Try to stay calm and check for any injuries either you or any of your passengers has suffered. If there are any injuries call 911 immediately.
If the accident is minor, there are no injuries, and the cars are operable, move them off to a safe place out of the way of traffic, and call the police.
If the cars are not operable, try to exit the vehicles and move to safety away from the roadside. Put your hazard lights on or use other warning devices such as cones, triangles or flares for safety.
Wait for law enforcement to arrive to investigate the car accident. While waiting, gather any information, photos, witness information, etc.
Be polite and do not admit fault. Often, car crashes are complex and involve the liability of more than one driver. Limit your conversation to the law enforcement personnel that will be investigating the crash.
Florida Statutes section 316.061 provides that the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash resulting in damage to a vehicle or other property shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close as possible, and shall remain at the scene of the crash until they comply with the duty to give information to the other parties, or law enforcement investigating the crash.
Many people don’t know that if they leave the scene of a crash without providing information to the other parties, or law enforcement investigating the crash, or otherwise fail to comply with Florida Statute Section 316.061(1), they may be charged with a second degree misdemeanor that could result in imprisonment not exceeding 60 days!
Many people are confused on this issue. Obviously, if the cars are not operable, as in a major crash, the vehicles will not be able to be moved, and it’s recommended that you seek the safety of the shoulder far away from the road to avoid any dangers caused by other traveling motors. Immediately call 911 so that law enforcement can redirect traffic for the safety of all motorists.
What about if it’s a minor fender bender? We’ve all seen car accidents where people with minor fender benders leave their cars blocking traffic on busy streets, no doubt in an attempt to prove to law enforcement who was at fault in the accident. Well, Florida Statute Section 316.061 provides that “every stop must be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary, and, if a damaged vehicle is obstructing traffic, the driver of such vehicle must make every reasonable effort to move the vehicle or have it move so as not to block the regular flow of traffic.” Believe it or not, if you don’t comply with this, you may be charged for a nonmoving violation yourself!
Interestingly, Florida Statute also provides that the driver or other person who has removed the vehicle from the travel way of the road shall not be considered liable or at fault regarding the cause of the accident solely by reason of moving the vehicle.
If you are physically capable of gathering information at the scene, it is important that you do so. If your injuries do not permit this and you have a friend or family member available, have them gather this important evidence.
Remember, after a car accident, you may never get a chance to see important evidence such as tire skidmarks, the locations of the vehicles after the crash, or the extent of the crush damage to the vehicles. After car repairs are done, that evidence is potentially lost forever.
The law enforcement agency that was called out to investigate the crash may produce a report and a summary of how the crash happened. That summary may also include diagram of the cars prior to the crash and where they were after the crash. While our law enforcement agencies do a great job, they can sometimes make mistakes regarding the positions of the vehicles and the summary of their facts on how the accident occurred. That’s why it’s important for you to gather as much information as you can before the vehicles are moved if you could safely do so.
If you are physically capable of doing so, try to gather the following information:
With today’s technology, nearly everyone has a photo and video camera in their cell phone. Do not be embarrassed to pull out your phone and take pictures of the other vehicles involved in the car accident. Make sure you are safe by not standing in the street or dangerous traffic situation in order to get these photographs.
Try to take the following pictures if you can safely do so:
Absolutely. Photographs of the car damage help the insurance adjuster understand the magnitude of the car crash, and also helps engineering experts determine the speeds of the vehicles prior to the crash. By knowing this information, experts can determine the amount of forces that are exerted on your body, and the types of injuries those forces can cause. This is important because the insurance company may try to claim that the car accident did not produce enough force to cause the injuries that you claim to of suffered.
Also, the location of the damage on the cars involved in the crash will help to explain how the crash happened. As time goes on, the other driver may claim that they were in their Lane when the collision happened. However, by looking at skidmarks or gouge marks in the road, you now have evidence to show that the impact happened outside of their lane.
Florida Statute section 316.066 sets forth the reporting written requirements when a car crash happens in Florida. A Florida Traffic Crash Report, Long Form must be completed within 10 days by the law enforcement officer who investigates the crash under these circumstances, among others:
In those cases where a Long Form Florida Traffic Crash Report is not required, the law enforcement officer will complete a short form crash report or provide a driver exchange of information form to be completed by all drivers and passengers in the crash. The short form reports include the date, time and location of the crash
Identifying all of the proper parties, as well as their insurance companies, is critical when beginning your car crash claim in Florida. Specific information can be requested from the drivers of the vehicles involved in a crash, as well as directly from their insurance company. This information will give your lawyer, should you choose to have one, the necessary information and advising you of your insurance claim rights.
The contract of insurance that you have with your insurance company governs this duty. It is important that you contact your insurance company as soon as practical after a car accident to report the claim. Your insurance policy may have a “duty to cooperate” clause, requiring you to report the claim as promptly as possible and further cooperate with your insurance company in gathering the basic facts for them to establish your claim. If you fail to notify your insurance company within a reasonable time of the car accident, they may deny coverage to you for the crash. What a reasonable time means depends on the circumstances of the crash and the language of the insurance policy. If you are seriously injured, and not able to contact your insurance company, it is best if you have your lawyer may contact or a family member as soon as practical.
They will ask you many questions, including the following:
This is just a short list of the types of questions that your insurance company may ask you following a car accident.
The answer is no. There is no obligation for you to contact the other driver’s insurance company after a car accident. There may be a circumstance where you may not have adequate insurance to cover the damage to your car, and you may have to deal with the other driver’s insurance company to get your car fixed or possibly get a rental car. In those situations, it is important to be aware that the other insurance company is looking out for its best interest, and that of its insured, the other driver. Not you.
They may try to get a recorded statement from you, which is not advisable. See Giving Recorded Statements in Florida Car Accidents. If you feel like you have to communicate with the other driver’s insurance, it’s advisable that you have a lawyer coordinate that communication with them, particularly if you have an injury claim. Lawyers will help you understand your obligations under these insurance policies and work with to coordinate communication between insurance companies in order to avoid any missteps.
Florida law does not provide that you must give a recorded statement after a car accident. Insurance companies like to take recorded statements of all of the drivers in a car accident, particularly if you are making an injury claim. Be very wary about giving a statement to an insurance company other than your own. They are out to look after their interest and that of the person that hit you, not yours.
When it comes to giving a recorded statement to your insurance company, there is generally a duty to cooperate in the contract of insurance between you and your insurance company. Some insurance contracts may require you to give a recorded statement as part of your obligation under that insurance contract. Other insurance policies may require you to give a statement, but not necessarily recorded statement.
When you give a recorded statement to an insurance company, it can be used against you later on in your personal injury case. If you are in doubt about your obligations under your insurance policy, you can seek the assistance of a lawyer that can guide you through the process. Many times, lawyers can participate in recorded statements between you and your own insurance company making sure that they don’t cross the line and what they may ask you.
As I said above, there is no law in Florida that mandates you give a recorded statement. However, there may be a duty to cooperate with your own insurance company according to the terms of your insurance contract. There is no duty to cooperate with the other driver’s insurance company. With a car accident in Florida, if the other driver’s insurance company is contacting you telling you that you must give a recorded statement to them or their investigator, this is simply not true.
Most people are generally honest, good people. They believe that they have nothing to hide by giving a recorded statement to the other party’s insurance company or their own. However, insurance companies can use recorded statements against you. They can gather facts that you are unaware of in order to deny the claim or limit the amount of compensation that they are in, good faith, required to pay you. Remember, they are trained insurance representatives that have a script of questions to ask you. They are carefully crafted questions to give the insurance company an advantage in your claim.
As I said above if you are in doubt about your obligations under your insurance policy, and whether to give them a recorded statement, you can let your lawyer know and he or she can participate in the recorded statement to make sure that it is properly conducted.
If you gave a recorded statement after a car accident in Florida, you are generally entitled to a transcript of the recorded statement. However, there may be costs associated with getting that transcript. If you hire a lawyer to represent you in your car accident claim in Florida, that lawyer may request a copy of that recorded statement for you so that they will have a complete understanding of the facts that they must deal with in your claim.
If your car is not operable, or cannot be operated in a safe manner, then it should be towed from the scene. Generally, law enforcement maintains a rotating list of tow truck companies that they will call if they determine that the car should be towed away. They will arrive on the scene and provide you information about the tow charges, and where your car will be towed.
Even if the car accident is not your fault, you may still be responsible for these tow charges so be very careful. Tow charges can range anywhere from $125-$250 depending on the distance to where the vehicle will be towed. Whether these tow charges will be paid by your own insurance company depends on the policy of insurance that you purchased. If you did not buy tow coverage, then you will be forced to look to the at fault driver’s insurance company to see if they will cover the tow charges. Other benefits, such as AAA or some other auto club benefit can potentially pay for these charges regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
Typically, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will not pay anything including tow charges until they determine whether their driver was at fault for the accident. Sometimes this analysis on their part can take two weeks or more. Meanwhile, your car is sitting in a storage yard accumulating charges on a daily basis.
Storage charges can run $25 a day or more and can amount to a great deal amount of money that you will have to pay before they release your car. In fact, in Florida, they can actually impose a lien on the car until those charges are paid, forcing a sale of the car to pay for their charges.
If you don’t have tow coverage or coverage for paying storage charges, you may want to consider towing the car to your home and keeping it there until a coverage determination can be made. This will save on the storage fees until the insurance companies can work out who’s at fault and who has the coverage to pay.
If you are governed by a homeowners or condominium association you may want to check whether those association rules will permit you to store a disabled vehicle on your property.
Don’t try to drive the car. Use of the vehicle that is not safe to operate not only jeopardizes your safety and the safety of your family, but also those of other motorists on the road. Also, if you should operate a vehicle that’s unsafe and cause damage or injury to someone else, this exposes you to liability for the damages that you cause.
If your car is properly operating, there should be no problem continuing to drive it. It is important that you check all of the turn signals, headlights, brake lights and other lighting systems on your car before operating it. Also, I suggest that you have the car looked at by a certified mechanic to determine whether there is any unknown damage to other systems, such as the braking system, radiator or other mechanical systems that may be damaged, and unknown to you.
Also, I would verify with your insurance company that it is okay to continue to operate the car during the time they are evaluating the property damage.
Don’t try to drive the car. Use of a car that’s not safe to operate not only jeopardizes your safety and the safety of your family, but also those of other motorists on the road. Also, if you should operate a vehicle that’s unsafe and cause damage or injury to someone else, this exposes you to liability for the damages that you cause.
Make sure that your insurance company knows that the vehicle is not safe to operate. If you have Rental Car Reimbursement coverage, they should make arrangements for you to obtain a rental car subject to the policy that you have in place.
If you don’t have rental car reimbursement, and have no access to either a rental car or another vehicle, you may have to rely on public transportation or rideshare services to get around. Make sure that you save the receipts for this type of transportation, as the cost may be recoverable in your damage claim.
It is important that you report the car damage to your insurance company as quickly as possible. They will want to send an adjuster out either to your home, or to the location that your car has been towed in order to determine the damage to your vehicle. Waiting too long to report the damage claim to your insurance company not only delays the repair process to your car, but also could potentially jeopardize your insurance coverage.
Typically, your insurance company will determine where the car is located and set up a mutually-convenient time for the property damage insurance adjuster to inspect the car. The adjuster’s inspection typically will involve photographs and various notes concerning the damage to the car. I always suggest that you be present during this inspection to point out specific areas of damage so that they are not missed by the adjuster. I’ve had cases where the property damage adjuster assumes that certain vehicle damage was “pre-existing“ to the car accident, and later claim not to cover those damages. This may later become a point of contention between you and your insurance company that we can assist you with.
Typically the property damage adjuster will leave you there claim number and contact telephone number for ease of communication. You will also be entitled to a copy of the appraisal report highlighting the estimated repair costs for the car.
You may need to rent a car to get to work or school after your Florida car accident, particularly if your car is disabled or is going to have to spend some time in the body shop. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from getting your own rental car and paying for it. If the accident was the fault of the other driver, you may be able to make a claim for the rental car reimbursement.
In most cases, however, if you purchased Rental Car Reimbursement on your insurance policy that will typically pay so much money per day for a specific period of time towards your rental car. Typically, these amounts can be $25-$30 a day for up to 30 days. Additional coverages can be increased depending on your needs.
Rental Car Reimbursement coverage is not automatically added to your insurance policy. You have to ask for it and it will cost an additional premium.
The billing for the rental car will typically be made directly from the rental car company to your insurance company. However, it is very important that you monitor the time remaining on your Rental Car Reimbursement Coverage
Deductibles & Time Limits
Typically, there are no deductibles on your Rental Car Reimbursement coverage. That means that if you go and rent your car you will not be responsible for a deductible amount before the Rental Car Reimbursement coverage kicks in. This is different from other coverages such as collision or comprehensive which may contain a deductible amount that you are responsible for.
When making a claim with your insurance company, you or your attorney, will determine whether you have Rental Car Reimbursement and what the per-day limit and time will be. You will then have the option of renting your car at any rental car company you choose subject to the specific limits of the policy you purchase.
You typically have the option of renting your car at any rental car company you choose subject to the specific limits of the policy you purchase.
Be aware that rental car companies have their own rules with respect to renting cars from them. For example, many rental car companies in the state of Florida will not rent to anyone under the age of 25. So if you are 18 years old, and have Rental Car Reimbursement through your own auto insurance company, you still may not be able to rent a car because you may not meet the guidelines for the rental car company.
Also, rental car companies may require you to leave your personal credit card information as security for any damages associated with the car, even if you have Rental Car Reimbursement. This could be a problem to people who don’t have credit cards. I’ve seen rental car companies actually demand a cash deposit for people that have Rental Car Reimbursement but don’t have credit cards. I have also seen that having a debit card is not sufficient for leaving this type of security with the rental car company. Many will require an actual credit card so that they can protect their interest in the rental car.
Check with your local rental car companies and review their credit card and age requirements for renting a car.
After your rent a car it is very important that you monitor the time remaining on your Rental Car Reimbursement coverage. For example, if you only have 30 days rental car reimbursement, and your car takes 35 days to get fixed, you may be responsible for the extra five days of rental costs. That’s why it’s important to coordinate the repairs of your vehicle and communicate with the body shop as quickly as possible. While your body shop may not be under a time limit to complete your car, your coverages may be limited, and ticking away. Your attorney can assist you in this regard. Continuously make calls to the body shop to check on the status of the car. If they are ordering parts and at a standstill, find out when those parts will be available and when they will expect to get the car finished. Stay on them to get the job done quickly and correctly. Any delays in fixing your card may ultimately cost you money an additional rental car expenses.
If you believe you’re injured as a result of a car accident, call 911 immediately, and request emergency medical treatment. I’ve had cases where people believed that they had no serious injury, failed to seek emergency medical treatment only to find out that a serious, life-threatening injury occurred and they were unaware of it. For instance, several years ago I have a new client come to my office and while in my conference room she pointed out some unusual bruising behind her ear. The bruising did seem suspicious and she was directed to go to the emergency room as quickly as possible. After diagnostic tests were run, it was determined that she suffered a rare skull fracture, and was leaking cerebrospinal fluid!
Also, if babies, toddlers and small children were involved in the crash, I recommend that emergency medical treatment be obtained for them. Babies, toddlers and small children often do not know how to report pain and unusual symptoms, leaving them more susceptible to untreated injuries following a car crash. It’s always best to get them checked out to make sure that there are no underlying, hidden injuries they may have sustained.
Also, if you or anyone in your car is pregnant, I also recommend that you seek emergency medical treatment to check on the status of the unborn child. There are many types of injuries that can occur to an unborn child as a result of the sudden forces that are imparted upon a vehicle during a car crash. In some instances, the seatbelt itself can cause injury, including placental abruption, possibly resulting in lack of oxygen to the unborn child. In many instances, while the mother may feel she’s suffered no injuries in the car crash, it’s important that fetal monitoring and other medical diagnostic tests be performed to determine the health of her unborn child.
Making this decision depends upon the level of injury and the medical opinions of the first responders at who are making medical evaluations at the scene. If you are in doubt as to whether you should go to a hospital or an urgent care center, it’s better to go to a hospital, better yet, a Level I Trauma Center for emergency treatment. The rationale behind this is that they presumably have more capability in the form of diagnostic testing, as well as trained emergency room physicians familiar with diagnosing and treating emergency medical conditions.
The short answer is no, but it does come with some explanation. If you are injured, and decide not to go to an emergency room, you are taking a risk that you have hidden injuries that are not getting proper diagnosis and treatment. For your own health, I always say, “When in Doubt, Get Checked Out”.
My past experience with insurance companies have led me to conclude that they value the claim for less money if the claimant does not seek emergency medical treatment after a car crash. This is not to say that you did not suffer any injury, it is merely a factor that they look at in evaluating the claim to determine how much money its worth. I have had instances where an adjuster will tell me, that because my client did not seek emergency medical treatment, “it must not be that serious an injury”.
It’s good news that the diagnostic tests that were run by the hospital did not show injury to some parts of your body. Typically, depending on your complaints when you arrive, hospitals will run certain diagnostic tests such as CAT scans or x-rays. They will perform simple neurological and physical examinations. They may keep you for a certain period of time under “observation”. In many cases, they may discharge you to follow up with your primary care physician and may even discharge you with a recommended prescription or over the counter pain medication.
A word of caution here: I have seen that many of the injuries in car accident crashes involve injury to the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. This is essentially your neck, mid back, and low back. I have seen clients complain of head pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, pain and numbness radiating down either of their arms or legs. These types of symptoms are consistent with disc injury and potential nerve involvement, and may go undiagnosed by the hospital during your emergency room visit.
How is this possible? Hospitals typically perform CAT scan imaging studies and x-rays to determine whether there are any broken bones or injury to anatomical structures. But most of our body is comprised of soft tissue and not hard tissue, such as bones. It makes sense that we can have injuries to internal organs, ligaments, muscles and vertebral discs that would never show up on an x-ray or a CAT scan. The typical imaging study to look at injury to these structures is magnetic resonance imaging, or MRIs. More likely than not, we have seen hospitals not perform MRI’s during emergency medical treatment, yet this is the type of test that is more often used to determine injury to soft tissue such as vertebral discs.
It is important that potential injury to these other parts of our body be properly diagnosed, and if determined to because by the car crash, presented to the insurance company as part of your claim.
It is recommended that you seek a physician that will be able to order the proper diagnostic tests, and make a determination as to whether the injuries you have sustained our more likely than not caused by the car crash. These are important aspects in presenting an insurance claim to the insurance company.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, it is highly recommended that you call 911 and seek emergency medical treatment. First responders, such as paramedics, are trained to evaluate potential injuries on the scene and can make recommendations to you regarding the necessity for emergency medical treatment. This is not something that you should just leave to your own opinion.
Also, if the injuries are severe and traumatic, it is highly recommended that you be transported for emergency medical care by the paramedics or ambulances on the scene. They will have life-saving equipment for any complications that may arise during transit to the hospital. Also, there are certain medical conditions that may manifest during transport. A portion of the emergency transport fees will typically be paid from your Personal Injury Protection benefits under your automobile insurance policy. Any co-payments or deductibles may then be applied to any health insurance benefits that you have.
Typically, emergency medical care after a Florida car accident is paid by your Personal Injury Protection benefits under your own automobile insurance policy. Additional amounts can also be paid by any Medical Payments (MedPay) coverages you may have under that policy. Depending on your specific automobile insurance policy, your PIP benefits will pay 80% of all medical expenses, over your deductible amount, and up to a predetermined limit, typically $10,000. This is subject to certain guidelines and restrictions under Florida law. Other states may have higher PIP limits.
Co-pay and deductible amounts may also be paid by your Medical Payments coverage should you have that on your policy. In addition, any amounts not covered by PIP and Medical Payments, can be submitted to your health insurance company for payment according to the terms of that policy.
Ultimately, there will be some deductible amounts and co-pay amounts that will go unpaid by insurance, and be your responsibility. All of these “out-of-pocket“ are damages that we seek in personal injury claims for your benefit. Also, because certain insurance policies require that you pay them back for any amounts that they paid for treatment relating to your accident, we will also seek the amounts paid by your health insurance or other insurance, such as med pay, so that they can be paid back at the end of the case.
Yes, partially. Your health insurance policy, should you have one, should start paying any amounts not covered under your PIP policy. The hospital or other emergency medical treatment facility, will typically ask for both your auto insurance card and your health insurance card. It is important to note that your health insurance company will typically have a lien, or right of recovery for the amounts they paid, out of the proceeds of any insurance claim you make.
Typically, yes. There are broad federal and state laws that govern the lien rights that help health insurance companies recover amounts they paid as a result of a car accident, or any other liability claim involving the negligence of another. Depending on the health insurance contract, they may have up to a 100% right of recovery for all amounts that have been paid for treatment to you related to your automobile accident claim.
In most instances, as soon as the health insurance receives medical billing that appears to be related to a liability claim, they will send you a letter asking whether the treatment was related to an accident. They will also ask for more details concerning the accident and whether you are represented by attorney. They will note their file and make sure that there lien rights are protected.
It is important that your attorney contact your health insurance company to determine what lien rights, if any, they have in the recovery that you make. Your attorney should also review the health insurance contract to determine their legal right to reimbursement, and not just take their word for it. There are strict federal and state statutes that govern these lien rights, and you or your attorney’s failure to protect the health insurance company’s right to recovery of their lien could expose both you and your attorney to potential civil and criminal liability.
Also, it’s important that you or your attorney determine whether charges that are part of your health insurance company’s lien, are actually related to the automobile accident. I’ve seen many cases where the health insurance company is trying to seek reimbursement for unrelated medical charges, such as treatment for the flu, or other medical conditions that are not related to the injury suffered in the car crash. These charges are typically not entitled to be recovered by the health insurance company, and should be removed from the asserted lien.
In many instances, your attorney can negotiate with the health insurance company to lower the amount of the lien in order to maximize the recovery that you make in your claim. This is often an arduous process, but it is important in order to maximize the money that you recover for your injuries.
It is my opinion, that it is inherently unfair that you engage the service of an attorney, pay that attorney a percentage of your recovery, take the risk of fighting your claim, only to hand over 100% of the lien amount asserted by a health insurance company that took none of the risk. We must, however, follow the law and the terms of the health insurance contract in these situations.
Negotiating liens and medical expenses is a very important function of an attorney in order to maximize full recovery to their clients.