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What Should I Do After a Car Accident?

Being in a car accident can be a traumatic event. Even a minor fender bender produces stress and anxiety. After an accident, take specific basic steps to ensure you can receive compensation for your damages. Some important things should be done at the scene of the accident and after the accident has passed. This article explains each of those steps to ensure your safety and ability to file a claim for damages.

If you were in a fender bender or collision in the southern Florida area, the attorneys at Ward Law can provide legal advice and help you receive the compensation you deserve.

How common are car accidents in
Southern Florida?

The latest data from Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) shows that approximately 400,000 motor vehicle accidents occur each year in the state of Florida. Miami-Dade county averages around 65,000 crashes per year, Osceola County averages around 7,000, Broward County averages over 41,000, and Palm Beach County averages around 27,000 motor vehicle accidents every year. Unfortunately, car accidents occur at a high rate in southern Florida.

What should I do after an accident?

Being in a car crash is a very nerve-wracking experience. It could stir your emotions, whether it makes you mad, scared, panicked, or excited. Before deciding what the first thing to do is at the time of the accident, try to stay calm. You will make wiser choices in the aftermath of an accident if you can remain calm.

Immediately After An Accident

Going into a state of shock immediately after an accident is common. Despite that initial shock, you may experience, you must follow these important steps.

After You Leave the Accident Scene

Now that things have calmed down and you have had any injuries to you and your passengers checked, you must follow these next steps after you have left the accident scene.

Determine If You Need to File a Claim

You should evaluate whether there were any damages to your vehicle or other of your property, whether inside or outside of the car. Also, consider whether you went to the doctor’s office of the hospital after the accident. What other costs have you incurred as a result of the accident? Did the accident cause you to lose time at work? Did it result in a financial loss? Physical injury? Mental or emotional injury? Vehicle or other property damage? All of these things should be considered when determining if you ought to file a claim after an accident.

Determine What Type of Insurance Coverage Would Apply

Florida requires by law that all its drivers have something called Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance included with their insurance policy. Florida is a no-fault state. This means that both parties make claims after an accident regardless of who was at fault. Then, each individual’s PIP covers up to a certain percentage of the damages. If injuries are “serious” as defined by Florida law or if medical care costs more than your PIP coverage, you can file a lawsuit against the other party to reclaim the uncovered amount. The minimum amount of PIP insurance coverage required for Florida drivers is $10,000.

However, PIP will cover just 80% of your medical bills and only 60% of any lost wages resulting from an accident. For the best chance of receiving full compensation, hire a personal injury lawyer to help you recoup the financial damages that exceed $10,000. You should have a quality car accident lawyer to represent you in your personal injury lawsuit against the fault driver.

Go to a Doctor

As stated above, shock is one of the emotional states you may experience immediately following a traffic accident. The state of shock may prevent you from feeling pain or injuries following a car accident. That’s why it is always essential to visit a doctor for medical assistance, as some injuries may not manifest for days, weeks, or even months after an accident. It is important to be proactive in this because medical expenses that arise later due to a latent injury could be the responsibility of the negligent driver from the car accident. If you have the records showing your diligence and the doctors’ reports, it can bolster your claim and your chances of holding the negligent party responsible for those costs.

If you decide to file a claim, consult with an experienced attorney

If you choose to file a claim after an accident, it is definitely in your best interest to consult with a personal injury attorney with years of experience. A personal injury lawyer can get the most amount of money out of a claim. Every single day, they fight the insurance companies on behalf of people who need help in a bad situation. They have the knowledge and experience to analyze your case, evaluate your claim, and fight the insurance company for you. A quality personal injury lawyer can efficiently and effectively gather all of the necessary evidence that will help strengthen your position and bolster your chances of success. They have the experience needed to navigate the insurance claim process with confidence and speed.

Filing a Claim with Your Insurance Company

If you decide to file a claim with your insurance company, it would be wise to consult with an attorney beforehand. Insurance companies make money by minimizing the amount of money that they pay out for claims. To that end, insurance companies will often give low settlement offers to claimants, expecting them to accept. If you are in a car accident and file a claim to recover damages, you will likely receive an unfair lowball offer from the insurance agent. They are interested in their bottom line more than your well-being. An excellent personal injury attorney has the experience to determine if a settlement offer is fair.

What does an insurance claims process look like?

The insurance claims process can be a little intimidating for the inexperienced. The first step is to contact your insurance company and file the claim. The claim will then be assigned to an insurance adjuster who will investigate the claim. They will gather evidence and analyze the situation to evaluate the extent of the damage. Ultimately, they will conclude how much their company is willing to payout (if anything). Having a personal injury attorney to oversee this process will help things go quickly and smoothly. It will signal to the insurance company that you are knowledgeable and will not be intimidated. Because of this, they will be less likely to take advantage of you throughout the process.

What if my insurance doesn’t cover all of my damages?

Florida is a comparative negligence state once the $10,000 PIP insurance coverage has been exhausted. Each person’s degree of fault is taken into consideration in deciding the percentage of fault assigned to each party. This means that to the degree a party was at fault, their claim to any damages will be reduced by that same degree. For the number of damages that the insurance company does not reward, you are welcome to file a lawsuit against the other party to recover the remainder of those damages. Excellent legal representation will fight to show the fault of the other party and get you the compensation you deserve.

How can I prove that the other driver caused the accident?

Negligence is the crux of the issue when it comes to making claims for accidents. Florida law requires people to take care when operating a motor vehicle and to behave in a way that is not reckless or negligent. If they do not follow this standard and an accident results, they could be held liable. If you are ever in an accident, you will need evidence to show that the other party acted negligently, and this caused the accident. That is why the steps immediately after the accident are so critical. You must take those steps to gather evidence while the scene is still intact and witnesses are still present. Take photos, talk to people, write down notes and basic information, stay and get a copy of the police report, call your doctor, keep all resulting documents and reports, and keep these pieces of evidence in one place for easy reference. This evidence will help to prove your case.

What should I do if someone else was driving my car and got into an accident?

Because Florida is a no-fault insurance state, state laws hold each driver responsible for filing their claim with their own insurance company, no matter who the at-fault party is. Your insurance company covers the damages up to your policy’s limits. If the person driving your car was at fault, they would be responsible for covering the damages after the other party’s policy limits are surpassed.

What if someone hit my parked car?

Again, because Florida is a no-fault state, if someone hits your parked car, you still call your own insurance company to make a claim with them. However, it’s a good idea to contact an attorney before beginning the claims process. You will also want to contact the police to file an accident report. Document the scene where you were parked, take pictures of your vehicle and the surrounding area and take some notes about the situation. Then, after contacting an attorney, initiate the claims process.

How long do I have to report a car accident to my insurance?

There is no deadline on reporting a car accident to your insurance company, and it may depend on the terms of your policy and the severity of the accident. However, it is a good idea to inform them even if the accident is minor. If you wait and issues arise later, filing a claim may be more difficult.

Do I always have to report a car accident to my insurance?

No, you do not. Although you have to report the accident to the police if there is an injury, death, or damage of $500 or more, you are not required to report the accident to your insurance company. Filing a claim with your insurance company is different than merely reporting the accident to them. The latter act simply notifies them, while the former act attempts to make the insurance company pay out a settlement for the damages resulting from the accident.

How long after an accident should I contact an experienced Florida car accident law firm?

After an accident, you want to contact a Florida car accident law firm as soon as possible. This will benefit you immensely because they will help you navigate the claims process, gather evidence, as well as organize and present your claim in the most effective way possible. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims and damages resulting from an accident is four years, but delaying can make evidence harder to gather. If you are in an accident, contact an attorney right away while the details are fresh in your mind, and the evidence is still readily available. If the accident was some time ago and you are unsure if you have a claim, a personal injury attorney can evaluate your case.

Contact Ward Law today for a free consultation.