Nine Tips You Can Follow After a Florida Car AccidentCar accidents can have catastrophic consequences for all parties involved, including severe injuries, long recovery times, and expensive medical bills. Negligent driving behavior, such as distracted driving, drunk driving, or speeding, can cause car accidents and lead to catastrophic damage for both parties. If you have an accident in which someone is injured and you are physically able, you should take certain steps to ensure everyone is safe, including the other drivers. If you have teens getting ready to drive or young family members who are new drivers, you should also instruct them on what to do if they are in an accident, regardless of fault. Experienced car accident attorneys can offer advice on what you should do (and not do) in order to have the best possible outcome from your particular situation.
Florida Auto Accident StatisticsFlorida is host to busy streets and highways, with locals and tourists alike taking to the road to reach their destination. With fewer options for those who want to walk their commute, the number of drivers on the road is high. With so many drivers on the road, car accidents are liable to happen. The number of accidents is immense, according to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles—
- Nearly 100,00 in the first three months of 2019.
- In 2018, 401,851 accidents were reported throughout Florida. Of those, 254,484 were injury accidents, and 3,150 were fatal.
- In 2019—just through March 31, 99,815 accidents were reported. Of those, 63,138 were injury accidents, and 838 were fatal accidents.
1. Stay at the Scene of the Car AccidentNever leave the scene of an accident, even if the accident is minor or the other driver thinks it's fine to leave. There is always a chance that the other driver could file a claim against you, even if the accident was not your fault. The other driver's insurance company could use the fact that you swiftly left the scene of the auto crash to reduce your possible compensation. Leaving the scene of the car crash also prevents you from performing some integral steps in collecting information that could come in handy for the car accident claim. While there, you should collect contact information of the other drivers involved, take photos with your smartphone of the damage your car sustained, and collect evidence that can prove another party's liability. You'll need a police report to prove that you did not leave the scene and to help prove fault should you have to sue for injuries not covered by your personal injury protection insurance. This also keeps the other driver from trying to say you are at fault if you were not at fault and allows you to tell your side of the story to the police.
2. Help Prevent Additional Car AccidentsFollowing a car accident, the cars involved in the crash may be in the way of other drivers. This can cause secondary accidents, with other drivers having to make reckless driving maneuvers to avoid crashing into your cars in the middle of the road. You should do what you can to prevent other drivers from experiencing the same pain you have. According to Florida Statute 316.061, any car crash that involves property damage requires the drivers to pull over as close to the scene of the accident as possible. The cars should be close to the scene so the police can properly assess what happened but far enough off the road to avoid other car accidents. If you can, protect the scene of the accident by keeping your flashers on or setting up flares, cones, or emergency triangles to help direct traffic away from you. If it's dark, use a flashlight to alert other drivers where you are. You should do anything in your power to avoid other car accidents at the scene of the accident while you wait for first responders and the police.
3. Contact First Responders to Help Those With Severe Car Accident InjuriesIf anybody involved in the car accident incurred a severe injury, they will need immediate medical attention to prevent their injury from getting worse. You should take the initiative and call 911 to get first responders sent to the scene of the accident. Provide them with as many details as you can so the first responders can know what they are dealing with when they arrive on the scene. The following is some of what you can tell 911 to give the first responders the full picture of the accident:
- The location of the accident
- What accident occurred
- How the accident happened
- The injuries that occurred
- How many people received an injury
- How much pain the injured parties are in
4. Get the Contact Information of the Drivers Involved in the Car AccidentIf you are able, get the other driver's contact and insurance information. You may also want to get contact information from other passengers and witnesses to the accident. You may ask the witnesses to wait for the police if the accident was serious. Make sure you get the other drivers' insurance and registration information. This information allows you to contact a driver after the accident when you begin the claims process. You can be stuck without many options if you do not get the other driver's contact and insurance information, as you will have no idea who to file the claim with. The following are some of the pieces of information you should collect from the other driver:
- Full Name
- Phone number
- Driver's license number
- License plate number
- Insurance company name
- Insurance policy number
5. Report the Car Accident to the PoliceFlorida 316.065 requires the drivers of vehicles involved in car accidents to contact the police. Be sure to tell the police officers or investigators as many facts about the accident as possible. Some of these facts include how the accident happened, what damages you suffered, and whether there were road obstacles that led to the accident. If you are asked a question and do not know the answer, do not guess—say that you do not know. If you guess or misstate facts, it could affect any settlement you might be entitled to. Anything written down on a traffic crash report will be used as fact when litigating a car accident claim. Only say what you know to be one hundred percent fact. When asked about injuries you are unsure about, let the police officer know that you are unsure. In fact, you should never answer this question saying definitively you do not have an injury—some injuries take time to appear. It could be hours or even more than a day before you notice an injury. Additionally, if you hear another person involved making a false statement, let the police know that it is not your recollection. When the police respond, be sure to get a report number as you'll need it to get a copy of the report if you do not receive one at the scene.
6. Document the Scene of the AccidentMost people have cell phones with cameras. If you are physically able, take pictures of the accident from all angles. Even if the accident was minor and you are preparing to move your vehicles to the side of the street, take pictures before moving the vehicles. Furthermore, if you have injuries, take pictures of them before they are treated or as soon as possible after being treated if you cannot take pictures before. In the days after the accident, keep a file of any documents and photos related to the accident. Some records that could serve as important evidence in a future car accident claim include:
- Pictures of the accident
- Police report
- Medical records
- Journal of how you feel each day
- Contact information for the others involved in the accident
- Contact information for witnesses
- Receipts for a rental car
- Receipts for traveling to doctors' appointments
- Other expenses associated with the accident.
7. Notify Your Insurance Company of the Car AccidentAs soon as possible, notify your insurance company of the accident. Do not give them information other than your name, policy number, and location of the accident. Let the insurance company know that your car accident attorney will contact them. Even if the accident was not your fault, let your car accident lawyer discuss the accident with the insurance company, as you could inadvertently say something that it could use against you. Remember that though you are dealing with your insurance company, it does not represent your interests. Its only concern is how to keep its bottom line from taking a big hit and will retain an attorney to work on its behalf to keep thief profits up. You should also retain your own car accident lawyer to protect your interests during the settlement process. If the insurance company's settlement offer is too low or they will not pay for the accident, your attorney will then take the insurance company to court to get a higher payout if you are entitled to it. The insurance company knows this, so may negotiate a better settlement with an attorney.
8. Get Medical AttentionYour injury symptoms may often not appear for hours or even a day or two. Always visit your doctor or go to the emergency room after a car accident. Even minor accidents could cause damage to vulnerable parts of the body like your spinal cord or internal organs. Make sure you did not suffer a concussion—have the emergency personnel at the scene check you out for the possibility. Concussions and closed head injuries could cause behavioral and cognitive issues if they are not treated immediately.
9. Hire a Car Accident AttorneyHiring a lawyer with experience in auto accidents is a vital part of the car accident claim process. The at-fault party's insurance company has a team of lawyers and insurance adjusters working to limit your potential settlement. You need someone with experience in the field to work for you in pursuing compensation for car accident damages. An experienced auto accident lawyer has the proper expertise in car accident litigation that can help in negotiations with insurance companies. They will be able to see through lowball offers, counteroffer in a way that leads to more fair compensation, and be able to prove the at-fault party's liability. The following are some of the ways a car accident attorney can assist in the car accident claim process:
- Assess your damages
- Collect evidence
- Organize essential records and documents
- Write a demand letter
- Help during the discovery process
- Negotiate with the insurance company
- Handle the insurance adjuster
- Represent you in court
Injuries You Could Suffer in an Automobile AccidentEven a minor accident could cause serious injuries if you are hit just right. The impact of a car accident can lead to direct trauma or whiplash injuries that can cause damage to many of your body parts. Enough pressure applied to a body part can lead to severe damage or bone fracture should the impact be severe enough. The following are some of the injuries you could suffer in a car accident:
- Bone Fractures: Fractures take several weeks to heal. You will be in a cast until the fracture heals unless the fracture is a toe, nose, rib, or other bone that cannot be splinted.
- Compound fractures: These are fractures that break the skin. You will need surgery to repair the fracture. The open wound may get infected, which could make a recovery take longer than the several weeks it takes for the bone to heal. Furthermore, the bone may never fully heal, or you may have to have pins in the bone, which could cause issues later in life.
- Amputation: Some injuries may require amputation, which involves removing the body part. Additionally, if an open wound becomes infected and gangrenous, and the limb cannot be saved, you may also have to have it amputated. You may be entitled to additional general damages if you must have an amputation because of injuries or secondary injuries from a car accident.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs): These types of injuries could heal quickly or take months or even years, depending on the type and severity of the injury. If you suffer from a concussion from a car accident, it could lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy later in life. Let your attorney know of any head or brain injury so that he may better negotiate a settlement or ask for certain damages if your car accident case goes to trial.
- Back, Neck, and Shoulder Injuries: These injuries may also lead to long-term or lifetime pain and suffering. No matter how minor a back, neck, or shoulder injury is, you should inform your attorney about these injuries and the medical procedures if the injuries are predisposed to causing issues later in life.
- Bumps, Bruises, Cuts, Scrapes, and Abrasions: These generally heal in a short period of time. Open wounds could become infected and take longer to heal. Bad bruises could take a few weeks to heal.
- Soft tissue injuries: Some soft tissue injuries you could suffer in a car accident include sprains, strains, and pulled or torn muscles. Depending on the severity of these types of injuries, they could take several days to weeks to heal. In some cases, you may require surgery to repair some soft tissue injuries, such as torn muscles.
- Wrongful Death: You may also lose a loved one in a vehicle accident. You may be entitled to additional general damages because of the loss of a loved one, including funeral and burial expenses, loss of income, and loss of companionship.
Car Accident Damages You May Be Entitled ToYou may be entitled to damages if you are in an accident, even if the accident is partially your fault. After you speak with your car accident lawyer, they can help you assess what damages you could seek compensation for. The types of damages you may be entitled to break down into three specific categories: special, general, and punitive damages.
Special Damages After a Car AccidentEconomic damages, or special damages, have a specific dollar amount attached to them. These are damages that are a direct result of the accident and have a bill associated with them that you could base your claim on. Economic damages include:
- Medical expenses for injuries sustained as a result of the wreck
- Lost wages for the time you were not able to work because of the injuries
- Property damage
- Future medical expenses if medical care, surgery, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or psychological therapy are expected to be ongoing
- Lost earning potential if your earning capacity was affected by a severe injury
- Funeral and burial expenses
Auto Wreck General DamagesNon-economic damages, or general damages, do not have a specific price attached to them. They are meant to compensate you for the inconvenience of being injured. These types of damages do not have a bill associated with them and require calculation from your car accident attorney. The following are some non-economic damages you could file a claim for:
- Pain and suffering if your injuries cause long-term or permanent pain or cause you to have physical, occupational, or psychological therapy, including therapy for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder that was caused by the accident
- Loss of companionship if you are not able to take part in activities you normally take part in, including family outings or attending your children's activities
- Loss of consortium if you are not able to maintain a physical relationship with your spouse
- Inconvenience if you are not able to do chores around the home and have to pay someone to do it
- Loss of a limb if you suffer an amputation or the limb loses the functionality it had before the accident
Punitive Damages After a Car Accident LawsuitPunitive damages are only awarded when the defendant's actions or inactions were grossly negligent or done with the intent to harm you. They are awarded to the plaintiff as a punishment above and beyond special and general damages for the defendant's behavior. You may have to hire investigators to investigate the accident to show that the defendant's behavior was grossly negligent. You might receive punitive damages if the defendant was driving under the influence or driving while being distracted by their phone.
Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Car Accident ClaimFollowing a car accident, you may be dealing with immense physical pain and debt connected to your severe injuries. A car accident lawyer can assist in filing a car accident claim to pursue compensation for auto wreck damages. If you were injured in a vehicle accident or have additional questions regarding Florida automobile injury laws, contacting an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer can help you understand your options. At Dolman Law Group, our experienced car accident lawyers have litigated over ten years' worth of Florida auto accident claims, netting fair settlements and awards for victims of negligent driving. It's our goal to level the playing field with bad faith insurance companies and work with you to get fair compensation for your car accident damages, even if it involves a lengthy court case. We help our clients through quality representation emphasizing specialized attention and constant communication. At Dolman Law Group, we offer free consultations and work on a contingency basis, which means we don't get paid until you do. If you feel Dolman Law Group is the right law firm for your auto accident claim, contact us today by calling us at (727) 451-6900 or leaving us a message on our online contact page.
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