If you have suffered injuries in a West Palm Beach car accident, your first concern is finding medical treatment and getting back on your feet as soon as possible.
Because many car accidents are caused by the negligent or careless driving of another motorist, you should also obtain compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. This is especially relevant if the accident incapacitated you for a time, your medical bills are substantial, and/or you sustained a disability or disfiguring injury.
Get An Attorney On Your Side
Having the assistance of an experienced West Palm Beach car accident lawyer is vital to your getting the most compensation for your injuries. That’s because lawyers will collect the evidence necessary to support your claim.
Florida is a no-fault state, meaning that you are eligible for certain, limited, or PIP benefits for your medical bills and lost earnings if injured in a car accident, regardless of who is at fault. But for you to recover any additional compensation against the responsible party, you must have sustained either of the following:
- Permanent injury
- Significant and permanent disfigurement or scarring
- Medical bills and/or lost wages that exceed $10,000
If you meet any of these threshold requirements, then you can bring third-party action that includes compensation for medical costs and lost income as well as for pain and suffering.
Elements of a West Palm Beach Car Accident Claim
As the injured party, you have the burden of producing the evidence necessary to support all the elements of your claim. For a car accident, these elements are:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care
- The defendant breached that duty of care to you
- The accident was the cause of your injuries
- You sustained an injury and damages
To have a compensable third-party injury claim, your evidence must satisfy all of these elements by the standard of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that it is more likely than not that the evidence proves that particular element.
Evidence Needed to Prove Your Claim
Duty of Care
All motorists owe a duty to exercise ordinary care when driving. This means keeping a proper lookout, driving prudently, and obeying all traffic laws.
Manufacturers and/or designers of tires, brakes, airbags, seatbelts, and steering systems also owe a duty of care to design and manufacture products that are not unreasonably dangerous to consumers. Safe highway designs and proper road maintenance are often the responsibility of the City of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, or the State of Florida.
Breach of Duty of Care
You will need evidence to show that the other party breached its duty of care. If the other motorist failed to stop for a red light or stop sign, made an unsafe or unlawful turn, drove at an excessive speed, or traveled the wrong way on a one-way street, this is evidence of carelessness.
If there are witnesses to the careless or negligent conduct of the other motorist and that his/her conduct caused the accident, then you can likely prove this element by getting their names and contact information.
If the other motorist was drinking, the investigating officer can observe the driver and determine if alcohol was a factor. In distracted driving cases where the driver may have been texting, your West Palm Beach car accident lawyer can subpoena that individual’s phone records.
Also, if you have a cellphone, take photographs of the following that can bolster your version of events if liability is an issue:
- Roadway, signs, traffic control devices
- Damage to both vehicles or other items such as a guardrail, fence, pole, or other property
- Skidmarks and their relation to the stopped vehicles
- Potholes, debris in the roadway
- All involved parties
- Your injuries
- The other party’s driver’s license, insurance, and registration cards
Absent witnesses, other evidence of the collision may have been captured on surveillance cameras at or near the scene. Your West Palm Beach car accident lawyer can obtain these provided you contact them promptly after an accident.
In serious injury cases where liability is disputed, your attorney may retain accident reconstruction and/or human factors experts to establish liability based on the parties’ statements, the damage to the vehicles, skid marks, traffic conditions, and any other factors that may have led to the accident.
It is essential that you do not speak to anyone at the accident scene about how it occurred, other than to the investigating police officer. If you do not recall certain details, then let the officer know that you are still too shaken to recall clearly. Also, be sure to advise the officer of all injuries or symptoms that you are experiencing. A copy of the police or accident collision report can be obtained within a few weeks.
Your injuries must have been caused by the accident. If you have a preexisting condition such as a back or knee injury that you allege was exacerbated by this accident, you will need credible medical evidence and testimony that either you were suffering no symptoms or disability for years before the current accident, or that the accident worsened the injury.
If you sustained any kind of injury at the scene, do not refuse medical attention. Also, schedule an appointment with your regular physician as soon as possible. Many injury claims lose credibility because the injured party decided to self-treat and did not seek medical care for weeks.
Injury and Damages
Lastly, you must provide evidence of all the damages you are claiming. This usually includes medical expenses, lost income, lost time from school, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. What evidence is needed to support these claims?
- Medical expenses – You or your attorney will need copies of your medical bills. If your case goes to trial, a physician can testify and explain more about treatment and why these costs are reasonable.
- Medical treatment – Records of your treatment and an explanation of what was performed are required. The treating physician can testify or provide a report that your treatment was reasonable and necessary for the injuries you sustained. If applicable, your doctor can also state that it is highly likely that you will need future medical treatment.
- Nature and extent of injuries – Your treating physician or specialist can provide a report or testimony regarding the seriousness of your injury, if the injury is permanent, and what physical restrictions you now have. For psychological injuries, a psychologist or psychiatrist can testify as to your depression, frustration, PTSD, or drug addiction.
- Lost income – You will need a physician to state that your injuries prohibit you from performing your work for a certain time. Your employment records indicating your wages or salary, benefits, and lost time from work are used to calculate your lost income. If you are incapable of returning to your job, a forensic economist can calculate your lost income. For students who lost a semester or year(s) of school, the economist can provide a reasonable estimate of your lost income because your injury delayed your entry into the job market.
- Pain and suffering – You and your spouse can provide testimony about how the injury has caused you sleeplessness, daily pain, anxiety, and depression. You may be unable to perform certain routine daily activities or can no longer engage in recreational pastimes such as golf, tennis, jogging, dancing, gardening, or other pursuits. A psychologist can support a claim of psychological damage by testifying about your depression, anxiety, PTSD, or addiction to pain medication.
Call the law firm of Steinger, Greene & Feiner if you suffered injuries in a car accident. We will have a highly experienced car accident lawyer from West Palm Beach handle your case from its inception to a satisfactory conclusion.