Filing a Claim in the Aftermath of a Car Accident
In a culture that is fast at assigning blame, a car accident is no different. A sudden crash is traumatic for everyone involved—even for witnesses. As soon as the dust settles, people start finger-pointing and assigning blame. Whether you think the accident was your fault, you’re not sure what happened, or you downright know it wasn’t your fault, say nothing. Silence is golden when it comes to protecting your chance at securing financial compensation for your injuries. The following steps—and the services of a car accident attorney—can guide you through the aftermath of a stressful car accident.
Call 911 After Your Car Accident
If you are physically able—and can find your phone—call 911. Never assume witnesses called to report the accident. Calling 911 yourself gives you the chance to describe your pain and situation to the 911 dispatcher. The dispatcher can then relay this information to emergency responders, perhaps saving you time in receiving the best initial treatment.
As you speak with the dispatcher, try to assess your situation and that of any passengers. Issues involving entrapment or spilled chemicals from a truck rollover accident are important for first responders to know as they approach the scene. Exit your vehicle only if it is safe to do so. Should you encounter the other driver approaching you in a hostile manner, return to your vehicle and lock the door. Tell the 911 dispatcher you are afraid for your safety.
Accept Medical Attention for Car Accident Injuries
You may appear ashen or pale after an accident yet feel fine otherwise. The real risk of going into shock after an accident can lead to permanent organ damage and possibly death if left untreated. Other symptoms include rapid breathing may seem like a normal reaction to the accident when it, in fact, indicates a more serious problem.
Internal injuries can result in serious harm to organs and involve internal bleeding. These types of injuries aren’t something that typically displays symptoms, other than occasional bruising or abdominal pain. Accepting medical attention is essential for assuring nothing is seriously wrong. A hospital visit is valuable documentation of your injuries and invaluable when pursuing compensation.
Don’t Claim Responsibility For the Car Accident
Perhaps you had a bad day at the office or your children are fighting in the backseat. Next thing you know, you’re involved in a serious crash. Your first thoughts may include those of personal responsibility for what happened. One of the worst things you can do after a car accident is to apologize to the other driver. Saying, “I’m sorry” indicates that the accident is your fault, when in fact, it most likely was not.
While the accident is a traumatic and scary event, it is important to remain calm. Smartphones can serve as great evidence collectors for taking pictures, videos and making note of the contact information for witnesses. At the same time, smartphones can also work against you should the other driver capture you on a video claiming responsibility for the crash. It is in your best interest to not speak with the other driver and to ask responding officers to exchange insurance information.
The truth of the matter may include factors you don’t realize, such as actions you didn’t witness or another car you didn’t see. This is why collecting the contact information for witnesses is vital for any future litigation.
Collect Evidence at the Accident Site
One of the most important types of evidence is that of witness statements. Good samaritans who stop at the accident scene typically want to help in any way possible. These important witnesses are usually upset at the other driver’s actions because they, too, were in harm’s way.
Take pictures of the accident scene and consider taking your own video statement. Recording yourself speaking about what just happened is useful later should you develop memory problems.
If your injuries prevent you from collecting evidence, ask a bystander to assist you. The more evidence you collect immediately following the accident, the better chances you have of proving it was not your fault.
Talk to the Right People About the Accident
Knowing who to trust after a traumatic accident is often confusing. First, do trust law enforcement to do their job. Answer any questions they may ask you about the crash. Second, don’t speak with insurance company representatives, especially those of the other driver. No matter how friendly they appear and how large their initial settlement offer seems, don’t trust it.
Insurance company representatives are simply doing their job, which is to protect the company’s best interest—and not yours. You too may want the case settled quickly to make the paperwork and stress go away. By accepting the initial settlement, you stand the chance of settling for less than you deserve.
There is no quick fix for your injuries. Talking with insurance company representatives and agreeing to a premature settlement may place you at risk for future medical expenses you can’t afford. Use your precious time and energy to speak with a car accident attorney instead.
Having an experienced lawyer on your side throughout this time of uncertainty can give you the peace-of-mind you need to rest. Contacting a personal injury attorney as soon as possible is vital. Florida statute of limitations requires that legal action occurs within a specific time frame.
How a Florida Car Accident Attorney Can Help
Understanding Florida law and a personal injury case are best left to the experts. Factors such as the state’s no-fault law when it comes to insurance and medical expenses are tricky. Navigating the legal process alone is confusing, stressful, and can lead to disappointment.
The Florida no-fault law requires motorists to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage. The minimum coverage amount is $10,000; barely enough to cover your most basic medical needs. Fortunately, lawmakers recognized the fact that severe injuries may require financial compensation.
Catastrophic injuries can lead to future surgeries and extended hospital stays. Injuries like those in the list below result in expensive medical care and equipment:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord injury
- Neck and back injuries
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries
The lifetime associated costs of a spinal cord injury alone can reach into the millions of dollars. Equipment such as power chairs and accessible vans need replacing throughout the years. The expenses never end, and medical costs only increase, making planning for the future crucial.
The same is true when an accident is fatal for a no-fault driver and/or their passengers. The PIP death benefit of $5,000 does little to cover the average $7,000 to $9,000 costs of a funeral. If the deceased was the primary financial provider, a personal injury attorney can fight for compensation related to the loss of benefits and the loss of future earning power.
Direct expenses like those of a funeral—and medical expenses from before the death—are often attainable with attorney representation. Financial compensation can never replace your loved one, however, it can ease your financial stress.
While each case is different, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. A highly skilled personal injury lawyer can typically reach a fair settlement without going to trial. If the settlement offer remains insufficient, then sometimes a trial is necessary.
Car Accidents and Social Media
Insurance companies and their investigators will use every method possible to find fault with your claim—even by trawling your social media accounts. How you use social media at the scene or following the accident can greatly affect future litigation.
When something tragic happens, people tend to post pictures, videos, and news of the event to such places as Facebook and Twitter. You can’t control what other people do at the accident scene. You can control, however, what you post to your personal accounts.
For example, let’s say you post a picture of yourself standing or a video of you walking freely around your vehicle. Insurance companies can use that footage against you if you sue due to painful leg injuries. Posting anything about the accident can lead the insurance company to accuse you of responsibility for the crash or to claim your injuries are not as serious as you claim.
You may want your friends and family to know about your accident. A phone call to an immediate family member is the safest way to let someone know about your situation.
The best practice when it comes to car accidents and social media is to not post anything on your personal accounts. It is your best defense against accidental self-incrimination.
Never Admit Fault For a Car Accident
People with good-hearts and who are taught responsibility at a young age want to do the right thing. They may feel bad about what happened and the other person’s injuries when chances are, that driver is at fault for your own injuries.
Empathy after a car accident must center on you and your passengers. Looking out for your best interests is essential to securing medical treatment and for paying for that treatment for as long as it takes to heal.
For catastrophic injuries, a full recovery may not be possible. It is those types of life-long expenses for which PIP insurance isn’t enough and why hiring a personal injury attorney is important.
No one should suffer physical, financial, and emotional stress due to the actions of a drunk or distracted driver. When someone chooses to operate a vehicle in a reckless manner that results in harm to others, they are the ones at fault. Let law enforcement do their job investigating the accident and assigning charges to the responsible party. With more than 17 million licensed drivers in Florida highways and city streets, it is not a matter of if but rather when you find yourself injured. The addition of millions of visitors each year adds to your risk of experiencing serious injuries.
A driver’s license is a privilege and not a right and all Florida drivers have a responsibility to share the road. No matter how defensively you drive, other drivers remain careless behind the wheel. Programming navigational devices, reaching for objects, and texting friends are behaviors that can cause life-changing accidents.
An accident is over in a second, but the real trauma is just beginning. How you proceed in the immediate aftermath of the accident is vital for your future. Never admit fault to an accident. Put your feelings and emotions aside and focus on your injuries and justice.
Stay Positive About Your Claim
A car accident can affect your career and your relationships. You may never return to the job you once loved and your family may change from carefree to constant worry. When you are seriously injured due to no fault of your own, the other driver must face accountability for their actions. The disruption of your life and your health deserves fair financial compensation for your injuries or loss of your loved one.
Consulting with a Florida car accident attorney can provide you with valuable insight. By presenting the evidence you collected and discussing the details of your case, you can learn the best course of action for moving forward. Understanding that the process is a marathon and not a sprint is essential for remaining patient and positive about your outcome.
A proactive approach to securing compensation for your injuries starts with not admitting fault. Do not take the bait when another driver tries to assign blame. Standing firm by keeping silent is the smartest thing to do after an accident. Try to calm your emotions by taking a deep breath. Do convey your medical concerns to first responders and do speak with law enforcement. After that, consider securing the services of a personal injury attorney without delay.
Every licensed driver takes a risk each time they climb behind the wheel of their vehicle. A simple trip to the store or your commute home can turn tragic, or even deadly, in an instant. No one should pay out-of-pocket due to medical expenses caused by a negligent driver. If you find yourself seriously injured in a car accident, do not admit guilt and discuss your case with a Florida personal injury attorney today.