Being in a car accident is a traumatic experience, especially if you were not at fault. It’s important to know what steps to take in the aftermath of the accident to protect yourself and uphold your rights to compensation.
This blog will cover what you should do in the moments, days, and weeks after a car accident, including gathering information, reporting the accident, seeking medical attention, and hiring a car accident attorney. By following these steps, you can strengthen your case for fair compensation for the injuries and losses you incurred and hold the at-fault party accountable for the harm they caused you.
How to Protect Your Right to Compensation After a Car Accident That Is Not Your Fault
The steps you take after a car accident can significantly affect your ability to recover the compensation you need to rebuild your life. Here are the essential steps to take after a crash to protect your right to compensation:
First and foremost, you should bring medical personnel to the scene in case you or someone else needs emergency treatment. Second, many states, including Florida, have laws requiring you to report any accident involving injuries or deaths. Finally, the police can investigate the crash and file an accident report, which you can use to support your claim for compensation.
Talk to the Other Driver
After an accident, your injuries may not obviously meet the requirements for an insurance claim against the other driver. Nonetheless, you should prepare yourself for that possibility. Talk to the other driver and ask them for their name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, vehicle registration number, and insurance information. Store all this information in a safe and secure place for later use.
Document the Accident Scene
The more you can do to document the scene after an accident, the better your chances are of recovering compensation. Use your phone to take pictures of the scene, your injuries, and the vehicle damage. Take photos of any hazards in the area that may have contributed to the crash. Finally, note the locations of any nearby traffic cameras and look around for eyewitnesses. If you see anyone who witnessed the crash, ask them for their name, phone number, and address.
Seek Medical Treatment
If emergency medical personnel do not bring you to a hospital from the crash scene, see your doctor or visit an urgent care provider as soon as possible after the accident.
For one thing, you want to ensure you do not have internal injuries requiring emergency treatment. Second, waiting to start treatment could complicate your claim for compensation. Seeking prompt treatment makes it harder for an insurance company to blame you for your injuries. Explain to the healthcare provider that you were in an accident.
Report the Accident to Your Insurer
Most insurance companies include language in their policies requiring the policyholder to alter them of a covered event, usually within a few days of the event. Review your policy and follow its instructions to avoid anything that could put you in violation of its terms.
Save Your Medical Records and Expense Receipts
Medical records help establish the nature and severity of your injuries and tie them to the accident that injured you. To that end, make copies of all your medical records and store them in a safe place. You should also save any hospital bills, statements from your doctor’s offices, and other receipts related to the crash. These documents can help substantiate your financial losses from an accident.
Stay off Social Media
Insurance companies can be ruthless when protecting their bottom line, and they want to find anything you post on social media they can use against you. A seemingly harmless picture or post could provide an insurer with ammunition to discredit your claim or reduce your compensation. The best thing you can do to prevent this from happening is to stay off social media until your case concludes.
Talk to a Lawyer Before Speaking to Insurance Companies
After a major accident, the other driver’s insurance provider may contact you to ask you questions or even offer a quick settlement. If this happens, keep the conversation brief, do not let the insurer record the call, and do not accept any settlement offer. Tell the insurer you intend to hire a lawyer and that your lawyer will contact them about a settlement. Similarly, watch what you say to your own insurance provider, as you do not want to accidentally hurt your case.
Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
Understanding and navigating Florida’s auto insurance laws can be difficult, and you have enough to worry about after a collision as it is. A car accident lawyer can review your case, gather evidence, and file a claim while you focus on healing. Meeting with a lawyer soon after a crash means they can do more to protect your rights.
The Basics of Florida’s No-Fault Auto Insurance System
Despite recent attempts to change the system, Florida remains one of a dozen states to follow a no-fault auto insurance system. State law requires everyone who drives a car to purchase no-fault auto insurance. (Motorcycle riders do not need to have no-fault insurance.)
The purpose of the no-fault system is to help injured motorists get the treatment they need efficiently and keep the court system from becoming overtaxed. However, there are drawbacks to it as well, including that it can be harder for someone to get the full compensation they need after an accident that was not their fault.
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, anyone wishing to register their car in Florida must show proof that they have at least $10,000 each in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage and property damage liability (PDL) coverage. PIP benefits cover up to 80 percent of your medical bills after an accident and 60 percent of your lost wages after an accident. PDL covers the damage your car does to other people’s property, including their vehicles.
You must turn to your PIP coverage after an accident, regardless of who caused it. Only if you meet certain conditions can you file a claim or lawsuit against an at-fault driver.
Working Around Florida’s No-Fault Insurance System
After a severe accident, your PIP benefits may not be enough to cover your medical expenses and lost income from the crash.
However, Florida law allows you to turn to the other driver’s insurance provider or file a lawsuit against them directly to demand additional compensation if you suffered:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
If you do not know if your injuries qualify you for an insurance claim or lawsuit after an accident, talk to a personal injury attorney. A car accident lawyer can review your case and tell you more about what compensation you could recover.
After you file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the other driver, you must prove that they caused the accident and your injuries. Your argument will likely rest on the other driver’s negligence, a legal term that means they failed to act in a reasonable way to prevent others from coming to harm.
Unlike in a criminal trial, you do not have to prove the other driver’s negligence beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, you only have to show that the other driver was negligent based on “the preponderance of the evidence.” In other words, the evidence must show it is more likely than not that the defendant caused your injuries.
Some common types of evidence you can use to support an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit include:
- Police accident reports
- Photos from the scene of the crash
- Eyewitness accounts
- Footage from nearby surveillance or traffic cameras
- Expert testimony
- Forensic accident investigations
- Your medical records
Potential Compensation in a Car Accident Claim
Every car accident case is different, and an attorney must investigate your claim before they can give you an accurate estimate of its potential value.
Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the extent of your losses, you could recover compensation for:
- Medical bills, including the cost of future care you may need
- Lost wages and reduced future earnings
- Physical pain and emotional distress
- Diminished quality of life due to a long-term injury or disability
- Damaged personal property, such as the cost to repair or replace your car
Furthermore, the total compensation you might receive depends in part on the extent of the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage and, potentially, their personal wealth.
What if the Other Driver Says You Caused the Crash?
The at-fault motorist and their insurer have the incentive to deny liability to save themselves money. If the other driver or their insurer insists you caused the crash, you will need to counter their claims with evidence to the contrary. Without compelling evidence to support your case, the other driver’s insurer can delay or ignore your claim, depriving you of the money you need to pay for your losses. A car accident attorney can find the evidence you need and use it to build a compelling claim on your behalf.
What if You Are Partly Responsible for an Accident?
Some people worry that they cannot recover compensation because they partially caused an accident. While this may be a valid concern in some states, you do not have to worry about that issue in Florida.
State law says you can recover compensation after an accident even if a court finds you partly responsible for an accident. Consequently, you should work with an experienced lawyer who knows how to reduce your share of the blame and increase the compensation you can claim.
Is There a Deadline to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?
Most Florida car accident claims end in an insurance settlement without a trial. However, the deadline to file a lawsuit still matters because the threat of a lawsuit gives you leverage when negotiating a settlement. Without a potential lawsuit forcing them in front of a judge or jury, an insurance company has no motivation to offer you a fair settlement.
Florida’s statute of limitations on personal injury actions gives you four years from the date of a car accident to file a lawsuit against the at-fault parties. Still, you should speak with an attorney as soon after the accident as possible.
Crucial evidence could disappear or deteriorate within days after a collision, making it harder for you to build a strong case. And if you miss the deadline established in the statute of limitations, the courts could dismiss your suit as untimely, meaning you will likely lose your chance to claim any compensation.
How Can a Car Accident Lawyer Help After a Crash?
It is possible to handle a car accident claim on your own, but that is a lot of work to take on when you can ill afford it. You deserve to focus your time and energy on your health and well-being, not on dealing with corporate bureaucracy and insurers looking to avoid liability.
A good car accident lawyer can help with your case and make your life easier by:
- Investigating the crash to identify the liable party or parties
- Gathering evidence to establish liability and document your losses
- Filing an insurance claim quickly after the accident
- Handling communications with liable insurers and other parties to prevent you from jeopardizing your case
- Negotiating with the insurance companies for a fair settlement
- Taking your case to trial if settlement negotiations fail
Moreover, you put yourself in a better position to recover the full amount of compensation you deserve if you let an experienced attorney handle your claim. The sooner you get in touch with a lawyer, the more they can do for you.