In a split second, your entire life can change. Car accidents kill between 40 and 250 men, women and children every day. The repercussions and injuries that result from severe auto accidents can leave you permanently disabled or claim the life of a loved one. Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter understand your circumstances. We have helped hundreds of individuals and families find justice and receive due compensation for their injuries and pain and suffering.
Many people don’t realize what to do after a car accident and end up settling for less than they deserve. Our lawyers in Florida can help you reach the best outcome possible. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, please call our Florida lawyers today at (407) 712-7300 to schedule your FREE initial consultation. We provide expert legal services to clients in Orlando, Florida and nationwide.
What to Do When You Are in a Car Accident
Knowing what to do after an accident can help you prevent further injuries, expedite repair costs, and ensure that you are financially compensated. Preparing for an accident might seem a little odd, but certain readiness will give you peace of mind should an accident ever occur. Drivers should have an emergency kit stored in their car. The emergency kit should include the following:
- Cell phone: The 9-1-1 function on a cell phone will still work if you keep the cell battery charged, even without a service plan.
- Pen and paper for taking accident notes
- Medical card listing allergies or conditions that would impact treatment
- Contact numbers for law enforcement agencies to notify loved ones
- Emergency safety devices flashlight, emergency flares, warning triangles/cones
With your emergency kit in hand, you’ll have the tools necessary for documenting the accident scene, sharing important information with other drivers, and all the while remaining safe. By following the steps below, you’ll have what you need to obtain necessary information for future financial compensation:
- Keep safety in mind: For minor accidents that don’t involve serious injuries, vehicles should be moved to the side of the road. However, if the car can’t be moved, turn on your hazard lights, keep passengers in the car with seatbelts fastened while you set out safety markers.
- Exchange information: For minor and major accidents, you should obtain this information for each vehicle and its driver:
- Driver’s name, address and phone number
- Insurance company, policy number if the driver’s name is different than insured
- Driver’s license number and VIN
- Vehicle owner’s name
- Description of the car make, model, color
- Document the accident: Use your phone or a camera to photograph damage of each vehicle and obtain witness information in case other drivers dispute your version of the accident.
- Report the accident: Notify police and insurance companies.
Our lawyers at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter represent clients who have suffered injuries from all forms of auto accidents. Every situation is unique, and we can help you through the process of filing a claim for accidents resulting from these instances and more:
- Trailer Sway
- Parking Lots
- Hazardous Weather Conditions
- Elderly Drivers
- Tourist Mishaps
- Driver Fatigue
- Construction Zones
- Rollover Accidents
- Cell Phone-Related Accidents
- Texting While Driving in Florida
- Victims of Drunk Driving
- Uninsured Driver Accidents
- Fatal Car Accidents
Trailer sway is easily triggered and can quickly escalate out of control resulting in an accident that destroys both the trailer and the towing vehicle. Trailer sway accidents often result in severe injuries and wrongful death. Once the sway starts, it is very difficult to regain control.
With the proper setup – a properly designed trailer, the right hitch and anti-sway devices, appropriate weight load and adequate brakes – trailer sway may be prevented and dangerous accidents can be avoided. However, most recreational vehicle (RV) users are not informed of the requirements and limitations involved or of the safety devices they should employ.
According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, nearly 8 million households own at least one RV. More frightening is the number of RVs that are rented by excited tourists who have no knowledge of towing and are in a hurry to get started on their vacations. Vacationers often rent RVs with little or no safety instructions. RV rental is a $350 million/year business.
Trailer sway accidents can be reduced by properly matching the trailer to the towing vehicle, using the proper safety devices, proper loading and safe driving.
Requirements for trailer safety include:
- Trailer tongue is 10%-15% of the trailer’s weight.
- Towing vehicle with towing capacity exceeding the weight of the trailer, passengers and cargo.
- Hitch with towing capacity exceeding the weight of the loaded (not empty) trailer.
- Adequate trailer brakes.
- Sway control device.
- Properly rated and properly inflated tires.
- Driving at reasonable speeds.
Trailer sway is easily triggered if the trailer and towing vehicle are inadequate in any way or if they are not properly matched. Common causes of trailer sway include: Tongue weight too little or too much
- Unevenly distributed load
- Trailer’s center of gravity too high
- Lack of anti sway device
- Improperly inflated tires
- Inadequate trailer brake
- Wrong hitch
Trailer sway is very difficult to bring under control, even if you do everything right. Taking the wrong action can quickly turn trailer sway into a deadly accident. If you are towing a trailer and it begins to sway:
- Hold the steering wheel steady.
- Let off the gas.
- Apply the trailer brake.
- Do not slam on the brakes.
- Do not attempt to “steer out of it.”
- Do not increase speed.
Safe RV operation requires proper education. RV dealers have a duty to pass important safety information along to consumers, both purchasers and renters.
Parking lot collisions can range from minor fender benders to serious injury accidents. Most parking lot accidents are low impact, but there’s always danger when busy shoppers speed across parking rows and spaces losing control, damaging other vehicles and injuring other drivers and pedestrians.
Parking lots are considered private property and are the single most disputed accidents when it comes to liability. Insurance companies say that there is no right-of-way in parking lots. The most dangerous parking hazard is when drivers are backing out of their spaces. They are paying little attention to other cars and pedestrians pulling out too quickly, attending to their children or talking on their cell phone. If you’re driving down a row in a parking lot, it is your responsibility to use common sense and look out for other cars and people when pulling in or leaving a parking space.
Parking lot accident lawsuits can be complicated when you’re dealing with witnesses who have different perspectives on what happened with no police report to refer to. The driver who causes the accident may also be reluctant to provide any personal or insurance information. He or she may argue that your own insurance company should take care of the matter.
The accident could be more serious than it initially appears. If you are injured, your symptoms may seem minor at first. You could experience more serious symptoms hours or even weeks after the accident.
Hazardous Weather Conditions
Vehicle accidents increase substantially during poor weather conditions. Drivers forget how rain, fog and wind affect the roads, and how their driving habits need to change in dangerous conditions. Also, many drivers don’t realize their car has mechanical issues until it’s too late. This makes them a greater hazard to themselves, their passengers and other drivers on the roadways.
The following factors produce unsafe driving conditions during a rainstorm:
- Diminished visibility
- Other drivers’ conduct
- Excessively timid drivers driving too slow
- Aggressive drivers ignoring the consequences of weather on the roads
- Drivers having a difficult time adjusting to seasonal changes
- Diminished traction
When a layer of water prevents a car from making contact with the roadway, the loss of friction causes the car to hydroplane. The driver loses control of the car’s braking and steering abilities, causing the car to skid and eventually collide with another object.
The risks for hydroplaning are higher in these situations:
- Deep water from heavy rain or flooding
- When the driver is speeding
- If the vehicle is out of balance and/or overloaded
- If the tires have been poorly maintained, under-inflated or worn down
The best solutions to prevent an accident during hazardous weather conditions are to plan your trip ahead of time, drive with great caution and always remember to maintain your car on a regular basis:
- Check tire treads at every oil change and make sure your traction is good.
- Replace windshield wipers at least once a year.
- Before rainy season, make sure brake lights, head lights and turn signals are in working condition.
- Carry an emergency kit in your car.
- Give yourself extra time to reach your destination.
- Be prepared to take alternate routes to avoid flooded roadways.
- Keep in mind that oil deposits and rain make for exceptionally slippery conditions especially at intersections.
- Give yourself extra space between you and other drivers.
- Release your foot from the accelerator early and brake lightly avoiding sudden stops.
- When possible, drive in center lanes where rain water is less likely to pool.
- Remember when passing large trucks that their spray can be blinding.
- Avoid standing water that may be hiding deep and dangerous pot holes.
Medical advancements, healthier diets and a more active lifestyle are prolonging the quality of life for our senior citizens. But no matter how healthy they are, as seniors age, their sight and hearing begin to fade, alertness starts to diminish and judgment can become impaired. At what point do these factors affect the elderly drivers driving? The active elderly are very resistant to giving up their independence, but at what point is the public at risk by the senior’s deteriorating driving skills?
It’s our responsibility to look out for our elderly to keep them safe from harming themselves or from accidentally injuring someone else. If you are questioning the driving ability of your elderly loved one, here are some behaviors you should look for:
- Driving is noticeably slower or more erratic
- Poor reaction time to lights and signs
- Timid about faster drives
- Reluctant to drive on the freeway
- Physical symptoms such as hearing impaired, lethargic and poor eyesight
Many states require drivers 75 and older to pass a written and road test when renewing their license. As they get older, drivers are required to be tested yearly. These precautions may not be enough to protect the public from being the victim of an auto accident caused by an elderly person. In Florida, accidents by seniors are a special concern because many come to the sunshine state to retire.
Older drivers and occupants who may already have health and mobility challenges could face a greater risk of injury than younger drivers because:
- Aging means a weaker immune system.
- They’re prone to hip and bone fractures which take longer to heal.
- Burn and brain injuries can be incapacitating and more difficult to recover from with age.
- They are more likely to be fatally injured than a younger driver.
If you are in Florida, you’re sharing the roads with nearly 100 million tourists a year. Florida is the most popular destination for Americans. For foreigners, it is the second most popular tourist spot. These tourists are a mixed blessing. They bring money into our community, but they can also be hazards on the highways, driving aimlessly to their next point of interest.
The increased number of tourists means an increase in car accidents on Florida highways. Irresponsible vacationers who don’t take the time to preplan their trips are driving erratically and causing safety hazards on the roads. They are reading maps while driving, crossing lanes without consideration for other traffic or drinking and driving.
Florida ranks above the average number of serious injuries and deaths caused by vehicle accidents compared to other states. In 2012, there were 280,000 auto accidents which means 800, if not more, accidents occur in Florida every day. Florida accidents reach record numbers each year, and many of these accidents can be attributed to an increase in traffic due to tourism.
There are numerous causes for trucking accidents, and one of the most prominent is driver fatigue. Most over-the-road truck drivers work under very tight deadlines. Trucking companies are in business to get the greatest amount of goods in the shortest time possible to destinations across the United States. Many drivers receive bonuses and other incentives to get their cargoes to their destinations quickly.
Since they can only travel around the set speed limits, many drivers make up the time by driving for longer periods of time. The leading causes of fatigue include:
- Tight deadlines
- Pressure from supervisors
- Medical conditions
- Driver inexperience
The turnover rate for over-the-road truckers is often greater than 100 percent, meaning that more drivers leave than are being hired and trained. These new, inexperienced drivers often push themselves beyond their physical limits.
Driver fatigue doesn’t only happen at night, early morning, mid-morning, and mid-afternoon are also times when fatigue can set in. An hour or two after a large meal can affect a driver’s ability to function at a safe level. Some of the signs of fatigue include:
- Excessive yawning
- Heavy eyelids
- Wandering thoughts
- Veering over the center line or shoulder of the road
Truck drivers who experience these symptoms should pull over and rest, or relinquish driving duties to a partner, but many fail to do so, putting other drivers at greater risk.
The Department of Transportation sets down regulations for how long drivers can drive without substantial breaks. Drivers must log the hours carefully or risk fines and revocation of their driver’s license. Trucking companies are responsible for properly training and monitoring driver logs to ensure adequate rest.
Ultimately, the driver is responsible for making sure that they are driving in a safe manner. If they cause an accident due to driver fatigue, they may be held liable for damages suffered by an innocent victim. Trucking companies who push their drivers too hard may also be found liable in some cases.
There are many contributing factors and issues related to any automobile accident. Add the ingredients that come with a construction zone, and it can be very difficult to sort out who is responsible and should pay for the injury and damages. Factors Unique to Construction Zone Accidents include:
- Cones, signs and flags. The workers who place the cones and signs and the flag persons are an essential part of the safety responsibility of a construction company. If the traffic controls are not properly deployed, the company can be found liable for damages.
- Other drivers not observing construction zones. Most municipalities impose additional fines for ignoring construction zone safety. The signs that say things such as “fines doubled” are there to reinforce the increased potential for accidents in a construction zone.
- Construction workers close to or in the lanes of travel. In a hazardous profession and dangerous work environment, construction worker accidents can easily impact others around them including vehicles passing by.
If you’ve been in an accident in a construction zone, it probably happened so fast that you may not be able to identify who is responsible. The construction zones are constantly changing; cones are moved and lanes shifted. Because of that, it’s important to have a qualified person investigate the circumstances of the accident as soon as possible and document the conditions at the time of the accident.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), vehicles that have a higher center of gravity are more susceptible to rollover if involved in a single-car crash. Pickup trucks, minivans, and SUVs all fall into this higher profile vehicle category.
In a rollover accident, it is more likely that drivers and passengers will die or be seriously injured. After a significant rollover accident, medical expenses mount quickly due to severe injuries. Address your personal injuries legally so that the financial impact on your life and your loved ones’ lives doesn’t become catastrophic.
When you drive an SUV and strike something low such as a curb, shallow gulley or pothole, you have an increased risk of a tripped rollover. In fact, of all rollover crashes, 95% of them were tripped. Other common causes of rollover accidents include:
- Vehicle overcorrection. If a driver were to lose control of his car while using a cell phone, then quickly jerk the wheel back, this type of overcorrection could flip the vehicle.
- Top-heavy vehicles. More than half of rollover accidents involve SUVs, with only 25% occurring with sedans.
- Overloaded vehicles. By adding weight to the top of the vehicle, you bring the center of gravity away from the ground, thus increasing your risk of a rollover.
- Aggressive drivers. Quick lane changes and driving at higher speeds can cause rollovers even if the vehicle has not been tripped.
Every auto accident claim is unique, and sometimes more than one party is responsible. Some of those liable parties may include:
- Car or parts manufacturer
- Tire manufacturer
- Wholesalers and dealers
Courts may find a defendant in an SUV rollover accident liable under one or more liability theories such as negligence, strict liability or breach of warranty.
Cell Phone-Related Accidents
Cell phone use while driving causes 1.6 million auto accidents every year according to the National Safety Council. Texting alone causes around 330,000 injuries. In fact, you’re six times more likely to be involved in a cell phone-related accident than a drunk driving accident.
More and more states are banning cell phone use while driving and several others are enacting new laws requiring hands-free cell phone use on our highways. Hands-free cell phones allow both hands to be on the wheel which gives the driver the freedom to react more effectively in an emergency situation, but your mind is still distracted with a hands-free device. Many critics say it’s the conversation that makes cell phone use while driving dangerous.
You may ask what’s the difference between talking on a cell phone and talking to a passenger while driving? Safety experts say a conversation with a passenger is less distracting. The passenger also acts as an extra pair of eyes and can alert the driver about a potentially dangerous situation. Other distractions such as changing the radio or reaching for your coffee are only momentary distractions.
Texting While Driving in Florida
Florida’s ban on texting while driving took effect in October 2013. The state law bars all drivers from texting while operating a motor vehicle. However, Florida’s texting ban is a secondary law. This means law enforcement may only issue a driver a ticket for texting if he or she is pulled over for another violation such as speeding. The penalties for texting while driving in the Sunshine State are also relatively light. A first offense will cost a driver $30 plus court costs; the fine for a second offense is $60.
Texting while driving is a risk on par with drinking while driving, and similarly to accidents caused by drunk driving, the wrecks and resulting injuries caused by texting and driving are entirely preventable.
Studies indicate that drivers who text while driving divert their attention from the road for nearly five seconds at a time. That is enough time to traverse the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour—without once looking at the road ahead or others around you.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) categorizes three forms of distracted driving:
Manual: A driver’s hands are taken off the wheel. Visual: A driver is not watching the road. Cognitive: A driver’s attention is not devoted to operating his or her vehicle.
Texting while driving is especially risky because it simultaneously involves each type of distraction.
Victims of Drunk Driving
Collisions caused by drunk drivers cannot rightly be called “accidents,” since these traumatizing wrecks could have been easily prevented. When an intoxicated person gets behind the wheel, they are making the choice to risk their own life and the lives of others. If people are injured or killed as a result of that choice, drunk drivers need to be held accountable.
Courts routinely punish drunk drivers with fines, jail time, community service and limited driving privileges. However, none of these punishments amount to justice for victims of drunk driving.
Our car accident lawyers have decades of experience helping victims of drunk driving and their families recover compensation for their injuries, including:
- Lost income
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
If it is proven that the driver who caused your accident was legally intoxicated, you can also pursue punitive damages against the defendant. In drunk driving cases, punitive damages go beyond due compensation because they are designed to punish drunk drivers and deter other individuals from driving while intoxicated.
Uninsured Driver Accidents
Now more than ever, it’s important to carry uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If you are in an accident with a motorist who does not carry liability insurance or doesn’t carry enough insurance, then your only recourse is your own insurance. In an accident involving an uninsured motorist, it’s often difficult to collect because assets are typically not enough to bring litigation. Yet, in many cases, you can bring a claim against your own insurance company to cover damages such as:
- Wage losses
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent injury
- Loss of future earning capacity
If you do not carry collision coverage on your insurance policy, you will likely have a problem recovering damages outside of personal injury claims. Damages that will likely not be recoverable in the event of an accident with an uninsured motorist include:
- Damage to your car
- Replacement of your car
- Punitive damages — punishment awarded in cases of malicious or willful misconduct
Fatal Car Accidents
Our experienced legal team realizes how difficult this time is for you, and we are prepared to handle the details of investigating what happened, identifying the person or organization who is responsible, proving liability and pursuing compensation for you and your family.
Because you’ve lost your loved one in a car accident, there is a very real possibility that you may have the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit. We understand all of the possible avenues to pursue to make sure that you and your family are taken care of after the death of your loved one. Our commitment to you is to aggressively pursue justice and the compensation you deserve.
There are a number of possible sources of compensation that may be available to you because of a death caused by a car accident. Taking timely action is an essential ingredient in making sure that you receive all that you are entitled to. We understand that there are a lot of things that you have to attend to after your loved one’s death and want to make engaging our team of attorneys a process that makes your life easier.
Asking the Right Questions About Auto Accidents
Regardless of the severity of your car accident, you will have questions about what to do next. You may have never been in this situation before and not know what to ask. Our experienced team of attorneys has been asking the right questions, including the hard questions, for many years. We have a proven track record of getting the answers, and we use that information to protect the rights of people just like you who have been injured or lost a loved one in an auto accident.
All accidents are not created equal. That’s why it’s important to get qualified help right away. The circumstances of your accident are unique. Understanding what happened and discovering who may be responsible for damages is an essential part of the process.
In addition to car accidents, our legal team has extensive experience in investigating and resolving:
Why Choose Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter?
Our firm has the resources and experience you need to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your collision. By obtaining information from witnesses, analyzing medical reports and accident documentation, and reconstructing the scene of your accident, we can build a solid and meaningful case on your behalf.
If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one in a car accident, please contact our lawyers in Orlando today at (407) 712-7300 to schedule your free consultation. Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter serve clients throughout all of Florida and nationwide.