Whether you’re admiring the coastline along A1A or zipping through heavy Miami traffic, car accidents can and do happen in Florida. While the state isn’t home to some of the nation’s most dangerous stretches of road, driving in Florida can result in a car crash.
Did you know that nearly 40% of car accidents cause an injury? While this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re destined to get in a car wreck, it’s still a good idea to know what to do if you’re involved in a vehicular accident. To help keep you safer on the road, here’s a quick refresher on what to do immediately following an automobile wreck in the Sunshine State.
Okay, so you’re involved in a car crash—there goes your relaxing day at the beach. After getting your bearings, car accidents can be extremely jarring, leaving you confused and a little dazed. To get through the situation, you should follow a few steps.
The only time you aren’t legally required to remain at the scene of an accident is when neither involved vehicle has sustained damage, there aren’t any injuries, and both drivers agree to carry on with their days. Even then, it can still be risky to leave an accident scene. Did you know it’s a potential misdemeanor or even felony to leave the scene of an accident in Florida? Even a first offense can result in monetary fines and jail time.
If your vehicle or the other driver has sustained any damage, regardless of how minor, stay on the scene and report the accident to the Florida Highway Patrol. You’ll contact the local police department if the accident happens without city or town limits, and this also applies to any minor injuries. Even a small cut can be a sign of a more serious internal injury. In most cases, it’s always best to be safe than sorry. You can always plan another day at the beach unless you’re charged with leaving the scene of an accident or a hit-and-run.
You don’t need medical training to render aid—however, rendering aid is a state law in Florida, meaning that if someone is injured, it’s illegal to simply ignore their distress. Ask if everyone involved in the accident is okay and if they require medical attention. You’ll need to relay this information to the 911 operator when you report the accident.
What you don’t want to do is offer an apology for the accident. The other driver can take this as an admission of guilt, which can complicate your personal injury or property damage case. Your insurance may refuse to pay for any damages, and your apology can also be used against you if your case goes to trial.
Something to remember is Florida’s filing deadlines; you have two weeks to report your injuries to your PIP 9personal injury protection) insurer. Waiting to disclose this information past the two-week deadline can make you ineligible to file a claim.
Even if both drivers agree to go their separate ways, you still want to file an accident report with the police, and you can file the report in person or online. You’ll need a copy of the report for insurance purposes. For example, to collect on a property damage claim, your attorney will also need to police report to submit a personal injury claim in court. Most insurance companies won’t discuss financial compensation without a valid police report.
If your injuries are too severe or those of the other driver, let the responding police officers take care of this step. However, if possible, go ahead and exchange contact and insurance information with the involved driver/s, which also goes for any witnesses. You may need the witnesses’ statements to bolster your personal injury/property damage case. Keep your conversations to a minimum. Don’t forget that anything you say can be used against you in court.
Grab your smartphone and start taking pictures of any damage to the involved vehicles. If you have a dashcam, great! Chances are, it captured everything leading up to and including the accident itself. Try to get some snaps of the area—for example, if the accident occurred as a result of an obstacle in the road. The more evidence you can provide your attorney, the better able they’ll be able to represent your case in court. Sometimes, if you have enough documentation you can skip court and settle with the insurance adjuster.
As soon as possible, contact someone like this Tampa car accident lawyer for additional guidance on what to do. Sometimes, it’s the second phone call you make after calling the police. The second you retain an attorney they start protecting your legal rights, which can be crucial for the success of your claim.
Let your attorney handle your insurance company—this way, you can concentrate on healing and let your attorney handle the negotiations. You should expect a few rounds of negotiations with your insurance provider before you come close to reaching an acceptable agreement.
After retaining an attorney, contact your insurance provider and inform them of your upcoming claim. You’ll also want to provide the insurance company with your attorney’s contact information.
Don’t provide details of the accident to friends or family, which also means staying off of social media. You may be tempted to let others know about your ordeal, but anything you say can be used in court. The last thing you want is to have a friend or family member be forced to testify against you in court. Listen to your attorney’s advice and stay silent until your case is successfully resolved.
Even being involved in a minor fender bender can be a traumatic experience to navigate—don’t rely solely on your judgment, retain professional legal help to get you through it. Your accident attorney will work with you to help ensure you are fairly compensated for any injuries and/or property damage that you may face.