Car Accidents

Car accidents are an all too common cause of death, injury, and disability in Florida and nationwide. Statistics provided by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that 2.3 million people suffered injuries in traffic accidents in 2013, which was less than the previous year: 2.4 million were injured in motor vehicle accidents in 2012. In recent years, car accident fatalities have been numbering well in excess of 30,000 each year across the nation. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that the annual cost of car crashes to the US economy is around $242 billion dollars.
In Florida in 2013 an average of 868 car accidents every day resulted in 210,887 injuries and 2,402 fatalities.

Causes of Florida Car Accidents

Causes of auto accidents are many, including distracted driving; drunk driving; speeding and aggressive driving; disregard of signs, signals, and rules of the road; failure to yield the right of way, improper passing or turning; defects in a vehicles or their components; and road hazards such as debris, broken pavement, or obstacles on the road.
A large number of the injuries and deaths from Florida auto accidents are not the fault of the victim but of some other person—a negligent, drunk, or reckless driver; a manufacturer that produced and distributed a defective vehicle or one of its components; or a company or government department responsible for highway maintenance or road construction that either created or failed to repair a hazardous condition on the road.
If you are among the unfortunate victims of someone else’s negligence and have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a Florida motor vehicle accident caused by another person or company’s wrongdoing, you may be able to recover money as compensation for the damages you’ve suffered. To succeed in recovering a fair and adequate amount of money that fully reflects the value of your economic and non-economic (quality of life) losses, you should hire a Florida personal injury attorney with the ability, knowledge, and resources to make a strong case. Your attorney should be a master negotiator who can deal effectively with the responsible party’s insurance company, and who has the skill in the courtroom to successfully try your case to a jury if the insurer fails to come up with an appropriate settlement offer.

IF your accident happened in Pinellas or Hillsborough Counties or the surrounding area of West Central Florida, you will find the aggressive, committed, and compassionate representation you are looking for when you sign up with personal injury and wrongful death attorney Stephen C. Maltezos.
In order to assist you in recovering monetary compensation for injuries or death in an accident, Steve will conduct his own investigation of the available facts, and may call upon accident reconstruction specialists. These experts will be able to the causes of the accident in order to prove the other party liable, and if needed, to testify in your behalf at trial. In most cases, however, Steve will be able to negotiate a good settlement for you without you having to go to court at all.
If you or a close family member suffered a serious injury in a car crash that was caused by someone else, you can’t help feeling the unfairness of your having to suffer when you did nothing wrong. It offends your sense of justice! You are suffering—physically, emotionally, and financially, for someone else’s wrongdoing. Fortunately, you have recourse against the party who caused your losses. You are entitled to file a legal claim to recover money for your financial and quality-of-life damages. Although no amount of money is ever adequate compensation for the loss of a loved one or of your health, making a claim against the responsible party is important, and having the right lawyer can make it happen.

How Car Accidents Occur

A large proportion of Florida car accidents occur because of someone’s bad driving, although hazards on the road and defective vehicles and components also cause their share of the crashes. Here we will discuss the underlying causes of car accidents that can be attributed to an error on the part of someone other than the victim.

Distracted Driving

At the top of the list of car accident causes is distracted driving. Modern technology has created more potential distractions than at any other time in history, primarily in the form of the smartphone. Today, even people who avoided texting on old-school cell phones have become glued to their handheld minicomputer/phones. In a study of US smartphone owners who use text (that's 92 percent) send an average of 111 messages per week, and 49 percent of those who use social media daily prefer sending a text message to calling someone. Send or receiving a text message while driving a car increases the likelihood of a crash by 23 times! Distracted driving causes crashes, and crashes cause injuries and death. Florida still doesn’t have a law against texting and driving, although the legislature has considered several bills to that effect over the years. But a driver who causes someone else to be injured while texting, talking on a cell phone, checking email, or using a handheld device in any way may be found liable for your injuries.

Using a smartphone is not the only distraction that causes distracted driving accidents. Other common culprits are:

  • Rubbernecking (looking at accidents or law enforcement activities along the roadside)
  • Personal grooming (brushing hair, applying makeup, etc.)
  • Eating and drinking
  • Children and pets
  • Setting the GPS
  • Changing a disc
  • Adjusting the radio
  • Looking at scenery
  • Reading billboards
  • Reaching for objects on the floor or another seat
  • Reading maps or written directions

A distracted driver can drift out of the proper lane, turn the wrong way onto a one-way street, run through a stop sign or red light, and fail to yield the right-of-way, or strike a cyclist or pedestrian.

Drunk and Drug-Impaired Driving

Another big one is drunk driving and driving while impaired by drugs— recreational, prescribed, and over-the-counter. Drunk driving was responsible for 10,322 fatalities nationwide in 2012, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). On the average, a drunk driving accident kills one person every 51 minutes at a cost to society of more than $132 billion every year, according to MADD (Mothers against Drunk Driving).

Speeding and Aggressive Driving

Driving too fast for road and weather conditions and exceeding the posted speed limit is a dangerous practice that can result in high-impact crashes when a drive loses control of a speeding vehicle. High impact crashes tend to cause significantly more fatalities and catastrophic injuries. Speeding is a factor in about a third of all highway crashes. If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by someone else speeding, you may be able to recover money for your damages.

Aggressive driving often goes hand-in-hand with speeding: weaving in traffic, cutting other drivers off, riding another car’s tail, engaging in offensive behavior, and venting road rage are all types of aggressive driving that increase the likelihood of an injury accident. This is one more instance where the driver can often be held liable for any injuries or fatalities that occur as a result of their negligent and inappropriate driving behavior.

Manufacturing Defects

It is extremely common for cars to be recalled due to manufacturing defects that have been found to cause accidents. More than 62 million vehicles were recalled in the United States in 2014, the highest number on record. The defects are typically only discovered after accidents have occurred.
Manufacturers of defective products are held strictly liable for any harm that occurs because of a defect in the product. That means that you don’t have to prove negligence, only that the defect caused the accident and you suffered damages as a result. Faulty tires, air bags, brakes, steering, acceleration, and many other problems have caused deaths and injuries for which the car or component manufacturer can be made to pay money in compensation.

Hazardous Road Conditions

Defects in pavement; debris and construction materials left on the roadway; missing or misleading signs or pavement markings; cracks, ruts, and potholes; tire treads from blowouts; objects that have fallen from a truck; lack of a level shoulder; and poor highway design are all hazardous conditions that can cause car accidents. The responsible party may be a construction company contracting to perform work on the road, a governmental department responsible for maintaining the road, an engineering firm that has designed an unsafe road, or a commercial truck that has dropped cargo or has littered the highway with tire treads following a blowout. Road hazard cases are usually difficult and complex, often complicated by issues of government immunity, engineering standards, and questions of causation that may be hard to prove. You need a good personal injury lawyer, such as Tampa Bay attorney Stephen Maltezos, with the resources and connections needed to bring in appropriate experts to assist in making your case and to testify in your behalf if a trial becomes necessary.

Types of Car Accidents

These are some of the most common types of car accidents that we handle at Maltezos Law:

Rear End Collisions


Rear end collisions are the most common of all accident types. They are often caused by distracted driving, speeding, and tailgating, and are almost invariably found to be the fault of the driver in the rear. While rear end accidents are less likely than some other crash types to cause fatalities, injuries can be severe, including herniation of spinal discs. Whiplash injuries to the neck and back from rear end crashes can be extremely debilitating, but also hard to prove, because sprains and strains are soft tissue injuries that don’t show up on x-rays. Insurance companies may routinely deny claims for injuries caused by rear end accidents, so you need a good personal injury lawyer to negotiate an appropriate settlement if you’ve suffered this type of injury.

Head On Crashes


When two vehicles collide head to head, deaths and catastrophic injuries are often the result. Head-ons are the most deadly of all accident types. They often occur when a distracted, fatigued, or impaired driver drifts out of his or her proper lane and into the path of an oncoming vehicle, turns the wrong way onto a one-way street, or enters a highway on a ramp going in the wrong direction. The most common location for a head on crash to occur is an undivided, rural, two-lane road.

T-Bone Accidents


A T-bone collision usually occurs at an intersection when one driver runs through a stop sign or red light and crashes into another vehicle traveling through the intersection at a 90 degree angle. T-bones are also extremely deadly, frequently causing deaths and life-altering catastrophic injuries.

Sideswipes


Side swipe accidents occur when a driver changes lanes and fails to check the blind spot, causing a glancing impact with the side of another vehicle. Although a sideswipe is usually less serious than a
t-bone collision, neck and back injuries are common. Insurance companies will often deny injury claims from sideswipes, so if you have been injured in this type of accident, a good personal injury lawyer is essential.

Rollovers


A rollover accidents is one in which a car flips and rolls, often landing on its roof. Poor vehicle design, with a high center of gravity, is usually a contributing factor. Rollovers typically occur when a car, often an older SUV manufactured before 1993, is rounding a sharp curve or has been struck by another vehicle. Later models of SUVs are more stable and less prone to flipping.

Auto Accident Injuries

You may be the most careful driver in the world and still be injured seriously in a car accident. While you can control your own actions, there is little you can do to influence the behavior of others on the road. At Maltezos Law, we see many kinds of painful, debilitating, and life-changing injuries, including:

  • Brain damage
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Nerve damage
  • Vascular damage
  • Paraplegia
  • Quadriplegia (tetraplegia)
  • Internal organ damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Crush injuries
  • Burns
  • Herniated discs
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Stretched and torn muscles, ligaments, and tendons
  • Joint injuries
  • Fractured bones
  • Facial injuries
  • Amputation injuries
  • Lacerations and scarring
  • Psychological damage (phobias, post -traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, depression)
  • Chronic pain
  • Death

How Are Medical Bills Paid after a Florida Car Accident?

Florida is a no-fault insurance state, so assuming you carry the required no-fault insurance, you will apply for medical and lost earning benefits from your own insurance carrier immediately after the accident. If you do not have insurance, you can apply for no-fault benefits through the policy of another member of your household, the driver of the car in which you were a passenger, or the car that caused your accident. A delay in seeking medical treatment could cause you to lose your right to these benefits. No-fault benefits cover the first $10,000 in expenses, which realistically doesn’t go far. It also provides no compensation at all for your pain and suffering. For medical costs and lost earnings beyond that allowed by no-fault, and to recover compensation for your quality-of-life damages, you will need to make a claim against the person, business, or government entity that caused your accident. To ensure a fair settlement, you should have a Florida personal injury attorney working for you.

Hit and Run Accidents and Uninsured Drivers

In Florida, about a quarter of the drivers on the road are not covered by the required minimum insurance coverage. Many others carry the minimum, but their coverage is not enough to pay out large claims with serious and catastrophic injuries. Furthermore, sometimes a driver will cause an accident and flee from the scene, never to be identified.

You should always purchase the optional uninsured motorist coverage (UIM) when buying car insurance. If you have UIM coverage, and the other driver is uninsured or underinsured, you will make a claim for damages with your own insurance carrier. Have your attorney review your coverage. Even if your insurance company denies that you have this important coverage, if they cannot prove that it was offered to you and you declined in writing, they may have to cover you. Your lawyer will be able to determine whether your insurer will be legally required to pay your claim. All interactions with the insurance company pertaining to UIM coverage should be handled by a qualified Florida personal injury attorney.

What to Do Following a Car Accident

If you’ve been in a car accident involving other vehicles, there are certain steps that you should ideally take to assist your attorney in preparing your case. Likewise, there are things that you should avoid saying or doing, because they could possible harm your case. Most people are shaken and not necessarily thinking too clearly when they have just been in in accident, so it’s a good idea to be prepared for that possibility ahead of time.

Car Accident Checklist:

Things to Do and Not to Do

  • If you are able to move about, check the condition of any passengers in your car or in the other vehicles to determine whether an ambulance is needed.
  • Call the police and ask to have a police officer dispatched to the scene and let the dispatcher know if an ambulance –or more than one, is required.
  • While you’re waiting for law enforcement to arrive on the scene, use your time to gather information about all drivers and owners of the other vehicles involved. You should try to get the following:
    • The names, addresses, and full contact information of everyone involved in the crash
    • If any car is driven by someone other than the owner, the owner’s name and contact information.
    • Names and contact information for any witnesses to the accident.
    • Take photos of the accident scene including point of impact, damage to all vehicles involved, and any traffic signs or geographical markers or street signs that can help identify the location of the crash.
  • Make detailed notes of the date, the exact time and location, and the circumstances surrounding the accident, including weather conditions, road conditions, and so forth.
  • When law enforcement arrives, get the officer’s name and badge number, the accident report number, and instructions on how to obtain a copy of the report.
  • Inform your insurance company of the accident without going into detail as to the cause.
  • Get medical attention as soon as you can. If you can’t drive yourself, an ambulance will take you to the nearest hospital emergency room. Otherwise, get yourself to an ER, Urgent Care Center, or your own doctor. In Florida, if you wait too long to seek medical care, you may forfeit your right to no-fault coverage. Because of a fairly recent law in the Sunshine State, it is not sufficient to see a chiropractor. You must be examined by a medical doctor.
  • Call the law offices of attorney Stephen Maltezos to arrange a free consultation as soon as possible.

What NOT to Do

Knowing what not to do after an accident is every bit as important as knowing what to do., perhaps even more so.

  • Do not discuss who was at fault with anyone else at the scene.
  • Do not apologize. Saying you’re sorry (that the accident occurred) might be misconstrued as an admission of fault. So although it may seem to be the polite thing to do, hold your tongue.
  • Do not discuss your physical condition with anyone. Do not assure anyone at the scene that you’re unhurt. Immediately after an accident, you are full of adrenaline, which masks pain. Not only that, some types of injuries do not become apparent for hours, days, or weeks.
  • Do not engage in any conversation with the adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company, other than to give the name of your attorney. Do not under any circumstances allow the adjuster to take a statement from you, and do not sign any medical authorizations or releases of any kind, unless your lawyer has instructed you to do so. The adjuster works for the insurance company, not for you. The insurance adjuster should be viewed as an adversary who is looking to minimize the company’s obligation to pay on your claim. *** (Internal link to article on insurance company tactics)

In Pursuit of Justice: Recovering Compensation for Damages

When your life has been damaged by someone else’s wrongdoing, it is natural to feel frustrated, angry, and powerless. It may be that you will never again have the same quality of life that you enjoyed before the accident, and if you lost a loved one in a fatal crash, nothing can bring that person back or alleviate the grief you feel. But you are entitled to money in compensation for what you have lost. You will, however, need to prove both fault and your damages, which is why it is important to have a good personal injury attorney to prepare and argue your case.

Car Accident Checklist: Things to Do and Not to Do

If you’ve been in a car accident involving other vehicles, there are certain steps that you should ideally take to assist your attorney in preparing your case. Likewise, there are things that you should avoid saying or doing, because they could possible harm your case. Most people are shaken and not necessarily thinking too clearly when they have just been in in accident, so it’s a good idea to be prepared for that possibility ahead of time.

Things to Do

  • If you are able to move about, check the condition of any passengers in your car or in the other vehicles to determine whether an ambulance is needed.
  • Call 911 and ask to have a police officer dispatched to the scene and let the dispatcher know if an ambulance –or more than one, is required.
  • While you’re waiting for law enforcement to arrive on the scene, use your time to gather information about all drivers and owners of the other vehicles involved. You should try to get the following:
    • The names, addresses, and full contact information of everyone involved in the crash
    • if any car is driven by someone other than the owner, the owner’s name and contact information.
    • Names and contact information for any witnesses to the accident.
  • Take photos of the accident scene including point of impact, damage to all vehicles involved, and any traffic signs or geographical markers that can help identify the location of the crash.
  • Make detailed notes of the date, the exact time and location, and the circumstances surrounding the accident, including weather conditions, road conditions, and so forth.
  • When law enforcement arrives, get the officer’s name and badge number, the accident report number, and instructions on how to obtain a copy of the report.
  • Inform your insurance company of the accident without going into detail as to the cause.
  • Get medical attention as soon as you can. If you can’t drive yourself, an ambulance will take you to the nearest hospital emergency room. Otherwise, get yourself to an ER, Urgent Care Center, or your own doctor. In Florida, if you wait too long to seek medical care, you may forfeit your right to no-fault coverage. Because of a fairly recent law in the Sunshine State, it is not sufficient to see a chiropractor. You must be examined by a medical doctor.
  • Call the law offices of attorney Stephen Maltezos to arrange a free consultation as soon as possible.


What NOT to Do


Knowing what not to do after an accident is every bit as important as knowing what to do, perhaps even more so.

  • Do not discuss who was at fault with anyone else at the scene.
  • Do not apologize. Saying you’re sorry (that the accident occurred) might be misconstrued as an admission of fault. So although it may seem to be the polite thing to do, hold your tongue.
  • Do not discuss your physical condition with anyone. Do not assure anyone at the scene that you’re unhurt. Immediately after an accident, you are full of adrenaline, which masks pain. Not only that, some types of injuries do not become apparent for hours, days, or weeks.
  • Do not engage in any conversation with the adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company, other than to give the name of your attorney. Do not under any circumstances allow the adjuster to take a statement from you, and do not sign any medical authorizations or releases of any kind, unless your lawyer has instructed you to do so.
  • Do not listen to anyone who says you don’t need a lawyer. Research has shown that accident victims who negotiate with the liability insurance carrier on their own walk away with substantially less money than those who hire a competent personal injury lawyer.

In Pursuit of Justice: Recovering Compensation for Damages

When your life has been damaged by someone else’s wrongdoing, it is natural to feel frustrated, angry, and powerless. It may be that you will never have the same quality of life that you enjoyed before the accident, and if you lost a loved one in a fatal crash, nothing can bring that person back or alleviate the grief you feel. But you are entitled to compensation, and when you have Florida personal injury attorney Stephen Maltezos fighting for justice for you and your family, you will have a good shot at recovering enough money that you can get the medical care you need, and be compensated for your lost earnings and accident related expenses a, well as for your pain, suffering, and diminished quality of life.

Holding the wrongdoer responsible for the harm he or she has done has a host of benefits, for example:

  • It can alleviate your economic burden by covering your medical expenses and compensating you for your lost earnings and reduced earning potential.
  • It can give you closure, allowing you to move on in the face of an injury or wrongful death.
  • It can force the person whose negligence caused your losses to face up to the harm done and may possibly reduce the likelihood of the behavior recurring.
  • It can restore your belief that there is such a thing as justice in the world.

Choose the Right Tampa Bay Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Car Accident Case

If you have suffered a serious injury in a Florida car accident, or if a close family member has been killed in one, and the crash was all or in part someone else’s fault, you are entitled to compensation. Attorney Stephen Maltezos is an exceptionally aggressive, energetic, and skilled advocate who will fight for justice for you when you’ve lost so much. Steve has offices in both Tampa and St. Petersburg and handles car accident cases in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties and throughout West Central Florida. If your injuries prevent you from visiting one of his offices, no problem; Steve will come to you.

Free Consultation and You Never Write a Check for Legal Fees or Expenses!

In the interest of equal justice for everyone, regardless of financial status, you will never pay anything at all unless and until you win money in compensation for your losses. No win, no fee̶̶--ever. You have nothing to lose, but a great deal to gain. Call Maltezos Law today to arrange for your free consultation and protect your legal right to a recovery.
Florida has strict limits, called statutes of limitations, on the amount of time you have to file your claim, so don’t wait, or it could be too late. Pick up the phone and call now.