Car Accident victims are often entitled to significant legal compensation under Florida law. After an auto accident, you should immediately consult with a skilled automobile injury attorney who can protect your legal rights. An attorney can negotiate for a higher settlement if needed, and can identify when a legal claim is necessary and appropriate for a full financial recovery. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can handle your car accident claim alone. Insurance companies have a lot of experience knowing how to low-ball unrepresented parties with low settlement offers, as they know that there is very little risk of a lawsuit. By retaining an experienced attorney, you will maximize the chance ofreceivingthe full value of your claim and stopunscrupulous insurance adjusters from taking advantage of you. Here at J. Allen Law, P.L., we are dedicated to ensuring that each client we represent gets our utmost care and attention. To schedule a free and no commitment consultation, call our office today at 407-205-2330.
What Steps Should I Take to Protect my Legal Rights after a Florida Car Accident
A Step-by-Step Informational Guide
In the wake of an accident, it is only natural that those involved may be disoriented and unsure of how to act. Victims of car accidents often feel scared, confused, and uncertain as to what to do next. For instance, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed from the pain, medical expenses, and other consequences, such as having to miss work or care for your family. In addition, you will likely have many questions about the steps you will need to take.Fortunately, Florida law entitles you to receive significant financial compensation for these and other losses you may have sustained.For this reason, if at all possible, try to remain calm and follow the necessary steps below. Remember, how you act in the aftermath following a collision, can significantly impact your ability to recover for your injuries.
Immediately stop and record the time of the accident. If necessary, remain inside your vehicle for your safety. Maintain overall visibility by turning on your headlights or hazard/fog lights, - especially during night time or poor visibility.
Check to see if everyone inside your vehicle and in other vehicle(s) is okay. Immediately call 911 or the police if you suspect injuries to anyone involved or if you notice any property damage. This will alert law enforcement and emergency medical services to the fact that an accident has occurred, ensuring that anyone who needs first aid and medical care receives it as soon as possible.Calling the police is also important because your policy may require that a police report be filed before a claim can be submitted to your carrier. In addition, in states like Florida, you may have a duty to immediately report the accident to the police if the injuries or property damage exceed $500. You may also be required to get help if anyone has been injured, and file a written accident report if the police do not.
To avoid accusations of improper handling be very careful when physically moving someone in an emergency, - and do so only when circumstances necessitate it. Absent any danger, blocking of traffic, or specific request by the law enforcement, avoid moving your vehicle from the accident scene. To prevent possible criminal penalties do not leave the accident scene until it is safe and proper to do so.
As stated by Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, "if you hit a car, truck or other vehicle that is parked with no one [inside] it you must inform the owner. Leave a note with your name, address, and license plate and report the accident to local police, sheriff, or Florida highway patrol."
If you are able to, you should try and collect as much information as possible about your accident. If you have a camera, you should take photographs of the scene of the accident and of any road hazards that you believe may have contributed to the wreck. Be sure to photograph any damage caused to the vehicles, any injuries sustained (including the surrounding areas), weather and road conditions, and any other seemingly noteworthy circumstances. You should also make detailed notes about anything that seems out of the ordinary, that you believe may have played a role in the accident. Try and make these notes as soon as you can after the accident, as memories fade and evidence can be lost.These notes and pictures may not only refresh your memory of the accident but can serve as important evidencein your legal case.Finally, because pictures could aid your insurance to better assess the extent of any damage or harm suffered, it is a good idea to have a few pictures of the vehicle prior to the incident for more accurate assessment.
While police officers at the scene generally obtain the required information, sometimes they do not respond, or simply fail to show up. At other times, they fail to properly perform their due diligence. In these situations and in general, be sure to obtain A. Name and address of the other drivers, vehicle owners and passengers involved;?B. Basic insurance information of all above aforementioned parties involved;?C. Applicable license plate numbers of all the vehicles;?D. Basic contact information of bystanders or anyone who may have witnessed the incident, which should include other accidents they may have witnessed in the pasting the same location; and?E. Name and badge number of the police officers and the number of the police report. (Note: You will need to contact the state police to obtain the police incident report if the accident happened on a state highway).
Resist the urge to apologize, admit any perceived guilt or engage in long dialogues. Because you may not feel your injuries at that moment, refrain from telling anyone that you are feeling "all right," "okay" or the like. This is important because many injuries are not immediately apparent and can resurface at a later time when you least expect them. Otherwise, such a statement may come back and hunt you despite your alleged defense that you did not feel anything at the time, or that it wasn't initially evident.
Carefully inform the police and the medical unit of all circumstances and details of the incident and any injuries felt (such as details of the impact against any part of your body). Do the best you can to tell officers exactly what happened without speculating or guessing. If you don't know or are unsure of something, such as existence of pain, then say it. When possible, do so in writing or read it to the officer or provider at the scene. It is important not to omit anything so they don't later claim that you simply made it up to increase your recovery. If another driver or bystander communicated relevant information about the incident provide that information as well. Finally, cooperate in providing your name, address and vehicle registration to others involved in the accident. (If you are charged as a result of a traffic accident, you should be given a chance to explain the situation at a court hearing).
Notify your car insurance right away of the incident (regardless of who you think should bear fault or has been ticketed). You may want to hold off on filing a recorded or a written statement until you had a chance to consult with, or be guided by your attorney. Contacting your attorney can help minimize myriad of situations and circumstances whereby your carrier is able to use information you provided against you (such as minimizing any injuries you sustained). To prevent the risk of them denying coverage and/or other problems later, state the facts as clearly as you can and be as truthful as possible (Note: with the exception of your attorney, insurance carrier, police and the medical response, do not discuss or talk to anyone about the incident or entertain any settlement requests. Should the other driver's insurance company contact you, kindly request that they contact your attorney instead?).
Important Note: Be careful when speaking with insurance companies.Because Florida has no-fault insurance laws, you will have to go through your own insurance company first to try to get compensation for your accident-related losses. While you may believe that you can trust your insurance company to cover all of your losses-after all, you pay premiums every month-this is not always the case. Like any other business, insurance companies want to protect their bottom line, so they often seek ways to deny claims. Saying to your claim adjuster that you "feel fine" may seem like an off-hand, meaningless exchange, however, the adjuster may use such comments to limit your recovery. In addition, many insurance settlements are well below the full value of your claim. If you accept an initial settlement and then realize it is not sufficient, you lose the right to then ask for more compensation.
Get medical assistance right away. Remember that the after affects from an automobile accident may not always be evident, so it is important to consult with a medical professional as soon as possible.If emergency personnel suggest that you be transported in an ambulance, you should follow their advice as you may have sustained serious injuries. Even if you do not need an ambulance, it is always important to undergo a medical evaluation as soon as you can after the car accident. As mentioned, many injuries have symptoms that arise over time and are not immediately recognizable. Having a doctor perform tests can help to diagnose any injuries so that you receive the treatment you need. In addition, medical records can serve as proof of your diagnosis and can tie your injuries to your auto accident. It is therefore important for you to see a physician and seek necessary treatment, following your accident, even if you do not believe that you are injured. There are some injuries that may not become symptomatic until a significant amount of time after an accident, and it may be difficult to establish that your injuries were caused by the crash if you wait to have them diagnosed. In addition, seeing a physician will result in the creation of a medical record that can be used to establish the extent and nature of your injuries in order to calculate damages.
Important Note: You should be examined by a medical doctor you can trust in the first fourteen (14) days following your accident in Florida. Failure to do so within this timewill result in all your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) / No-Fault benefits being lost. An attorneymay be able to help you find the right doctor, so if it is possible, talk with us, or your attorney, about your choice of physician prior to treating. Obviously, if you are in severe pain or need emergency care, go to the emergency department of a hospital or to a doctor right away. For more information, please contact a car accident attorney, or simply call us at 407-205-2330. You can also complete and submit a form online, or find more information on other pages of our website.
Follow the instructions of all medical professionals.If your doctor recommends that you rest and take medication, you should rest and take the medication. If they suggest physical therapy, you should attend therapy sessions. If you fail to follow medical instructions of your doctor, it may be argued that your injuries were not as serious as you claim. Arguments may also be made that your injury would have healed faster and caused fewer challenges for you had you followed medical recommendations.
It is often difficult to remember how much pain or impairment you experienced on a particular day due to your injuries. For this reason, it can be helpful to keep an ongoing journal to not only record any medical care, equipment, or supplies you required but also to keep track of how your injury and pain level affected your psychological well-being and physical capabilities.
These suggestions are some general guidelines for individuals who would like some direction on what steps to take immediately following a car accident. They will help you preserve some of your legal right to compensation for your medical expenses and other losses. However, because each situation and jurisdiction is different, the information provided above is by no means exhaustive, and should never be relied upon to replace the advice of a knowledgeable, well-intentioned and caring lawyer.If you need to discuss your situation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Orlando or central Florida, call us today, at 407-205-2330.
Note: Above is a simplification and a brief overview provided for informational purposes only. There are additional considerations and exceptions that could be applicable to your specific circumstances. You should not rely on any information provided here and should seek an experienced and caring personal injury lawyer as soon as possible before making any decisions.
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