Chances are you’ll be involved in a car crash at some point in your life. Any type of car accident is unnerving, causing many car accident victims to make mistakes at the scene.
Even the smallest slip up can greatly affect one’s liability claim an/or ability to seek damages down the road.
Knowing exactly what to do (and what not to do) at the scene of the accident ahead of time is key to being able to gather the right kind of information and avoid making mistakes that could affect who’s held accountable for the accident.
For this reason, we’ve put together a guide of what to do after an auto accident, both at the scene of the accident and in the next few days.
Report the Accident
In Florida, if a car accident involves injuries or property damage over $500, you’re required to report the accident.
To report the accident, call the local police department, sheriff, or Florida Highway Patrol. If there are serious injuries that will require medical attention or if you’re in an unsafe situation, call 9-1-1.
Never Admit Responsibility and Limit Your Conversation
Limit your conversation with the other party or parties involved in the accident. Never admit responsibility or apologize for the accident. Your insurance policy is a contract, and one of the terms is that you must not assume responsibility or liability.
It’s likely that everyone will be shell-shocked after the accident, and it’s not uncommon for emotions to run high. Therefore, keep to yourself, other than to gather information from the other involved parties.
Having the right information available to present to your attorney and any claims adjustors is key to the proper assignment of liability and in garnering the compensation you need for any auto damages and injuries you may sustain.
Gather the following information at the scene of the accident:
- Photos of the other drivers’ driver’s licenses and insurance policies
- Phone number of any involved parties and witnesses (to ensure you have the correct number, ask to dial their number on your phone, and make sure the call goes through)
- License plate number of other cars involved (take pictures)
- Color, make and model of other cars (take pictures)
- Pictures of the scene of the accident if possible
- Copy of the police report
- Names of all passengers
Seek Medical Treatment
If you think there’s any chance at all that you might be hurt, seek emergency medical attention.
Remember that the adrenaline of a car accident often masks the pain of injuries, so any amount of pain or discomfort should be taken seriously. Also, check to see if anyone else is injured; if so call 9-1-1 and ask for an ambulance to be sent.
Besides medical reasons, it’s important to seek medical treatment for your injuries for legal reasons, as well. Under Florida’s no-fault Personal Injury Protection (PIP) law, all Florida drivers are required to carry insurance to cover their own injuries and lost wages, regardless of fault.
Under this law, you must seek treatment within 14 days of the accident to receive any benefits. Further, if you need to recover damages from the responsible party, you’ll need to document your injuries as soon as possible.
File a Claim With Your Insurance Company
Once you’ve addressed any medical concerns and gathered the necessary information, it’s time to contact your insurance agent to begin the claims process.
You may even want to call your insurance agent at the scene of the accident to verify that you’ve gotten all of the necessary information for your claim.
After you file your claim, you’ll likely get a settlement offer from your insurance company, which will summarize how much your insurer will pay for the property damage and injuries. If this amount is not sufficient, you may need to file a bad faith insurance claim.
A car accident can unnerve even the most seasoned driver, but following these guidelines can help protect you from unnecessary worries and expenses. That way, you can focus on recovering from your injuries and repairing damages as quickly and smoothly as possible.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.