Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer
If you find yourself in a car accident in Fort Lauderdale, you may have suffered severe injuries and incurred significant damage to your vehicle or other property. A compassionate and seasoned Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer is able to advise you as to whether you have a claim and the potential worth of such a claim. Englander Peebles can assist you with obtaining the compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
Types of Car Crashes
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 29,989 fatal vehicle accidents in the country in 2014, which resulted in 32,675 total deaths. These numbers amount to around 10.2 deaths for every 100,000 individuals and approximately 1.08 deaths for every 100 million miles that vehicles traveled. Of the total number of fatalities, 12,507 deaths were of people who were driving cars, which amounts to 38 percent of the total fatalities in 2014. In Florida, there were 791 automobile fatalities in the same year, which is 32 percent of the total number of motor vehicle collision deaths in the state.
The U.S. Department of Transportation reveals that most fatalities in large truck crashes involve occupants of passenger vehicles. This is because that individuals traveling in smaller vehicles are more vulnerable to large truck crashes. In fact, trucks are often 20-30 times heavier than passenger vehicles and are taller with greater ground clearance, which can cause smaller vehicles to underride large trucks in such crashes.
Truck braking issues may also be a factor. Overloaded tractor-trailers may take 20-40 percent more time than other vehicles to stop, which is even higher on slippery roads or if the truck’s brakes are poorly maintained. Another known risk factor for truck crashes is truck driver fatigue. Large truck drivers are permitted by federal regulations by the DOT to drive no more than 11 hours at a time and no more than 77 hours over a seven-day period. However, it is well-known that many drivers engage in violations of these regulations and work longer hours than allowed.
In 2014, 3,660 people died in large truck accidents. 68 percent of these fatalities were occupants of automobiles and other passenger vehicles, 16 percent of were large truck occupants, and 15 percent were motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians. The total number of fatalities in large truck accidents was 16 percent more in 2014 as compared with 2009, and truck occupants fatalities was 31 percent more as compared with 2009.
In 2014, 4,295 motorcyclists died in vehicle crashes. Motorcycle fatalities comprised 13 percent of all motor vehicle crash fatalities in 2014. Although motorcycles are capable of high performance, they tend to be less visible than other vehicles and offer less stability. Motorcycles do not provide riders the protection of an enclosed vehicle, so riders are more likely to be killed or suffer injuries. According to the DOT, the number of fatalities on motorcycles per mile traveled was 26 times higher as compared with automobiles.
Helmet use by motorcyclists is crucial since severe head injuries are common among riders. Data shows that helmets may be effective about 37 percent of the time in preventing fatalities and 67 percent effective in protecting riders from brain injuries.
In 2014, 720 bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes, which is a 4 percent decrease from the previous year. Additionally, 86 percent of bicyclist fatalities in 2014 involved victims who were at least 20 years old.
Approximately 2 percent of motor vehicle crash fatalities each year are bicyclists. In these fatalities, the most severe injuries involved are head injuries, which highlight the importance of helmets. Use of a helmet may reduce the likelihood of a head injury by 50 percent, and reduce the likelihood of neck or face injury by 33 percent. In the last few years, only up to 17 percent of fatalities involved individuals who were wearing helmets.
Pedestrian fatalities in motor vehicle crashes have dramatically decreased over the last two decades but still comprise 15 percent of all crash fatalities. There were 4,884 pedestrian fatalities in 2014, which is 35 percent lower as compared with 1975 and 2 percent lower since the previous year (2013).
Pedestrian fatalities in motor vehicle crashes happen primarily in urban locales. Some steps that these localities implement to separate pedestrians and vehicles are overpasses, underpasses, sidewalks, and barriers. Additionally, improved timing of signals at intersections, better lighting, and certain beacons warning drivers to stop at crosswalks when pedestrians are there may also be useful. Finally, reducing speed limits may also help since traffic speeds increase the risk and severity of pedestrian accidents.
Types of Injuries
Around 2.3 million individuals suffered injuries in motor vehicle crashes in 2014 across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury in the United States. The CDC reports that because of motor vehicle accident injuries, 2.5 million Americans visit the emergency room each year, and nearly 200,000 crash victims need to be hospitalized for a period. In fact, the CDC estimates that Americans spend more than a million days in the hospital each year because of car accident injuries. The CDC estimates that on a given year, vehicle accident injuries cost individuals upwards of $18 billion in medical costs that victims had to pay during their lifetimes. Victims incur more than 75% of costs of injuries and other damages during the first 18 months after a vehicle accident. Additionally, victims lost more than $33 billion dollars’ worth of lifetime wages because of motor vehicle accident injuries in a single year.
Specifically, in Florida, there were 225,608 injuries from accidents in 2014, which was nearly 7 percent higher than the injury rate in 2013 at 210,887. Many different injuries may be caused by vehicle crashes, which include the following:
The most common kind of vehicle injury in crashes is a whiplash, which is a type of neck injury. A passenger may suffer a whiplash when a collision causes the passenger’s head to swing abruptly forward or towards the side. This motion can cause sprains because it places incredible pressure on neck ligaments. Most whiplash occurrences tend to self-resolve over time.
Other common neck injuries are bulges and herniations. These discs may occur next to the spinal canal and may press against spinal nerves. In doing so, bulges and herniations can cause weakness, pain, and numbness.
Injuries to the Leg and Knee
People usually consider upper body injuries first when they think about injuries from vehicle accidents. However, major crashes may also result in severe leg and knee injuries too. These types of injuries are usually the result of a portion of the car smashing into the passenger or the driver and may lead to a variety of injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones.
In a vehicle crash, the side door, window, firewall, and even the roof can cave in on and crush the driver’s or passenger’s knee. In such instances, the kneecap, a bone inside the knee, can fracture. The patella protects the knee’s ligaments and tendons which surround the quadricep muscle running up each thigh. To repair a fractured patella, a surgeon must open the front of the knee and reconstruct the bone using pins, wires, and screws. If the bone damage is sufficiently severe, the surgeon may remove part or the entire damaged patella.
A vehicle accident may also damage tendons and muscles in the knee, particularly in side-impact crashes. The tendons may hyperextend beyond their intended radius depending on the force of the collision. The collision may also injure the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The ACL is a part of the knee that helps provide it with flexibility. The ACL connects the lower and upper knee joints. When the ACL twists with too much force, it can hyperextend or be torn, which can result in debilitating pain.
Fractured bones always require emergency medical attention. Some fractures may be repaired with a cast, but other fractures require surgery and extended hospitalization. Very severe fractures, such as compound fractures which cause broken bones to pierce the skin, require surgery and extended hospitalization. Compound fractures cause extreme pain and carry a high risk of infection. The extent to which medical care is needed is determined by which bones are fractured and the manner of the fracture. Severe fractures, where bones break in multiple pieces, may require the use of metal screws and plates.
Back injuries, including spinal, bone, and muscle injuries, are some of the most common types of injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents. Depending on the force of the collision in a crash, more than one part of the back may suffer injuries. Because the spinal cord runs all the way down the back, such injuries may be severe. Those involved in vehicle crashes must pay attention to any symptoms of a back injury because they can get progressively worse without proper treatment. Common back injury symptoms include pain radiating up or down the legs, weakening of muscles, numbness in the extremities, and general back pain.
The back is a made up of a complex system of muscles, ligaments, and tendons that surround the disks, the vertebrae, and the spinal cord. Specifically, the vertebrae run from the neck to the lower back with 24 separate sections. Between each vertebra are 23 disks that serve as cushions. Directly behind the vertebrae is the spine. There is a tightly knit system of nerve endings that surrounds the spine and the vertebra. When a nerve ending comes into contact with herniated disks, damaged soft tissue, fractured vertebrae, or a bruised spinal cord, it can result in debilitating pain.
The chest contains many delicate yet vital organs, including the lungs, the heart, and the ribs. When any of these suffer injuries, the results can be disastrous and require immediate treatment. Often, the initial symptoms of chest injuries include chest pain, pain during breathing, soreness, and abdominal pain. These symptoms can become apparent after a vehicle crash. Often, these injuries are caused by seatbelts that place extreme pressure on the chest area during a vehicle crash.
Additionally, the crash can also force the chest against the dashboard or steering wheel of the vehicle. Causing the chest to impact against the steering wheel or dashboard may cause often ignored heart injuries. Victims often ignore these injuries because there are usually no immediate symptoms. However, the heart can suffer myocardial contusion or bruising during a vehicle crash. These injuries may result in arrhythmias or other heart abnormalities. Symptoms of such injuries may not appear until several months after the actual collision.
Another common type of damage that passengers sustain from motor vehicle accidents is a lung injury. A lung injury, such as a punctured lung, may occur when a broken rib punctures the lung during a car crash or by a foreign object. Untreated, a punctured lung may result in lung collapse or other serious conditions, which may be fatal.
Many different abdominal issues can come up as a result of a severe vehicle crash, which may involve damage to internal organs, internal bleeding, a ruptured spleen, or a ruptured abdominal blood vessel. However, broken ribs remain the most common kind of abdominal injury caused by vehicle crashes.
Most of the time, fractured ribs only present as a break in one place and does not go all the way through the whole bone, which is known as an incomplete fracture. A broken rib can manifest certain symptoms such as intense pain during breathing, soreness or tenderness in the chest area, or the feeling of a broken object under the skin.
A head injury like a concussion may take place when the brain is severely shaken inside the skull. This shaking is usually the result of hitting the head on the steering wheel, the dashboard, or the window after a serious crash, but it can also take place without any direct impact to the head. Mild concussions may not require significant medical intervention aside from plenty of sleep and rest to facilitate healing of the bruising on the brain. Severe concussions may need further treatment and hospitalization, especially if symptoms involve severe nausea, disorientation, and vomiting.
Car accidents reportedly cause over fifty percent of all reported traumatic brain injuries (TBI). A TBI may be due to any force that fractures or penetrates the skull, which may take place during a car crash. A TBI may also occur during a vehicle crash when the victim’s head strikes an object like the windshield or a steering wheel. Even though there may not be evident wounding, there does not need to be a penetration or fracture of the skull for TBI to occur. The sheer, blunt force of the accident may be sufficient to shake the brain and cause it to collide against the skull internally. This internal injury may occur when an individual is driving and comes to an abrupt stop, which means the brain is still moving forward but hits against the side of the skull. This kind of movement causes brain bruising and bleeding that may be invisible.
Not all injuries from vehicle crashes are physical. Crashes can cause severe psychological injuries as well. On one end of the spectrum, these psychological injuries may include such issues as emotional distress, mental anguish, anxiety, fear, humiliation, anger, embarrassment, or shock. People who were involved in motor vehicle crashes may present with mild cases of mental or emotional distress with corresponding physical symptoms such as loss of appetite and weight fluctuations, uncontrollable bouts of crying, fits of rage, mood swings, loss of interest in sex or sexual dysfunction, and insomnia or other sleep disorders. While these symptoms may resolve over time, more severe psychological issues may require professional medical intervention.
There are instances where vehicle accidents may cause more serious psychological injuries that come with specific diagnoses and require extensive treatment such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or acute stress or anxiety disorder. Often, these disorders are not cited as injuries from vehicle accidents, but the potential trauma is there. These disorders can be paralyzing for those affected – they may even be just as paralyzing as the physical injuries from a crash. These disorders also have long-lasting effects on a person’s work, relationships, and family life that may be equally devastating as severe physical injuries.
Taking Immediate Action After the Accident
Getting into a car accident in Fort Lauderdale or anywhere in South Florida can be a very stressful and anxiety-ridden experience. Those involved must try to stay calm and to call the police for assistance. If you believe you are injured and need to be taken to the hospital, you should inform the police operator immediately so that the paramedics will arrive at the scene of the accident.
When the police officer arrives at the site of the crash, he or she must conduct a preliminary investigation and will likely interview everyone involved. The officer will then collect critical personal information from those individuals involved in the accident. This information will include insurance information, driver’s license numbers, and car registration information. The police officer who responds will use this information to create a police report which will be available to the parties shortly after the accident.
Filing a Claim After the Accident
Florida is a no-fault state. This designation means that if a person has suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident, whether it was that person’s fault or not, his or her insurance company is required to reimburse for the cost of medical expenses within the limits set by Florida law. In the last several years, Florida law significantly changed regarding its no-fault rules, so it is critical to speak with an experienced Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer to understand your rights.
If you are injured in an Fort Lauderdale car accident caused by another person’s negligence, you may be entitled to file a claim or lawsuit to obtain compensation for your injuries. It is important to remember that Florida adheres to a comparative fault scheme for determining liability. Comparative fault means that even if the judge or jury finds that a plaintiff was partly at fault for the vehicle crash, that plaintiff still can recover compensation from the other negligent party. An injured party has the option of filing a lawsuit if the insurance company refuses to make a reasonable settlement offer. Under Florida law, victims only have a limited amount of time from the date of a Fort Lauderdale car accident to file a lawsuit. Accordingly, it is critical for victims to consult with an experienced South Florida attorney to discuss the circumstances surrounding the case, and whether it is recommended to proceed to trial.
Contact Our Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorneys Today
If you or your loved one was involved in a vehicle accident, contact a seasoned Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer today. Englander Peebles' lawyers can advise you of your rights, responsibilities, and legal options so that you can make the best decision for your as to how you want to proceed in your case. Englander Peebles today at (954) 500-4878 or through our online form to schedule your free initial consultation at our Fort Lauderdale Office.