Nine Tips You Can Follow
Florida has many people who drive, including tourists. The number of accidents is high, 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. If you are in an accident, you should take certain steps to make sure everyone is safe, including the other drivers, if you are physically able.
If you have teens that are getting ready to drive or have young family members that 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.
1. Stay at the Scene
Never leave the scene of an accident, even if the accident is minor and even if the other driver insists that it is minor and wants 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. 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 that your PIP insurance will not pay. This also keeps the other driver from trying to say you are at fault if you were not at fault.
2. Help Prevent Additional Accidents
If you are able, 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. At the very least, if it’s dark, use a flashlight to alert other drivers where you are. If no one is injured and the vehicles are not badly damaged, you may want to move them off the road and out of traffic.
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3. Contact First Responders
You may need a police report for your insurance company or to prove that you may not have been at fault in the accident. Always call the police even if no one seems to be injured.
4. Get Contact Information
If you are able, get the other drivers’ contact and insurance information. You may also want to get contact information from other passengers, too. You should also get the contact information from any witnesses to the accident. If the accident was serious, you may ask the witnesses to wait for the police. Make sure you get the other drivers’ insurance and registration information. 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 are not handed one at the scene.
5. Talk to the Police
Be sure to tell the police and/or investigators for the police what happened as factually as possible. 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. When you are asked about injuries, if you are not sure, say so. In fact, you should never answer this question with a negative answer—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 is not your recollection.
6. Document, Document, Document
Most 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 do have injuries, take pictures of the injuries before they are treated or as soon as possible after being treated if you are not able to take pictures before.
7. Notify Your Insurance Company
As soon as possible, notify your insurance company of the accident. Do not give them any information other than your name, policy number and where the accident was located. Let the insurance company know that your attorney will be contacting it. Even if the accident was not your fault, let your attorney discuss the accident with the insurance company as you could inadvertently say something that the insurance company could use against you.
Keep in mind 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. Your insurance company will retain an attorney. 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 and they will not budge, 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 Attention
In many cases, your injuries may not appear for hours or even a day or two. Always visit your doctor or go to the emergency room after an accident. Even minor accidents could cause damage to 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. Collect More Documentation
Keep a file of any documents and photos related to the accident. Include pictures of the accident, the police report, medical expenses, a journal of how you feel each day, all the contact information for the others involved in the accident and for witnesses and receipts for a rental car, traveling to doctors’ appointments and other expenses associated with the accident.
Injuries You Could Suffer in an Automobile Accident
Even a minor accident could cause serious injuries if you are hit just right. Injuries you may suffer from include:
- Fractures: Fractures take several weeks to heal and 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 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. Additionally, if an open wound becomes infected and gangrenous, and the limb cannot be saved, you may also have to have it amputated. If you must have an amputation because of injuries or secondary injuries from a car accident, you may be entitled to additional general damages.
- Head and brain injuries: These types of injuries could heal quickly or take months or even years, depending on the type and severity of 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 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 let your attorney know about these injuries and the medical procedures that were done if the injuries are predisposed to causing issues later in life.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sprains, strains, pulled or torn muscles, and other soft tissue injuries: 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.
Damages You May Be Entitled To
You may be entitled to damages if you are in an accident, even if the accident is partially your fault. Types of damages you may be entitled to include special, general and punitive damages.
Economic damages, or special damages, have a specific dollar amount attached to them. They 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.
- The replacement or repair of your vehicle and other personal property that is damaged in the accident.
- Future medical expenses if medical care, surgery, physical therapy, occupational therapy or psychological therapy are expected to be ongoing.
- Future lost wages if you are expected to be out of work for the long term or permanently.
- Funeral and burial expenses if a loved one died in the accident.
- Future medical expenses and lost wages may sometimes be categorized as non-economic damages instead of economic damages. While these items do have a price tag on them, the cost is not known at the time of settlement or at trial because they haven’t happened yet.
Non-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 and may include:
- 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 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 over and above special and general damages for the defendant’s behavior. We may have to hire investigators to investigate the accident to show that the defendant’s behavior was grossly negligent. You may receive punitive damages if the defendant was driving under the influence or driving while being distracted by his or her phone.
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.