What if I’ve been hurt in a car accident?

When you have been in a car accident, truck accident or motorcycle accident, understanding what to do next is of vital importance. Obviously securing the safety of everyone in the accident is the first priority. Call 911 if anyone is injured.

Get the name and address of the driver of each vehicle. The owner of the vehicle may not be the same as the driver, so be sure to also get the name and address of the owner of each vehicle involved. The license plate number of all vehicles involved should be recorded. Lastly, the name of the automobile insurance company for each vehicle should be obtained. When possible, get the names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of any eye witnesses to the accident. The passengers in all vehicles involved can also provide vital testimony.

If there is any type of injury, police should be called to investigate the accident, and prompt medical attention should be obtained. The police officer will write a report including the details of the accident as well as the nature and extent of any damages and injuries. Insurance companies usually will require that a report of the accident be obtained before providing any benefits.

You also want to take a photo or write down anything that may have contributed to the accident. Note the weather conditions at the time of the accident. Take pictures of anything that may have obstructed the view of the driver (i.e., overgrown bush, poor sign placement, etc.)

It is important to immediately contact your own motor vehicle insurance company to report a claim, however, it is wise to speak to an attorney before giving any details about your injuries or treatment or before providing a statement to your insurance company.

If you are seriously injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, don’t talk to any representative of the other driver’s/owner’s insurance company until you have sought the advice of your own attorney. If you do obtain the services of an attorney, he or she will be able to help you determine who you should talk to while continuing to protect your own interests. Once you have signed a contract with an attorney, he/she can also speak directly to the insurance company on your behalf.

What if I was involved in an Uber or Lyft accident?

Whether you were hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, were a passenger in an Uber or Lyft vehicle, or were driving for a rideshare, our personal injury attorneys can help. Our personal injury attorneys can assist in obtaining a financial recover for any pain and suffering you endured as a result of the accident as well as help recover for any lost wages. We can also assist in getting you the right medical treatment for your injuries. Learn more about Lyft and Uber car accidents.

What if I have been injured by a drunk driver?

In a lawsuit arising from a a drunk driver, the driver will be held liable for the injuries he or she caused. Additionally, a bar or social host may be liable for damages if they served an obviously intoxicated guest, who then drove and caused an accident. However, the fact that the person who served the intoxicated driver alcohol may be held liable does not relieve the intoxicated driver of liability. If you are the victim of an alcohol-related crash, you may also be entitled to punitive damages.

What if a car crash results in a Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death lawsuits allege that the death of a loved one occurred as a direct result of negligence or wrongful conduct of another. Wrongful death suits aim to hold the responsible party accountable for the victim’s death. The victim’s family members or beneficiaries may be entitled to financial compensation as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Although monetary compensation can’t erase the pain and injustice caused by the death of a loved one, it can help the family cover costs associated with death and provide for the future.

How will I pay all my medical bills?

If you have been injured, you will likely have medical bills from physicians, hospitals, physical therapists, and other health care providers. Those bills will be in your name and will typically be sent to your address. You are primarily responsible for paying your bills, regardless of the cause of your injuries. The at-fault person’s liability insurance carrier will be responsible for paying you reasonable compensation for damages incurred, which includes medical bills.

What issues will I face in making a claim for my injuries sustained in an auto accident?

A claim for injuries sustained in an automobile accident is usually based upon carelessness or negligence. In worse case scenarios, it is based on an intentional or reckless act. The two categories of issues that typically arise in a tort claim after an automobile accident are the following:

  • Liability – who is at fault and to what degree
  • Damages – injuries or losses caused by the accident

Who determines who is responsible for a traffic accident?

Figuring out who is at fault in an accident is a matter of deciding who was careless. For traffic accidents, State traffic laws provide guidelines by which liability may be measured. These rules apply not only to automobiles but also to motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians. In some cases, a driver may be liable for an accident even if he/she was obeying, for example, the posted speed limit, if traveling at the posted speed was unreasonably careless given the weather or traffic conditions at the time.

Can I sue for negligence if I was hit by someone who was texting while driving?

When a person is injured in a car accident due to the actions of a drunk driver, the injured person is allowed to seek punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages, from the drunk driver. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the injured party for their injuries and include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant solely to punish and deter people from engaging in the act which caused the harm. Drunk drivers have been subject to punitive damages because as a society we want to deter this type of dangerous behavior and punish an individual who engages in such.

Studies have shown that distracted driving through the use of electronic devices such as cell phones, text-messaging, Facebook applications, etc., is just as dangerous, if not more so, than driving under the influence. According to research performed by the National Transportation Safety Board, texting while behind the wheel increases the risk of an accident by a staggering 2,300 percent. Because of the immense dangers involved with texting while driving, there is a national trend developing to allow individuals hurt by such a distracted driver to sue for punitive damages.

In Florida, a defendant may be held liable for punitive damages if they engaged in intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Gross negligence means that the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.

A Collier Circuit Judge Hugh Hayes recently granted a motion from a Naples widow to seek punitive damages from a driver who is accused of texting while driving when he struck and killed 62-year-old bicyclist James Caskey Jr. in August 2008. The defendant, Lawrence Daniels’ phone records show that he checked his voicemail, sent text messages, and received text messages just prior to this accident.

Furthermore, in 2008, a Miami-Dade jury awarded $8.8 million to the family of Myriam del Socorro Lopez who was killed when a speeding and weaving driver crashed into her vehicle. The defendant, Luis Cruz-Govin, was a habitual texter and phone records show that he sent a text message two minutes before paramedics were called to the scene.

Despite the known dangers of distracted driving, the National Transportation Safety Board has found that texting while driving is increasing. Many people involved with researching and dealing with issue are calling texting while driving the new DUI. Although the Florida Legislature has made numerous attempts to pass bills that would ban texting or talking on a cell phone while driving, no such law has currently passed.

What does it mean if my car was totaled?

Your car is considered totaled if the damages are not repairable or if price of the repairs will cost more than the actual value of the vehicle. Do your homework. Check the internet (such as Kelley Blue Book) or NADA for the actual cash value (ACV) of your car, check out the classified advertisements in your local newspapers, and check with the car dealerships in your area. Look for the prices of cars similar to yours, and submit them to your insurance company if the prices are higher than the company’s offer. Remember the estimate must be based on the local market.

I was in a car accident, and the insurance company told me my car was totaled. The insurance company is not offering me enough for my car.  What can I do?

Just like when buying a new car, the best thing you can do is arm yourself with knowledge.  The internet is your best resource. Kelly Blue Book and NADA are the standards in the industry to find the actual cash value (ACV) of your car.  Check out the classified advertisements in your local newspapers, search websites like Craigslist, and check with the car dealerships in your area. Look for the prices of cars similar to yours and submit them to your company, if the prices are higher than the company’s offer. The insurance company’s estimate must be based on the local market.

Free Accident Property Damage Guide

Do I still have a claim if I was not wearing a seat belt?

Florida law requires you to wear a seat belt. However, if you were not wearing one at the time of the accident, you may still have a valid claim. Click here to learn more.

Who pays to get my car fixed after I have been hit in an accident?

The person who is at fault for the accident is responsible for the cost of your vehicle repairs. To learn more, click here.

I was in a car accident, and it wasn’t my fault. The other driver’s insurance company won’t do anything with my claim because the driver has not reported the accident. Doesn’t that insurance company have an obligation to pay my claim?

The insurance company is obligated to pay what the insured is legally liable for after an accident. However, a ticket by itself is not evidence of 100% legal liability. Therefore, in many instances the company may not have to pay for damages if their insured does not report the accident and cooperation in the investigation.

What is an Emergency Medical Condition?

An Emergency Medical Condition is defined as a medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms such that the absence of immediate medical attention would result in serious complications. Read more about how Emergency Medical Conditions affect what your insurance company will pay.

I was involved in an automobile accident, and the insurance company has not yet inspected my vehicle or authorized a rental vehicle. Isn’t there a time limit on how long an insurance company can take?

Seven to ten working days should be enough time for an insurance adjuster to inspect a damaged vehicle and authorize a rental car. Rental vehicles may not be covered unless it is approved by the insurance company.

How do I get a rental car after an accident?

Is a traffic ticket admissible in court?

Who pays for my rental car while my car is being repaired?

The insurance company wants to repair my car with non-factory parts. Can it do this?

Yes. The parts used do not necessarily have to be original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts but should be of like kind and quality as the parts being replaced.

Will I be penalized for choosing my own body shop?

Normally, you have the right to choose the auto repair shop you want. However, some policies approved by Department of Insurance require the insured to take the vehicle to a designated repair shop in exchange for a reduced premium. The company cannot be required to pay a higher price for the same necessary repairs. When a company directs a vehicle to be repaired by their facility, the insurance company is responsible for the quality of the repair.

What should I do if an insurance company calls and asks for a statement?

If an insurance company is calling and asking you to give them a statement, don’t return the call unless you know your rights. A qualified attorney is going to know:

  • Why the insurance company is calling for a statement
  • What the insurance company is likely to ask you
  • Recommendations on how to answer those questions and protect your rights

It is best to consider calling a lawyer before your return any calls to the insurance company.

Should I go to the hospital?

If you feel that you are injured in an accident, you should seek the advice of doctors. Often paramedics will be called to the scene of the collision, and it is your decision whether or not you should go to the hospital.

Where can I go for medical help?

For various reasons, there is only a very small percentage of doctors who will accept responsibility for the treatment of individuals injured in an automobile or motorcycle accident.

Many doctors may not want to get tied up in the litigation process. Other doctors receive a substantial amount of income from insurance companies and do not want to risk that source of revenue. Some doctors feel that the risks of medical complications, and therefore medical malpractice, are substantially increased when dealing with the complexities associated with an accident injury. Some doctors simply do not like working with attorneys, regardless of the underlying injury.

Based upon our substantial experience, the attorneys at The Ruth Law Team are able to identify those qualified doctors who are willing to accept responsibility for the medical care of the injured despite the probability that it will involve litigation against the insurance industry.

What do I do if I think I have a concussion from my car accident?

Call your doctor if you think you may have hit your head in a car accident.

Go to the emergency room if you have any of the following:

  • Bleeding or laceration from an impact
  • Loss of consciousness for more than two minutes
  • Vomiting more than once
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Severe headache
  • A delayed loss of consciousness
  • Confusion several minutes after the accident
  • A child that has lost consciousness at all
  • Memory loss
  • Repeating things over and over
  • You are taking Coumadin (warfarin), Aggrenox (aspirin and dipyridamole), Plavix (platlet inhibitor, clopidogrel)

If the injured person fails to regain consciousness after 2 minutes or has a very severe injury, do NOT move the person and try to prevent movement of the neck. Call 911.

If you are unsure of the severity of the injury, immediately go to the emergency room.

Do I have to talk to the other driver’s insurance company?

How long does it take to settle my auto accident claim?

There is no specific time limit during which the company must come to a settlement agreement with an insured or a third-party claimant. There is a time limit that you have to file a claim in the state courts, or you lose your right to file a claim. This time limit is referred to as the Statute of Limitations.

Do I have to talk to my insurance company?

How long does the insurance company have to settle my car accident claim?

Unfortunately there is no specific time limit during which the insurance company must come to a settlement agreement with an insured or a third party claimant.  Once a claim has settled in writing, the insurance company must issue a draft within 20 days or pay interest as established in Florida Statute 627.4265

Should I try to settle with the other person’s insurance company?

Insurance companies prefer to settle the case without an attorney because they pay you far less. Individuals alone do not know how much they are entitled to or all the damages recoverable. If you, a family member, or one of your passengers, has suffered any automobile personal injury, or even if there is a possibility that someone will claim an injury, it is generally NOT wise to deal with the other side’s insurance company. In such cases you certainly should not settle your claim without speaking to a lawyer who practices accident or personal injury law.

Here are some questions you should ask:

  • Do you know the full extent of your injuries, or might there be some late developing symptoms?
  • Do you know how long the effects of the injury may last?
  • Do you know how difficult the recovery process might be?
  • Do you know what therapy may be needed or what it will cost?
  • Do you fully understand what the long term impact of your accident or injury might be on your ability to earn a living, enjoy recreational activities, play sports, do household chores, and so forth?
  • Do you understand what is customarily awarded for the “pain and suffering” you endured, the loss of companionship and the extra care your family members provided?
  • Do you know how much income you might lose, regardless of any disability insurance you have, both terms of the time you are out of work and afterwards?
  • Do you know what portion of money paid to you by the other driver’s insurance company will go to your own health/auto insurance company, union, or employer health plan for expense reimbursement they paid on your behalf?
  • Do you know how much money is traditionally recoverable by persons who are similarly injured who have legal representation?

Although you may have the answers to these questions, the other driver’s insurance company may never tell you the truth. Remember, anything you say to the other side’s insurance company can be recorded and used against you. Speak with a knowledgeable attorney regarding what you are entitled to recover.

What is a Letter of Protection?

When people don’t have enough money from their insurance provider to pay for medical treatment, they often believe that they’re out of options and can no longer receive treatment. In most cases, this belief is not true. There is the option of filing a “letter of protection” (often referred to as an LOP) which is an agreement between the medical provider and the patient’s attorney (with our client’s approval) in which the provider agrees to continue treating with the understanding that any outstanding balances will be satisfied from any recovery made on behalf of the patient by the attorney. This allows a patient to continue receiving treatment without having to make current payments. The Ruth Law Team is very experienced in this process and has an excellent reputation with many medical providers.

What if my air bag didn’t deploy?

When an airbag doesn’t deploy, it is often because the sensors were improperly placed and did not detect a collision. This could lead to severe injury. If you were injured as a result of an airbag that did not deploy, you may be entitled to compensation.  Learn more here.

How can I pay for my personal injury lawyer?

There is a misperception that all attorneys require enormous payments for their services before they will even do a moment’s work on your case. The Tampa Bay personal injury lawyers of The Ruth Law Team understand that people who are hurt by another’s negligence may not have substantial financial resources and are entitled to legal representation regardless. Accordingly, we charge fees on a contingency-only basis, which means that unless we win your case, you owe us nothing. If your claim is successful, we will accept a portion of the financial compensation awarded as part of the verdict.

What should I know before a car accident?