A car accident is an intense, traumatic experience. This is a risk we all face every day when we get behind the wheel of our cars. Most people don’t dwell on this and for good reason, but the reality is that accidents happen every day too. If you live in the state of Florida, there are specific steps you can take following a car accident that will make a huge impact on the resulting auto insurance claim and your personal injury case if you end up wanting to hire an attorney.
If you’re someone who appreciates being prepared for the more difficult challenges life throws at us, then get ready to take some notes. This information comes from an experienced personal injury legal team in Pinellas, but please note this should not be construed as official legal advice from an attorney. If you have more specific questions regarding an accident or injury, then please call (727) 821-3195 to speak to one of our personal injury attorneys directly.
1) Ensure Your Safety First
Depending on the severity of the accident, passengers may not be conscious or may not be able to physically move. If you’re capable of evaluating yourself and your passengers, you can check for injuries. Just keep in mind that car accidents often cause injuries that aren’t immediately apparent. You’ll likely be in a state of shock due to the trauma of the collision, so take some deep breaths and try to find some calm. Intense emotions are a normal response and you could likely make the situation worse if you act on those emotions.
If you or your passengers are unable to move, or it is not safe to try and move, then it’s recommended that you keep your seatbelt fastened and turn on your emergency (hazard) lights if you can. If it was a minor collision and you can move, turn off the vehicle and see if you can find the emergency kit (check the glove compartment). In fact, we recommend that you review your car’s emergency supply kit now. The National Safety Council recommends that kits should be reviewed twice a year and that your car should have:
- An inflated spare tire along with tools needed to replace a flat tire
- Jumper cables
- Reflective triangles, cones, or bright colored cloth
- First aid kit
Exit your vehicle only if it is safe to do so. If your passengers can move, then you can help everyone get a safe distance away from the car. Remember to keep taking deep, calming breaths. It can be easy to get taken up in the emotion of the incident and you don’t want to leave a child in a hot car while trying to deal with the other driver or the police. Also don’t leave the scene of the car accident yet.
2) Call 911 If You Can
If the car crash was severe, you’ll need to be very careful when attempting to move or assist other passengers. It’s recommended that you request an ambulance even if only minor injuries are present. You should be seeking medical attention right away for yourself and your passengers. Car accidents can cause severe injuries that aren’t immediately apparent, so it’s a smart move to get checked out by a doctor just to be sure.
Figure out the location of your accident (to the best of your ability) before you call 911. This will make this part of the process go smoother. If you aren’t able to identify the location specifically, dispatch will have you look for mile markings, traffic signs, or distinguishing landmarks. Florida law requires that you report an automobile accident to the Florida Highway Patrol or the police immediately if any of the following conditions are met:
- Anyone was injured or killed
- The at-fault driver fled the scene (hit and run accident)
- The at-fault driver was intoxicated
- Resulting property damage totals $500 or more
Informing the police of the accident may also be required in order to file an insurance claim. While this may not get into evidence, it can be very helpful to a personal injury attorney if you choose to hire one. If someone requests that you do not call the police, respectfully let them know that your insurance probably requires it. The fact is that the people who ask you not to call the police are expressing motives that are not in your best interest.
Depending on the location of the accident, it could take a while for the police to arrive at the scene. If they aren’t able to make it or are forced to leave before taking an official report, then you should go to the nearest police station to file a report as soon as you’re able. Official documentation of the accident will play a role in filing the insurance claim and would impact any resulting legal action taken.
3) Talk to the Other Driver & Witnesses After the Car Accident
Get the name, address, phone number, and license number of the other driver(s), car(s) involved in any way in the crash. Get the contact information for ALL WITNESSES who saw the crash, even if they arrived at the scene after the collision occurred. Those witnesses may have seen how the cars came to rest or how the at-fault driver behaved after the collision. It is not recommended that you put your faith in the police to collect this information from witnesses.
This is not to say that the police in Florida aren’t diligent in executing their jobs, but experienced personal injury attorneys will tell you that the police do have a tendency to not thoroughly review all of the pertinent information at the scene before writing a ticket. They might miss recording the names of important witnesses or overlooking key details in their traffic reports.
If you’re able to, then take matters into your own hands, speak to all witnesses and collect this important information. You should also always exchange insurance information with the other driver(s). If you’re facing significant medical bills and want to hire a personal injury lawyer, this will save time later.
4) Take Pictures of the Accident
Take pictures of all the cars involved and make sure they show where they are in relation to surrounding areas. If you can, get pictures from different distances and from numerous angles, including from the side of the road to close-ups showing damage to all the cars. Use your phone if it is functioning. If you do not have a working phone or a camera, you could ask a witness to take some and then have them text/email them to you. If you have a contact that lives near the scene of the accident, then you could ask them to come take pictures for you too. Photographic evidence is extremely important when determining fault and if you desire to take legal action afterward.
5) Document As Many Details As You Can
However you prefer to, take time to record or write down as many details about the car accident as you can. This includes noting any injuries, road conditions, weather conditions, or anything else that you think may have contributed to the incident. Many important details can fade from your memory quickly otherwise. Note details from any conversations or admissions made by the person who caused the crash, bystanders, and witnesses. Details about times, conversations, and who spoke with who are heavily contested in many insurance disputes.
6) File a Car Insurance Claim
Once you have sought the appropriate medical attention, the next step you need to take is filing a claim with your auto insurance provider. This process can be complicated and you will undermine the strength of your claim if you wait too long to file.
When you file your claim with your insurer you will have to present documentation to support it (why the previous steps are so beneficial). Besides the usual exchange of contact and insurance information at the scene of the accident, this documentation will include:
- Where the accident took place, the weather, and road conditions. The National Weather Service provides historical online information that can help you document conditions on the date of your accident.
- The names of responding officers and their badge numbers will be on the police report, but if you can document them on the scene, do so.
- Pictures of vehicle and property damage.
We’ve got a more in-depth guide on filing a car insurance claim after a car accident if you want to learn more.
7) Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer ASAP
You should consider speaking to a reputable personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal options after a car accident. If you call Herman & Wells, you’ll have an opportunity to review your case with an attorney, learn what your claim might be worth, and receive extremely valuable guidance for navigating this difficult situation. The problem is that many people don’t take any action or wait too long to contact an attorney after a car accident. In Florida, the statute of limitations states that a person can file a lawsuit up to 4 years after a car accident. This may seem like plenty of time, but the issue is that a lot of essential evidence an attorney needs is only going to be available for a couple weeks. If a client is proactive in contacting us, our personal injury attorneys could seek and obtain security footage showing the accident. This footage isn’t typically stored for longer than 2 weeks at any given location.
Call Herman & Wells After a Car Accident in Florida
You should know that there is nothing to lose by calling us. The initial case review is offered free of charge and our law firm operates on a contingency fee agreement for personal injury cases. What this means is that if you hire our firm, you’re not going to be getting an invoice from us. If we aren’t able to successfully pursue your claim, you won’t be responsible for covering the associated time and expenses incurred. If we are successful, our firm gets a portion of the final settlement or verdict as our contingency fee. So no invoices and only a significant check if we win. So please don’t hesitate to call (727) 821-3195 if you have been injured or lost a loved one as a result of another driver’s negligence in Florida.