When you are going about your activities, the last thing on your mind is getting into an accident. However, when driving in Florida, you have a 1 in 3972 chance of being in an accident. As disturbing as it may sound, you need to remain calm and proceed with the next steps in case you get into an accident.
A car accident can have life-changing effects on your life. Accidents affect your personal life, finances, and ability to relate with others. It can leave you with permanent disabilities that affect your ability to work. In the worst case, you or your loved one could die.
The moment following an accident is usually filled with excitement and adrenaline. You may feel anxious and unable to think clearly. The most advisable state of being is calm. Relax and take stock of the situation to prepare yourself for seeking compensation with the help of the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney.
The moments after an accident are the most important. In addition to collecting the relevant evidence, your fast and informed action can help in saving the lives of those who may be injured.
Here are some of the things you should do after a car accident:
- Stop Your Car, Check for Injuries, and Call 911
When you get into an accident, you are supposed to stop, whether you are at fault or not. In addition, you need to check whether you are injured, or other people have been injured. If there are injuries, call 911. You need to inform 911 about the location of the accident, the nature of the injuries (if any), and what the scene looks like.
Leaving the scene of an accident is an offense in Florida, especially when there are injuries, death, or damage to property (Florida Statutes 316.061- 316.063). You can be charged with leaving the scene of an accident or a hit and run. Some of the responsibilities motorists have when involved in an accident include:
- Stopping the vehicle immediately or at the closest place near the scene of the accident, where you will not affect the flow of traffic
- Exchange contact information with other motorists involved in the accident
While at the scene, the law requires you to check for injuries and provide reasonable help to injured persons. If you fail to stop your vehicle, you could face a criminal case for hit and run offense. A hit and run offense occurs when a driver is involved in an accident and doesn't stop at the accident scene. Thus, you should stop even if you are not a liable party.
- Report The Accident
You need to report the accident as soon as it happens by calling the local law enforcement officials. The laws of Florida require you to report an accident under any of the following circumstances:
- The accident results in death or injury
- A hit and run accident occurs
- $500 worth of property is destroyed in the accident
- The at-fault driver was intoxicated
Reporting an accident helps your personal injury claim as it provides proof of the occurrence of an accident. Without such a report, then the defendant can dispute the occurrence of the accident. You should request a copy of the accident report, which serves as part of your evidence if you intend to sue for damages.
Review your copy of the police report to ascertain that it contains an accurate account of what happened. If you notice any errors, contact the police department in writing. Ideally, you can let your lawyer handle the matter.
In addition to reporting the accident to the police, you need to file a car crash report with the DMV. You should file the DMV crash report within ten days of the accident. Some of the details captured in a DMV crash report include:
- The location and time of the accident
- The name, address, and age of the persons involved in the accident
- The license registration details of all the drivers involved in the accident
- The license plate numbers of all the cars involved
- The name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle involved
- A bird’s eye-view sketch of the accident
The officer who makes the field report may file a crash report with the DMV; therefore, it may not be necessary for you to file. However, if you fail to report the accident to the police, you have to file the DMV report yourself.
Cooperating with the police officer is important. However, you need to understand how far cooperation goes. Do not admit to being at fault, or assign blame to the other party. The police officer has to maintain a record of the accident. The officers will at their discretion, determine whether any laws have been broken. They may give you or the other driver a citation.
- Gather Information and Evidence
As soon as you call the police to the scene, you need to exchange contact information with the drivers of other vehicles involved in the accident. Record the name of the car, the make, the registration number and the insurance information of the other driver(s)
Document any evidence at the scene. Describe what happened. Take photographs and videos of the scene. If there are witnesses, record their statements and contact information.
Consider these factors when taking photographic evidence:
- Turn on the timestamp function of your camera so that you can have dated photographs
- Take photos of the whole scene from multiple angles
- Take photographs of all the vehicles involved, their license plates, damages to each vehicle, bloodstains and debris from the cars
- Take pictures of all the traffic indicators, yield signs, stop signs and nearby road markings
- Photograph any damage to street lights, shrubbery, light poles and guardrails
- Take photographs of skid marks around any vehicle, broken glass, damaged car parts, and roadside debris. Such photographs [provide information about the condition of the road and the surrounding after the accident.
- Take photographs of the weather and the visibility
- Take pictures of injuries on you and the other parties. If you develop new injuries from the accident later, make sure you document it. Take photographs of how you are recovering from the injuries (or how worse they are getting)
- Identify whether the business premises around may have video surveillance and request a copy of the accident
The first few moments after the accident are very crucial as most of the evidence is still at the scene. You, therefore, need to capture as much information as possible before it is disturbed or cleared.
While collecting evidence, refrain from taking or assigning blame at the scene of the accident. Such statements can haunt you in case a lawsuit follows.
Collecting evidence should continue even during the recovery period. You need to keep records of how you are recovering and how the accident has affected you. Keep a journal documenting all the changes since the accident. Note down your day-to-day feelings, the activities you cannot do since the accident. Such records are crucial in corroborating your verbal statements with written proof. In addition, they are crucial for non-economic damages that compensate you for pain and suffering, loss of parental care, and other unquantifiable damages.
- Seek Medical Attention
When an accident happens, many people dismiss injuries as those serious ones that leave people unconscious, dead, amputated, or bleeding. However, the impact of an accident can result in internal injuries and muscular strains that are not noticeable at first.
Visit your doctor shortly after the accident for a checkup. Tell your doctor about any pain or discomfort you may be feeling. Inform him or her if you had an existing condition that may have been enhanced by accident.
Note that not all doctors are qualified in handling injuries after a car accident. Some may not know the common injuries related to an accident. If they fail to observe such injuries, it will negatively affect your claim.
Florida requires all drivers to have Personal Injury Protection insurance, which covers medical costs and lost wages after an accident. The cover is based on a no-fault system, but beneficiaries must seek treatment within 14 days of the accident. PIP insurance gives at least $10,000 for medical and disability benefits and $5000 for death benefits.
PIP insurance covers up to 80% of your medical expenses and up to 605 of lost wages after an accident. You have to raise the remaining balance either from your funds or from the at-fault's party insurance.
If you pay any medical expenses using your funds, you need to keep these records so that money can be reimbursed.
While receiving treatment, ensure that your doctor knows of all previous injuries, even if you think they may be unnecessary. Insurance companies can use pre-existing conditions to lessen the impact of the accident and your claim.
There are several mistakes you should not make when getting treatment:
- Hiding past injuries or illnesses that may be related to the accident. Let your doctor know about any injuries you may have suffered before.
- Exaggerating or minimizing your injuries – describe every pain and ache as you feel it.
- Talking to your doctor about your lawsuit or legal advice the lawyer has given you.
- Missing your doctor’s appointment or skipping medication. You should also continue with treatment until the doctor advises you to stop. Following the doctor’s instructions eliminates the possibility of your claim being minimized, by implying that you are negligent of your health.
- Notify the doctor if you are unable to work due to an injury
- Failure to keep well maintained medical documents that indicate the treatment you were given, referrals, work restrictions and procedures you have undergone since the injury will jeopardize your case, and reduce the amount of compensation you may receive.
- Contact Your Insurance Provider
Notifying your insurance provider about any accident you are involved in is part of your agreement with the provider. Inform them as soon as possible even if you are not at fault. Insurance providers have a provision that requires the insured person to cooperate with the insurance company in case of an accident.
Giving your insurance company a notice of the accident gives them time to investigate the accident, and prepare themselves to sue or defend you in case other parties in the accident file a lawsuit. Failure to report an accident to the insurance company can result in three outcomes:
- Your premiums are increased
- The insurer refuses to renew your policy
- Your policy is canceled
Failure to inform your insurance provider, jeopardizes your position, especially if you or the other party suffers injury.
In some cases, prompt notification of the accident enables your insurance provider to compensate you for your damages, before they pursue reimbursement from the at-fault party.
Your insurance provider takes the burden of determining who is at fault for an accident. The insurer conducts its investigation into the accident. The parties that may be at fault include:
- One of the drivers
- All the drivers contributed in some way
- The vehicle manufacturer
- The government body responsible for repairs and maintenance of roads
In almost all cases, the party at-fault usually disobeyed some rules of the road. Traffic rules are designed to provide instruction and prevent an accident. They cover many scenarios and road situations that may lead to accidents.
They provide instructions on when to yield to another vehicle when to change lanes, how to inform other motorists of your intentions, and the distance to maintain between cars. Failure to follow these rules creates a situation where accidents are likely to occur.
In some cases, both drivers may fail to adhere to the rules and cause an accident. In such an instance, the insurance companies of the drivers will determine the percentage of each driver's negligence before agreeing on a settlement.
Sometimes, motorists get into accidents even when they are observing all the rules. Your car may develop an issue suddenly and cause an accident. In other cases, the car fails to provide reasonable protective measures, leading to additional injuries. Examples include:
- Airbags that fail to deploy after a crash, exposing you to additional injuries
- Airbags that deploy for no reason, which may cause injury or distraction when driving, causing you to crash
- Airbags that deploy forcefully increasing your injuries
- Seat Belts that unlatch, break or unbuckle during an accident
- A roof that collapses during a rollover crash
- Electrical faults leading to vehicle fires
- Brake failure or sudden uncontrolled acceleration
- Power steering failure
- Tire failure
Personal injury lawsuits for accidents resulting from vehicle defects are usually complex and may need the help of expert witnesses. It is therefore crucial that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney.
The insurance company of the other driver may contact you trying to identify facts from the accident. You should be careful about how much and what information you give to them. Insurance companies (including yours) are out to make a profit. They are looking for reasons to diminish your claim or deny it.
Provide them with general information without compromising your case. Refer them to your lawyer if they want details about the incident.
In some cases, either insurance companies may offer you an initial settlement. Such an offer is usually a small amount that will not cover your damages. Do not accept or sign anything unless with the direction of your lawyer.
- Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
While it is possible to represent yourself in a personal injury lawsuit, it may be wise to hire a personal injury attorney who has experience handling similar cases. Minor injury cases are usually straightforward and do not need a lawyer. Some cases in which you can represent yourself in a personal injury case include:
- You have completely recovered from your minor injury
- The insurance company has accepted full responsibility in writing
- You have the time and energy to handle your claim
When you choose to represent yourself, you have to work on gathering all your evidence and relevant documents. Such documents include:
- Medical bills
- Related out of pocket expenses
- Costs of damaged personal items
- Proof of pain and suffering
However, when you are dealing with a complicated case, or do not have the time, energy, and expertise to handle your claim, you should hire a personal injury attorney.
Hiring a personal injury attorney, or even finding one, can be a complicated process. You may be tempted to go with the first one you find. However, the lawyer you choose will reflect on the outcome of your case; therefore, you have to consider several factors before making a decision.
The best option is to ask for referrals from friends and relatives who have had personal injury lawsuits in the past. People close to you are likely to recommend someone they had a good working relationship with. The attorney you choose should be someone relatable as you will be dealing with him or her for several months or years. You may also ask your lawyer to recommend a personal injury attorney if they are not specialized in that area.
You can also conduct an online search for personal injury attorneys and read their reviews from past clients. In some cases, you can use an online directory to search for those in your locality and view their achievements.
Ask the lawyers you find about their education, experience, and expertise. Not all personal injury attorneys deal with car accidents. Therefore, you have to be certain that you are not hiring a construction accident attorney to handle your car accident lawsuit. Ask about their success rate and the settlement for past cases. Such information will give you a rough guide of how good the attorney is in court. Finally, confirm that the lawyer is qualified to work in Florida.
- File A Lawsuit As Soon As Possible
After an accident, you are hardly thinking about getting into any legal issues. You want to think about your recovery or healing from the loss of a loved one. Compensation recovered after a car accident can go a long way in relieving you the financial burden arising from the accident, and to provide closure.
Florida has a statute of limitations of four years from the date of the accident, Florida Statute 95.11(a) (h). When this time passes, you lose the chances of ever getting compensated.
When you have a lawyer, you can concentrate on recovery, taking care of your family, or learning to live with the loss of a loved one as your lawyer takes care of all the legal matters.
Filing a lawsuit soon also increases the possibility that most of the evidence is still available and the witnesses can still be reached. Taking too long to sue leads to loss of evidence and impacts negatively on the damages you can recover.
- Keep Off Social Media
Social media is beneficial when you are sharing news about your life. However, news such as what happened in an accident should never be shared on social media. Such information has the power to ruin your entire personal injury claim.
Refrain from posting any details about your life on social media until you the legal proceedings are over. Insurance companies will go to any extent, including analyzing any post you update on social media channels, to diminish your claim. You should also discourage your family members or friends from posting you or your situation on their accounts.
Indicating on social media about the settlement you expect for your injuries may also affect your credibility and lower the chances of recovering the full compensation. In some cases, you may cast doubt on your injury.
Find A Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me
Personal injury lawsuits require strength, resilience, and patience. For you to get fair compensation for your damages, you have to do the right thing and prepare adequately for the process. Familiarize yourself with some of the antics insurance companies use to discourage you or make you settle for less than you deserve. Contact the Jacksonville Personal Injury attorney at 904-800-7557 if you are involved in an accident.