The steps you take immediately following a car accident can significantly impact your safety, well-being, and legal rights. While South Florida is notorious for having one of the highest accident rates, many drivers are unprepared for how to handle the aftermath of an accident.
Whether you're a new or experienced driver, understanding the implications surrounding Florida’s accident laws can help you navigate the hectic scene. Keep reading for valuable information on what steps to take after a car accident so that you can be better prepared in case of an unexpected event on the road.
Understanding Florida Car Accident Laws
In South Florida, car accident laws aim to protect drivers and passengers involved in an accident, and failure to follow these laws can result in severe consequences.
No-fault Insurance State
Florida is a no-fault state, meaning that each driver's insurance company is responsible for covering medical expenses and lost wages after an accident, regardless of who caused it. This system is intended to expedite the claims process and reduce the number of lawsuits filed after an accident.
Under the Florida No-Fault Motor Vehicle Law, motorists are required to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) as part of their automobile insurance policy. This ensures that motorists have adequate coverage for medical bills and other expenses.
While Florida's no-fault system doesn’t prevent injured parties from pursuing legal action against the at-fault driver for additional damages beyond the coverage provided by PIP, it offers some financial protection and security concerning immediate medical expenses.
Comparative Fault Rule
The "comparative fault" rule recognizes that the causes of accidents aren’t always clear-cut and aims to assess fault based on individual circumstances rather than assigning all blame to one party alone. Under this rule, each driver can be held responsible for a percentage of the damages based on their level of fault in the accident.
However, as of a recent law change in 2023, you cannot recover anything if you are found 51% at fault for the crash. The exact law says, “any party found to be greater than 50 percent at fault for his or her own harm may not recover any damages.”
Accident Reporting Laws
If you’re involved in an accident where you’ve been injured, or that resulted in property damage exceeding $500, you’re legally required to report the accident to your local law enforcement agency. The law enforcement agency will prepare an accident report for insurance and legal purposes.
Penalties for failing to report an accident can include fines, points on your driver's license, and even getting your driver's license revoked. Failure to report an accident can negatively impact your insurance claim and legal case, as it can be seen as an attempt to hide information or avoid responsibility.
Statute Of Limitations Laws
In Florida, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits related to car accidents is four years from the accident. This means that if you were injured in a car accident, you have four years to file a lawsuit to recover compensation. Failure to meet the deadline may cause you to lose your right to seek compensation.
However, even if you’re within the four-year limit, it’s important to file your lawsuit sooner rather than later. Delays in filing your lawsuit may make it harder to gather evidence and testimony, weakening your case.
Steps To Take Immediately After A Car Accident
In the moments following an accident, it’s hard to wrap your mind around what to do and who to call. But by remembering these steps, you can make an awful situation less intimidating:
- The priority after a car accident is to ensure safety. Move to a safe location and turn on hazard lights to warn other drivers.
- Check yourself and others involved in the accident for injuries.
- Call the police to report the accident, even if it’s minor. The police will document the incident, which is necessary for insurance and legal purposes.
- Exchange information with the other driver, including names, contact information, insurance information, and license plate numbers. Don't forget to gather all vehicle information, including the make, model, year, color, license plate number, and vehicle identification number of both vehicles involved.
- Take photos of the scene, including vehicle damage, road conditions, and other relevant details.
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident and provide them with the information you have collected.
- Even if you feel fine, seek medical attention. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent, and prompt medical attention can help prevent further complications.
- If you’ve been injured, consult an experienced car accident attorney who can help protect your legal rights and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Building A Car Accident Case
Solid evidence can make all the difference in ensuring you receive fair compensation for your injuries and damages when making a personal injury claim.
Gathering witness statements, surveillance footage, and accident reports can provide important details about the incident and help establish the facts of what happened. Third-party witness statements eliminate subjectivity and provide accurate information about all parties involved.
Video surveillance from local traffic or security cameras from nearby businesses can provide information that may have been overlooked or disputed. This visual evidence can help establish fault and strengthen your position in negotiations or litigation.
Accident reports filed by law enforcement also play an important role in building your case. While these reports aren’t admissible as evidence in court proceedings under Florida's accident report privilege law, they serve as important documentation of the details of the accident for insurance claims and settlement negotiations.
Keeping Thorough Medical Records
Be sure to keep comprehensive medical records that include details of all medical tests, treatments, and expenses related to your injuries.
Important details to include in your medical records are the date and time of each medical appointment, the name and contact information of the treating physician, a description of treatment, and any medications prescribed. It’s also helpful to record any missed work days or other interruptions to your daily life due to your injuries.
Individuals involved in serious car accidents are also at risk for psychological trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Documenting any psychological symptoms or emotional distress can support your personal injury claim and ensure you receive appropriate compensation for physical and psychological damages.
Work With Experts
Accident reconstruction specialists play an important role in car accidents, using their expertise to determine the events that led to an accident. These professionals use scientific methods to thoroughly investigate and analyze the accident scene to determine fault and strengthen your case.
Their investigations include forensic analysis and traffic accident investigation techniques that allow them to gather evidence needed to build a compelling case. Their insights into factors such as a vehicle's calculated speed or road conditions can accurately determine fault and responsibility in a car accident.
By collecting evidence, such as photos of the accident scene and debris, they can accurately reconstruct the sequence of events. In South Florida, where accidents involving abusive passing trucks aren’t uncommon, legal representation can help you understand your options and fight for your rights.
Navigating The Claims Process
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, filing a claim with your insurance company is usually the first step in obtaining compensation for your damages.
Filing A Claim With Your Insurance Company
Your insurance policy may have a specific time frame within which you must report the accident, so it's important to act quickly to avoid potential problems. This time frame can vary depending on your insurance policy, so it's important to check your policy and learn about your responsibilities. After filing a claim with your insurance company, you’ll be assigned an adjuster who will review your claim and work with you through each step of the process.
Make sure to provide your insurance company with any information you have gathered about the accident. This may include photos of the accident scene, witness statements, and the police report. The police report is an important document providing an objective account of the accident, so you must obtain a copy if possible.
Be honest and accurate in describing the accident, but don't admit fault. Admitting fault can have serious legal and financial consequences, and it's important to wait until the insurance company or a court determines the responsibility. If you're unsure what to tell your insurance company, it's best to contact an experienced car accident attorney who can guide you through the claims process.
It's also important to notify the other driver's insurance company. This can help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve and expedite the claims process.
The Investigation Process And Settlement Offer
Your claims adjuster will consider several factors in evaluating the claim, including medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. Medical expenses may include hospital bills, medication, and ongoing treatment costs. Lost wages may include the income you could not earn because of the accident, such as the time you were unable to work because of medical treatment or recovery. Property damage may include repairing or replacing your vehicle or other personal property damaged in the accident.
Based on the evidence and applicable laws, the adjuster will also determine who is at fault for the accident and make you a settlement offer. This offer will include the compensation they will pay for your damages. If you accept the settlement offer, you will receive the agreed compensation for your damages.
Negotiating A Settlement Offer
If you disagree with the settlement offer, you can negotiate with your insurance company or hire an attorney specializing in achieving fair settlements. They don’t have to be about the amount of compensation solely but can be regarding other terms such as indemnification or payment schedule.
Keep in mind that negotiations may take weeks or months to settle since you can go through several rounds of offers and counter-offers.
Filing a Lawsuit And Going To Trial If Necessary
If negotiations with the insurance company don’t result in a reasonable settlement, you may need to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation. This can be a complicated and time-consuming process, so it’s important to have an experienced car accident attorney on your side who can guide and represent you in court.
Your attorney will file the necessary legal documents, gather evidence, and conduct depositions. They’ll also negotiate with the insurance company or their attorneys to settle before trial.
If the case goes to trial, your attorney will present evidence and testimony to support your case and prove the extent of your damages. The insurance company or its attorneys will also present evidence and testimony to support their case. Ultimately, the judge or jury will determine the amount of compensation you are entitled to based on the evidence and applicable laws.
Hire A Car Accident Attorney Today
If you’ve been in an accident, you already have a lot to handle. From physical injuries and emotional trauma to financial losses, you shouldn’t have the stress of insurance negotiations and settlements added to the mix. Weinstein Legal has the experience and knowledge to handle even the most complex car accident cases.
From negotiating with insurance companies to filing a lawsuit, we'll guide you through the process and advocate for your rights. Call the Weinstein Legal Team today at (954) 845-0505 to schedule a free consultation and take the first step toward getting the compensation you deserve.