Car accidents can be scary and those with injuries are especially so. If you get into a car crash (any type of car accident and there are injuries, there are some things you should do. And not do. Read on to learn from a skilled motor vehicle accident attorney.
4 Things You Must DO After an Accident
It might seem like if you are not at fault after an accident or if you are at fault there are certain things you should do to protect your legal rights in both situations. This list is going to discuss things you should do right after an accident with injuries right after and as time passes. there are several things you should be diligent about doing after the accident and failure to do these things can end up hurting you in the long run if you end up involved in a lawsuit.
1. Stay at the Scene
Under Florida law, if someone is injured in an accident, all parties are required to stay at the scene. Call 911. Medical help and law enforcement will be dispatched. The police will gather information and file a report on your accident. This will be important to you down the road and can help establish fault and provide needed details in any future lawsuit—whether you are the plaintiff or defendant. If you are able, it’s a good idea to take your own photos of the accident scene. If you are not able but others can, request that they do so. It can never hurt and may be of significant value in the future.
2. File Your PIP Claim
All Florida drivers are required to have personal injury protection (PIP) on their vehicle insurance plans. Minimum coverage amounts are $10,000 for medical coverage, $10,000 for disability benefits, and $5,000 for death benefits. These coverage amounts are per person injured in your accident and cover you, your passengers, and those injured by your motor vehicle. Medical benefits pay 80 percent of your costs up to your coverage amount, and disability benefits pay for 60 percent of your wages up to the coverage amount. Benefits are to be paid within 30 days of submitting your claim, though the insurance company can spend up to 60 days investigating for fraud.
When the state Legislature passed this no-fault law, it was to ensure that medical and lost wages claims were paid promptly and, in theory, to cut down on accident litigation. In reality, it allowed insurance companies to refuse to pay 75 percent of an insured person’s medical benefits simply by determining that he or she did not have an emergency medical condition. The determination is based on where you were provided care and who provided it, but it is oftentimes difficult to see that these decisions were rationally made. The good news is that you can contest it and a competent accident attorney can help. But it’s still a process and delays payment of your benefits.
3. Seek Prompt Medical Attention
If the injuries from your accident are severe enough, those injured with be transferred immediately from the scene of the accident to a medical treatment facility. Other parties may not experience symptoms until after the accident. It is not uncommon for those experiencing traumatic brain injuries to not show symptoms for days or weeks after the initial injury. Whiplash symptoms can increase in severity after an accident as well. However, you must seek medical care within 14 days of your accident for PIP to cover you. It is always a good idea to seek medical treatment immediately, even if just to be checked out for any non-obvious injuries and even if you don’t feel injured at the time. And if you begin to experience symptoms in the days after your wreck, don’t put off going to the doctor. You could wait yourself out of compensation.
4. Document, Document, Document
Documentation is key in a situation where you are seeking reimbursement of costs. Make sure you keep all the bills you receive and receipts for any out-of-hospital costs you incur, such as those for medications, follow up appointments, medical devices such as walking canes or wheelchairs, and physical or other therapy.
Documenting time you have to take off of work to deal with your injuries is also important. Keep detailed records of days and hours you have to miss because of your initial hospital stay and for any subsequent appointments. Also track any tips, bonuses, commissions, or retirement contributions you miss out on as a result of not being able to work. Your employer may be required to verify your employment for the last 13 months to your insurance company, so don’t be surprised if you are asked to request that information.
Depending on your situation and how serious your injuries are, you may exceed the limits of your policy coverage. Even just a few days in the hospital can easily amount to over $10,000. While your PIP won’t cover over your policy limit, you should continue to document your expenses over that amount. It will become important in establishing the amount of damages you could be entitled to in any subsequent legal action you might take (or that may be taken against you).
2 Things NOT to Do After an Accident
If you were at fault (even only partially) in your accident, you may face legal action at some point after your wreck. If a lawsuit against you is not settled out of court, your case will proceed to a jury trial and jurors will determine fault and a damages award amount. Because it may not be obvious at the scene (and especially when it is), there are some things that you should not do—at the scene or afterward.
1. Admit Fault
Do not admit fault to the other people involved in your accident—not at the scene, not if another party contacts you, and especially not if an attorney contacts you. If legal proceedings are commenced against you, you should seek the help of an experienced accident attorney right away. Both sides of the case will conduct investigations, as will law enforcement. Your admission could be used against you and it is best to not give any information to an opposing party, even if you feel it is innocuous.
2. Speak to the Other Party Without an Attorney
It is always in your best interest to be represented by competent counsel when speaking to the other party. This is especially important once a lawsuit has been filed. Never speak to the other party’s attorney on your own. Not knowing the ins and outs of the legal system, the rules of evidence, and the nuances of personal injury law can put you at a serious disadvantage when speaking with an opposing party’s attorney. You may end up saying things that can hurt you down the road. If you were in a serious wreck where other people were injured, seek the assistance of an attorney right away for a free consultation.
How an Attorney Can Help
You might be thinking that you don’t need an attorney to handle your case. But whether you are being sued by another party or you’ve incurred costs over what your PIP will cover, an attorney can protect your interests and see that you are not taken advantage of by the other party. Personal injury is a complicated area of law and trying to tackle it on your own without legal training could be a decision with negative consequences.
Commencement of the Suit
If you incurred costs that your insurance will not cover would like to seek damages from the other party in your wreck, an attorney can help you get that process moving. But it’s important to seek counsel as soon as you can. Under Florida law, you have four years from the date of your accident to file your personal injury suit. That may seem like a long time, but the longer you wait, of course, the longer it will take you to receive the damages to which you’re entitled and the longer you will deal with the stress of not being able to pay your medical bills. You may even end up in bankruptcy—medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy filings in the United States. Don’t let it get that far.
As a plaintiff, your attorney will help you determine who the appropriate defendants are. Although this sounds like a fairly straightforward question, it can get complicated. If the other driver was on the clock and driving for his or her employer, should you also include the employer in your suit? And in most suits, at least one insurance company will be involved.
Regardless of whether you’ve been sued or are filing the suit, your case will probably proceed fairly soon with negotiation. The attorneys will enter with a position that their clients have approved and see where the other stands. It’s rare that a settlement actually comes out of the first round or so of negotiations. But as the case progresses and new facts come to light, the parties bring these to the negotiating table and use them to improve their positions.
If you are the plaintiff, your attorney is required by law to inform you of any settlement offer that is made in your case. He is allowed to give you advice on how adequate he thinks the offer is and whether he thinks you may receive a better result at trial, but ultimately it is your choice to take the offer or proceed to trial. You are the captain of the ship.
While most personal injury suits are settled out of court, if a settlement cannot be reached, your case will proceed to a jury trial. The skills necessary to be a good litigator are not ones that every attorney possesses. It requires knowing how to select, read, and speak to a jury to tell your side of the story effectively. Your attorney needs an expert understanding of not only the law that applies to this type of litigation, but also to the rules of evidence and procedure that will govern your trial.
When selecting an attorney, you want to choose someone who not only has trial experience, but personal injury trial experience. Personal injury is very different from, say, criminal law and you want someone who knows the intricacies of this body of law.
Contact an Orlando Car Accident Attorney if You Still Have Questions or Need Help With Your Claim
If you were in a car accident with injuries, contact an experienced and competent auto accident attorney to represent your interests. Look for someone who is willing to see your case through from filing to jury verdict, if necessary. Although no two cases are the same and no attorney can guarantee a specific result in your case, look for attorneys with a proven track record of recovery for their clients.