Florida Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

About 200,000 people are injured each year in motor vehicle crashes according to the Florida Division of Motor Vehicles. If you have been injured in a Florida car accident, below is a summary of some of the legal principles that will govern your claim.

Statute of Limitations: You have four years from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit, regardless of whether your claim involves personal injury, property damage or both.

Shared Liability: Florida is a pure comparative fault state. This means that if you are partly to blame for the crash, your damages will be reduced in proportion to your percentage of fault (determined by the court). You can recover one percent of your damages, however, even if you were 99 percent at fault for the accident.

Fault/No Fault Rule: Florida is a “no fault” auto insurance state, meaning that you cannot file a lawsuit or a claim against the other party’s insurance company unless you suffered serious debilitating or permanent injuries as defined by statute.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: Florida requires every driver to carry liability insurance in the amount of $10,000 per injured victim, $20,000 per accident and $10,000 in property damage.

Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers Coverage: Available, but not required in Florida.

Types of Damages Available: Full compensatory damages are available. Punitive damages are only awarded for willful, wanton or gross misconduct and are limited to three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000.

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: No-fault (strict) product liability is possible. To prove that the product was defective, the plaintiff must show that the risks of the product’s design or manufacture outweigh its benefits – merely showing a risk of injury is not enough.

Suing the Government over Defective Roadways (Sovereign Immunity): Suing the state of Florida or a local government is possible under certain circumstances, but there are statutory limits on the amounts recoverable.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: Motorcycle riders under 21 must wear helmets.

Seat Belt Laws: Occupants over 15 years old must wear seat belts, while occupants over 5 years old must wear seat belts only if sitting in the front seat. The maximum fine for a first offense is $30.

Dram Shop Laws: Licensed alcohol vendors are liable for injuries to third parties caused by serving alcohol to minors under 21 years old. Vendors also face limited vendor liability for serving obviously intoxicated adults who injure a third party. Social hosts face no third-party liability.

DUI/DWI Laws: The minimum BAC required to support a conviction is 0.08% (0.02% for minors under 21). A BAC of 0.15% results in enhanced penalties. Florida penalties are some of the harshest penalties in the nation — 6 to 9 months in jail for a first offense, a $500 to $2,000 fine, and a driver’s license suspension of 180 days to 1 year.

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): Texting while driving is illegal, but it is a secondary offense – on officer can only cite you for this offense while citing you for another independent infraction, such as running a stop light.