Even with modern technological advances in safety features and protective construction and design in automobiles, accidents still happen as well as injuries. Every year, more than 6 million car crashes happen in the country, and those are just the ones that get reported.
The average person will be involved in as many as four car crashes in their lifetime, and Florida contributes its share of accidents. Yearly, Floridians are involved in more than 370,000 accidents annually, which is more than a thousand accidents every single day.
What You Should Know If You Have Been Hit In An Accident In Florida
It seems like it goes without saying, but a car accident will occur when you least expect it. Once you are in an accident, it seems like all that follows is hassle and headaches. You will need to deal with police reports, insurance companies, repairs to your vehicle, medical bills, lawyers, legal issues, and more. With damages and losses that most people do not even consider, you will want to be sure to utilize a Florida lawyer to recover compensation.
The Steps You Should Take Immediately After An Accident In Florida
The most powerful thing to be armed with is knowledge, and knowing what to do when you are involved in an accident can go a long way. It can help you build a strong personal injury and property damage claim. What follows are steps that will help you to build and protect the most successful claim you can going forward:
- Stop, check for serious injuries, call emergency services
- Notify the police
- Gather photo and video evidence
- Understand Florida’s no-fault insurance law
- Let your insurer know
- Understand comparative negligence
- Lean when an attorney is needed
- Florida’s small claims courts
- Be mindful of limitations
Stop, Check For Serious Injuries, Call Emergency Services
If you have just been in an accident, you are probably a bit flustered and disoriented. The very first thing you need to do is safely stop your vehicle at the scene of the accident, or as close as possible. Remember to be calm, keep your wits about you since the scene may be full of frantic people, and stay focused on what you need to do. Call emergency services.
What Will The Operator Need?
The emergency services dispatcher will need to know specific location information if there are injuries, and whether police, paramedics, and tow trucks or other recovery vehicles are needed. Do not discuss the fault of the accident, the dispatcher does not need this information and cannot help with fault.
Give the dispatcher the location, including details like what direction you were traveling if on the highway, mile markers, intersecting roads, and so on. The more detail provided means the quicker emergency services can arrive to help.
Describe the scene, let the dispatcher know what the scene looks like, in particular, if there are any hazards like downed power lines, flipped vehicles, or fires. Let them know if there are any injuries and how many ambulances may be needed.
Will The Police Respond To The Scene?
Generally, yes. There are situations, however, where police may not be dispatched. This can include scenarios of very low damage, or if there are severe weather conditions that preclude police dispatch without serious injuries. Cases of overlapping jurisdiction may need several agencies to come out and decide who will be responsible for any reporting needed.
Let The Police Know
Not all accidents in Florida need to be reported, however, if you are involved in more than just a minor fender bender, you should be aware of the following:
- If there is more than $500 in damages or any injuries, the accident must be immediately reported to the police. Calling 911 satisfies this requirement.
- If police are dispatched, they should be the ones to create and file the accident report.
- Crash reports can be filled out online, saving time and effort.
- You can obtain a copy of the official crash report on the Florida Highway Patrol website.
Understand The Role Of The Police
The role of the police at the scene is complicated and requires your prompt cooperation. Their duties may include:
- Injury care coordination and triage.
- Securing the scene of the accident.
- Traffic safety and direction.
- Investigate any signs of intoxication.
- Arrange vehicle removal and towing.
- Investigate the accident cause.
- Question drivers and witnesses.
- Check for active warrants.
- Issue citations for violations.
While you will likely be asked questions by the officers at the scene regarding the circumstances of the accident, they are by no means obligated to “hear your side of it”. They are also not likely to discuss their findings of fault with you, or what they considered to be contributing factors to the accident.
If you have been injured in an accident in Florida, you will need to collect as much evidence as possible to help strengthen your case. You will need to support any claims for damages and losses suffered as a result of the accident. Gather things like:
- Vehicle information for the other drivers
- Contact and insurance information for the other drivers
- Witness information and statements if possible
- Pictures and video of the scene, including vehicle position, damages, injuries, surroundings, and even the weather
Do not waste any time. Begin gathering evidence as soon as you are able to. Try to collect anything that will help demonstrate the behavior of the other driver as negligent. If they did something wrong or didn’t do something they should have, that can be considered negligence and could mean they are liable for your damages.
Your damages will include things like medical bills, testing costs, treatment costs, out of pocket costs you may incur as a result such as medication costs or assistive devices to aid recovery, and even lost wages, pain, and suffering.
Understand Florida’s No-Fault Insurance Law
Since Florida is a no-fault insurance state, drivers are required to carry Personal Injury Protection insurance. Basically, it covers medical bills, lost wages and out-of-pocket expenses. Since Florida is a no-fault insurance state, all drivers are required to carry Personal Injury Protection insurance. This allows you to file a first-party claim with your insurance company in the event that you are in a car accident and are injured.
Let Your Insurer Know
Whether there has been damage to your vehicle or not, it is important that you contact your insurance company and inform them of the accident, even if you are not at fault. The accident will need to be reported even if nobody was injured.
Understand Comparative Negligence
In Florida, victims of a car accident are allowed to seek compensation from a negligent driver even if the victim has been found to share any of the responsibility in causing the accident. Comparative negligence takes each party and compares who was more at fault. It also determines if the victim is 0% at fault or 100% at fault.
When Is An Attorney Needed?
A lawyer is certainly an expense that many people can not afford, but one of the benefits of consulting a personal injury attorney is that most of them work on contingency, meaning they don’t get paid until you do. If they believe you have a strong case, they will take on your case and their pay will come from your settlement.
There might be some situations in which you wouldn’t need to contact a lawyer, however, an experienced attorney is your best bet if you want to be fairly compensated for your injuries, automobile damage, and pain and suffering. If you have extensive vehicular damage, injuries requiring extended medical attention, and you are out of work for any amount of time, one of the first calls following your car accident should be to a local personal injury lawyer.
Florida’s Small Claims Courts
Have you been trying to settle your claim to no avail? Think about taking advantage of one of Florida’s many small claims courts. You will have the opportunity to have a judge hear your case in a relaxed environment where you don’t have to worry about the formal Rules of Evidence Florida has in place. You can sue for anything up to $5,000. Small claims court would be used for one of the three following options:
- Suing the at-fault driver
- Filing a first-party property damage claim with your insurance company
- Filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company
Be Mindful Of Limitations
If you are planning on settling a claim or filing a lawsuit, it is important that you are aware of the statute of limitations in Florida. If the timeframe ends and you haven’t moved on your case, then you lose out on the opportunity to seek compensation for the damages and losses incurred as a result of the car accident. In the state of Florida, the statute of limitations is four years and almost always begins the date the car accident occurred.
If you look at the calendar and realize the statute of limitations is about to expire, it is imperative that you reach out to Elstein Legal for help taking action otherwise you will lose your rights to take the at-fault party to court. Even a small claims court lawsuit will extend the statute.