In 2019, U.S. drivers reported more than 6.5 million automobile accidents to the police. According to Driving-Tests, more than 1.9 million of these accidents resulted in injuries, and more than 33,000 involved a death. Many people fail to seek the compensation they are entitled to after a car accident because of false beliefs about the compensation process. They believe claiming compensation will be costly, time-consuming, and complex. Or they believe they are already guaranteed compensation or can count on insurance to meet their needs. Some think lawyers are extraneous, whereas others avoid filing because they fear they will cause another person financial ruin.
The Reality of Compensation for Personal InjuriesThe most common myths about compensation for accident victims lead to lost opportunities for people who have been injured by another party’s negligence — opportunities that could mean the difference between them being able to pay their medical bills and a mountain of debt.
Claiming compensation is costly and complex.Many lawyers will work at little cost to you, often representing clients on a contingency basis, meaning they don’t charge a fee unless their clients receive compensation. Also, some insurance policies include a “legal defense clause” that provides money for you to hire a lawyer outside your insurance company. Filing a claim may involve court hearings, but generally, claims settle without your having to appear in court.
Accident victims are guaranteed compensation.No law guarantees that you’ll receive compensation. Often the party at fault will dispute the claim. And compensation isn’t guaranteed even if you were not at fault. The driver who caused the accident might be uninsured or underinsured. Even when the driver has adequate insurance, their insurance company will deny responsibility by blaming you or downplaying your injuries.
You do not need a lawyer for an accident claim.The truth is that insurance companies are businesses that must make a profit to satisfy investors. They have every incentive to offer a low settlement or avoid settling entirely. A lawyer specializing in personal injury cases can help you fight against this low-balling and receive fair compensation.
Insurance companies always offer fair settlements.In reality, insurance companies often offer low settlements, sometimes much less than the amount required to treat injuries properly and recover lost wages. Despite the promises they make in their commercials, their main goal is to make a profit, not to help you.
The person I filed against will have to compensate me themselves.Some people mistakenly believe that the driver at fault will have to pay any financial settlement out of their pocket. They avoid filing for the compensation they need because they don’t want to hurt someone else, especially if the at-fault driver is a friend or family member. In truth, however, the person’s insurance company will pay the settlement in most cases.
Those who file accident injury claims are greedy.Obtaining money to cover your medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages isn’t greedy. Medical bills can add up quickly. Injured people need these expenses covered so that they and their families don’t suffer a financial hardship on top of the injury. Also, holding a negligent person responsible for their actions may encourage them to be more careful in the future.
Passengers of guilty parties can’t or shouldn’t file for compensation.The truth is that passengers in the cars of those who cause an accident can file to have medical expenses and lost wages covered. Some passengers may be reluctant to seek compensation if a friend or family member is driving, but they should know that the insurance company, and not their friend, generally will pay the settlement.
Steps to Take After Being Involved in a Car AccidentTaking specific steps after a car accident can protect your eligibility for compensation. Here are steps to take at the scene:
- Stay calm. The most critical first step is to stay calm to think clearly.
- If possible, pull your vehicle to a safe location, such as the shoulder of the road, and put on your hazard lights.
- Check yourself and your passengers for injuries.
- Call 911.
- Wait for help.
- Exchange information with the other driver.
- Take photos of the accident.
- Take statements from witnesses and obtain their contact information.
- Wait for the police officer to finish the report and obtain a copy.
- Call roadside assistance if your car is inoperable.
- Determine whether you need to file a claim. For example, is your car damaged? Was anyone injured, either physically, mentally, or emotionally?
- Determine which type of insurance coverage applies. Florida statutes require that every driver have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. Legally, Florida is a no-fault state, which means that everyone files a claim regardless of who caused the accident. The PIP covers a percentage of the damages, but you can also sue if your damages exceed your coverage. PIP also will cover only up to 80 percent of medical bills and 60 percent of lost wages. Even if your damages aren’t serious enough to exceed your coverage, you will likely want to find an attorney to recover the remaining percentage.
- Visit a doctor. Sometimes you may not realize you are injured right away. Visiting your doctor not only may be proactive in discovering injuries that have yet to manifest, but it also demonstrates that you’ve been diligent. Your diligence can help you recover damages later.
- If you decide to file a claim, consult an attorney experienced in handling auto accident cases.