Being in a car accident can be a traumatic event for all involved. In addition to dealing with damage to your vehicle and potential injuries, the questions and issues you face after your accident can be overwhelming. You may wonder how you can protect your legal rights while at the scene and how long you have to report a car accident to your insurance company. Understanding the process and the significance of all documents involved can go a long way toward relieving some of the anxiety you may be experiencing.Having a strong legal ally after a Florida car accident is your best asset when it comes to navigating an accident report. A Clearwater personal injury attorney can help you sort through the aftermath and ensure that you receive all the compensation to which you are entitled.
What Happens After a Florida Car AccidentImmediately after an accident, you'll likely be in a state of shock and may potentially have suffered injuries. In any case, your involvement in the proceedings will likely involve these steps:
- Stopping at the scene: If your vehicle is still in motion after a collision, you must stop immediately and pull over to a safe location, if possible. It's crucial for your safety and that of others involved.
- Check for injuries: Ensure the safety of everyone involved in the accident. If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately. If you or someone else's serious injuries require emergency transport to a hospital, this is always the first priority in a crash.
- Call the police: If the accident involves injury, death, or significant property damage, you must report it to the police or the nearest law enforcement agency. After dialing 911, officers will arrive to assess the damage and begin compiling an accident or police report, depending on the circumstances of the crash.
- Exchanging information: You should exchange relevant information with the other driver, such as their name, contact information, and vehicle registration. However, you must avoid saying anything to others at the scene that may implicate fault.
How to Report an Auto Accident
One document you will encounter after you are involved in a car accident is a traffic accident report. An accident report is not the same as a police report, although they are sometimes used interchangeably. Accident reports are created by an officer at the scene of the accident and are that officer's account of the accident as well as any other relevant observations.
Police reports refer to incidents in which a crime was believed to have been committed. Accident reports, whether or not they involve infractions, can contain incredible amounts of information, which may include:
- Date and time of the accident;
- Location, including the city and street information;
- Parties involved in the accident;
- Insurance information for those involved;
- Any contributing factors to the accident the reporting officer noticed
- The officer's narrative of what happened
- If a ticket was administered, and if so, to whom and for what violation;
- Weather conditions at the time of the accident;
- The officer's evaluation of the damage done to vehicles;
- Any injuries to people involved in the case; and
- Any additional relevant information.
It is common for individuals to want to see a copy of their accident report after they have been involved in a collision to see what the reporting officer observed and concluded about their accident.
Do I Have to Report My Accident?There are a million things going through your mind after you've been involved in an accident, and taking the time to think to report it may be low on the list. However, it is important that your car accident gets reported, and an accident report is generated. In some cases, it is required by law that you report your accident. In Florida, the driver of a vehicle must report an accident by law if:
- The accident resulted in injury to or death of any person (including passengers and/or pedestrians); and/or
- The accident resulted in damage to any vehicle or other property of more than $500.
If your accident qualifies, you must report it to the local police department immediately. If your accident did not occur within a municipality, you must report it to either the county sheriff or the Florida Highway Patrol.You must make your report immediately after your accident by the best means available to you. In most cases, this will be by cell phone call. If you are incapacitated by the accident, you are exempt from this requirement until someone else makes the report, or you regain capacity. After you have informed the proper authority, your duty is done. The police will then investigate the accident and file the accident report. If the police do not investigate the accident, then the driver must file a written report with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles within ten days of the accident. Failure to meet these reporting requirements is a non-criminal traffic violation, punishable by a fine of $30.
How Long Do You Have to Report a Car Accident to Your Insurance Company?
There is no requirement that you make a report to your insurance agency if you do not wish to do so. However, your insurance agreement may require you to make a report, even if the accident wouldn't otherwise be reportable under Florida law. Additionally, failing to report an accident to your own insurance company may impact your car insurance claim negatively, should the other driver's insurance company open their own investigation that unfairly favors their policyholder.Under Florida's personal injury protection insurance, you must seek medical attention within 14 days after an accident happened for certain damages to be covered by a PIP insurance carrier.
You may be contacted by a representative from the other driver's insurance provider after the accident. You are under no obligation to speak to them, and you should avoid giving any information related to the accident or your insurance policy. Your car accident lawyer can handle these communications on your behalf.
If you are unsure about whether or not you should or are required to report an accident to your insurer, it may be best to consult with a Florida auto accident attorney about your rights and obligations.
How Accident Reports Are Used
Because of the wealth of information usually contained in accident reports, they can be valuable in supporting your personal injury or wrongful death claim. While a car accident report itself is not admissible at trial, the reports are a good source of information to help you and your Florida personal injury attorney evaluate your claim and gather evidence to support it.
How Do I Get A Copy Of My Accident Report?
For information on how to obtain your Florida accident report, visit the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website .
How a Lawyer Can Help
After a car accident in Florida, you will likely need to attend to many personal matters as well as medical treatment. Your expenses will likely add up to more than your insurance company is willing to provide, even if your policy includes bodily injury liability. If your injuries were severe, you may even consider pursuing legal action against the at-fault driver.
In any case, retaining an experienced car accident lawyer is in your best interest. Your attorney can help you navigate every step of the process, including:
- Obtaining a written accident report
- Helping you file a claim
- Helping you understand your insurance policy and coverage
- Documenting your expenses, including medical bills and lost wages
- Investigating how the accident occurred and identifying liable parties
- Gathering evidence, such as medical records and witness testimony
- Exploring your legal options with you
- Ensuring you don't miss any important time-sensitive deadlines
- If necessary, filing suit against the at-fault party
Car insurance claims can be difficult to navigate, especially when you're still recovering from the accident itself. Whether you were involved in a minor accident or a severe car crash involving serious bodily injuries, our law firm can do this and so much more for you.
Our experience in serving Floridians and our vast resources enable us to pursue maximum compensation for injured victims and shoulder the legal burden you face after an accident.
Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation!
If you have been injured in an auto accident, contact a Clearwater personal injury attorney right away. Florida tort law allows victims to recover compensation for injuries and other losses that they may experience as a result of a preventable accident.
A lawyer familiar with litigating Florida personal injury cases can often help victims recover substantially more compensation than they would be able to retain on their own. It is highly advisable for anyone injured in an accident to discuss their options with an experienced lawyer.