A severe car accident can throw your life into chaos. You are injured and unable to work. Your car is totaled. And you aren’t sure how to go about seeking compensation for what happened.
Nearly 400,000 traffic crashes happen every year in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. There’s a significant chance that you may be involved in one. You should be prepared by having a plan and knowing what to do after a car accident. However, even if you miss one of these steps, you may still be able to recover compensation with the help of a car accident lawyer.
Knowing what to do after a car accident is not easy. But finding the right steps to take after a car accident could be the difference between recovering full compensation and being left empty-handed.
David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A., is here to help. We have handled countless car accident cases. And we’re prepared to guide you through every step of what to do in a car accident case. Call us today at (954) 241-1639 or use our online contact form.
If you follow these steps to take after a car accident in Florida, you may give yourself a better chance of recovering full compensation.
Always call the police and, if needed, request an ambulance. The responding officer will complete a car accident report, a primary piece of evidence used in any personal injury claim. The officer may also issue a citation to the at-fault party that can be used to prove liability.
Seek Medical Attention
“Should I go to the hospital after a car crash?” This is one of the most common questions we hear. And the answer is yes.
Why? First, you need to get checked out to make sure your injuries are not life-threatening. Even if you don’t feel like you are injured, you still need to see a doctor. Injuries like whiplash are often hidden for a few days before you can fully feel them.
Getting medical care after a car accident creates a record of your injuries from the accident. This will be helpful later when you seek compensation for your medical bills in your car accident claim.
Document What Happened at the Scene of the Accident
You need as much evidence as possible to determine what caused the car accident. If you are transported by ambulance or too injured to document the accident scene yourself, do your best to find someone else to collect information for you.
Whoever is collecting information should obtain the following:
- Photos or video footage of the accident and surroundings
- Pictures of your injuries
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Police report number or contact information for the responding officer
Preserve and Gather Evidence
Evidence is key in car accident lawsuits. Without it, you cannot prove that the other party was at fault and that you deserve compensation.
But what does evidence in a car accident claim look like? It can look like any of the following items, among others:
- Photos or video footage of an accident or scene of an accident
- Photos or videos of your injuries
- Statements from accident witnesses
- Medical records detailing your injuries
- Statements from expert witnesses who can comment on how and why the accident occurred
- A car accident report or police report
Gathering evidence when you have been hurt in a car accident can be difficult, if not impossible. That is a key reason why many accident victims call a car accident attorney.
Get a Car Accident Report
If the police come to the scene of an accident in Florida, they will likely file a police report. This report will have details in it that will be crucial to proving your case.
To get a car accident report in Fort Lauderdale, you can make a public records request. Your attorney will do this for you either in person, over the phone, or via email.
Move Your Car Out of the Way of Traffic
After you have made sure no one has life-threatening injuries and documented the scene of the accident, you should move your vehicle out of the way of traffic. If your vehicle is drivable, pull it to the side of the road or into a nearby parking lot. If it cannot be operated safely, call a tow truck. Wait to move the vehicles until after the police respond and diagram the accident on the official report.
Call a Car Accident Lawyer
When it comes to what to do after a car accident that is not your fault, calling a lawyer can be one of the most critical steps. A car accident lawyer can help you understand your legal options for seeking compensation and advise you of your next steps. They can also help you gather and preserve evidence and avoid traps the insurance company will set.
What to Do in the Weeks After Your Accident
There will be tasks you’ll need to do in the days and weeks following a car accident, which can become stressful and overwhelming quickly. You can relieve some of that stress by working with a car accident lawyer who will handle the complex parts of your claim for you.
Continue with Follow Up Medical Care
Make sure you follow up with your primary care physician and any specialists that have been recommended to continue your treatment for injuries sustained in the car accident. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy multiple times per week or advanced diagnostic testing.
You should always comply with your doctor’s orders. Suppose you fail to get appropriate medical treatment. In that case, the insurance company may claim that you are not mitigating damages related to your injuries or not as severely injured as you asserted. Continuing medical treatment will increase the value of your settlement because it serves as proof that you were severely injured.
Compulsory Medical Exams in Florida
A compulsory medical exam, or CME, can be requested of a plaintiff or a defendant during a personal injury trial under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. In Rule 1.360, a party is granted the right to request an examination, in circumstances “when the condition that is the subject of the requested examination is in controversy.” A CME can be requested if the defendant wants proof of an accident victim’s injuries, or if one party believes the other is lying or exaggerating the extent of the damage caused. The party that asks for the CME results must demonstrate that they have good reason to make the request before it will be granted, and has the burden of presenting this evidence in the courtroom.
In a recent case, the Fourth District issued a determination regarding Rule 1.360 as it pertains to car accidents. The case involved an automobile accident in which the plaintiff’s daughter was killed while passing a tractor-trailer. The daughter was rear-ended by another vehicle, and swerved into oncoming traffic, hitting the defendant’s car. The defendant was accused of negligence for failing to avoid the crash, and the plaintiff cited the driver’s age and physical condition as factors in the accident.
The plaintiff requested a neurological CME to back up the claim that the driver was not in a safe state of mind to be operating a vehicle. Under Rule 1.360, this request is legitimate, but only if it is precipitated by evidence of necessity that would justify requesting the CME. Upon further investigation into the request, the Fourth District ruled that the plaintiffs did not adequately demonstrate that the man’s health and mental state was the cause of the negligent driving at the time of the accident, and allowed the defendant to refuse to submit to a CME.
In most personal injury cases, a plaintiff or victim must undergo a CME to prove that the injuries sustained are legitimate, and will require medical attention, cause a loss of consortium, or otherwise hinder the victim. On the opposite, as this case demonstrates, the defendant rarely has to prove a mental or physical capability to drive, even though he or she is at fault in the accident.
Start to Document and Calculate Your Injuries
To recover compensation after a car accident, you will need to list every way in which the accident harmed you — referred to as damages — and assign each damage a monetary value. While almost any way in which a car accident that wasn’t your fault can warrant compensation, these are some of the most common damages in car accidents:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Emotional trauma
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Pain and suffering
- Reduced quality of life
Your car accident lawyer can help you identify every damage you have suffered and pursue the maximum compensation for each.
You should document the progression of your injuries and pain from the time of the accident until the moment you get a settlement or jury verdict. You should include information about how the injuries affect your life and the level of discomfort it causes you. You can keep a journal similar to this template. You can also use your journal as a reminder of your appointments and treating physicians, which you will have to share with your car accident lawyer and the insurance companies.
Preserve and Gather Evidence
You will need to continue collecting evidence weeks and months after the crash. This information will support your claim and help calculate your compensation.
Some steps you should take include:
- Save all medical bills and medical insurance explanation of benefits (EOB)
- Collect and organize medical records detailing your injuries
- Record statements from passengers in your vehicle at the time of the accident
- Maintain a file with eyewitness contact information
- Obtain a copy of the car accident report or police report
- Get statements from expert witnesses about how and why the crash happened
In most cases, your lawyer will take many of these steps on your behalf. This information will be essential in determining how much your case is worth and ensuring you get the maximum compensation possible.
Finding a Rental Car
If your car is not drivable after the crash, you will likely need a rental car. In the best care scenario, your own car insurance will be able to provide you with a rental car. However, this expense can be compensated through a car accident settlement as well. You should work with your attorney to find the resources you need to ensure you have a vehicle after the crash.
Getting Your Car Repaired
Property damage is typically covered by liability insurance or collision coverage. The at-fault party may be personally responsible for any damages over what insurance will cover. You should find a certified mechanic and body repair shop to perform quality work on your vehicle so that it is safe to drive again.
Communication with Insurance Adjusters
Insurance companies may contact you after the car accident. Don’t talk to them until you’ve had a legal consultation with a car accident lawyer. The insurance companies will use anything and everything you say to avoid liability.
You should let your car accident lawyer handle any necessary communication with the insurance adjusters.
More Things to Remember After a Car Accident
While some of the actions you should take after a car accident seem to be common sense, you will likely be confused and shaken up after the crash. Try to keep the following in mind:
- The insurance company is not on your side. They want to pay as little as possible. Make sure you know as much as possible and talk to a lawyer before answering the insurance company’s phone calls.
- Don’t apologize or admit fault after a car accident, even if you think you did something wrong.
- Your health insurance may be able to pay for your medical treatment initially, but they will likely want the money back in what is called “subrogation.”
- Keep track of all documents you receive related to the crash or your injuries.
- Document all medical costs, lost wages, and other financial losses you experienced due to the crash.
- Tell your employer about the crash as soon as possible and request time off work.
- Don’t accept an initial settlement offer from the insurance company. It’s a “lowball” offer and won’t cover all of your losses.
- You have a right to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver who caused your damages.
Why You Should Work with a Lawyer After a Car Accident
Car accidents cause more than just physical injuries. They result in a lot of confusion, mental and emotional damage. Instead of dealing with all the hassles on your own, you should work with an experienced lawyer who can handle the hard parts for you.
Attorney David I. Fuchs compassionately represents clients who need help navigating the complex Florida legal system. He understands that you need resources to meet your needs. He is available to answer any of your questions about what to do after a car accident.
Contact us online today to schedule a free consultation, or call us at (954) 459-3755. We look forward to helping you protect your right to full compensation
Be Careful With the Insurance Company
Dealing with car insurance after a car accident is a huge challenge. If you think you know what to do after a car crash, the car insurance company will try to make you think you’re doing the wrong thing. They will go to great lengths to avoid compensating you.
- They will call you and try to get you to make statements that could be used against you later on.
- They might offer a fast settlement that is not a fair amount. They are hoping you will accept it without speaking to an attorney first.
This is why you should never speak with insurers after a car accident. Let your attorney handle them for you. Even though Florida uses no-fault insurance, insurers still try to withhold compensation from car accident victims in a variety of ways — especially after serious crashes that might be taken outside of the no-fault system.
Luckily, you can simply direct insurers to speak with your lawyer. Your lawyer can see their tricks coming a mile away and keep you informed on what to do after a car accident.
What Not to Do After a Car Accident in Florida
We’ve covered what to do after a car accident. What about avoiding the actions that could hurt your injury case or even implication you criminally? Here are some things that you should not do following a crash in Florida:
Don’t Decline or Ignore Medical Care
Not all injuries are immediately visible after an accident. One of the most common invisible injuries, for example, is head trauma such as concussions. Head injuries do not always leave clear marks, and many symptoms take time to develop.
After an accident, get medical attention immediately. While you may be tempted to skip the hospital trip, this can have severe consequences for your health. Doctors know what to do after a car crash, and they can determine whether you are safe after suffering injury.
Keep in mind that receiving prompt medical care is important if you wish to file charges, as this will factor into your eligible damages when it comes time to settle.
Don’t Leave the Scene
Even if the accident was a minor bump, do not flee the scene, even if you are not at fault. Leaving the accident without exchanging information and speaking to the police qualifies as a hit and run – a major criminal offense that will have significant legal consequences.
Always provide the other motorist with your insurance and contact information, and stay on site until you are able to speak with police.
Don’t Admit Guilt
When you do speak with the police, the other driver, or your insurance company, never admit fault for an incident. Doing so will immediately forfeit any damages you may have claimed, and has a major impact on your insurance policy and legal situation. Admitting fault is essentially signing a confession for any injuries that may occur.
Don’t Ignore Your Insurance Company
Many drivers try to hide their accidents in the belief that it will raise their insurance premiums. Florida statute, however, prevents insurance companies from raising your premiums or canceling your policy without just cause. Unless you are at fault, or partially liable, for an accident, your premiums cannot legally increase.
What’s more is that hiding an accident from your insurance provider is grounds for immediate cancellation of your policy. Regardless of the situation, you must report an incident to the insurance company so that they may prepare for any claims.
Don’t Sign an Insurance Statement
While speaking with the insurance company, however, do not agree to any insurance statements they offer. This constitutes a legal agreement that may affect your final settlement value. Agreeing to an insurance statement effectively sets in stone the insurance company’s valuation of the incident. Do not accept any valuation without consulting a lawyer.
Our Florida Car Accident Attorneys Can Help
Knowing what to do after a car accident is the key to maximizing your compensation. Unfortunately, making all the right moves after a crash is difficult — especially if you are seriously injured.
The good news is that a car accident lawyer from David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A., can help. We can take control of every detail of your case so you can focus on recovering. With our firm, you get legal experience and a winning track record. You get a chance to recover full compensation.
To schedule a free consultation with a car accident lawyer, give us a call at (954) 241-1639 or reach out online.