As car accident attorneys, one of the things we get asked all the time is: “What do I do after I have a car accident?” This may seem like a simple question with a simple answer, but it is not.
Many times, after a car accident people are shaken up, scared, anxious, and not thinking clearly. They are not worried about gathering the information that they need such as how the accident occurred or whether there were any witnesses to the accident.
After an accident, it is always a good idea to call the police and get an officer on the scene as soon as possible. Trust me, nothing good ever came of “just being nice and not getting the police involved.” More often than not, it is not clear how an accident occurred or who was at fault. Allowing time to pass without making an official record of events makes it more likely that people will either forget the details of the accident or modify their story of how the accident actually occurred. This only causes problems later in the event you need to pursue a claim for injuries. Many people are surprised to learn that it can sometimes take several hours for an officer to arrive at the scene of an accident. Be patient! While you wait try to gather all of the information you can before the office arrives to streamline the process as much as possible.
Make an assessment of the scene if you are able to. Take note of where the other driver is: Are they still in their vehicle? Do they appear injured? Did they apologize for causing the accident? Take note of how you are feeling: Do you have any visible injuries, such as cuts or abrasions? Do you notice pain anywhere in your body? If you have any injuries, it is advisable to call emergency medical services to transport you to the nearest hospital or at least perform a physical assessment at the scene.
Take photographs of damage to any vehicles at the scene as well as of the position of the vehicles in the roadway, if possible. Look around to see if there are any witnesses. If there are, get their information, including their name, phone number, and address. The witnesses may or may not stay, but if they leave before the officer arrives, you can simply provide the witnesses’ information to the officer who will then contact them directly. Many witnesses will not stick around an accident scene, so this is a very important step.
For many of our cases, we hire accident reconstructionists, engineers, investigators, and even technicians who can pull crash data from a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder (EDR). There is a lot that goes into putting the pieces together following a car crash; particularly if the cause of the accident is not clear.
I have also noticed in the past year that many of my clients have started using dashboard cameras, which are relatively inexpensive. These are a great idea to have to document the mechanism of an auto accident.
Unfortunately, the State of Florida has one of the highest rates of motor vehicle accidents in the United States. This is one of the reasons that car insurance within the state is so high. In fact, some studies have shown that Florida’s auto insurance rates are over 50% higher than the national average.
Many people do not understand that under Florida law “full coverage” means this: $10,000 in medical payment coverage (which pays 80% of up to $10,000 in submitted medical bills, assuming that certain medical treatment is obtained within 14 days of the accident, regardless of fault) and $10,000 in property damage coverage (which only pays for damage to someone else’s vehicle when you are responsible for causing an accident).
People are often shocked to learn that nearly 30% of Florida drivers have NO INSURANCE AT ALL! The fact is the majority of auto accident cases I see are largely underinsured or uninsured; meaning there is not enough insurance coverage to compensate for a person’s injuries, medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and other damages.
I always stress the importance to my clients of obtaining what is called “underinsured” or “uninsured motorist” (UIM/UM) benefits for the reasons discussed above. This is the only type of coverage which will help you if the person who causes a car accident does not have an appropriate amount, or any insurance. Trust me, we understand the financial concerns involved with obtaining adequate insurance in Florida. In fact, I have some clients who pay nearly $1,000 month for auto insurance! But the cost of obtaining at least some amount of UIM/UM benefits is worth it considering the personal cost an auto accident can have on you and your family and the frequency with which they occur in Florida.
This article was written to give you a general overview of what to do immediately after a car accident occurs. Of course, all accidents differ in facts and circumstances, so the steps will change depending on the facts and circumstances of yours.
Last and finally, if you have an accident, please give me a call! I am happy to speak with you at any time at no cost to you.