in a slip and fall accident for one of several reasons. They don’t realize how serious their injuries are right away, they assume it will be an expensive process, or they just don’t understand their rights.
Because it can take some time to figure out what your needs and options are, it’s a good thing that Florida gives you several years to file a claim. However, one of the worst mistakes you can make with a slip and fall accident is to wait until the deadline to take action. The sooner you gather evidence and pursue a case, the better your chances of winning are.
Florida Statute of Limitations for Premises Liability Claims
Florida limits the amount of time you have to file a slip and fall claim to four years from the date of the accident. If you miss this deadline, you will be barred from filing a legal action in most cases. Possible arguments you can make to extend the four-year deadline include:
- You were not aware of your injuries until months after the fall.
- You were physically or mentally incapacitated by the accident, making it impossible for you to file within four years.
- The business or property owner left the state of Florida or otherwise made himself unavailable to avoid being served.
- The business or property owner is the cause of undue delays.
While these arguments may be successfully made in court, you should not count on being able to extend the deadline for filing your lawsuit. When you take your time to file a claim, you risk the success of your case by jeopardizing the availability of evidence such as video footage and witness testimony, and you undermine the strength of your case by appearing to be unmotivated or hesitant to take action.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Fort Walton Beach Team
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall, you need a lawyer by your side. Schedule your free initial consultation with attorney Coy H. Browning as soon as possible. He will answer your questions and review your case to let you know what it may be worth. You can be sure that the defendant will have lawyers working for him, and you should have one too. If you were injured in a slip and fall in Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Navarre, Crestview, or Niceville, call Browning Law Firm today.
What should I do after a boating accident?
Regardless of who caused the accident, everyone involved in a Florida boat crash is required to stay at the scene, render assistance to anyone who needs it, and call the authorities to report the crash. In certain situations, you are also required to file an official report with the U.S. Coast Guard. As a responsible boater, it is important that you understand these requirements and take the necessary steps to protect yourself, your family, and any potential claim for damages at the scene of the accident.
When a Boating Accident Must Be Reported
If you were involved in a boating accident and believe the driver of the other boat was speeding, driving recklessly, or drunk, you should call the police or Coast Guard regardless of injuries or damage. Federal law requires that a collision on the water be reported to U.S. authorities within 48 hours of the crash if any of the following are true:
- Someone died in the crash.
- Someone was seriously injured and required medical treatment beyond first aid.
- A person is missing, and there is reason to believe they were injured or killed.
- There is damage to vessels or other property totaling $2,000 or more.
A recreational boating accident report form from the Coast Guard will ask for detailed information about the vessels and people involved, the injuries and damages sustained, and possible factors that contributed to the crash, including the following:
- Alcohol or drug use
- Excessive speed
- Overloading of the vessel
- Hazardous weather conditions
- Violations of navigation rules
- Improper anchoring
- Operator inattention or inexperience
- Machinery or equipment failure
- Sudden medical events such as seizures or heart attacks
These reports must be completed by someone from each of the boats involved in the crash. If you or someone on your boat was seriously injured and the driver of the other boat is found to be at fault, this report could help a potential personal injury claim later on.
Florida Boating Accidents Are Deadly Serious
In 2018, there were over 625 reported boating accidents in Florida, including 59 fatalities and 307 serious injuries. Residents of Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Navarre, and Niceville who are injured in boating accidents caused by irresponsible boaters should contact a boating accident attorney to discuss the possibility of holding the responsible party liable for their losses. Browning Law Firm welcomes boating accident injury claims and invites you to schedule a free initial consultation today.
Do I need an attorney after an Uber or Lyft accident?
You may have been in a minor car accident before, and you may have handled the insurance claim on your own. However, as a passenger who was injured in an Uber or Lyft crash, you should not attempt to handle a claim for compensation on your own. If you are seeking damages from a rideshare company for injuries sustained in a Northwest Florida crash caused by their driver, you should absolutely hire a lawyer to represent you.
What a Lawyer Will Do for You
You cannot trust Uber or Lyft to pay you what you are owed when their driver was at fault for a crash. Even though they have insurance to cover these claims, they will fight to pay you as little as possible.
To get the full compensation you deserve, you will have to prove that your driver’s negligence or carelessness caused the crash. This is not an easy task, but a Florida personal injury lawyer working on your behalf will do the following for you:
- Conduct a full investigation. An experienced car accident attorney has experts he can call to investigate how the crash happened and gather evidence of the driver’s negligence.
- Determine the fair value of your case. Your past, current, and future medical costs, as well as your lost wages and lost future earning capacity, will all be calculated to determine the full value of your claim.
- Negotiate with the right insurance companies. Your attorney will be in a much stronger position to deal with the insurance companies for the driver and for the rideshare company than you are as an individual.
- Protect your rights in court. If your case ends up going to trial, your attorney will be prepared to provide evidence of the driver’s negligence and argue your right to full compensation.
Because Browning Law Firm offers free initial consultations and takes cases on a contingency fee basis, you are not risking anything when you contact our team to discuss your rideshare accident. We don’t get paid unless we win your case, so you know we will work hard for you. The real risk is in trying to handle a rideshare accident case on your own.
Contact Us to Discuss Your Case
Browning Law Firm has reached multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for auto accident victims throughout Florida. Not only do we provide exceptional legal counsel when it comes to rideshare accidents, but we also update clients regularly on the status of their claims, allowing them the time and peace they need to heal. If you live in Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Navarre, Crestview, or Niceville, and were injured in an Uber or Lyft crash, call us today to discuss your case.
- Florida Uber and Lyft Safety Tips You Need to Know
- What to Do If You've Been Injured in an Uber Accident
DUI Defense FAQs
1. What is a Formal Review Hearing?
If arrested for DUI and the chemical test result is .08% or greater, or if you refused to take the test, your license will be suspended for a period of time by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). You are entitled to challenge this suspension by means of the Formal Review Hearing. However, this Hearing must be requested in writing and delivered to the DMV Office in Hillsborough County, no later than 10 days from the date of arrest. Your attorney can handle the details involved with scheduling, and be able to conduct this hearing without the need for you to attend.
This Hearing can be a valuable tool in the investigation and the defense of your case. First, it allows your Attorney to challenge the suspension of your license and, if successful, obtain the reinstatement of your license. Secondly, it permits your Attorney to interrogate Law Enforcement Witnesses in order to gain detailed knowledge concerning their observations, actions and opinions.
2. Can I obtain a temporary permit to drive while my license is suspended?
When you are arrested for DUI, you may be permitted to drive for the first 10 days. If your chemical test result was .08 or higher, you will then enter a period of "Hard Suspension" and will not be permitted to drive for any purpose for the next 30 days. If you refused to take a chemical test, your license will instead be subject to a 90 day "Hard Suspension". These periods of "Hard Suspension" may vary in length and may be followed by a period of general suspension imposed by the DMV and/or the Court.
Other than these periods of "Hard Suspension", you may be eligible to obtain a business purpose or hardship license in order to drive while your license is subject to a general suspension. The issues regarding license suspension and eligibility for temporary permits can be confusing and should be discussed with an Attorney.
3. What is the difference between a misdemeanor or felony?
A Misdemeanor charge is generally considered to be less serious than a felony, however, convictions for crimes involving DUI can have long lasting ramifications that may effect both your record and employment.
Misdemeanor cases are handled in the County Court System and punishment may include an adjudication of guilt, a fine, incarceration in the County Jail and supervised probation.
A Felony charge is considered more serious than a Misdemeanor and is ranked in increasing range of severity from Third to First Degree. Felony crimes are handled in Circuit Criminal Court and punishment can include an adjudication of guilt, significant terms of supervised probation or house arrest, lengthy terms of incarceration in State Prison and significant fines.
4. Can I settle my case without a Court Appearance?
Florida law prohibits the settlement of a Felony charge unless the client is present in Court. However, Misdemeanor charges, such as most DUIs, may be settled without requiring your personal appearance. This is referred to as a "Plea in Absentia" and requires the approval of the Court.
5. What fees and expenses can I expect to pay for legal representation?
Legal fees are determined by a number of factors including: whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony, the degree or severity of the charge, the number of crimes charged, the complexity of the case, and the client's desires and expectations. Generally, the legal fees charged for representation of a misdemeanor are less than those charged for representation of a felony; a simple case less than that of a complex one; single charges less than that of multiple charges.
Generally, I divide the legal fees that I charge into Pretrial and Trial fees. In other words, I will typically charge a fee for all representation up to the point of Trial, and an additional fee if the client desires to proceed with a Trial.
My office accepts major credit cards and payment plans are available in order to provide payment flexibility for the client.
6. What do police officers look for when searching for drunk drivers on the highways?
The following is a list of symptoms in descending order of probability that the person observed is driving while intoxicated. The list is based upon research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Administration:
- Turning with a wide radius
- Straddling center of lane marker
- "Appearing to be drunk"
- Almost striking object or vehicle
- Driving on other than designated highway
- Speed more than 10 mph below limit
- Stopping without cause in traffic lane
- Following too closely
- Tires on center or lane marker
- Braking erratically
- Driving into opposing or crossing traffic
- Signaling inconsistent with driving actions
- Slow response to traffic signals
- Stopping inappropriately (other than in lane)
- Turning abruptly or illegally
- Accelerating or decelerating rapidly
- Headlights off
Speeding, incidentally, is not a symptom of DUI; because of quicker judgment and reflexes, it may indicate sobriety.
7. If I'm stopped by a police officer and he asks me if I've been drinking, what should I say?
You are not required to answer potentially incriminating questions. A polite "I would like to speak with an attorney before I answer any questions" is a good reply. On the other hand, saying that you had one or two beers is not incriminating: it is not sufficient to cause intoxication -- and it may explain the odor of alcohol on the breath.
8. Do I have a right to an attorney when I'm stopped by an officer and asked to take a field sobriety test?
As a general rule, there is no right to an attorney until you have submitted to (or refused) blood, breath or urine testing. In some states, there is a right to consult with counsel upon being arrested or before deciding whether to submit to chemical testing. Of course, this does not mean that you cannot ask for one.
9. What is the officer looking for during the initial detention at the scene?
The traditional symptoms of intoxication taught at the police academies are:
- Flushed face
- Red, watery, glassy and/or bloodshot eyes
- Odor of alcohol on breath
- Slurred speech
- Fumbling with wallet trying to get license
- Failure to comprehend the officer's questions
- Staggering when exiting vehicle
- Swaying/instability on feet
- Leaning on car for support
- Combative, argumentative, jovial or other "inappropriate" attitude
- Soiled, rumpled, disorderly clothing
- Stumbling while walking
- Disorientation as to time and place
- Inability to follow directions
10. What should I do if I'm asked to take field sobriety tests?
There are a wide range of field sobriety tests (FSTs), including heel-to-toe, finger-to-nose, one-leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus, alphabet recitation, modified position of attention (Rhomberg), fingers-to-thumb, hand pat, etc. Most officers will use a set battery of three to five such tests.
Unlike the chemical test, where refusal to submit may have serious consequences, you are not legally required to take any FSTs. The reality is that officers have usually made up their minds to arrest when they give the FSTs; the tests are simply additional evidence which the suspect inevitably "fails". Thus, in most cases a polite refusal may be appropriate.
11. Why did the officer make me follow a penlight with my eyes to the left and right?
This is the "horizontal gaze nystagmus" test, a relatively recent development in DUI investigation. The officer attempts to estimate the angle at which the eye begins to jerk ("nystagmus" is medical jargon for a distinctive eye oscillation); if this occurs sooner than 45 degrees, it theoretically indicates a blood-alcohol concentration over .05%. The smoothness of the eye's tracking the penlight (or finger or pencil) is also a factor, as is the type of jerking when the eye is as far to the side as it can go.
This field sobriety test has proven to be subject to a number of different problems, not the least of which is the non-medically trained officer's ability to recognize nystagmus and estimate the angle of onset. Because of this, and the fact that the test is not accepted by the medical community, it is not admissible as evidence in many states; it continues, however, to be widely used by law enforcement.
12. Should I agree to take a chemical test? What happens if I don't?
The decision is one of weighing the likelihood of a high blood-alcohol reading against the consequences for refusing.
If you refuse, your license will be automatically suspended for a period of time. The length of suspension depends on whether it is your first or subsequent refusal to submit to a chemical test. For example, a first refusal results in a 12 month suspension.
If you take a chemical test and your blood alcohol level is over .08, this is evidence that will be used against you to prove you were driving under the influence.
13. Do I have a choice of chemical tests? Which should I choose?
Generally, you do not have a choice of tests. And in some instances the officer will request you take more than one test. For example, if you take a breath test and your blood alcohol level indicates an amount well below the legal limit, the officer may request a urine and/or blood sample to check for other drugs in your system.
Analysis of a blood sample is potentially the most accurate. Breath machines are susceptible to a number of problems rendering them often unreliable. The least accurate by far, however, is urinalysis.
14. The officer never gave me a "Miranda" warning: Can I get my case dismissed?
No. The officer is supposed to give a 5th Amendment warning after he arrests you. Often, however, they do not. The only consequence is that the prosecution cannot use any of your answers to questions asked by the police after the arrest.
Of more consequence in most cases is the failure to advise you of the Florida "implied consent" law - that is, your legal obligation to take a chemical test and the results if you refuse. This can effect the suspension of your license.
15. Can I represent myself? What can a lawyer do for me?
You can represent yourself -- although it is not a good idea. "Drunk driving" is a very complex field with increasingly harsh consequences. There is a minefield of complicated procedural, evidentiary, constitutional, sentencing and administrative license issues.
What can a lawyer do? Nothing (or worse) if he is not qualified in this highly specialized field -- no more than a family doctor could help with brain surgery. A qualified attorney, however, can review the case for defects, suppress evidence, compel discovery of such things as calibration and maintenance records for the breath machine, have blood samples independently analyzed, negotiate for a lesser charge or reduced sentence, obtain expert witnesses for trial, contest the administrative license suspension, etc.
16. What is a "rising BAC defense"?
It is unlawful to have an excessive blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of DRIVING -- not at the time of being TESTED. Since it takes between 30 minutes and 3 hours for alcohol to be absorbed into the system, an individual's BAC may continue to rise for some time after he is stopped and arrested.
Commonly, it is an hour or more after the stop when the blood, breath or urine test is given to the suspect. Assume that the result is .08%. If the suspect has continued to absorb alcohol since he was stopped, his BAC at the time he was driving may have been only .05%. In other words, the test result shows a blood-alcohol concentration above the legal limit -- but his actual BAC AT THE TIME OF DRIVING was below.
17. What is "mouth alcohol"?
"Mouth alcohol" refers to the existence of any alcohol in the mouth or esophagus. If this is present during a breath test, then the results will be falsely high. This is because the breath machine assumes that the breath is from the lungs; for complex physiological reasons, its internal computer multiplies the amount of alcohol by 2100. Thus, even a tiny amount of alcohol breathed directly into the machine from the mouth or throat rather than from the lungs can have a significant impact.
Mouth alcohol can be caused in many ways. Belching, burping, hiccupping or vomiting within 20 minutes before taking the test can bring vapor from alcoholic beverages still in the stomach up into the mouth and throat. Taking a breath freshener can send a machine's reading way up (such products as Binaca and Listerine have alcohol in them); cough syrups and other products also contain alcohol. Dental bridges and dental caps can trap alcohol. Blood in the mouth from an injury is yet another source of inaccurate breath test results: breathed into the mouthpiece, any alcohol in the blood will be multiplied 2100 times. A chronic "reflux" condition from gastric distress or a hiatal hernia can cause elevated BAC readings.
18. What defenses are there in a DUI case?
Potential defenses in a given drunk driving case are almost limitless due to the complexities of the offense. Roughly speaking, however, the majority can be broken down into the following areas:
- Driving. Intoxication is not enough: the prosecution must also prove that the defendant was driving. This may be difficult if, as in the case of some accidents, there are no witnesses to his being the driver of the vehicle.
- Probable cause. Evidence will be suppressed if the officer did not have legal cause to (a) stop, (b) detain, and (c) arrest. Sobriety roadblocks present particularly complex issues.
- Miranda. Incriminating statements may be suppressed if warnings were not given at the appropriate time.
- Implied consent warnings. If the officer did not advise you of the consequences of refusing to take a chemical test, or gave it incorrectly, this may invalidate a DHSMV license suspension based upon a refusal to provide a breath/blood sample.
- "Under the influence". The officer's observations and opinions as to intoxication can be questioned -- the circumstances under which the field sobriety tests were given, for example, or the subjective (and predisposed) nature of what the officer considers as "failing". Too, witnesses can testify that you appeared to be sober.
- Blood-alcohol concentration. There exists a wide range of potential problems with blood, breath or urine testing. "Non-specific" analysis, for example: most breath machines will register many chemical compounds found on the human breath as alcohol. And breath machines assume a 2100-to-1 ratio in converting alcohol in the breath into alcohol in the blood; in fact, this ratio varies widely from person to person (and within a person from one moment to another). Radio frequency interference can result in inaccurate readings. These and other defects in analysis can be brought out in cross-examination of the state's expert witness, and/or the defense can hire its own forensic chemist.
- Testing during the absorptive phase. The blood, breath or urine test will be unreliable if done while you are still actively absorbing alcohol (it takes 30 minutes to three hours to complete absorption; this can be delayed if food is present in the stomach). Thus, drinking "one for the road" can cause inaccurate test results.
- Retrograde extrapolation. This refers to the requirement that the BAC be "related back" in time from the test to the driving (see question #17). Again, a number of complex physiological problems are involved here.
- Regulation of blood-alcohol testing. The prosecution must prove that the blood, breath or urine test complied with state requirements as to calibration, maintenance, etc.
- License suspension hearings. A number of issues can be raised in the context of an administrative hearing before Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
What if I believe I may be partly at fault for the accident?
Many factors can play into a motor vehicle accident, and victims are sometimes not in the best position to determine who is at fault. Furthermore, just because a Police Officer determined you were at fault for an accident does not make it true. Most Police Officers are not experts in accident reconstruction and have not had any training in accident investigation beyond the basic course they receive in the police academy. If necessary and appropriate, we will hire an accident reconstruction expert to prove that the other party, and not our client, was at fault for the traffic accident. In addition, under Florida law, the trier of fact (the Judge or jury) can assign the percentage of fault to each party and the damages will be calculated accordingly. For example, if you have a car accident and you suffer $100,000 in damages and the defendant suffers no damages, and the jury determines that the defendant is 80 percent at fault and you are 20 percent at fault for the accident, then you would be awarded $80,000 (80% x $100,000).
What is uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage?
Uninsured or underinsured (UM) motorists coverage pays for your injuries when the person at fault for the accident has inadequate insurance to pay for your medical bills and other costs associated with your injury. UM coverage also applies if you are the victim of a hit and run driver. Usually limited to bodily injury, this type of insurance does not cover damage to your vehicle or other property. For this type of protection from uninsured or underinsured motorists, you must have collision coverage on your policy.
What is covered by uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage?
Most uninsured or underinsured (UM) motorist coverage will typically pay for the following:
- Injuries to yourself or a relative who lives with you while in the vehicle with UM coverage, or any other vehicle, or while you are a pedestrian.
- Injuries to anyone else driving your insured vehicle with permission.
- Injuries to anyone else riding in your insured vehicle, or in another vehicle you are driving.
What is personal injury protection?
Personal injury protection, or PIP, is sometimes referred to as "no fault" insurance. This form of insurance covers you and those in your household for automobile accident injuries no matter who is at fault. Florida law requires all drivers carry $10,000.00 in PIP coverage and, in the event of an automobile accident injury, this coverage is primary before any other health insurance you have, such as Medicare or private health insurance.
What should I do if an insurance adjuster wants to settle and says I don’t need a lawyer?
Research has shown that, even taking into consideration attorney’s fees, people receive larger claims when they obtain the service of a lawyer after an automobile accident. The main goal of an insurance adjuster is to settle a claim with the least amount of money possible. For this reason, it is extremely important to contact an attorney before settling an automobile accident claim with an insurance company.