Who Can Be Held Responsible for an Auto Accident?

One of the challenges of litigating auto accident cases is making sure that all of the potentially responsible parties are brought into the case. Since insurance coverage is the primary source of monetary recovery in auto accident cases, having more defendants often translates into more available insurance coverage.

If you or someone you love has sustained personal injuries as a result of someone else’s negligence in a New Port Richey auto accident case, our compassionate, experienced attorneys are here to help.

Our experienced personal injury auto accident attorneys will be able to discuss all of the facts and circumstances of your case with you and can ensure that all of the proper parties are brought into the case. Responsible defendants in an auto accident case may include the other driver, the driver’s employer, the defendant vehicle owner, or the plaintiff’s own insurance company (in an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim or a claim for bad faith insurance practices).

Insurance companies constantly advertise that their job is to make you whole following an auto accident. First and foremost, however, the insurance company is a business, and its main goal is to keep as much of its money in-house as possible to distribute to its shareholders.

Our New Port Richey personal injury lawyers are experienced negotiators and can force the insurance company’s hand to offer you the settlement money you need and deserve. If a favorable settlement offer cannot be reached, our experienced auto accident lawyers welcome the opportunity to litigate your case and take it to trial if necessary.

Florida Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

In the state of Florida, the statute of limitations1 in personal injury cases is three (3) years from the date on which the accident occurred and the injuries were sustained. This means that absent some very limited exceptions, any personal injury claim or lawsuit for damages must be brought within this three-year period; otherwise, the plaintiff is forever barred from seeking monetary recovery for injuries and damages sustained in the auto accident.

The purpose of the statute of limitations in Florida personal injury cases is to prevent fading memories of the event (especially when liability or fault is at issue) and to safeguard against witness incapacity, unavailability, or death.

A skilled auto accident attorney will undertake the proper investigation to make sure that claims and/or lawsuits are filed against all potentially responsible defendants within the applicable statute of limitations period. In auto accident cases, it is always better to have more potential defendants than fewer, as potential defendants can always be dismissed from a claim or lawsuit after suit has been filed. However, if suit has already been filed and a potential defendant was not made a party to the suit before the applicable statute of limitations expired, the claim as to that defendant may be waived in perpetuity.

Florida No-Fault Insurance

In car accident cases only, Florida follows a no-fault insurance system. This means that following most auto accidents, a person’s own insurance company will provide the necessary insurance coverage for medical expenses and lost income without regard to fault. In other words, an injured plaintiff cannot hold the other driver responsible for the accident (i.e. file a personal injury claim or lawsuit for damages against that person), unless the “serious injury” threshold is met.

Generally speaking, a claim may be filed directly against the at-fault driver for the accident in one or more of the following instances:
  • Permanent injury sustained in the accident
  • Significant/permanent scarring sustained in the accident
  • Disfigurement

Potential Parties to an Auto Accident Lawsuit

In an auto accident case, the following parties may be potential defendants in any claim or lawsuit that is filed in the Florida court system:

The driver of the other vehicle (i.e. the “at-fault” driver) Pursuant to the Florida Traffic Code,2 drivers have a duty to operate their motor vehicles carefully and prudently when driving on Florida roadways. When drivers breach that duty of care and cause an accident which directly and proximately results in injuries to someone else, that driver may be deemed responsible and may be sued. Although the offending driver is sued personally, it is actually that driver’s insurance company that provides the necessary insurance coverage.

  • The driver of the host vehicle – When the personal injury plaintiff is a passenger in a vehicle and is injured as a result of the driver’s negligence, then the plaintiff passenger may have a valid cause of action against the driver of the motor vehicle in which he or she was a passenger.
  • The vehicle driver’s employer – When the at-fault driver was operating the vehicle in the course of his or her employment, a valid cause of action might exist against the employer or owner of that vehicle based upon an agency or vicarious liability theory of recovery. Under this theory, the negligence of the driver is imputed to the employer or owner of the vehicle, assuming that the driver was an agent, servant, or employee of the owner/employer and that the driver was acting within the scope of his or her employment at the time the accident occurred. The owner/employer may also be responsible under a theory of negligent entrustment, negligent supervision, or negligent hiring, most especially in cases where the driver caused prior accidents about which the owner or employer was aware.
  • The injured plaintiff’s own insurance company – When there is no other party to sue in an accident, such as a hit-and-run and/or if all other avenues of insurance have been exhausted (i.e. the at-fault driver’s insurance company has tendered its policy limits), the injured plaintiff may then have a cause of action directly against his or her own insurance company for the limits of that insurance policy.
  • The injured plaintiff – In some cases, one or more of the defendants may allege that the injured plaintiff was partially or wholly to blame for an auto accident, such as by speeding or engaging in some other unlawful activity. Florida follows the pure comparative fault doctrine, under which an injured plaintiff’s recovery could be reduced by an amount equal to that person’s percentage of fault for causing or contributing to the accident.

Contact a New Port Richey Personal Injury Attorney Today to Discuss Your Case

It is essential that every potential defendant is brought into a personal injury auto accident case within the required statutory time period. Our New Port Richey personal injury attorneys will make sure that all of the necessary parties are brought into your case and that every avenue of potential insurance coverage is fully explored.