On average, a person is involved in an automobile accident once every five years. The hiring of an experienced personal injury attorney is invaluable to help you from the moment your accident occurs. The Gina Rosato Law Firm understands the stresses of an accident and will help you take the necessary course of action to preserve your rights, treat for your injuries, and get the legal representation you need. This guide will go over many of the questions and actions that should be taken if you are involved in an accident.
Exchange Information with the Other Driver: Make sure that you mutually exchange your names, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers, car insurance information, and policy numbers with all parties involved, including passengers. Once you leave the scene, you have lost your opportunity to collect this important information which can leave you in a bad situation if you later realize your car has more damage then expected or that your injuries are worse that you thought at the accident scene. It is better to obtain the information and not need it, than need it and not get it. Florida law requires that drivers stop and exchange their personal and insurance information. If you leave the scene of an accident, you may be criminally prosecuted.
Call 911 and Seek Medical Attention Promptly: Tell your doctors about ALL of your symptoms. Keep all medical appointments and always tell your doctors about ALL the areas of pain and discomfort. Do no exaggerate your symptoms, but do not minimize them either. If another party is injured at the scene, you should contact 911 immediately for assistance. Stay on the phone with paramedics and follow their instructions until they arrive at the scene.
Contact the police: Make sure that you report the accident within twenty-four hours. Review the police report and make sure that all of the information on the report is accurate.
Obtain the Names of Any Witnesses: If you are physically able to, get as much information from everyone at the accident scene, especially any witnesses. Write down the tag numbers of the vehicles involved in the accident.
Get Photographs: If you are involved in a car accident, you should obtain photographs of your car, the car that hit you, the accident scene and your injuries. If you fall, you should take photographs of the area where you fell and the defective condition that caused you to fall. Photos serve as evidence of what you experienced, and juries find them to be powerful proof of your injuries. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. If you have taken pictures, make sure to provide those photographs immediately to your attorney.
Get Legal Representation: Some people avoid lawyers and try to handle the settlement negotiation process on their own. While the decision to hire an attorney is a personal choice, not hiring an attorney may cause you to waive your rights or not to be fully compensated for your injuries. Be sure to consult with an attorney to protect your rights.
Get your Car Repaired: You can choose the auto body repair shop and are not required to use the shop recommended by your insurance company or to obtain multiple estimates for the insurance company. When your vehicle is repaired it should be restored to at least the same condition it was before the accident.
Speak Only To Your Doctor or Attorney: Do not speak with the insurance company, its adjusters or its lawyers. Your attorney should be notified before you communicate with the insurance company. Many times the insurance company will request that you provide them with a recorded statement. The questions posed to you maybe confusing or may misrepresent what occurred.
Keep All Related Bills and Receipts: Be sure to save everything – rental car bills, medical bills, pharmacy bills and mileage. Immediately provide them to your attorney so they may deal directly with medical providers and respective parties on your behalf.
Review your Insurance Policy: Many people are under the impression that they have “full coverage” when they do not. There are multiple types of coverage you can elect when you renew your insurance policy. Here are a few:
Bodily Injury Coverage: This is protection offered if you or the driver of your vehicle injures another person while driving your car. Florida requires a minimum of $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) coverage, but the higher end of the range could be in upwards of one million dollars.
Personal Injury Protection Coverage: This will pay for medical expenses for you and your passengers, if injured in an accident. The typical amount of coverage is $10,000. The amount of the deductible varies with each policy.
Property Damage Coverage: This is the amount that the insurance company will pay to repair vehicles involved in the accident.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) Coverage – This type of insurance will cover you if you have been injured and the at-fault party has no insurance or inadequate insurance to compensate you for your injuries.
DO NOT: Admit that you were at fault to anyone, including witnesses. Do not sign any waivers on scene or before seeing an attorney. Do not make any statements to any insurance companies prior to meeting with an attorney.
DO NOT: Repair your car until you have fully documented the damage to your vehicle. You don’t want to rely on photographs taken by the other party’s investigator. These people are trained to minimize the appearance of damages in the photos. Take your own photos or ask your attorney to obtain photos that properly reflect the damage to your vehicle.
DO NOT: Release your medical records or sign an authorization until you speak with your attorney to make sure your confidentiality is protected.
DO NOT: Plead Guilty to a Traffic Offense Before Consulting Your Attorney. Ask your lawyer to evaluate your citation prior to setting a hearing date. Do not sign anything, or admit that you are at fault or it may negatively affect your injury claim.
OTHER COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Should I see a doctor? You may not feel any pain or discomfort immediately after an accident but you should still have a medical examination in case there are any hidden injuries. It is not uncommon for some people to feel worse a few days after an accident than they did at the accident scene.
Who will pay for my medical care if I am injured? If you have personal injury protection benefits on your policy, your insurance will cover your medical expenses up to your coverage amount less your deductible. However, certain exceptions apply so it is important to contact an attorney to assist you in navigating that process.
Can I select the doctor I want to treat with after the accident? You can choose any doctor you wish. I will assist you in seeking the best medical treatment to help you recover from your injuries.
What if I have to miss work to attend treatments after the accident? Keep an accurate record of date and times that you miss work. You are entitled to lost wages incurred as a result of the accident.
What happens to my medical bills after the accident? There are ways to postpone the payment of your medical bills until your case is resolved. This will prevent your unpaid medical bills from going into collections. It will also enable you to get treatment and pay for it later out of your settlement or trial compensation award.
Can I rent a car while my vehicle is being repaired? Yes. However, you may have limits on what your insurance company will pay for depending on your rental coverage for your policy term.
How much will I get to fix my car? You are entitled to be “made whole”, which means the insurance company should fix your car so its in the same condition it was prior to the accident. If the car repairs exceed the value, then the insurer may declare it a “total loss”.
How much does it cost to hire an attorney? Personal injury cases are handled on a contingency fee basis – which means you only pay an attorney fee if you recover money. If you recover nothing, you pay nothing. The attorney pays for all the costs associated with prosecuting your claim and gets reimbursed for those costs and his/her fees out of the settlement proceeds.
Do I have to sue to recover damages? After your treatment is completed and your case is investigated, a demand will be issued to the insurance company. Many times cases get resolved without the necessity of filing a lawsuit. However, if the insurance company does not make a fair offer on your case, filing a lawsuit maybe necessary. Your attorney should discuss with you the benefits and/or drawbacks of accepting or rejecting a settlement offer and whether or not an offer is reasonable so that you can make an informed decision on how to proceed with your case.
How much is my case worth? Every case and every client is completely unique. The potential value of your case depends on a multitude of factors from the significance of property damage to your vehicle to the credibility of the witnesses and parties in the case.
You can potentially be compensated for past and future lost wages, past and future medical expenses, as well as, past and future pain and suffering.