After being involved in a car accident, the steps you take could greatly influence the outcome of your personal injury claim. For instance, your actions will determine whether you will get compensation for medical costs and vehicle damage costs after an accident. If you take the wrong steps, you may be at fault for the accident yet you were a victim. At the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we advise clients on the right steps to take after being involved in a car accident to ensure they do not compromise their personal injury cases. We also help clients file compensation claims for all personal injuries.

What to Do After an Accident

Modern cars come with enhanced safety features. However, despite the safety enhancement, car accidents continue to occur. In Florida, statistics reveal that thousands of people are injured or lose their lives every year in car accidents in Florida. It is important to know what you should do after a car accident in Florida. It is crucial to know the Florida laws applicable to car accidents, how to gather evidence after an accident, and how to file an accident report. Some guidelines on what to do after an accident include the following.  

  • Do not Leave the Car Accident Scene

After a car accident, it is advisable to stay at the scene of the accident until law enforcement officers arrive. This is especially necessary if the accident involves death or serious injuries. Leaving the scene of the accident may subject you to Florida hit and run charges. Hit and run offenses have harsh penalties and fines; penalties include a one-year sentence and fines of up to ten thousand dollars. Hit and run accidents that involve death or serious injuries may attract additional charges.

If the accident does not result in injuries or fatalities, you may leave the accident scene. However, before leaving, ensure you identify yourself to the parties involved. For example, if another vehicle is involved in an accident, you may give your personal details and contacts to the other driver.

  • Seek Safety

In some instances, a vehicle accident may be dangerous. For instance, vehicles may burst into flames after a collision. It is advisable to move to a safe place in an accident scene to avoid facing further risks. You may move out of the vehicle, leaving the vehicle behind as evidence. You should not move a vehicle after an accident, especially where victims have sustained major injuries or fatalities. You may only move the vehicle if it poses a hazard to other road users and property.

  • Get Medical Treatment If Necessary

In some instances, you may leave the accident scene before the police arrive. For instance, if you have suffered injuries that call for emergency medical attention, you should not wait for the police. If you are not able to personally go to the hospital, you may seek assistance. If another individual offers to take you to the hospital, ensure that you leave your contact details with the other party.

Under Florida law, you are supposed to give your details to the other driver involved in the accident or to the law enforcement officers. You may disclose your name or the name of the vehicle owner if you are not the one and registration details of your vehicle. Upon request, you should display your driver's license to any party involved in the accident. 

  • Inform the Police

After being involved in an accident, the law requires you to pullover and inform the police; you may dial 911. The 911 operator will inquire about the nature of the accident. Some crucial details may include the seriousness of the accident, the injured persons, fatalities, and the exact location of the accident. The operator may also seek to know whether the scene of the accident is dangerous; for instance, a dangerous accident scene may have additional risks such as the possibility of a fire outbreak or explosions. Other hazards may include interrupted power supply lines or leaking fuels. An accident scene is also dangerous if a victim or victims have been trapped in the vehicle.

In disclosing the location of the accident, you may quote landmarks, street names, or mile markers. You may disclose the direction towards which you were traveling to assist the emergency personnel to get to the accident scene quickly. Whether the police will be dispatched to the accident scene will depend on factors like the seriousness of the accident. If the accident is minor, does not involve injuries, and it does not block traffic, the police may not come to the scene. In some instances, specialized rescuers such as firefighters may be dispatched to the scene. 

As outlined in the Florida law, if an accident involves injuries, you must notify the police as soon as possible and preferably within 24 hours after the occurrence of the accident. 

According to the law, you should not fail to report the accident, especially if someone was injured in the accident (even minor injuries) if death occurred, and if the damages sustained are extensive.  Failing to report the accident in the stipulated time may result in the suspension of your driver's license. You may consult your attorney if you are not certain whether to report or not.

When reporting the accident, if you have suffered major injuries and you are not in a position to report the accident, the report can be filed by a passenger in your vehicle as outlined under the law.

  • Assist Injured Persons

After a car accident, you may suffer minor or no bodily injury, but other people may be injured. Under such circumstances, it is lawful to offer reasonable assistance to the injured accident victims. Even if you are not the cause of the accident, the law requires you to offer help if needed. For instance, you may rush the injured people to the emergency room. At times, a victim with no visible injuries may request you to take him/her to a medical facility; you should agree.

Most people fear to offer assistance in an accident scene for fear of being held liable. According to Florida's law, you are not held liable for offering help in an accident scene. Any person who offers help in an emergency in good faith and not for compensation is not liable for any damages that may result from an act or an omission. Florida law encourages people to offer help in emergencies.

  • Do Not Admit That You Are Not Injured

After an accident, you may feel fine and show no physical signs of injury. However, you should not admit that you are well. During an accident, adrenaline rushes through your body, and this may make you numb to any pain or discomfort. Some injuries may take days to suffice. You may be seriously injured after an accident and yet fail to realize it.

In case paramedics come to the scene of the accident, allow them to examine you and conduct some tests on you even if you are not in pain. Should the medical experts point out that your injuries are serious and you need hospitalization, you should not decline.

Soft tissue injuries may not depict any visible symptoms at first; the symptoms may emerge later. Stating that you are not injured gives the other driver's insurance company a leeway to give you a lower compensation than you deserve or no compensation at all. It is important to note that you should not give false information about your injuries. Giving false information may undermine your credibility. If you are not sure as to whether you are injured or not, you can simply state that you will undergo a medical checkup to determine any present injuries.

If you did not go to a medical facility immediately after an accident, it is advisable to see your personal doctor as soon as possible. Delayed medical checkup and treatment is a loophole commonly utilized by insurance companies to deny accident victims their deserved compensation.

  • Do Not Admit Liability

Even if you feel that the accident was entirely or partly your fault, you should not admit fault.  Do not admit to any form of wrongdoing. Do not apologize to the other party as this may be evidence that you are at fault. Refrain from inquiring whether the other driver is injured or if he/she needs medical assistance. You may only assist the other party if they are seriously injured or if they request you for help. If the other party exerts pressure on you or tries to make you admit fault, request him/her to speak to your personal injury lawyer, but do not accept that you are guilty. 

  • Collect Evidence

After an accident, it will not take long before your vehicle and other vehicles involved in the accident to be towed away. All the witnesses will leave, and so will the law enforcement officer. If you can, it is wise to gather evidence of the accident scene.

As outlined under Florida law, information required in an accident scene involves the names of the drivers involved and their addresses, names of vehicle owners and addresses if the drivers are not the owners, names of the injured accident victims and their addresses, and registration numbers of the vehicles involved in the accident. 

Ensure that you capture the other vehicle's information. Record the license plate number of any vehicle involved in the accident. Other important information includes the color and the model of the other vehicles, including their year of manufacture. You may also record the other vehicles' VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). This information will be crucial when reporting the accident.

You can obtain the VIN from the driver's license. However, it is advisable to check and confirm the VIN on the other vehicles personally.  You can record the VIN from the driver's dashboard or the inner side of the door on the driver's side.  However, if the other driver does not consent, do not attempt to record the VIN by force as this may be used against you. 

  • Take Photos

There is no better way to gather evidence in an accident scene than taking photos.  Taking photos of the site may help your personal injury lawyer or accident expert to determine what happened/ caused the accident.  The photos capture all the damages on vehicles, making it easy to prove damages during the trial.  If you rush to the hospital before taking photos, you may later get back to the scene if possible and take some photos. If it is not safe to go near the accident scene, you may take photos from a reasonable distance.  

You may take photographs and videos using a camera or even your cell phone. Take as many photos as you can from different angles.  Photos will go a long way in proving your case. 

  • Obtain Witnesses' Contact Information

Statements from witnesses of the accident may greatly help you get compensation for injuries sustained in the accident. The law does not obligate witnesses to remain behind and speak to the accident victims. You will have to take the initiative to approach the witnesses and request their assistance. 

If a witness is willing, you may request him/her to write a statement of what he/she may have witnessed.  Any written statement should bear a date and the signature of the witness.  You may also note the contact details of the witnesses, including names, physical addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.  

  • Keep a Record of How The Accident Occurred

No matter how petty it may seem, write down all the information and facts about the car accident. Record how the accident occurred and do not leave out any details. For instance, you may record the specific time and date of the accident.  Write down the directions that each of the vehicles involved in the accident were moving. If the other driver was speeding, outline it in your record. If there were some adverse road or weather conditions, ensure that you state in your report. 

With the shock that comes with an accident, details about the accident may fade away from your mind. It may be hard to recall all the details during your personal injury claim process. It is therefore important to make a record of the accident soon after the occurrence of the accident.

  • Take Note of Your Injuries

Ensure that you keep a record of all your injuries and the medical treatment sought. You may use your phone to take pictures of your visible injuries after an accident or request other individuals to take photos of your injuries.

As you seek medical treatment, you may request the medical practitioner to take some photos of you. Having documented evidence of the injuries suffered will make it easier to make a personal injury claim.

In addition to recording your injuries, keep a record of your medical treatment. Take note of all medical experts who attend to you, including emergency room health professionals, surgeons, chiropractors, and physical therapists. Keep a record of all treatment procedures you undergo, and all the medications are given.  To help prove your medical expenses during the claim, you may request for bills and receipts showing the amount of money incurred in undergoing treatment. 

It is very easy to keep a record of medical treatment. However, it may be hard to keep a record of the pain and suffering that comes with an accident. You should keep a record of your emotional distress; for instance, if you undergo counseling after the accident, keep the evidence.  Personal injury compensation includes compensation for lost wages. You may keep a record of the days out of work as this will form a basis for your compensation.

  • Property Damage Evaluation

At times, a car accident may not involve bodily injuries but just a vehicle or other property damage. In other instances, an accident may involve both vehicle/property damage and bodily injuries. It is crucial to get a property damage evaluation to help assess the necessary compensation. You may obtain a damage valuation from your insurance company. If you are not comfortable with the valuation from your insurance company, you may get an independent evaluation. Get vehicle repair and replacement quotes that realistically outline the vehicle damages. 

  • Insist on an Investigation Report From the Police

In some cases of car accidents, you may not have any witnesses to give an account of what took place. In explaining how the accident took place, your story may contradict that of the other driver. If you do not insist on a police investigation to help reveal what happened, you may not get your deserved compensation for the injuries suffered.

During a police investigation, all the parties involved in an accident have to give an account of what happened.  It is particularly important to insist on police investigation if you are not at fault. If the liable driver dismisses the idea of calling the police, you may insist on a write-up/ admission of fault by the driver. 

  • Leave a Note on the Other Vehicle

What happens if you hit a stationary vehicle and the vehicle's owner is not in the vehicle? According to the law, if you hit a parked vehicle and you cannot trace its owner, you should write a note, explain what happened, and place a note on the vehicle. You have to include your name and your address as you draft the note. 

If you are in a position to locate the owner of the vehicle, you should present to him/her your driver's license and registration and allow him/her to record your identification details. Failure to comply may increase your liability.

  • Report The Accident to Your Insurance Company

You may fear to file a car accident claim with your insurance company to prevent your insurance premiums from going up. In Florida, it is illegal for insurance companies to raise insurance costs/rates, especially if the accident is not the fault of the policyholder. It is a requirement by most insurance companies for a driver to report an accident immediately it occurs.

Even if the accident is your fault, you should still report it to your insurance company. Even if you fail to report, the other party involved in the accident may go ahead and report. For example, if the other driver hires an attorney, the attorney may contact your insurance company demanding compensation. The outcome would be unpleasant if your insurance company is not aware of your accident, yet the company is supposed to handle the demands of the other driver's attorney.

By failing to report, you risk cancellation of your car insurance policy and in some cases, suspension of your driver's license. By reporting a car accident on time, your insurance company will have ample time to defend your claim, and this will further raise the likelihood of getting compensation.

  • Do Not Disclose Information to the Other Party's Insurance Company

The other driver's insurance company may send a representative to obtain a statement from you. This may happen a short time after the accident, often after two days. You should avoid disclosing any information to the insurance company of the other driver. You could greatly prejudice your personal injury claim by giving out information to the wrong recipients. Instead of giving information, refer to the insurance adjuster to your personal injury attorney.

The insurance company of the other driver may also request you to sign some forms, including employment or medical records. In persuading you, the insurance company may outline that after you sign the forms, they will successfully determine your medical expenses and lost wages to help them compensate you. You should not fall victim to the allegations; you only sign authorization forms for your own insurance company. 

Florida No-Fault Car Insurance Laws

For car accidents in Florida, the no-fault insurance system is applicable. After a car accident, the victim's personal insurance policy may provide compensation for most out of pocket expenses, including some medical expenses and wage loss. In such a case, the victim cannot hold the other driver at fault. However, if the accident results in serious injuries, loss of bodily function, permanent disfigurement, or scarring, the no-fault insurance law may not apply. Your personal injury attorney will have to prove the seriousness of your injury.

Contact a Clay County Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

The process of filing a personal injury claim requires proper calculation since the steps you take may greatly impact your compensation. It is therefore important to ensure that you get proper guidance after an accident. At the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we can guide you through the steps to follow after being involved in a car accident. Contact us at 904-494-8242 and speak to one of our attorneys. You should not risk losing a personal injury claim for a lack of proper guidance.