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How Is Fault Determined in a Tampa Car Accident?

Fiol Law Group|Posted in Car Accidents on March 20, 2021

If you get injured in a car accident, one of your first questions may be, “Who is at fault?” In most states, this question must be answered before you can file an insurance claim for a physical injury or property damage. In Florida, however, fault may not be necessary to determine.

Florida Is a No-Fault Car Accident State

Most states in the country apply a fault-based or tort-based insurance law to car accident claims. Under this system, the driver guilty of causing the car accident will be financially responsible for related injuries and damages. Florida, however, is one of 12 states that operate under a no-fault system.

After a car crash in Tampa, you will file your initial insurance claim with your own car insurance provider, even if you did not cause the accident. You will seek benefits from your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. This is a required type of coverage in Florida and other no-fault states.

The only circumstance in which you will need to determine fault for your auto accident in Tampa is if your injuries meet Florida’s serious injury threshold. In general, this threshold is any injury that will have a long-term effect, such as chronic pain or disability. Broken bones, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, permanent scarring and disfigurement, and loss of limb are all examples of serious injuries.

If you do suffer a serious injury in a car accident in Florida, it will be necessary to determine fault before you begin the insurance process. You will file your auto insurance claim with the company of the driver or party who caused your collision. In this scenario, multiple parties can help you investigate the car accident to determine fault.

What Happens During a Car Accident Investigation?

After a car accident that results in bodily injuries, deaths or expensive property damage, call 911 from the scene of the wreck. This is an important legal requirement that can help you avoid a hit-and-run criminal charge in Tampa. It is also important to call the police so they can investigate the scene of the crash before response teams clean it up.

The police officers who respond to the scene of the crash can create an official report describing the accident. This report can contain important information gathered during a crash investigation, such as:

  • A description of the accident
  • Basic facts, such as the date and location
  • Statements from both drivers
  • Statements from eyewitnesses
  • Official photographs
  • Video and surveillance footage
  • Any traffic citations given to a driver

The police investigation is typically the first stage in determining fault for a car accident in Tampa. From there, once you file a car insurance claim, the insurance company will conduct its own investigation. The insurance investigation involves a review of documents and statements submitted by both drivers, including medical records and the police report. In addition, one or both drivers may hire a Tampa car accident lawyer to also investigate the collision.

How to Prove Fault in a Car Accident Case

If your car accident case goes to trial in Tampa, it will be up to you or your attorney as the filing party to prove the defendant’s fault. Proving fault requires a preponderance of the evidence, or clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is more likely than not responsible for the crash. Most car accident claims rely on the legal theory of negligence, which consists of four elements:

  1. Duty of care. An obligation to act in a reasonable manner behind the wheel.
  2. Breach of duty. Any negligent, careless or reckless act that violates the duty of care.
  3. Proximate cause. A causal relationship between the breach of duty and the car accident.
  4. Compensable damages suffered by the plaintiff in the car accident.

An attorney can help you gather evidence of a defendant’s negligence during an investigation of your car accident. Then, your attorney can present this evidence to an insurance company or judge on your behalf. An auto accident lawyer can guide you through all of the phases of your case, from the initial investigation to the final settlement or jury verdict.