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.

A Floridian involved in a motorcycle accident fills out their injury claim form.

The Cliff Notes: Key Takeaways From This Post

  • 1
    After an accident, ensure safety of oneself and passengers, turn off the vehicle and turn on emergency lights if applicable.
  • 2
    Call 911 for medical assistance if necessary. Report the accident to the Florida Highway Patrol or police if any of certain conditions are met.
  • 3
    Collect contact information from other drivers and witnesses.
  • 4
    Take pictures of all involved cars from different angles and distances.
  • 5
    Document as many details as possible including conversations made by people at the scene.
  • 6
    File a car insurance claim with necessary documentation ASAP and consider talking to a personal injury lawyer for legal advice.

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
  • Flashlight
  • 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.