Steps to Take After a Serious Florida Car Accident
It’s natural to react emotionally when someone crashes into your car, especially if you’re seriously injured. Take a moment to feel your anger, anxiety, frustration, or confusion, but only a moment: You’ll need a level head to make it through the post-accident complications.
When you’re safe at home or resting in a hospital, you can contact an auto injury attorney to protect your legal interests. In the meantime, it’s up to you to document and preserve the evidence before it disappears forever. Even if you’re injured, you can handle a few post-accident tasks at the scene. If your injuries are so serious that you must wait in place for assistance, you’ll still have plenty of things to do over the coming weeks and months.
Tell Your Story, but Never Admit Fault
During the post-accident confusion, you’ll exchange words with the other driver, witnesses, well-wishers, policemen, and other people gathering near the accident scene. Before you say one word, remember: NEVER ADMIT LIABILITY. If you say, “I’m sorry,” “I didn’t mean to,” or anything that sounds like an admission of fault, your words will follow you until you resolve your claim.
The spontaneous statements you make immediately following an accident are so significant they even have a legal name. They’re considered res gestae evidence. As post-accident statements are spontaneous, police officers, courts, and insurance companies consider them a measure of truth. That becomes a problem if you feel so upset by an accident that you apologize or admit fault when the type of accident indicate otherwise.
After an accident, you can’t avoid telling your version to a police investigator, so offer just the facts: The light was green. I was driving 35 mph. The other car ran the red light. No matter how much you know about accidents, liability, or state motor vehicle laws, you should avoid speculating about who is at fault.
Auto accident-related legal issues are often complicated. The negligence laws in most states acknowledge that more than one person can cause an accident. Fault is a judgment call, so tell only your honest story, and let police investigators, attorneys, and insurance adjusters evaluate if it’s not your fault.
While You Wait For the Police to Arrive
Accident scenes change within minutes after a crash. Sometimes, the only way to document and preserve the relevant evidence is to do it yourself. This isn’t always possible when you’re seriously injured. If you feel up to it, though, you should complete a few important tasks while you’re waiting for the police to arrive.
If your cell phone is in working condition after your accident, it’s the perfect tool to help make your documentation process easier. Also, remember to ask the right questions so the police can help.
- If your injuries prevent you from moving, ask a passenger for help.
- If you’re alone in your car, flag down a bystander, ask for assistance and tell them what you need.
- If you can’t find anyone to help, grab your phone and take as many photos as you can from wherever you are. A cell camera’s telephoto lens brings distant items closer and helps you capture the details.
Confirm the Other Driver’s Identity
You might never consider leaving an accident scene before the police arrive but there’s always a possibility that the other driver will. It’s important to verify the driver’s identity and insurance information just in case he decides to take off.
Some drivers have issues with their license, registration, driving record, or insurance. That’s often motivation enough to leave the scene. Hit-and-run drivers sometimes strike your car and leave without stopping. Others stop, check out the damage, then return to their cars and take off. To avoid these scenarios, you or your representative should perform these tasks:
- Use your cell camera to snap a picture of the other car’s license plate.
- Ask the other driver for his personal information and document it with your phone recorder.
- Ask to see a driver’s license and snap a photo.
- Confirm that the address is current.
- Ask for the other driver’s insurance card and snap a photo.
- Verify the dates on the insurance card.
- Get a photo of the driver.
Photograph the Vehicles
The vehicles involved in an accident provide evidence that often helps determine fault. If your accident is in an area where drivers must move their cars to avoid blocking traffic, you should document the details before relocating them. Use your cell camera to photograph both vehicles’ resting positions, points of contact, and damage. Also, photograph any areas of previous damage. This comes in handy if your insurance company has questions about prior accidents or vehicle condition.
Document the Scene
An accident scene provides context to help insurance companies decide liability issues. Take photos of the accident scene. Include the streets and cross-streets where the accident occurred. Photograph traffic signals, signs, road markings, buildings in the background. Get enough photos to give your insurance company a general feel for the area in question.
Witnesses are critical to proving fault. What an unbiased witness says about an accident often holds more weight than a drivers’ or passengers’ version. As unbiased witnesses have nothing to gain, police officers and insurance companies usually accept their statements as valid.
Unfortunately, witnesses don’t always wait for a police officer to show up. If they do wait, they might not want their name included in a formal report. However, a witness might talk to you or someone representing you at an accident scene. If you or your representative ask the right questions, you might find a witness or two in the crowd that gathers following an accident.
- Ask bystanders if they saw the accident.
- If they saw it, what did they see?
- Ask for their permission to contact them.
- Ask for their names and contact information or a business card.
Get Immediate Medical Treatment
If you’re seriously injured, getting the emergency medical treatment you need is more important than anything else. If the 911 dispatcher notified the EMT at the same time she notified the police department, the ambulance could arrive first. When the emergency team arrives, it’s important to drop everything and go.
Depending on your injuries, you could require weeks, months, or years of medical care. Regardless of the status of your injury claim, you should follow your doctor’s orders, fill all prescriptions, and follow your doctor’s recommendations for physical therapy and other treatments geared to ultimate recovery.
Turn in a Car Accident Injury Claim
Insurance policies are complicated, but they tell you exactly what you need to do. Unfortunately, most people have neither the time nor the desire to read their policies. The most important thing you need to remember is that you must turn in a claim. The language sometimes varies slightly from company to company and state to state, but all Personal Auto Policies have a basic notification provision. Here are a few additional things to remember.
- You must provide prompt notice of any accident or loss.
- If you’re incapacitated and can’t make the call yourself, a friend or personal representative should do it for you.
- If you delay in making a report and your delay jeopardized your insurance company’s rights, they may deny your claim or decline your coverage.
- Turn in your claim, even when you’re optimistic that the other person’s carrier will pay you. It doesn’t always work out the way you think it should.
- If your state financial responsibility law requires that you file an accident report form, your insurance carrier must complete the section verifying your coverage.
When you notify your insurance company of potential claims, it gives them information to initiate a claim investigation. They need to determine if they owe damages to the other driver on your behalf. If you have a potential Uninsured Motorist or Underinsured Motorist claim, your prompt report allows them to investigate your injury claim and determine its value.
Talking to Insurance Companies
When you’re involved in a car accident, you can’t avoid dealing with insurance companies. If you want to file a claim against the other driver, his company will want your version, your medical bills, and regular treatment updates. If you turn in a claim for liability or first-party coverages, your insurance company will want enough information to set their claim reserves. Reserving is the process where insurance companies must legally set aside money to pay for pending claims.
While you don’t have to talk with the other person’s insurance carrier, your insurance company requires that you talk to them. There’s language in every Personal Auto Policy that requires insureds to cooperate and provide whatever documentation the insurance company requests. When you have a legal representative working on your behalf, insurance companies usually respect your rights and deal directly with him or her.
Don’t Abandon Your Medical Treatment
If you’re hurt, treatment consistency is often a relevant measure of your injury’s value. Even if you’re initially unsure about making a liability claim for your injuries, you need a clear track record of your recovery process.
When you have an injury claim pending, the liability investigator relies on your medical history to help evaluate it. They look at pain, suffering, medical treatment, physical therapy, inability to work, and other issues. Insurance companies listen to your thoughts on pain and injury severity, but it means nothing if your medical history tells a different story.
- If you didn’t follow up with your doctor for her recommended treatment, the liability insurance claim department will see it as an indication that your injuries weren’t very severe.
- If you shun physical therapy and other recovery assistance, they see your recovery as speedy and uncomplicated.
- If the doctor prescribes pain medication and you don’t fill the prescriptions, the insurance company will accept it as verification that you didn’t experience much pain.
- If you ignore your doctor’s advice to take some time off work, the insurance company will interpret your disability as minor with minimal lost wages.
- When the insurance company requests a medical report and treatment records, your doctor will explain your spotty treatment history. Her records will reflect that you did didn’t require any follow-up treatment and that you never asked for a refill of your medication.
Avoid Activities Checks
When insurance companies can’t access your medical records, they do whatever they can to evaluate your claim. Your medical information is important because it helps them establish and maintain an accurate reserve over the life of your claim. If the insurance company can’t get the information from you, they do whatever it takes to get it elsewhere.
The neighborhood activities check is a longstanding insurance company tradition for finding out about you and your recovery. A claim representative visits your community or street to talk to your neighbors. When asked the right questions, even a friendly neighbor will share their opinions. They will speculate about your pain and your disabilities. They’ll often answer whatever questions the claim representative asks.
Video documentation is another popular way to evaluate an injured person. An insurance investigator or a hired independent investigator sits in front of your home and records whatever he sees. They consider it a lucky break if they get footage of you gardening, exercising, walking the dog or carrying in groceries.
Social Media Investigation
Social media is the newest option for finding out more about an injured claimant. An investigator locates you on social media sites. If your security settings are low, they can see what’s on your timeline and find out what you’ve been doing. If your settings are too high to see what they need to see, they often send a friend request.
You can’t avoid activities checks altogether. You can limit access to your information by considering these tips.
- Don’t share your injury or treatment information with anyone.
- Ask your family not to discuss your injuries, your recovery or any pending settlements with anyone outside of your home.
- Stay away from social media sites.
- If you must have a daily look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Linkedin set your page security so strangers can’t check out your timeline.
- Never accept a friend request from a stranger.
- Change your Twitter account to private.
- Allow Instagram followers by permission only
- If you want to share your activities with the world on social media, don’t post dancing videos, gym visits, challenge stunts, or anything else that makes it look as though you’re not really injured.
Consult an Attorney for More Information
When you’re seriously injured, your future depends on taking the appropriate steps as soon as possible. Even if you have no plans to file a lawsuit against the other driver, you should still consult a car accident attorney as soon as possible. A consultation doesn’t require that you make a commitment. To contact Dolman Law Group about a free consultation regarding your accident claim, either call our office at (727) 451-6900, contact us online, or visit our Clearwater office in person.
800 N Belcher Rd.
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900