Tap To Call: 727-451-6900

When to Call an Attorney After a Car Accident

Do I Need a Lawyer

Matthew Dolman, Florida Personal Injury Attorney

Matthew Dolman, Car Accident Attorney

After an accident, you need legal advice to prevent you from making statements or other mistakes that could damage your claim. Waiting too long to consult a lawyer is also risky because many injuries sustained in car accidents become worse over time. If you are unsure what to do, remember that knowledge is power. An experienced car accident law firm like Dolman Law Group can assist you through your accident. Consider seeking advice from an car accident attorney when:

  • It is unclear who is responsible for an accident, or more than one party may be liable.
  • You do not know how to determine your damages.
  • It is difficult to prove lost wages. For example, if you are a business owner or salesperson.
  • An insurance company is requesting medical records from before the accident.
  • An insurance company has made an offer that you believe to be unfair.
  • An insurance company is offering a structured settlement instead of a lump sum payment.
  • You need help negotiating a fair settlement.

It is essential to seek legal representation from a qualified attorney when:

  • You are not at fault or partially at fault, and liability is unclear.
  • The case may require expert investigators or witnesses.
  • The insurance company is making a low offer.
  • The insurance company has denied your claim.
  • The other party has filed a lawsuit against you.
  • You are injured, you have significant medical bills, and you may be temporarily or permanently disabled.
  • The injured party is a minor.
  • There are extenuating circumstances that make your claim more valuable, and you don’t know how to prove your loss (for example, you’re a caregiver and can no longer take care of your husband or sick mother).

Your Not the Only One

Insurance industry experts estimate that the average driver will be in a collision about once every 17.9 years. In the United States, there were more than 37,150 car accident fatalities in 2017. Driving in Florida can be dangerous. It is one of the worst states in the country in which to drive, with a total of 402,385 accidents in 2017. Florida accidents included 254,310 injuries and 2,924 fatalities.

Any accident may leave you distressed, shaken, and unsure what to do next. However, it’s one thing when an accident dents your fender, but it is another when the accident results in injuries or fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 31 million people are treated in emergency rooms every year because of accidental injuries.

Some injuries are minor, but others are catastrophic or life-threatening, such as traumatic brain injuries. At first, it may be difficult to determine the long-term consequences of an accident, both personal and financial. Knowing when you need professional legal assistance can make the difference between a justly resolved case and overwhelming losses.

What to Look for When Hiring a Car Accident Attorney

When looking for a lawyer, you should look at their experience, skill level, and reputation. But it is also vitally important to hire someone you trust. Prepare for your first consultation by having as much detailed information about the accident as possible. Include facts about the car accident and any injuries and financial losses. Bring copies of documents pertaining to your accident, such as your insurance policy, information exchanged at the accident scene, photos taken at the scene, and medical records. Ask the following questions:

  • How much of your practice is devoted to car accident cases?
  • Have you handled other cases involving my particular injury?
  • What were the results?
  • Would you be primarily responsible for my case, or will you be referring it to your staff or another law firm?
  • Can you give me a general idea of the process?
  • How does your firm handle fees?
  • Does your firm have the necessary financial resources to handle my case?
  • Do you participate in any organizations related to my type of case?

9 Steps to Take After a Car Accident

1. Stop.It may sound obvious, but do not panic and drive away after an accident. You are legally required to stop if you are involved in an accident. As in any unpleasant situation, your first instinct may be to drive away and leave it behind. However, leaving an accident scene is against the law in every state. If the other driver leaves the scene of the accident, stay and report the incident.

2. Assess the situation. After an accident, adrenaline floods your system. Adrenaline prepares us to face danger. It increases the production of sweat, dilates the pupils, and elevates the heart rate. Some people start to hyperventilate or even go into shock. It is difficult, but you must regain your composure for your own safety and the safety of others involved in the accident.

In such highly stressful situations, deep breathing counteracts this response and helps stimulate relaxation to return your system to normal. When you are calmer, take stock of the situation. Are you injured? Is anyone in the car with you injured? How about anyone else involved in the accident? You may be angry with the other driver, but this is a time to protect everyone’s safety.

3. If anyone is injured, call for help right away. Keep in mind that others may appear to be unharmed, but many people experience shock following an accident, which is potentially serious. If anyone is experiencing pain in their neck or back, avoid movement unless a medical provider tells you to, or unless the person is in immediate danger. Moving someone with neck or back injuries may make their injuries worse. It is always best to obtain medical attention because some injuries or symptoms do not appear until some time after the accident.

Once you have checked on yourself and others, take a look at what happened. Did you hit something? Where did your car come to rest? Are there dangers like downed power lines? If so, remain in the vehicle until help arrives. But if the car is smoking or burning, get everybody out of the vehicle and to a safe area quickly.

4. Move to a safe area. Especially if there is traffic or other hazards, the accident scene may be a dangerous place. If you are able, move to a safe area. Even if you cannot move the car, do your best to ensure your safety and the safety of others. Turn on your hazard lights, and if possible, place warning devices around the accident scene.

5. Call the police. Even if it was a minor accident, call 911. Sometimes the other driver may ask you to not report the accident. In some cases, this is because the other driver may have problems involving car insurance, an expired driver’s license, an outstanding warrant, or other circumstances—but call anyway. Information contained in the police report will be useful for an insurance claim or future legal action, particularly when the accident was not your fault.

When the police arrive, they will try to contain the scene of the accident and ensure that everyone is safe. An officer will take statements from the drivers of all vehicles involved in the accident. Generally, the police take statements separately to ensure that everything proceeds in a timely and orderly manner. If an officer questions you, answer the officer’s questions as calmly and clearly as possible. If you do not know the answer, just say so.

6. Exchange information. Everyone involved in the accident should exchange information, including the following:

  • Names, addresses, phone numbers
  • Driver license numbers
  • License plate numbers
  • The makes, models, and years of all involved vehicles
  • Car insurance information
  • Location of the accident

7. Gather evidence. While you are still at the scene, collect as much evidence as possible. Make sure you get contact information for any witnesses. Take pictures of all the cars from several angles, including the interior. Also, take photos of the accident scene. Don’t forget to include any traffic signals, signs, hazards, or debris. Pictures may be valuable evidence later if other drivers change their versions of the facts.

8. Do not talk about fault. Emotions run high after an accident. Those involved may feel upset or defensive. Even if you were not at fault, there is a tendency to apologize after an accident or accept fault. Your first impulse may be to discuss the accident on social media. However, pictures or comments on social media may damage your claim in the future. When talking with others at the scene, or when talking to an insurance representative, do not discuss fault. You should talk about issues of fault with your attorney. The police and insurance claims representatives will investigate the facts and determine fault.

9. Consult a personal injury attorney. Speaking with an attorney soon after the accident may help you avoid costly mistakes. Always consult an attorney before discussing the accident with other parties, particularly representatives of an insurance company, or signing any papers or release forms. Try to contact an attorney as soon as possible after your accident occurs and definitely before reaching a settlement with any insurance company.

The Basics of Personal Injury Lawsuits

A study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study reported that “driver error” caused 94 percent of crashes. If you have been injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you have rights under the law, and you might be able to recover compensation.

The commonly accepted definition of negligence is “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” If your lawsuit is based on someone else’s negligence, you need to establish “the existence of a legal duty that the defendant owed to the plaintiff, defendant’s breach of that duty, plaintiff’s sufferance of an injury, [and] proof that defendant’s breach caused the injury.”

A “statute of limitations” is a law that determines the time within which you may file a lawsuit after an accident. In Florida, the statute of limitations for most personal injury lawsuits, including car accidents, is four years. Car insurance companies have their own rules for filing claims. Typically, insurance companies require you to file a claim within a reasonable time after the accident. However, you should discuss all time limits with your attorney as early as possible to avoid missing any important deadlines.

Damages

The purpose of damages is to compensate someone who has been injured due to the negligent actions of another party. Economic damages include such losses as medical bills, lost earnings, vehicle repair, and compensation for future economic losses. Non-economic damages refer to pain and suffering. These may include physical pain, mental anguish, disfigurement, disability, and loss of enjoyment of life.

In cases of egregious conduct on the part of the wrongdoer, a court may award punitive damages. The intention is to punish the defendant and deter others from bad conduct in the future. However, courts rarely award punitive damages.

To obtain fair compensation, it is essential to keep all of your medical records and bills. Medical records are a key element in recovering damages from responsible parties and their insurance companies. Medical records will establish that you were actually injured in the accident, and they also play a critical role when attempting to negotiate a settlement.

How a Florida Car Accident Attorney Can Help

Dealing with the aftermath of an accident can be confusing and demanding. At the same time, you may be in pain or unable to cope. Your attorney can handle the “red tape” and hassle of car accident cases. If you are unsure whether you need the services of an attorney, consider what an attorney can do to help you take control of your case and reduce your stress.

Your attorney will protect your rights, explain your legal options, and guide you through the process. He or she may handle a variety of matters, including investigating your case, gathering evidence, dealing with insurance companies, filing a lawsuit, negotiating, and if no settlement is reached, representing you in court.

A car accident lawyer can listen to you, answer your questions, and help you decide what to do next.

Dolman Law Group
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900