No one leaves their home expecting to get in a car accident. After all, it’s not something you include on a daily to-do list. Unfortunately, vehicle accidents happen every day in Florida. In the city of Gainesville alone, 246 car accident-related injuries occurred in the first few months of the new year.
Whether you’re involved in a single-car crash or a multi-vehicle pileup, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your damages. This can include both economic and non-economic expenses. However, before you can file a claim with an insurance provider there are a few things you should do to help protect your legal rights.
What to Do After a Car Crash in Florida
The most important thing to do, and the most obvious, is to assess yourself and anyone else involved in the vehicle accident for injuries; your health and safety always come first. For the moment, don’t worry about any damage to your vehicle. You can handle this after taking care of your health.
If your injuries warrant immediate medical attention, take the first responders up on an offered ride to the emergency room. If your injuries are significant, there’s nothing you can do at the accident scene and there’s no reason to risk your health.
Even if your injuries aren’t immediately visible or you’re convinced everything is fine, still make an appointment with your primary care physician. Some injuries take a while to start showing signs and symptoms. For example, internal soft tissue injuries.
So, why is seeking medical attention so crucial? Other than taking care of your health, you’ll also need your medical records if you plan on pursuing a personal injury case. Your medical records support your injury claim. So, what other steps should you take after an auto accident?
Contact Your Insurance Provider
This is a call you’re probably dreading to have since most insurance companies aren’t thrilled to learn a client is submitting an accident claim. However, it’s a necessary phone call even when you’re not the at-fault driver.
Yes, your accident claim starts with your insurance provider. Remember, Florida is a no-fault state, and this can be confusing even for lifelong residents. What is a no-fault state? The name pretty much says it all. Basically, no one is initially to blame for an auto accident.
Even if you’re T-boned by a driver running a red light, no blame is assigned at the time of the accident—this is when your personal injury protection (PIP) policy kicks in. Yes, this is a standard part of your auto insurance policy. PIP is a legal requirement all drivers in Florida must carry. Your PIP policy will cover your medical expenses and lost wages if applicable.
However, PIP comes with caps you can’t go over, and there aren’t any exceptions to this. Since your medical expenses will probably be more than your PIP coverage, this is when you turn to a personal injury lawsuit to cover the rest of your damages.
Pick up a Copy of the Accident Report
Florida law requires all vehicle accidents resulting in injuries or fatalities to be reported to the authorities. Don’t leave the accident scene; you don’t want to get a hit-and-run charge since this can make it all but impossible to successfully file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver. If there aren’t any injuries stemming from the accident, you have up to ten days to file a report.
You want to get a copy of the accident report. Most are ready after about one week or so. You can get a copy of the report online or head to your local police department. There’s a nominal fee, but it’s typically less than $10.
So, why do you want a copy of the accident report? The report contains a ton of information that can help support your personal injury claim. Everything from the driver’s information to witness contact numbers and more is included in the report. You’ll also find a mention of who the authorities believe is responsible for the accident.
If a driver runs a red light or stop sign, it should be obvious who’s liable for the accident. However, don’t forget Florida is a no-fault state, and this can complicate the process. On top of this, Florida also follows a comparative negligence rule—just when you thought things couldn’t get any more confusing.
But on the bright side, comparative negligence can work in your favor. Comparative negligence allows accident victims to still seek compensation even if they’re partially to blame for the accident.
For example, if you’re 30% at fault for the vehicle collision, you can still file for compensation. The amount you’re awarded is deducted by the percentage of blame you’re assigned for the wreck. Your police report and witness statements are often used to determine liability by insurance companies and the judge or jury if your personal injury case goes to court.
Never Admit Fault
Emotions are running high after an accident, even if it’s only a minor fender bender. You may be tempted to apologize to the other driver, even if you’re positive you aren’t responsible for the accident. Yes, this is polite behavior but now’s a good time to forget your manners.
Never apologize, even to first responders. Your words can be seen as an admission of guilt. Remember the warning your words can and will be used against you? This isn’t limited to criminal cases; it can also apply to your civil personal injury lawsuit.
Gather Evidence if Possible
Okay, don’t go crazy and start acting like Sherlock Holmes or even Watson. You’re not a detective or even a legal representative. Your goal is only to make it a little easier to prove your personal injury claim. Take photos of your vehicle/property damage and start saving all of your paperwork relating to the accident.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney
Contacting a personal injury attorney after a vehicle accident is a crucial step, as it allows you to discuss the specifics of your case with a legal expert. An attorney specializing in personal injury law can provide valuable guidance and representation, ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the process.
They can negotiate on your behalf and work towards securing fair compensation for any damages or injuries you have sustained. Their expertise in navigating the complexities of liability and insurance claims can significantly influence the outcome, helping to achieve a settlement that reflects the true extent of your losses and injuries.