Car Crash? Here’s What You Should Know
Car crash victims typically don’t know where to start when they need compensation for personal injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and property damage following an accident, especially in a state like Florida that utilizes a “no-fault” insurance system. If you or a loved one suffers damages in a car accident, here’s what you’ll need to know about relevant Florida insurance laws.
Reporting the Accident
Under Florida law, you must immediately contact law enforcement for accidents involving an injury, death, or property damage greater than $500. The investigating officer will submit a report for such accidents. For minor accidents that do not require a police report, the driver must file a crash report within ten days.
Once you’ve pulled over to a safe spot on the side of the road, you must offer “reasonable assistance” to any injured parties and exchange personal, vehicle, and insurance information with the other driver(s). Get the names and contact information of any witnesses, document road and weather conditions, and take photographs of the vehicles and the scene, including any skid marks. Most importantly, never assume responsibility for the accident at this point. Even if you feel responsible, the facts might show that you were not actually at fault.
Florida has a no-fault insurance system where each driver’s medical bills and related expenses are covered first by his or her own insurance carrier, regardless of fault. However, for property damage, you can pursue a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance. Every Florida driver must carry at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and $10,000 in property damage liability insurance. Importantly, to take advantage of these PIP benefits, you must commence medical treatment within 14 days.
Once you’re home safe after an accident, you should file a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible, but you should first consult a lawyer to assist you through this process so as not to undermine the full value of your claim. Be sure to check your policy to see what the exact deadline is. Additionally, don’t wait to seek medical attention, but do hold off on car repairs if possible—your insurance company may want to inspect the damage or have you go to an approved repair shop.
Hire a Car Accident Attorney
You should never attempt to handle a car accident claim on your own. Retain a personal injury attorney who can help make your insurance claim and use the potential of a lawsuit as leverage. Taking a case to trial is often done in only the most egregious accident cases because it gives a sympathetic jury an opportunity to award all available damages when a reasonable settlement cannot be reached.
To avoid litigation, the insurance company’s settlement offer will usually include a full release from future medical expense coverage, prohibiting the claim from being revisited later. Since an injury may cost much more in the long term than the victim originally realizes, an experienced personal injury attorney can conduct a thorough investigation into the accident claim and calculate the full extent of damages.
Florida Car Accident Settlements
Since the circumstances and damages of each accident are unique, there is no perfect formula for calculating a car accident settlement amount. However, here are some relevant factors to consider:
- the severity of injuries and timeliness of treatment
- costs of past and future medical expenses
- loss of past and future wages
- whether you helped cause the accident
- the types of insurance coverage both parties have
- the amount of evidence and documentation you provide
- your attorney’s ability to argue your case
File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Insurance companies that routinely attempt to deny or lessen an accident claim’s value are prepared to litigate if it will be cost-efficient. Regardless of the nature of injuries in a car crash case, insurance adjusters are focused on their company’s profit margins. Insurance companies hire skilled legal teams ready to take a case to court unless the outcome is very expensive. For that reason, it is vital to retain qualified representation from a Florida personal injury and car accident attorney.
If you or a loved one suffers injuries in a Florida car accident, Miller Trial Law can help you. Please call us today at (305) 697-8312 for a free, no-risk consultation. We look forward to serving you!