Car crashes happen every day. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reports that there were 341,399 automobile accidents reported in the state in 2020 alone.
Even safe, careful, and attentive drivers can still end up in serious collisions. Motor vehicle accident injury claims are complicated. You do not have to navigate the claims process alone. An experienced Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyer will protect your rights and help you find the best path forward. In this article, you will find a comprehensive overview of the things that you need to do after an automobile accident in Florida.
Stop Your Vehicle, Exchange Information, and Remain at the Scene of the Crash
If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision, you should stop your vehicle, exchange information, and remain at the scene of the accident*. All jurisdictions in the United States require drivers to stop their vehicles and exchange information after a collision. The failure to do so could be a serious violation—potentially even a felony hit-and-run offense in the case of a serious accident. The information that you should exchange with other drivers involved in a crash includes:
- Contact information;
- Driver’s license;
- Vehicle make and model; and
- Insurance coverage policy information.
*Note: There is an exception for medical emergencies. Nothing comes before emergency medical needs. If you or your loved one has suffered a serious injury, immediate medical care is a necessity. You do not have to wait at the scene of a crash if you need emergency medical treatment.
Call the Police and Report Your Accident
Most motor vehicle collisions must be reported to law enforcement. The specific regulations for reporting crashes vary from state to state. In Florida, a car accident must be reported to the authorities if it results in:
- Any physical injuries; or
- $500 or more in total property damage.
Given the cost of vehicle repairs, it does not take much damage to trigger Florida’s car accident reporting requirement. Virtually all multi-vehicle moving accidents must be reported to the authorities in Florida.
It is important to emphasize that it is generally in your best interest to call the police to come to the scene of the crash. The responding officers will write an accident report. The crash report serves as an important form of documentation about your collision.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention for Any Injuries
Were you hurt in a motor vehicle collision? It is imperative that you seek immediate professional medical attention. Getting to a doctor after a car accident is a very important step for several different reasons. To start, you need to get your car accident injuries examined for your own health, safety, and overall well-being. Many of the most common car crash injuries occur with a delayed onset. Your injuries may be more serious than you initially realize. For example, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), back injuries, and muscle strains often feel worse 24, 48, or 72 hours after an accident. Make sure you get yourself evaluated by a physician as soon as possible.
Another key reason why car accident victims need to seek prompt medical attention—and proper follow-up care—is that you cannot recover financial compensation for car accident injuries without medical documentation. Whether you are bringing a no-fault car accident injury claim or a fault-based car accident injury claim, your personal injury compensation will be based on the actual nature and severity of your injuries. If you do not see a doctor after an accident, you will not have the medical records that you need to get a full and fair financial settlement.
Document the Scene: Take Photographs, Get Witness Information, Etc
To protect your legal rights and financial interests, you should thoroughly document the scene of your accident. In Florida, many car accident injury claims fall under the state’s no-fault insurance law. However, property damage-only claims can be fault-based legal cases. Further, an injured victim can also bring a fault-based claim if they sustained serious harm in a crash in Florida. Regardless, the more documentation you have about your accident, the better position that you will be in to effectively navigate the legal claims process. Here are some key things to know about documenting a crash:
- Get Information from the other driver: Make sure you have comprehensive information—name, driver’s license number, license plate, make/model, and insurance policy details—for every motorist involved in the crash.
- Take Photographs: You should always take extensive pictures of your vehicle damage, the crash scene, and anything else that is relevant to how and why the collision occurred.
- Obtain Contact Information for Eyewitnesses: If any third party witnessed your crash, it is a good idea to get their name and contact information.
Notify Your Insurance Carrier About the Crash
In Florida, all drivers are required to carry no-fault Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage as well as minimum mandatory liability coverage. Most insurance coverage requires policyholders to provide the company with prompt notice in the event of a collision. You do not need to have all of the details at this time. Simply make sure that your insurance carrier is aware that an accident occurred. If you are a Florida driver who needs medical care after a crash, your initial coverage will likely be through your own no-fault PIP policy.
Consult With a Car Accident Attorney Before Giving a Statement to the Insurance Company
The vast majority of car accident claims—from property damage claims to personal injury claims—are handled by insurance companies. It may be a driver’s own no-fault policy or another party’s at-fault liability policy. Regardless, car accident victims cannot rely on a large insurance company to look out for the best interests of their families. The simple reality is that insurance companies are primarily driven to protect their own bottom line.
Protect your rights by consulting with an experienced car accident attorney like BKBB Law before you give a recorded statement to an insurance company. Insurance adjusters are highly trained. It is their job to represent the insurance company. Insurance adjusters use a wide range of tactics and strategies to try to resolve car accident claims for less. You should always work with insurers through an experienced car accident lawyer.