Kibbey Wagner, PLLC | May 20, 2022 | Car Accidents
Yes, you can sue for a non-injury car accident in Florida, as long as you sustained property damage. Under certain circumstances, you can also sue for emotional distress. Property damage claims are separate from personal injury claims.
How “No-Fault” Insurance Works in Florida
You might have heard that Florida is a “no-fault” auto insurance state. While this is true, Florida’s no-fault regime applies only to personal injury compensation. When it comes to property damages, such as damage to your car, Florida is an “at-fault” auto insurance state.
This means that you can sue an at-fault driver for property damage, and you can also file a third-party claim against the at-fault driver’s property damage liability insurance company.
Property Damage Liability Insurance
Florida law requires all its motorists to carry at least $10,000 in property damage liability insurance. After a car accident, you must look to the at-fault driver’s insurance policy for reimbursement for property damage, not your own policy. If the at-fault driver is uninsured, or if you were the victim of a hit-and-run accident, you might experience problems obtaining compensation.
Suing the At-Fault Driver Directly
If a careless driver totals your $50,000 car, $10,000 in property liability insurance coverage isn’t going to be enough. To get compensation for the remaining $40,000, you may need to sue the at-fault driver for compensation out of their personal assets. Many drivers simply lack the assets to pay such claims.
Locating “Deep-Pockets” Defendants
You can sue more than one defendant at the same time if you have grounds to do so. Following is a list of possible second defendants who might be in a better position to pay because of their financial resources:
- The employer of the at-fault driver if the driver was on duty at the time of the accident (under the doctrine of respondeat superior). Note that trucking companies are not normally the employers of the truckers they hire.
- Negligent trucking companies (who might have contributed to the accident through overloading, negligent hiring, etc.).
- Product manufacturers (the manufacturer of a defective brake drum, for example). You don’t have to prove fault to win a product liability lawsuit.
A seasoned car accident lawyer might be able to locate other “deep pockets’ defendants.
How Comparative Fault Works in Florida
Even if you suffered damages, you could lose some of your compensation if you were partly at fault. Under Florida’s comparative fault system, the court apportions fault among the parties on a percentage basis. The court then subtracts that percentage from your damages. For example, if you were 10% at fault, you would lose 10% of your damages.
Time Limits on Your Claim
You will not have an unlimited amount of time to file a property damage claim after your accident. Florida has a four-year statute of limitations for such claims. If you fail to file a claim before the four-year anniversary of your case, you will lose your right to compensation.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
You might not need a personal injury lawyer to handle a fender-bender for you. If the damage to your vehicle was serious, however, or if you wish to claim emotional distress damages, an experienced personal injury lawyer is a practical necessity. Contact a Stuart injury lawyer at Kibbey Wagner, PLLC today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.