In the state of Florida, when you’re involved in a traffic collision, you immediately face some important questions and deadlines. How long do you have to file an insurance claim? If the other driver was at fault, do you file the claim with that driver’s insurance company or with your own? When should you consider filing a personal injury lawsuit? Keep reading, and you’ll learn those answers and more.
In Florida, after a traffic crash, you must be familiar with your rights and options. An experienced Tampa personal injury attorney will be able to help you later, but when a traffic accident happens, you’ll have to act on your own to protect your interests. You’re about to learn what steps you must take in Florida immediately after a vehicle collision.
Summon medical help to the scene if you are injured or if anyone else has been injured in the accident. Obtaining medical attention is always, in any accident, the first and most immediate priority. Even if you don’t think you are injured, get yourself checked out within the first 24 hours – just in case you’ve suffered a latent injury that might later become something serious.
WHEN ARE YOU REQUIRED TO REPORT A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT?
After you’ve called for medical help, call the local police. Florida law requires you to report accidents that involve injury, death, intoxicated drivers, hit-and-run drivers, and property damage that may exceed $500. Don’t forget to ask the officers how to obtain a printout of their accident report. It’s a document that you may need.
Do not leave the scene of an accident for any reason until the police dismiss you. Even if no one is injured, leaving the scene of an accident that involves any property damage is a crime in Florida punishable upon conviction by up to sixty days in jail, six months of probation, or a fine of up to $500. If you leave the scene of an accident that has resulted in an injury or fatality, it’s far more serious – it’s a felony that can send you to prison.
You probably already know that after a vehicle accident, you’ll need to share your contact and insurance details with the other motorist. You’ll need that driver’s name, address, driver’s license and license plate numbers, and his or her auto insurance company’s contact information. Get the other driver’s policy number too, if you can. If the other driver can’t help or won’t cooperate, the police may be able to help you get the information you need.
HOW CAN PHOTOGRAPHS AND EYEWITNESSES HELP?
Take photos of the accident, or if you can’t because of your injuries, ask someone else to take photos of the crash scene, the vehicle damage, and your own injuries that are visible. If eyewitnesses saw the accident, ask them for their names and contact information. Eyewitness statements and photographs that verify your claim might help you get a quick, reasonable settlement.
Auto insurance policies require policyholders to inform the company of any incident that might result in a claim. In other words, if there’s any possibility that you or anyone else will file a claim after an accident, you must notify the auto insurance company. How much time do you have? There’s usually a deadline stated in the policy itself, but there’s no reason to wait more than a day to make an initial report.
When you report an accident to your auto insurance company, it’s not the same thing as making a claim. That’s later, and it’s explained below. When you make an initial report, provide the insurance company with only the basic facts. Don’t admit to anything, and don’t make any statement, sign any insurance document, or allow yourself to be recorded.
HOW DOES PIP INSURANCE WORK IN FLORIDA?
When a traffic crash happens, try to stay calm and meet your immediate obligations one step at a time. If you’re able to do that, you’ll be prepared to file an insurance claim, and you’ll have the details and documents you’ll need to file a personal injury lawsuit if you need to. When you file an auto insurance claim, you are asking the insurance company to cover you – that is, to pay you – according to your policy’s terms and conditions.
If you are a motorist who is injured in a Florida traffic collision, your own PIP insurance must be tapped to cover your first $10,000 in medical expenses and lost income. The coverage from your PIP insurance is automatic under Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system, so for the first $10,000, it won’t matter which driver was at fault in the accident.
Of course, if your injuries are catastrophic or disabling, $10,000 won’t go very far. However, in Florida, an accident victim who has been injured by a negligent driver may only file a personal injury lawsuit when that victim’s injuries are considered permanent, if permanent or egregious scarring or disfigurement was suffered, or if a vital bodily function was impaired.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONSULT A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER?
Thus, if you are severely injured or disabled by a negligent driver in Florida, speak as soon as you can to an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney. If your injuries qualify you under Florida law to file a personal injury lawsuit, you’ll need an aggressive attorney who will fight for your rights – someone who will settle for nothing less than the full compensation you need and the justice you deserve.
But if you’re in a crash where you only sustain vehicle damage – or perhaps a couple of trivial bruises or scratches – and your total damages amount to less than $10,000, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t file a claim under your PIP coverage and negotiate with your insurance company on your own. Providing the insurance company with complete and accurate information from the start is key – anything else will delay the process.
You’ll probably speak several times with the adjuster who works on your claim, and in many cases, you’ll eventually be offered the compensation you need. Most insurance companies in Florida are operated professionally, and most adjusters want to help you expedite and settle your claim. But if an auto insurance company gives you excuses and delays – or rejects your claim outright – seek a personal injury lawyer‘s help. It’s your right.