The driver that hit me was on the phone! Time after time I hear clients emphatically claim the driver of the vehicle that hit them was talking on or otherwise using a cell phone. Sometimes the client actually sees the other driver on the phone, other times the client simply assumes the other driver was on the phone as they cannot fathom how another driver could possibly slam into the rear of their car at 55 mph without being distracted by a phone. Regardless of why the client believes the other driver was on a phone, he/she always wants to know IF and HOW we can figure it out. The good news is, it is definitely possible to discover whether an at-fault driver was using a phone at the time of a collision. However, the bad news is, it may not be quite as simple as one might expect. That’s why you should get in touch with the Tallahassee Car Accident Lawyers at Barrett Nonni & Homola today so that we can help you with your car accident claim.
How do I Get a Record that the Other Driver was on Their Phone?
Sometimes the investigating officer of a motor vehicle collision will make mention in the Florida Crash Report that the at-fault driver was utilizing and/or looking at his/her phone at the time of the collision. Slam dunk, right? Not so much. Unfortunately, any statements made to an officer by an individual involved in a traffic collision while that officer is investigating the collision is inadmissible in a court proceeding. Additionally, the Florida Crash Report that is generated by the investigating officer is also inadmissible in a court proceeding. I’ve actually had cases where the officer puts in the crash report that the at-fault driver was distracted by his/her phone at the time of the collision and then testify under oath that they were NOT using the phone at the time of the collision. Unfortunately, those statements made to the officer are not admissible in a court proceeding, even in attempting to impeach the at-fault driver. (Sidenote: if my client happens to overhear the at-fault driver tell the investigating officer he/she was distracted by the phone at the time of the collision, my client CAN testify regarding what was overheard).
What’s the Best Way to Determine if Someone was on Their Phone?
The best way to conclusively determine whether an individual was utilizing his/her cell phone at the time of the collision is to subpoena the phone records from that individual’s cell phone service provider. An attorney does not have the power to issue a subpoena until a lawsuit is filed. Unfortunately, there are numerous personal injury attorneys who are not willing to file lawsuits and will suggest accepting the last best pre-suit settlement offer from an insurance company. The attorneys at Barrett Nonni & Homola WILL file lawsuits and will aggressively pursue the acquisition of cell phone records in cases where there is an allegation a phone was involved. As soon as it is determined who the cell phone service provider is for the at-fault driver, an attorney is able to send a non-party subpoena to the cell phone service provider. The subpoena is a court order which requires the service provider produce the documentation requested by the attorney. Of course, attorneys for the at-fault party and sometimes attorneys for the service providers can make this process more difficult. Nonetheless, the records are nearly always secured by our attorneys when they are requested.
What Happens After the Record is Obtained?
Once the records are obtained, they are examined and the at-fault party is questioned in his/her deposition regarding the contents of the records. When attempting to determine whether the at-fault party was using a feature on the phone such as email, internet, or social media, an expert is sometimes required to decipher the information. However, most often the information is easy to understand and the use of an expert is unnecessary.
New studies suggest the use of cell phones while driving is actually more dangerous than driving drunk. As a result, there is a trend among Florida courts to allow for the imposition of punitive damages on drivers who have caused collisions due to cell phone use. If you or a loved one has been involved in a collision and you believe the collision was caused by a driver distracted by a cell phone, do not hesitate to call one of our attorneys today.
“I have full coverage” – if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a client or prospective client utter those words I would be a millionaire – well, not a millionaire, but I would at least have a couple hundred dollars. What I mean to say is a majority of drivers on Florida’s roadways have no idea what type of insurance coverages they have. And sadly, most people I talk to assume if they have purchased “full coverage” they have insurance that will cover any expenses they incur in an automobile collision regardless of fault. This could not be further from the truth.
What Does Full Coverage Insurance Mean in the State of Florida?
So, what exactly does “full coverage” mean? In Florida, typically purchasing “full coverage” auto insurance means nothing more than purchasing the minimum coverage required by Florida’s No-Fault Statute (Fla. Stat. § 627.736). And, if that is the case, the so-called “full coverage” insurance policy has several gaping holes which could leave an unsuspecting consumer holding the bag for damages thought to be covered. In Florida, the only insurance a motorist is required to have is:
Personal Injury Protection Coverage (also known as “no fault benefits” or “PIP”)
Property Damage Liability Coverage
The glaring deficiency of the minimum required insurance coverages in Florida is the lack of “bodily injury liability” coverage. Florida is one of only two states in the nation that does not have some form of mandatory injury liability coverage (New Hampshire is the other). This means that if you cause an automobile collision resulting in injuries to another person your insurance may not cover your liability for those injuries. This can be financially devastating in the event you cause serious injuries to another and can result in civil judgments that can force you into bankruptcy or cost you dearly for the rest of your life. Luckily the experienced Tallahassee Car Accident Lawyers at Barrett Nonni & Homola are here to help you with your case.
What Happens if the Person Who Hit Me Doesn’t Have Insurance?
The lack of mandatory bodily injury coverage also has ramifications for the injured party. Think of it this way – if you are injured by another driver in Tallahassee who doesn’t have bodily injury coverage that person most likely doesn’t have the type of assets that will make it easy to collect money from a court judgment. Practically speaking, this means you could be stuck in a legal battle with the person for years, get a large judgment and then spend years trying to collecting it. Luckily, insurance companies in Florida offer what is known as uninsured motorist covered. This coverage will actually “step into the shoes” of the at-fault party and pay bodily injury benefits to you on that person’s behalf. Often times the existence of this coverage can mean the difference between getting a monetary recovery and getting nothing at all. This coverage also can help offset medical bills and lost wages not covered by the mandatory PIP benefits which will only cover a portion of those damages.
What Does Full Coverage Insurance Not Cover in Florida?
“Full Coverage” also does not include collision or comprehensive coverages. Collision coverage will pay for damages to your vehicle that resulted from a wreck with another vehicle or any other damage resulting from operation of the vehicle regardless of fault. Comprehensive coverage will cover damage to your vehicle resulting that occurs while the vehicle is not in use. For example, hail damage, vandalism, fire damage, etc.
Reach Out to Out Tallahassee Car Accident Attorneys Today!
The next time you renew your auto insurance policy do not assume you are completely covered when you are told you have “full coverage.” If you have questions, get a second opinion, shop around and, if need be, get a free consultation with an attorney in Tallahassee who is learned about these matters and discuss it with him/her. If you have any questions about your auto insurance policy please contact an attorney at Barrett Nonni & Homola today for a free initial consultation.
It’s no secret that Tallahassee is a college town. With three college campuses within its city limits, Tallahassee, FL, depending on the time of year, is home to tens of thousands of college students. It’s also no secret that college students, on average, tend to frequent bars and nightclubs no more often than any other demographic. For that reason, our Tallahassee car accident attorneys tend to see a more than average amount of automobile collisions involving the use of alcohol. Which inevitably brings up the question we are asked time and again: Is the provider of the alcohol in any way liable for damages brought about by the car accident?
Can a Bar be Held Liable in a Drunk Driving Case in Tallahassee?
The short answer to the question posed above is no, Florida Statute § 768.125 states, “[a] person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person . . . .” However, as with nearly every law, there are exceptions to the general rule. The very same statute goes on to carve out two narrow exceptions, which, if met, allow for liability to attach to the vendor or provider of the alcohol which led to the injuries. The two exceptions are:
Willful and Unlawful Service of Alcohol to a Minor – Florida Statute § 768.125 does not protect “a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age.” So a bar or vendor can be held liable in damages if an underage individual is served or permitted to drink alcohol and then causes injury to another. However, this exception requires more than just negligence on the part of the alcohol vendor. Under the statute, the vendor must “willingly” provide the alcohol to the minor. For instance, there will most likely be no liability in a situation where an underage individual is able to get alcohol by having an overage individual buy the drinks and pass them without the bartender’s knowledge.
Furthermore, if an underage individual furnishes an alcohol vendor false identification (fake id) indicating he/she is of legal drinking age and after “carefully” checking the identification and comparing it to the individual’s appearance there is a good faith belief the individual is of legal drinking age, there can be no liability on the part of the vendor for underage service. That rule is set forth in Florida Statute § 562.11(1)(d).
Knowingly Serving an Alcoholic – Additionally, Florida Statute § 768.125 does not protect “a person who knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.” This exception is very hard to prove, because 1) it must be proven the individual was, in fact, habitually addicted to alcohol; and 2) the bartender must have knowledge the individual is habitually addicted to alcohol.
The first hurdle of proving the person is an alcoholic is generally proven by hiring an expert to comb through the individual’s past medical and psychological records looking for evidence of alcohol addiction. Criminal records are also scoured in an attempt to determine whether the individual had been arrested in the past for things such as public drunkenness or driving under the influence and determining whether the individual was sent for counseling as a result. It is also sometimes beneficial to speak with those closest to the individual (if they will talk) to determine their positions with regard to the person’s alcohol intake.
The second hurdle is often more difficult than the first because you must prove the bartender was aware of the individual’s addiction. This proves difficult because if the individual has never been to the bar before or never gotten drunk at that particular bar before, there is no case. This hurdle is often overcome by speaking with the bartender and the “regulars” at the bar to determine whether the individual regularly spent time at that bar getting intoxicated.
Are There any Exceptions to the Statute?
Interestingly, what you won’t see in the statute is liability for a bar or vendor “over-serving” an individual. Currently, Florida law does not hold a bar responsible for continuing to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron. Therefore, even if a guest is visibly intoxicated and the bartender continues to serve that individual alcohol, the bar will not be liable if that individual then causes a collision UNLESS it can be shown that the individual was underage or was a known alcoholic to the bartender.
At Barrett Nonni & Homola we have handled tens of thousands of car accident cases in Tallahassee throughout the years, many of which were caused by drunk driving. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a drunk driver please call our Tallahassee car accident lawyer today to get the justice you deserve.
Let’s face it, no one wants to think about being involved in an auto accident. However, according to the National Safety Council, there are approximately 10 million auto accidents every year in the United States. So, chances are, at some point in your life its going to happen to you. Let the Tallahassee auto accident attorneys at Barrett Nonni & Homola help! Here are some things to keep in mind when you are involved in a auto accident:
5 Steps to Take After a Car Accident
1. Get Police to the Scene Immediately after a car collision, the first thing you should do, if able, is to call authorities to get to the scene. Once on the scene, authorities will interview drivers and witnesses and usually determine which party is at fault in causing the collision. They will also collect contact and insurance information from all parties involved and make sure each party has that information before leaving the scene. Having insurance information for the other party makes it easy to contact their insurance company and report the claim. Also, having crash report from the authorities helps when the at-fault parties’ insurance company is determining fault, I cannot tell you how many times the at-fault drivers’ version of events is completely different than what is contained in the crash report. 2. Take Photographs Again, if able, taking photos of the damage sustained by all involved vehicles is a very good idea. Having damage photos will help to establish the severity of the collision. It is also important to take photos of the vehicles in their final resting positions at the scene as those photos can help to establish which party is at fault in causing the collision. Further, if there were other circumstances that contributed to the collision, such as a bush blocking a driver’s line of sight or a defective street sign, make sure to take photos of those things as well.
3. Get Insurance Information for the Other Driver In most circumstances, if the authorities come to the scene of a collision, you will receive a small print out from the investigating officer known as an “exchange of information.” The exchange of information will contain contact and insurance information for all parties involved in the collision. However, if authorities do not come to the scene, it is very important to get insurance information, or at least, contact information for the other involved party. Even if you don’t see any damage to your vehicle and are not experiencing any pain at the scene, that can change in a matter of hours. Further, it is also a good idea to ask for proof that the person providing the information is who they say they are. Don’t be afraid to politely ask to see identification for the other driver.
4. Report the Claim to Your Insurance Company It is always a good idea to contact YOUR OWN insurance company as soon as possible following a collision. Reporting your claim will ensure that the claim process goes as smoothly as possible, especially when attempting to obtain medical treatment for collision related injuries. If you are contacted by the insurance company for the at-fault driver it is always a good idea to at least consult with an attorney before signing anything, especially if the insurance company is offering money for you to sign a release.
5. Get Medical Treatment Not every auto accident will result in a permanent injury, however, it is always a good idea to at least get checked out by a medical professional after being involved in a collision. This is especially true in Florida, where auto accident victims lose their ability to make a claim for medical benefits under their personal injury protection coverage if they haven’t been examined by a medical professional within 14 days of the collision.
Contact Our Tallahassee Car Accident Lawyers Today
The foregoing list is just a short list of the things that should be done after an auto accident and is certainly not exhaustive. If you have questions about an auto accident call the Tallahassee auto accident attorneys at Barrett Nonni & Homola at 850-601-1111 for a free consultation today or fill out or Free Consultation form by clicking here.
One of the biggest headaches associated with being involved in a car accident is getting the damages to your vehicle repaired: the entire process can be difficult.
When you’re involved in an auto accident that is not your fault, you have two options. You can either make a claim for repairs under the collision portion of your own auto policy or run the claim through the property damage coverage of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, here are some things to consider when making your decision.
Making a Claim on Your Own Policy
In most situations, the driver of the vehicle not at fault in a collision will not want to make a claim to repair property damages through their own policy. The common reasons being the policyholder does not want to pay their deductible and does not want to face the possibly of a rate hike from making a claim. These are valid concerns, however, in some situations it may be better to go ahead and make the claim through your own insurance. For instance, when the at fault driver causes damage to more than just your vehicle in a collision it is usually quicker to go ahead and run the property damage claim through your own policy. In that type of situation, it will usually take the at fault driver’s insurance company an extended period to determine the extent of all the property damage caused which will often lead to extended delays in getting repairs started on your vehicle. Insurance companies almost always want to know what the extent of property damage is for all affected parties before approving repairs for any singular party. On the bright side, your own insurance company will then seek the money it pays to fix your vehicle from the insurance company of the at-fault driver, including your deductible. After recouping your deductible, your insurance company will then reimburse you that money, unfortunately, that process can sometimes take several months to occur.
Making a Claim on the At-Fault Driver’s Policy
If you are involved in an auto wreck caused by someone else and your vehicle is the only one that sustains damage, its usually best to make the claim for vehicle property damage through the at-fault party’s insurance. Typically, once the claim gets reported and the insurance company determines the insured to be at fault, an insurance adjuster will call and advise you to take the vehicle to one of their “approved” facilities. Please keep in mind, you are under no obligation to take your vehicle to the requested facility. You get to make the decision the about who repairs your vehicle. Most times this is the preferable method to getting property damage resolved because it avoids paying the deductible and eliminates the possibility of a rate hike.
Also note that for a vehicle to be legally operated on Florida roadways it must carry at least $10,000.00 in property damage coverage. On the other hand, there is no requirement for vehicles to have collision coverage. If you are involved in an auto accident that is not your fault and do not have collision coverage on your policy, your only choice is to make the damage claim through the at-fault party’s insurance.
Contact Our Personal Injury Lawyers in Tallahassee, FL