What Should I Do If I Am In An Accident?
1. Check Yourself and Your Passengers for Injuries.
In the moments following a collision, thoroughly check yourself and your passengers for injuries. If you or any of them have neck or back pain, you need to stop the injured person from moving and wait for first responders to arrive. Paramedics know the proper ways to safely move patients with those injuries, without creating additional trauma.
2. Move Your Car Out of Traffic If Possible.
If the accident was minor and you are not injured, it is best to move your vehicle to a safe spot out of the traffic flow. If there are severe injuries to anyone involved, however, you should leave your car in place for the accident investigation.
When you move your vehicle, do it slowly so that you don’t cause more damage or injuries. Calm down and remember to turn your hazard lights on, put the car in park with the parking brake on, and turn the vehicle off. If you have a chance, look at any other cars involved in the accident and jot down their license plate numbers – just in case they decide to drive away from the scene.
Whatever you do, you should not leave the scene of the accident. If you have to go because you are being threatened or it is otherwise unsafe for you to be there, you should be on the phone to 911, explaining why you left and where you are going. Returning to the scene once first responders have arrived is your best strategy in this case. Doing anything else risks a citation or arrest for hit-and-run.
3. Check the Other Vehicle’s Passenger for Injuries.
Watch for traffic and exit your vehicle. Check the occupants of any other cars and pedestrians who were involved for injuries and call 911 if there are any. Even seemingly minor injuries should be checked out so that they don’t lead to more significant problems down the road.
Don’t assume that someone has already called for help. You don’t want there to be any unnecessary delay in the response of paramedics and ambulances.
This is not the time to get into any prolonged conversations with others involved in the accident. You’re just trying to make sure everyone who needs help is getting it. There’s time to talk later.
4. Call the Police
Even with minor accidents, having a police report can help insurance companies and courts decipher the truth. While many police agencies won’t respond to minor fender benders, but if there is any chance that there is an injury or if the wrecked cars are a traffic hazard, they will.
If any other drivers involved in the accident don’t want you to call the cops, you should consider that a red flag that they might be an uninsured driver or under the influence of intoxicants and don’t want the police to know about it. In that case, it’s especially important that you call.
If the police do respond, only discuss the facts of the accident with them, without opinions of what you think might have happened. Provide them with your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. Even if you think you are at fault for the collision, having an unbiased police report can identify other factors that could reduce the amount of responsibility you ultimately assume.
The police can also help you arrange for tow trucks to get your car to the shop, and they can put out cones and flares to prevent additional accidents.
5. Watch Your Emotions
If you have just been in an accident, your head is likely spinning with emotions. You might be angry, you might be remorseful, and you’re almost certainly a little confused. Getting into an argument with another driver or saying that you are sorry for what has happened can cause you legal issues later.
The side of the road is not the place to assess responsibility for the accident. Avoid inadvertently claiming responsibility, saying I’m sorry, or offering to pay for damages. The negotiations about who is held responsible are best left to your car insurance company or their attorneys.
6. Exchange Information with Other Parties
Parties involved in collisions are required by law to exchange information with others involved. You should exchange names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, insurance company names, and car insurance policy numbers. You’ll also want the make, model, color, and license plate number of any cars involved.
Using your cell phone to take a photo of driver’s licenses, registrations, insurance documents, and license plates can give you a backup if you have any errors in your note-taking. If the name of the driver does not match the registration or proof of insurance document, try to determine the relationship of the driver to the car.
If there are any witnesses, quickly get their contact details before they get impatient and leave the scene. From the police on the scene, get a report number and the badge number or business card of the officer handling the report.
Ask the officers and witnesses if they have seen similar accidents in the same place. That can help establish whether it’s a particularly dangerous intersection, which could prompt the transportation department to fix the possible safety issue later.
7. Contact Berge Law, P.A. 24/7 (727) 645-6683
We are here to answer any questions on the next steps to establish your case. Do not give any statements with any insurance companies until you have spoken to an attorney.
8. Visit Your Doctor
If you have even the slightest indication that you might be injured, you should visit your doctor or an urgent care clinic. They will likely ask you for your auto insurance information, rather than your regular medical insurance. Injuries stemming from a car crash typically become part of your auto insurance claim.
Small pains often become big pains in the days following a car crash. By visiting a medical professional, you don’t only want to get the medical assistance, you want to get the documentation that the injury is connected to the crash.
9. Get Your Car Repaired
(This should be your last step after you have seen a doctor to ensure you are getting the treatment needed for any possible injuries from the accident. You are important!)
Some people take their insurance settlement and never get the damage from the car accident repaired. That’s a horrible idea. When you get your car fixed, you not only protect its value, but you can identify any hidden damage that the insurer should also pay to fix.
Many insurers will try to push you to recommended or specially approved body shops. In Florida, you can take your damaged vehicle to the body shop of your choice. You should get at least a few estimates for the repair of your car, as different shops may see different damage and have wildly varied repair estimates.
When you take your vehicle to a body shop that has a close relationship with your insurer, you may save some money with a reduced or eliminated deductible. Keep in mind, however, that the closer the ties your insurer has to the repair shop, the more they are the customer the shop aims to please, rather than you.
10. Do I Have Grounds for a Car Accident Claim?
If you intend to file a claim, it must be proven that the other driver owed you a duty of care and breached that duty of care. All motorists on Florida roads have a duty to drive safely and avoid reckless behaviors that would put other people in danger. They breach this duty of care when they:
- Drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- Drive while distracted;
- Make illegal turns;
- Fail to keep their vehicles safe;
- Break the speed limit; or
- Engage in other illegal or reckless behaviors.
If your accident was caused by a negligent driver, you have the right to pursue compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages you have incurred as a result. Unfortunately, even if it seems obvious that another person is liable for your damages, you still might run into a dispute at some point during the claims process. This is where Berge Law, P.A. can help.
We know the strategies used by insurance companies and defendants in car accident cases to reduce their liability. Insurance adjusters might try to manipulate you into making a recorded statement that can be used against you. They might offer a low settlement before you know the full extent of your injuries. They might even review your social media profiles for images that can be used to dispute the severity of your injuries.
No matter what the insurance adjuster tells you, the insurance company is likely not on your side when you file a claim against them. You should never speak to the insurance adjuster—and you certainly should not accept a settlement offer—without consulting an experienced car accident attorney.
Berge Law, P.A. is here to answer your questions and guide you through the claims process. We will handle correspondence with the insurance company so they cannot take advantage of you. We will perform a thorough investigation into your case, gather evidence before it becomes unavailable, speak with eyewitnesses, and aggressively represent your interests during settlement negotiations.
11. How Much Is My Car Accident Claim Worth?
No attorney in Florida can guarantee a specific outcome for your case. It is important to know that there are numerous factors that will influence whether your claim is successful and the amount of compensation you ultimately recover. Those factors include:
- The cost of the medical bills you have incurred;
- The cost of any future medical treatment you will need;
- The amount of income you lost due to your injuries;
- Whether your injuries have affected your future earning capacity;
- Whether you required home modifications to accommodate your injury;
- The cost of fixing your vehicle;
- Whether your injury caused scarring, disability, or the loss of a bodily function.
At Berge Law, P.A. we work on a contingency fee basis, which means you owe us nothing unless we win your case. Many Florida auto accident cases are settled without going to court. Our firm will work diligently to get you the compensation you deserve. Time is of the essence in any car accident claim. If you were injured or lost a family member in a car accident in Florida, call Berge Law, P.A. at (727) 645-6683, we are here to help!
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