Most people don’t think they will ever be involved in serious car accidents. In fact, we often think that it will happen to other people, but not to us. Unfortunately, car accidents are quite common. One report puts the chances of being in a car accident as one in 366 during a 1,000-mile trip. The more miles you put on your odometer, the more likely it is that you will become a statistic.
In Florida, about 1,100 car crashes happened daily on state highways and roads in 2021, resulting in an average of 692 injuries per day. Car accident injuries range from mild to catastrophic, and most involve significant financial loss to victims. If you sustain property damage or personal injury in a car crash in Florida, do you have any idea of what to do after the incident?
What You Should Do After a Car Accident
There is a big difference between you thinking about a car accident and being in one, especially if you sustain injuries. If you’re involved in an accident, you might feel disoriented or panicked, which can adversely affect your thinking. However, you can serve yourself best if you keep calm.
Whether you are a motorist in your own vehicle or a rental car, the scene of the accident right after a car crash is when you need to keep your wits about you. During these moments, what you say or do could significantly impact any future claims or lawsuits you might file for property damage or personal injury.
Below are the things you need to do after a car accident. Keep them in mind in case you sustain injuries or property damage in a car crash in Florida.
The first thing you need to keep in mind is to stay at the scene of the accident until law enforcement says you can leave. If you leave before you are permitted to do so, it might look like a hit and run, especially if someone sustains an injury. Moreover, if you leave the scene of the accident, you’re actually committing a crime, even if you never intended to run away to escape liability.
Check for Injuries
Check whether you and your passengers have been injured. You might feel fine or have only minor injuries, but there might be something seriously wrong inside. A concussion or other injuries can result from a fender bender, so you should know what to do after a minor car accident.
If you can, ask the other driver and their passengers if they have injuries and provide assistance when necessary. However, do not apologize, admit fault, or engage in further conversation.
Call Law Enforcement
Florida law requires parties involved in a car crash resulting in injury or property damage of at least $500 to inform law enforcement immediately. You may move your vehicle to the side of the road if it is not safe to remain on the road. However, use your hazard lights to caution other motorists. Interestingly, if you fail to call authorities, then it may result in a non-moving violation as you’re blocking the highway.
You should call authorities even if the accident was minor, as a police report is necessary for your insurance claim or to file a personal injury lawsuit. While you can exchange insurance information and cell phone numbers at the scene of the accident and file a self-report online, you might face problems later. An insurance adjuster or defense attorney might question the validity of the report, especially if the other driver provides a different version of the accident.
When the police officer arrives, be ready to provide information as mandated, such as your driver’s license and contact information. Get the badge number, the name of the police officer writing the accident report, and the police report number.
Seek Medical Attention
Get medical attention even for minor injuries. You might not think you need it, but some catastrophic injuries are not always apparent. A thorough medical examination will reveal injuries, which will significantly impact your auto insurance claims process.
Don’t worry about costs, as Florida requires Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage of at least $10,000 for medical bills and lost earnings. Therefore, you should be able to recover your medical expenses for minor and serious injuries from your insurance company. You might also want to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
The attending physician can provide a thorough and objective assessment of your physical condition immediately after the accident. However, some problems may develop a few hours or even days after an accident. Therefore, it would be best to take careful note of your physical, mental, and psychological condition and immediately report any issues to your doctor.
Keep records of all medical treatment you receive. Note that Florida gives you 14 days to seek medical attention and report injuries to the insurance company after an accident. All medical records within that period may be relevant to your PIP and personal injury claims.
While law enforcement takes down information and surveys the scene for a police report, do your own documentation. Write down everything you can remember of the sequence of events before the accident, such as what you were doing and the other driver’s behavior. Please keep this information to yourself until you can give it to your lawyer.
If you are a victim of a hit and run, try to recall everything about the other vehicle, such as the color, make, model, and plate number. If you remember anything unusual, such as a bumper sticker, include it in the description. You can provide this information to law enforcement to help identify the other driver.
Take photos and videos from all angles of the scene of the accident to document the position of the vehicles, road conditions, traffic, and weather. Get close-ups of any property damage and personal injuries.
You should exchange information with the other driver, including their name and phone number. However, do not provide information related to the insurance coverage of your policy or other sensitive information, such as your Social Security Number.
Take photos of the other driver’s license plate number, vehicle registration, and insurance card. If the names do not match, establish the connection between the driver with the vehicle or insurance policy owner. Under Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine, car owners may be held accountable for negligent accidents even if they were not driving.
Get the names and contact information of other people involved in the accident as well. If you were the driver, your insurance, or the other driver’s insurance company, should cover the medical bills for injuries to your passengers.
If you can find independent witnesses to the accident, try to obtain their contact information. If possible, get statements of what they saw, and it’s best if you can videotape their statements. All the information you gather may be vital in maximizing your insurance claim or proving negligence in a personal injury lawsuit.
Avoid Taking Responsibility
When involved in a car accident, the best thing you can do is avoid talking about it with the other driver. You might feel the need to discuss what happened and try to make sense of it, but that can put you in a bad position.
Even if you believe you are partly responsible for an accident, you should not say so to anyone, including a police officer. You are not trying to avoid liability but are simply exercising prudence. It isn’t easy to know what happened in the heat of the moment. Car accidents often occur in seconds, and what you think happened might not be accurate.
The responsibility for a car accident is seldom cut and dried and requires careful analysis to be correctly determined. In most cases, an auto accident results from a combination of factors that involve two or more parties.
You need a full investigation of the incident to determine the sequence of events that led to it. Don’t make any statements regarding responsibility before you have had an opportunity to consult with a car accident attorney.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney in Florida
You should contact a car accident attorney before informing your insurance company. An experienced lawyer can protect your rights and increase your chances of getting compensation for any injuries or property damage you incurred.
You can opt to file a claim with your insurance company without the benefit of legal advice, but you might find that more challenging than you expect. Insurance companies want to keep their payouts as low as possible and take advantage of every loophole to avoid paying anything at all.
Additionally, suppose you don’t have legal representation. In that case, the insurance adjuster or defense lawyer can approach you directly and take advantage of your lack of knowledge to offer you a low settlement. They will try to persuade you that it is the most you can expect and it is in your best interests to sign a release.
The settlement may seem generous, but you might not have a full appreciation of the future costs of your injuries. If you accept and sign the offer, you will not be able to pursue any claims or lawsuits against the insurance company or the at-fault driver. In other words, you will be giving up your rights to just compensation.
An experienced accident attorney knows the kind of compensation you should get for your losses. The injury attorney will deal with the insurance companies and lawyers to ensure you get sound advice on what you need to do after a car accident. In many cases, the insurance coverage will not cover all your costs, such as medical expenses, so you may have to file a lawsuit against the responsible parties and get the compensation you need.
Report to Your Insurance Company
Once you have consulted with a motor vehicle accident attorney, you can report the incident to the insurance company to initiate an insurance claim. Since Florida is a no-fault car insurance state, you must first apply for relief from your insurer to cover your medical expenses and other bills, less the deductibles. When your costs exceed the car insurance coverage, you may pursue other avenues to recover your losses, such as health insurance or a personal injury lawsuit.
However, do not include anything extraneous in your initial report. Provide only the bare facts of the incident: when, where, and who. The insurance company can and will hold anything you say against you to limit their payouts. Therefore, avoid telling the insurance adjuster anything without first clearing it with your lawyer.
In fact, have your auto accident attorney inform the insurance company and handle all negotiations with the insurance agent to be on the safe side. Your lawyer can also challenge the insurance company’s denial of the claim.
Do Not Sign Anything
Insurance companies are anxious to settle a claim for as little as they can get away with and as quickly as possible. After you inform the insurance company about the accident, they will send an insurance adjuster to assess your personal injury and property damage claim to offer a settlement. Do not sign anything they give to you until your lawyer has had a chance to look over it. You might be inadvertently signing away your rights to just compensation.
Keep Receipts and Pay Stubs
The point of retaining a car accident lawyer is to ensure you get compensation for your losses and injuries due to someone else’s negligence. However, your lawyer will need concrete proof to argue your case. You can help prove your claim by keeping receipts for all expenses related to your accident injuries, such as the following:
- Emergency services
- Doctor’s consultation
- Medical devices
- Follow-up care
You can also claim lost earnings by providing your pay stubs. Your lawyer will compute the money you lost from your inability to work and any paid time off you had to use for the duration of your recovery. If you suffered catastrophic injuries leading to temporary or permanent disability, these pay stubs would help determine your compensation for lost future earnings.
Car accidents are always upsetting, even traumatic, and you might not always be thinking clearly at the time. The steps above will help you protect your rights, especially in a negligent accident. Below is a to-do list to make it easier to remember the critical things you need to do after a car accident.
- Stay put
- Check for injuries
- Call 911
- Seek medical attention
- Document everything
- Collect information
- Avoid taking responsibility
- Contact a car accident attorney in Florida
- Inform the insurance company
- Do not sign anything
- Keep receipts and pay stubs
- Call 1-800-567-HURT
It is always best practice to refrain from admitting fault or taking full responsibility for an accident until after it has been thoroughly investigated and you have had time to consult with an attorney.
Get a Free Consultation from a Miami Personal Injury Lawyer
If nothing else, the one thing you should remember to do is contact an experienced personal injury lawyer from Diamond & Diamond Lawyers in Miami. We have handled many car accident claims and personal injury lawsuits, so we have the knowledge and skills to help you in your time of need. When you hand your case over to us, we will carefully analyze and thoroughly investigate it to determine the circumstances leading to your personal injuries. We will ensure that the parties responsible for your injuries will be held liable.
You lose nothing and gain everything when working with Diamond Law. Don’t hesitate to get a free case evaluation so we can start helping you with your claims. We work on contingency, so if you don’t get paid, neither do we.