One of the most common questions that we hear from potential clients is, “How long do I have to file my injury claim?” The fact is, you generally have four years under Florida’s statutes of limitations law, but you should never wait that long. In fact, the sooner you contact a car accident lawyer, the better.
Contact a skilled personal injury attorney from Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney immediately after an accident, and you can focus on your recovery and get peace of mind knowing that someone is looking out for your interests.
Why Early Filing of a Claim Matters
When you are involved in an accident that results in an injury, your accident will involve a police report. Filing a claim as soon as possible allows you and/or your attorney to contact any witnesses to the accident before their memories of the accident diminish. Additionally, video evidence of your accident may be available at nearby businesses. Many of these businesses do not store videotapes of events unless something occurs. Filing a claim as soon as possible will help preserve this evidence for you.
Immediately after suffering an accident injury, you should contact an attorney who understands the rules as they pertain to insurance claims. An important reason to file a claim early is in the event the insurer initially denies your claim. The appeal process may take months, and the clock begins counting down the date the accident occurs.
Valid Concerns About the Extent of Financial Losses
Victims of a car accident often do not initially know how long they will be out of work, how long their injuries will require medical treatment, or the even full extent of their injuries. In some cases, injuries may exacerbate over time. This often means that you may not know the complete financial impact of your injuries for several weeks, and in some cases for months or years. This is fine, though, because your attorney will ensure that your healthcare provider has a full understanding of your injuries and the estimated time required for you to make a full recovery.
Florida Insurance Requirements for Automobiles
With more than 11 million vehicles registered annually in Florida, like in every state, drivers must carry a minimum amount of coverage. Florida follows no-fault insurance laws, which means that you must file your initial claim with your own insurance company.
The minimum insurance requirements are:
- Personal injury protection (PIP) – All drivers in Florida must carry a minimum of $10,000 in coverage. This is to pay medical bills associated with someone sustaining an injury in an accident.
- Property damage liability (PDL) – If an auto accident results in property damage, including to a vehicle, insurance generally covers it under PDL. Drivers are required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in PDL coverage.
Drivers often think their PIP policies will fully reimburse them for medical expenses. However, this is not the case. PIP policies cover only 80 percent of medical costs incurred due to the accident up to a maximum of $10,000. PIP coverage states it will pay for “all necessary and reasonable medical expenses,” but insurance companies often fail to state what they consider necessary and/or reasonable.
What Many Individuals Don’t Know About No-Fault Insurance
You may sustain substantially more financial losses than what a no-fault policy covers following an auto accident. The fact is if the responsible driver has only obtained the minimum coverage, and your injury is considered serious, your out-of-pocket expenses will likely exceed $10,000. Keep in mind, Florida allows individuals who suffer serious injuries to file personal injury lawsuits, as well.
The law defines serious injury as:
- An injury resulting in disfigurement
- An injury that limits the use of a part of your body
- Permanent limitations on the use of a part of your body
- Broken and fractured bones
- Injuries that result in full disability for 90 days or more
Keep in mind, many types of injuries may result in any one of these conditions. In some cases, a driver may also carry bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage, which is optional. This coverage may help the driver avoid being held personally liable for any expenses incurred as a result of an injury that he or she causes.
Common Types of Auto Accidents
Every car accident is unique. Some accidents occur more frequently than others; for example, rear-end accidents are the most common. One of the most common injuries that an accident victim will face in a rear-end collision is whiplash. In nearly all rear-end collisions, the driver who strikes the car is at fault, but you will still have to file a claim to obtain reimbursement for your injuries.
Some other types of accidents that commonly occur on roads include:
- Turning left accidents. One of the most dangerous intersection accidents is a left-turn accident. These types of accidents occur when drivers make a left turn when another driver has the right of way and is moving into the intersection. Drivers and passengers involved in left-turn accidents may suffer broken bones, facial or chest trauma from exploding airbags, and other internal injuries.
- Head-on collisions. Few things can traumatize you more than seeing another car headed towards you and knowing you cannot get out of the way. Head-on crashes cause serious injury, and unfortunately, they can also result in death. Sadly, these types of accidents often occur at high speeds, meaning your injuries may prove severe and may require long recovery times.
- Side-impact accidents. T-bone accidents, also known as broadside collisions, occur when drivers are failing to pay attention at intersections. Combine this inattentiveness with speeding, and the level of injury is often catastrophic. Victims of these accidents may face long recovery times and may suffer broken bones and other crushing injuries.
- Side-swipe accidents. We have all been on narrow roadways and may feel some concern that vehicles approaching us are coming too close and make us fear involvement in a head-on accident. However, when you are traveling on a multi-lane roadway, you may not think about the type of accident that involves another car striking you from the side. These accidents can occur because a driver fails to remain in his or her own lane or because he or she is merging from an onramp.
Serious Injuries Following Car Accidents
Victims of any type of car accident will likely suffer some form of injury. Every accident is different, and victims may suffer a range of injuries, from bruises and cuts to more serious injuries, including concussion, broken bones, and more.
Some injuries may prove life-altering, as well, including:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI is one of the most devastating injuries that someone can suffer in a car accident. In addition to the financial costs associated with recovery, there are life-long challenges involved with this type of injury.
- Spinal cord injury. Unfortunately, victims may suffer a permanent loss of movement in the neck or back and, in the most severe cases, may wind up paralyzed.
- Amputation. Head-on collisions could potentially cost you a limb. A dashboard that crushes your leg can cut off blood flow may mean that the only option is to amputate the leg.
Unfortunately, thousands of lives are lost annually in roadway accidents. If your family has been torn apart by the loss of a loved one in a car accident, you should seek immediate legal assistance.
Filing a Claim With Your Insurance Company
Once the trauma of the accident has passed, you have filed an official report, and you have sought medical care, you will need to contact your insurance company. Because of Florida’s no-fault laws, you should file your initial claim with your insurance company. However, do not get lulled into thinking the insurance company is going to protect your interests.
Your own insurance company has a vested interest in holding its expenses down, which means that it will likely try to minimize the amount of your claim. This is why you should never admit any fault, to stick to the facts pertaining to the accident, and to avoid signing any documents that the insurance company presents to you without first talking to a car accident lawyer. Remember, even with your PIP insurance coverage, disputes can arise after filing a claim.
Working With a Car Accident Attorney
Once you have hired a car accident attorney, inform your insurance company to send any correspondence to your lawyer as well. Some settlement offers may include important deadlines that you won’t want to miss.
Keep in mind, you are in charge of your case, even after you hire an attorney. Your personal injury attorney will provide you with the information and guidance you need to understand the law and how it applies in your case. Additionally, your attorney is serving as your advocate. He or she will be in the best position to let you know what options you have available to you and help you decide what steps you should take.
Documenting Information After an Accident
Many car accident victims think that once they have filed an official report and contacted their insurance company, they need not worry any further about documentation. However, this is a mistaken belief. After a car accident, you should make sure that you keep track of your physical condition and make note of any changes.
Keep track of all visits to your medical care team and make note of any new instructions or medications that your doctor prescribes you. Since your physical recovery depends on your following doctor’s orders, make sure you take careful note of any instructions provided to you by members of your medical team. Do not attempt to return to work unless and until your doctor clears you. Returning too soon will hamper your recovery.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney Immediately Following an Accident
Following a car accident, you have a lot of things on your mind and you may feel concerned about not only your physical health but your finances. You need to keep your focus on your physical recovery and getting back as close to your pre-accident normal as possible. The sooner you file a claim, the better off you will be in the long run. Serious injuries impact not only your ability to earn a living, but they also affect your entire family.
You may think you cannot afford an attorney, but most personal injury lawyers offer a free initial consultation. Second, contacting a lawyer right after an accident helps protect your rights, and helps you avoid settling for less than you might otherwise be entitled to collect for your injuries. Make no mistake about it, insurance companies will have aggressive legal help on their side. You need someone who is going to fight as hard for you as they would fight for their family members.
A car accident attorney who has worked on no-fault insurance cases, understands how to deal with medical teams, and is determined to do what is right for his or her client can make all the difference in a personal injury case.
Contact an attorney who has a proven record of success. While past results are not always a reflection of what could happen with your case, you will have the peace of mind knowing that the attorney you chose to work with has the skill and experience you need to get the best possible outcome for your car accident case.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814