Introduction: Steps that you should take after a car accident in Florida
No one plans to be involved in a car accident, but with over 400,000 accidents occurring annually in Florida, the odds are higher than we would like to admit. The sudden collision, the heart-pounding shock, and the whirlwind of thoughts and confusion – it’s a situation nobody wants to face. But when it happens, it’s imperative to stay calm and know what to do next.
This comprehensive guide by Bengal Law: Florida Accident Lawyers and Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC is intended to help navigate the aftermath of a car accident in Florida. With years of experience guiding people through this tumultuous time, we know exactly what steps to follow to protect your interests and ensure the best possible outcome.
Understanding Florida Car Accident Laws
Florida’s car accident laws follow a unique no-fault insurance system. Unlike in many other states, no matter who is responsible for the accident, your own insurance company is required to cover your medical expenses and lost wages up to the limit of your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
Florida law requires that all drivers carry a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) and another $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL). PIP covers 80% of all necessary and reasonable medical expenses, 60% of lost wages, and $5,000 in death benefits resulting from the accident, regardless of who was at fault.
However, Florida’s no-fault law has its limits. If you suffer a serious injury that meets the state’s definition of a “permanent” injury, or if your medical expenses and other economic losses exceed the limits of your PIP coverage, you can step outside of the no-fault system and file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Besides, all accidents in Florida causing injury, death, or property damage over $500 must be reported to the police without delay. If you fail to report such an accident, you could face non-criminal traffic infractions or even criminal charges.
The immediate aftermath of a car accident can be a blur of confusion and panic. However, the first concern should always be safety. Check for injuries to yourself and any passengers. If anyone is seriously hurt, call 911 right away. Even if the injuries seem minor, it’s essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible as some injuries may not show symptoms immediately.
If it’s safe, move your car out of the flow of traffic to avoid causing any further accidents. If it’s not possible to move your car, turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers.
In Florida, it’s not just good practice to report a car accident to the police – it’s required by law if the accident resulted in injuries or significant property damage. Police officers can secure the scene, assist with exchanging information, and provide emergency medical care if needed. They’ll also create an accident report which will be crucial when you file your insurance claim.
While waiting for the police to arrive, it’s important to gather as much information as possible. Exchange information with the other driver, including their name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, and insurance details. If there are any witnesses, ask for their contact details too. Use your phone to take pictures of the scene, including the position of the cars, the damage to the vehicles, any skid marks or debris on the road, and any visible injuries.
Navigating the Post-Accident Procedures
Seek Medical Attention
Even if you feel fine after the accident, it’s crucial to see a doctor as soon as possible. Some injuries, like whiplash or a concussion, may not show symptoms immediately. Your adrenaline levels are high after an accident, which could mask the pain. A thorough medical examination can identify any hidden injuries. Remember, your health is of the utmost importance.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
You are required by law and your insurance policy to report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. They’ll ask for information about the accident, and it’s important to be honest and thorough in your responses. However, avoid speculating about who was at fault or giving detailed statements until you’ve spoken with a lawyer.
Document the Incident
After a car accident, good documentation can make the process of filing a claim or lawsuit much smoother. Keep a detailed record of everything related to the accident. This includes the police report, medical records and bills, photographs of the scene and your injuries, repair bills, witness contact information, and any correspondence with the insurance companies. Also, keep a journal of how the accident and your injuries have affected your daily life.
When to Involve a Personal Injury Attorney
Navigating the aftermath of a car accident can be overwhelming. That’s where a personal injury attorney comes in. If you’ve suffered serious injuries, if the fault is being disputed, or if you feel the insurance company isn’t treating you fairly, it may be time to involve a lawyer.
At Bengal Law: Florida Accident Lawyers and Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC, we can help you understand your rights and explore your options. Our experienced attorneys can navigate the complex world of personal injury law, advocate for your rights, and help you seek the compensation you deserve.
Experiencing a car accident can be one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. However, knowing what steps to take in the aftermath can make a significant difference in your recovery, both physically and financially. While we hope you’ll never need this guide, we at Bengal Law: Florida Accident Lawyers and Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC are here to support and guide you in case you do.
What is the time limit for filing a lawsuit after a car accident in Florida?
In Florida, you have four years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit for personal injury and two years if it involves wrongful death. However, it’s best to start the process as soon as possible while the evidence is fresh.
What if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?
Although Florida law requires all drivers to have PIP coverage, unfortunately, some drivers are uninsured or underinsured. If you’re hit by one of these drivers, your own Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage, if you have it, can step in to cover your damages. If your injuries are severe, consider contacting a personal injury lawyer to discuss your options.
Can I get a copy of the accident report?
Yes, you can. In Florida, accident reports become public record 60 days after the accident. Before that, they’re only available to the people involved in the accident and their legal and insurance representatives. You can obtain a copy from the local law enforcement agency that responded to the accident or from the Florida Highway Patrol.
How does shared responsibility affect my compensation in Florida?
In Florida, your compensation can be adjusted based on your degree of fault in the accident. For example, if you’re found to be 30% at fault and your damages are $100,000, you can still recover $70,000.
Should I sign any documents from the insurance company?
Before signing anything from the insurance company, it’s recommended to consult with a personal injury attorney. It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to offer a quick, low settlement or ask you to sign a release. Signing could mean giving up your right to sue later if you discover additional injuries or damages.
At Bengal Law: Florida Accident Lawyers and Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC, our primary mission is to ensure that you’re prepared for the unexpected. By following this guide, you’ll know exactly what steps to take after a car accident in Florida. We’re here to help you every step of the way.