What To Do After A Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault in Florida

Dealing with a car accident is difficult and challenging in any situation. It’s worse when you know the crash wasn’t your fault. You are probably wondering what to do afterward and how to handle the new unexpected costs and possible medical bills.

If you were not at fault for a car accident in a contributory fault state like Florida, you have the right to pursue justice and seek compensation. Here’s the important information on what you need to know and how to increase your chances of obtaining full compensation.

Part 1: What To Do Immediately After a Car Crash

The immediate aftermath of a car crash can cause a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. Here are the crucial steps you should take if you’ve just experienced a car accident and what you should do next.

Stay Safe, Remain Calm & Stay At The Scene

The first step to do after a car accident that’s not your fault is to remain calm and stay at the scene of the accident. It can be difficult to think clearly after the shock of someone striking your car, but remaining calm is an invaluable asset.

The most important thing following all auto accidents in Florida is that you should never leave the scene until you’ve been advised it is ok to do so.

Before assessing your vehicle damage or attempting to move your vehicle away from traffic, check to make sure that your passengers and anyone involved in the accident is ok.

If anyone is unconscious or complains about neck or back pain, request medical attention immediately and advise them to keep any movements to a minimum unless they are in imminent danger.

If there appear to be no serious injuries, turn on your hazard lights and try to get your car to the furthest shoulder of the road, away from oncoming traffic.

Contact Police & Medical Personnel

The next thing to do after a crash that wasn’t your fault is to call 9-1-1 from your phone. Let the dispatcher know if anyone in your vehicle or surrounding vehicles needs immediate medical attention.

If so, the dispatch center operator will send an ambulance. He or she will also dispatch a police officer to the scene to gather information about the crash.

The police report can be a critical piece of information to help support your account of events or to use when negotiating with the insurance company when filing a personal injury claim.

The responding police officer will ask for your name, contact information, and insurance information. This is only a standard procedure and doesn’t mean that you’re at fault for the crash.

Although you should also gather this information from the other party, let the police take care of the rest. We recommend keeping your interactions with him or her to a minimum.

While You Wait For Police, Document Everything

If police come to the scene, they will get information from both you and the other driver(s). However, it’s also a good idea to gather some of this information yourself, for instance.

Gather the following information:

  • Name(s), phone number(s), and address(s) of all people in the vehicle(s)
  • Insurance company name and policy number for all drivers
  • Pictures and/or videos of the accident scene, visible injuries such as scrapes, cuts or bruises, and vehicle damage
  • Contact information from any witnesses

Obtaining this information yourself helps prove the accident occurred and documents the resulting damage and injuries. Plus, you will need it to file a personal injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance.

Take Lots of Photos & Videos

If anyone witnessed the accident and is willing, you should do two things. First, get their contact information so you can get in touch with them later. Second, ask if they’re willing to take a photo of themselves at the scene. This may sound odd, but having proof they were at the scene can increase the witnesses credibility if they are questioned later. 

If you’re not too badly injured, write down how the accident happened before you forget important details. In today’s world, a video of yourself explaining the details can be quick and capture crucial details as you have everything fresh in your mind. Describe everything leading up to the accident and what you saw.

We highly advise our clients not to leave the scene of an accident before the police arrive, even if you don’t feel you have any injuries. Wait for the police, especially if any damages are involved, because you need that official record of the incident.

Be sure to wait at the scene until the police obtain all the information they need. An officer will give you the okay to either drive home or call a tow truck and arrange for a ride.

When Talking To Police, Do Not Admit Any Guilt or Fault

A car accident can leave you feeling overcome with emotions, shaken, and unsure of the next steps. You might start talking to the other driver, police officer, and, later on, insurance companies. However, avoid the emotional urge to admit any fault in the accident until you’ve asked an attorney for advice. This is especially true if you believe you are not at fault.

A car accident lawyer may help you receive the compensation you deserve. However, admitting fault puts you at risk of losing any compensation for physical injuries and property damage. Accepting any blame may also expose you to a lawsuit from the other driver.

Be aware that insurance companies have a reputation for trying to play tricks on unsuspecting clients. Even simple statements an insurance agent might say like, “How are you feeling?” could be an attempt to use your answer against you if you say anything resembling “I’m OK,” or, “I’m good.”

You are never legally required to admit fault after a car accident. An admission of a fault makes it more challenging for an attorney to defend your rights and pursue justice and compensation. When speaking to the police, simply discuss the facts of what you experienced. 

Obtaining Witness Statements & Contact Information if Possible

You and the other party in the car accident have an obvious stake in describing events to make the other driver look to be at fault. Having additional people describe the crash can play in your favor if you know you’re not at fault. 

Since judges and juries on personal injury cases know that each driver will have a view of the events that favor their own story, it behooves you to obtain statements from witnesses who have no personal stake in the outcome. If you know that someone saw what happened, ask for his or her name and contact information to provide to the police and your attorney.

Surveillance cameras?

If The Vehicle Needs To Be Towed, Take All Your Personal Belongings Out Of The Car – Including Your Dash Camera

If your vehicle is not operable and needs to be towed, you should take all your personal belongings from the car immediately. Oftentimes, after a car accident that has totaled a vehicle, you will find it difficult to get your belongings back.

This is especially important for critical pieces of evidence like dash cams. Many cars are being built with dash cameras these days and they have built-in hard drives to capture the data. Teslas are a great example of this. 

Most Teslas have a built-in hard drive in the glove compartment where all the dash camera footage is stored. If you are not at fault in your accident, obtaining this drive could be a crucial piece of evidence in your case. If that drive goes to the dealership or the auto shop, it could be damaged or disappear, leaving you in a difficult position. 

Why You Should Consider Having A Dash Cam in Your Vehicle At All Times

You and the other party in the car accident have an obvious stake in describing events to make the other look like the one at fault. Having video evidence like a dashboard camera can remove doubt and provide clarity to a jury, if needed. 

Video evidence is easy to understand and can help a jury better see the at-fault driver and the actions that led up to the crash. 

Investigate Surrounding Areas To Find Any Potential Surveillance Cameras

One of the benefits of modern technology is that many cities, businesses and residents have cameras. If you were involved in an accident in a heavily trafficked area, there’s a chance local businesses or city buildings have surveillance cameras. You could even walk around houses nearby and check if they have doorbell cameras like the Ring. 

This could become another source of evidence your attorney can leverage in your case. If you notice a specific camera, mark down the address and any information you can see about the camera (business name, building number, street intersection, house address, etc.). Provide this detail to your attorney and they can investigate further to try obtaining that camera footage of the crash. 

Get Checked by a Medical Professional

While it’s common to have some pain after a car crash, many people refuse or delay seeing a doctor because they don’t notice any visible injuries or think they don’t think their symptoms are severe enough to warrant a doctor visit.

Some injuries or symptoms may not show up until days, weeks, or even months after the crash. Head injuries, like concussions, can be mistaken for minor headaches and could have serious long-term effects. Whiplash is another example of this, as the neck injury could be mistaken for general soreness. 

Broken bones and dislocated joints are obvious reasons to seek medical attention. Other car accident symptoms that may not show up until later include:

  • Headaches
  • Numbness
  • Abdominal swelling and pain
  • Loss of physical function
  • Personality changes
  • Post-traumatic stress syndrome

Just because some of these injuries don’t appear right away doesn’t mean that you won’t have lifelong problems from them. By visiting a medical professional shortly after the accident, you can determine things like soft tissue injuries or brain injuries. In addition, you’ll have a written record of your visit in the event you need that for a potential lawsuit or claim.

Getting examined by a medical professional immediately after an accident is important to establish credibility if the lawyer for the at-fault party claims your injuries aren’t serious. The longer you delay that medical visit, the more it also appears the injuries aren’t serious because you didn’t feel the need to visit a doctor.

We recommend a written record of any doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, caregivers, or any other medical professional you receive treatment from, as well as itemizing any related expenses with proper receipts. This will help your insurer, your attorney, and a potential jury understand the full extent of your injuries and any related costs you’ve incurred.

Part 2: Should You Contact Your Insurance or An Attorney?

At The Ruth Law Team, we recommend speaking to an attorney before contacting your insurance company, especially if you feel like you have a claim against the at-fault driver and have sustained injuries. Our expert car accident attorneys can help advise you of your legal rights to pursue any potential damages. 

Insurance companies can refuse to provide you benefits if you are not complying with your policy terms. This is why it is important to speak to a lawyer so they can advise you of your legal rights regarding how to comply with your insurance company while also avoiding the pitfalls of giving a statement that could affect your rights at a later time.

Possible Tricks an Insurance Company Can Pull on Unsuspecting Accident Victims

If you’ve got car insurance, you might think you’re “protected” when unfortunate instances happen like car accidents. Many popular commercials infer that you’re with a reputable company that will stand by you through thick and thin. Unfortunately, our experience at The Ruth Law Team has shown us that some insurance companies play tricks on their clients to minimize the possible payout on a claim. Here are a few simple things you can do to protect yourself from these possible tricks and increase your chances of a maximum claim.

  1. Hire an attorney first, and tell the insurance company you’ve hired a lawyer

Hiring an attorney is recommended because we can guide you through this challenging process and help you avoid common pitfalls people make that can minimize their claim. When you tell the insurance company that you’ve hired a lawyer, they are legally obligated to NOT ask you any questions about the case and instead to direct questions to your attorney. This will help you avoid saying anything potentially damaging to your case and allow the attorney to be your advocate. 

  1. Be cautious of the simple questions from an insurance agent

Although it can be viewed as “polite” conversation, be wary of an insurance agent asking questions like, “How are you doing?” or, “How are you feeling?” because it could be used against you. Common language in those situations is something like, “I’m doing good, thanks. How are you?” which seems casual. Unfortunately, the insurance company can use that response against you claiming you may not be injured since you had a positive response to that question. 

It seems small, but these are the tricks sometimes played by insurance companies to avoid paying the justifiable amount to the customer. That’s why hiring an experienced car accident attorney can save you from making little mistakes that could add up to a lower settlement. 

  1. Consider what you post on social media until your claim is fully completed and paid

Social media posts can and likely will be used against you, especially  if your case goes to trial. Defense attorneys will scour through your entire profile searching for evidence to indicate you aren’t seriously injured. If you provide them any potential evidence, it could jeopardize your case. 

Here at The Ruth Law Team, we have seen this happen before. As your attorney, our job is to protect you while seeking justice for your injuries. Social media is a wonderful tool for many things, but while you are processing and filing a claim for injuries sustained in a car crash, we recommend being extremely cautious about what you post. 

Part 3: How To Handle Medical Expenses After a Car Accident?

After a car accident, you may be in a situation that requires you to seek medical attention and pay for certain medical treatments. This can be a challenging situation for some people.

In Florida, statute 627.763 requires that all residents who register a vehicle in the state, carry at least coverage of $10,000 in medical and disability benefits and $5,000 in death benefits resulting from bodily injury, sickness, disease, or death arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle. This is called Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

In Florida, PIP covers 80% of your medical bills when you are involved in a motor vehicle collision up to $10,000.00. PIP will also cover 60% of your lost wages under the same $10,000.00.

The reality for many victims is that some situations will require them to pay for their own medical bills up front and receive appropriate compensation from the insurance claim later. This is another crucial reason to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to understand the timeline and requirements of your medical bill payments. 

Make sure to communicate with your attorney any and all medical providers you have seen, so that we can ensure all appropriate medical bills are accounted for in the claims process. 

Additional Insurance Options To Consider

In addition to having the state minimum car insurance, other options could be considered in your claim if you have additional coverage. If you have Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage on your policy in any of your plans, you may be able to pursue additional compensation against your own policy as a result of your car accident. Unfortunately, many insurance companies increase their profits when they pay less in claims so they may not inform you of all coverage available in your accident. If you have chosen not to carry UM, insurance providers are required to have customers sign a UM rejection form and must produce this to your attorney. 

Additionally, be sure to give any medical providers your health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid information to be billed as secondary. Our attorneys will review all your insurance plans and help you pursue the maximum amount of compensation you’re entitled to, even if it’s buried in multiple layers of insurance coverage. 

What if you were hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver?

In Florida, uninsured drivers are people who do not carry any PIP or property damage liability coverage, which is the state minimum requirement. Underinsured drivers are people that may not carry any/enough Bodily Injury Liability Insurance to cover the medical expenses you may incur as a result of your injuries. 

In these situations, additional insurance coverages could possibly be leveraged, such as the vehicle owner’s other insurance policies or any additional coverage that exists on the vehicle itself. This process can be complicated and should be discussed with an attorney.

As a preventative option, you should consider adding Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage on your existing insurance policy. In the event you are injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver, you could make a claim against your own policy.

In order to carry Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage on your policy, you must also carry Bodily Injury Liability Coverage on your policy for an amount greater than or equal to the amount you wish to carry in Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. You may also consider purchasing Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage with a Stacking Option, which means your coverage will be “stacked,” or multiplied by the number of vehicles you are insuring under the policy.