In 2016, there was 395,785 total reported crashes in the state of Florida. Every car accident claim is unique but certain processes remain consistent from case to case. Reviewing what your accident claim and settlement processes could look like in Florida can give you a better idea of what to expect in terms of timelines, negotiations, and settlement amounts. Always talk to a car accident attorney for information regarding your specific case in Florida.
Florida is a “no-fault” car insurance state. This means that accident victims will initially seek recovery from their own vehicle insurance companies, regardless of who is at fault for the crash. In “fault” insurance states, on the other hand, both parties will file claims with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You must call your insurance company to report a vehicle collision as soon as you can after the event. Waiting too long can result in the insurer refusing to cover your damages.
Call the phone number on the back of your insurance card and explain that you were just in an accident. Follow the insurance agent’s directions for reporting the crash. You will need information such as the name and insurance information of the other driver, as well as a description of how the crash happened and the damages it caused. Stick to the facts of your case when talking to your insurance company. Do not admit fault and do not speculate as to the fault of others. Do not agree to record a statement and do not say yes to a settlement offer without first discussing it with a personal injury attorney.
Once you file your insurance claim, the insurance companies of both parties will investigate the crash. An investigation may involve returning to the scene of the crash, taking photographs, recreating the collision, interviewing eyewitnesses, gathering evidence from surveillance cameras or cell phone records, obtaining police reports, and studying medical records. How long your investigation takes depends on the facts of the case. Make sure you go to the doctor for any crash-related injuries right away, as the insurance company will look at this information to gauge how serious or painful your injuries might have been.
Ideally, your insurance company will offer coverage for the full costs of your medical bills and property damage. If your injuries weren’t significant or permanent, your case can end here. If, however, you encounter any complexities, you might need to bring your case to an attorney. According to Florida’s no-fault insurance laws, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the other driver outside the insurance system if you meet the “serious injury” threshold. Basically, this means your injuries must be permanently disabling, scarring, or disfiguring to file a claim.
Filing a personal injury claim can often garner higher settlement amounts than a simple insurance claim. Bringing a claim with help from an attorney shows an insurance company that you mean business. Help during settlement negotiations can make sure the offer from the insurer is on a par with what your injuries and losses deserve. An attorney can also help you understand when you can and should file a claim against the driver rather than going through your insurance company. You’ll also have the ability to go to trial, if necessary, for full compensation.