What Happens When You Are At Fault for a St. Petersburg Car Accident?

Accidents are inherently traumatic. The realization that you may be at fault intensifies the distress. Understanding what the means for accidents that occur in St. Petersburg, Florida, is essential. Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys can help you understand Florida’s insurance laws and the implications of being at fault.

Here’s an exhaustive guide to help you navigate the aftermath of your accident:

Navigating Florida’s “No-Fault” System

Florida is among the few states that embrace the “no-fault” auto insurance system. St. Petersburg, located in the heart of Florida, is no exception. The state’s at-fault system requires Florida insurance policies to have two main components:

  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP): Mandatory for every Florida driver according to Florida Code 627.736. PIP plays an important role in addressing medical bills post-accident. If you are found at fault, PIP generally covers 80 percent of your medical costs. It also covers 60 percent of lost wages, subject to the confines of your policy.
  • Property Damage Liability (PDL): PDL is similarly mandatory for every Florida driver. PDL insurance covers the damage your accident may inflict on another person’s property. This is primarily automobile damage. Some car accidents, however, cause damage to other nearby property.

Understanding the no-fault system is pivotal. Despite being at fault, your insurance carrier is the primary responder for your losses. Florida’s no-fault system also restricts the circumstances under which one can sue or be sued.

“No-Fault” and the Potential for Lawsuits in St. Petersburg, FL

Florida’s no-fault system narrows the instances in which you can be sued for damages caused in an accident. However, certain exceptions allow victims to seek compensation beyond the standard PIP benefits:

  • Serious Injury Threshold: If injuries are deemed particularly severe, you may be susceptible to a lawsuit. Victims with injuries that are significant and permanent or that cause loss of a crucial bodily function may sue. Victims with pronounced scarring or disfigurement may also pursue a lawsuit against you.
  • Bypassing PIP Ceilings: If damages exceed a victim’s policy limits, they can seek additional compensation from you in court. Accidents that occur in large vehicles or at high speeds can cause injuries that quickly surpass the PIP limit.
  • The Exclusivity of Property Damage: Florida’s no-fault approach primarily focuses on personal injuries. If you are culpable for an accident that causes personal property damage, you may be held financially accountable in a lawsuit. Damage to vehicles occurs in nearly all accidents. Some accidents even damage nearby property. 

Causing a serious accident can result in numerous consequences that could heavily impact your life going forward.

Financial Repercussions for Being At Fault

Many worry about the financial repercussions of being responsible for an accident. At-fault accidents may come with direct financial penalties as well. These include:

  • Raised Insurance Premiums: One of the immediate repercussions is a surge in auto insurance premiums. The magnitude and duration of this increase are contingent on your insurer’s policies. Factors such as the severity and cause of the accident are important.
  • Deductibles: Certain insurance policies may require you to pay a deductible before they cover the damage. Deductibles can range from several hundred to several thousands of dollars. You should expect to pay the amount specified in your policy.
  • Out-of-Pocket Nightmares: In scenarios where damages eclipse your insurance cap, you may grapple with considerable out-of-pocket expenses. This often occurs when a lawsuit results in a judgment against you. Victims may collect on their judgment by garnishing your personal assets, such as bank accounts or certain personal property. 

Florida doesn’t require drivers to purchase liability insurance, which could make the financial effects of an accident that much more difficult to deal with. It’s recommended that you purchase liability coverage for exactly this reason.

Navigating the Aftermath Defensively in St. Petersburg, FL

Knowing the steps to take post-accident is crucial in safeguarding your rights and financial stability. After an accident, be sure to do the following:

  • Avoid Admitting Fault: While it is natural to feel apologetic, steer clear of admitting fault at the accident scene or during discussions with insurance representatives. Consult an attorney before making any oral or written statements about the accident.
  • Engage a Personal Injury Attorney: Engaging a seasoned attorney, even when you believe you are at fault, is instrumental. An attorney can assess the facts of your case and provide invaluable insights. People who believe they are at fault may not be. They can also ensure your interests are safeguarded.
  • Diligent Reporting: Always report the accident. Florida Statute 316.066 requires that you immediately report any accident involving injury, death, or property damage of $500 or more to the local police.
  • Maintain Documentation: A comprehensive record of the accident is valuable. Keep photos, witness information, medical reports, bills, and other related correspondence. This documentation can be indispensable, especially if litigation looms on the horizon.
  • Insurance Reassessment: Revisit your insurance policy post an at-fault accident. Raising coverage limits or recalibrating deductibles may be a strategic move to protect against liability for future accidents.

If you were injured in the accident as well, you should also seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Other Extended Consequences

Beyond immediate financial and legal implications, being at fault for a crash has other long-lasting repercussions. 

First, the accident will likely tarnish your driving record. This can influence future insurance rates and potentially impact driving privileges. This is especially true if this accident was not your first. 

Second, being at fault for an accident that causes injury or death can be emotionally traumatizing.  The guilt and psychological stress can be overwhelming, requiring counseling or therapy.

Consult an Experience Car Accident Attorney in St. Petersburg, FL

St. Petersburg’s roadways are not immune to car accidents. When you are in one, understanding Florida’s no-fault insurance system is crucial for knowing what happens in the aftermath. The experienced car accident attorneys at Lopez can help you. Our team can navigate the intricate details of traffic laws and insurance policies. With a case evaluation, we can help determine whether you are responsible for the accident or at risk for legal consequences.

This journey, though tumultuous, can be navigated with relative ease using experienced counsel. It is important to arm yourself with the right knowledge and team. Partnering with a seasoned personal injury law firm like Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys ensures that in uncertain times, you have an advocate who can protect your rights.

Contact a St. Petersburg car accident lawyer at Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys and schedule a free case review today.

Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys
700 7th Ave N Suite B St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 933-0015