Driving in South Florida often entails aggressive drivers and frustrating traffic at any given time of the day. With over 400,000 vehicular accidents reported by the Department of Florida Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles in 2019 in Florida in just that year, it is no wonder driving in Florida is often considered a risky endeavor.
Being involved in a motor vehicle collision can be a harrowing and overwhelming situation. If you have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a car accident, you know just how confusing and chaotic the scene of an accident can be. Knowing what steps to take in the immediate aftermath of an accident, as well as the days and weeks following the incident, can help you ensure you are doing everything in your power to protect your rights.
Steps to take at the scene of the accident
In the moments immediately following a motor vehicle accident, your first priority must be to ensure your safety and that of any passengers in your vehicle from further harm.
To move or not to move your vehicle
If moving the vehicle will result in further injuries to any of the people involved, it is best to not move the vehicle until the authorities and emergency medical services have arrived.
If, however, your vehicle can be moved, it must be moved. It is required to move your car to prevent further disruption of traffic or a secondary accident. It is a violation of Florida Law to leave a damaged vehicle obstructing traffic. Drivers are required to make every reasonable effort to move the vehicle or have it moved so at not to block the regular flow of traffic.
If possible and safe to do so, take a moment to photograph the position of the vehicles before moving to a safer location. This will help law enforcement in determining fault.
After the accident, also make sure to take pictures of the other person’s vehicle as well as our own. It is vital to photograph the other vehicle because after you leave the scene you will no longer have access to the other vehicle.
Contact law enforcement & medical services
It is important that you contact law enforcement while you are at the scene of the accident.
If you, your passengers, or individuals in the other vehicle(s) have been injured, it is imperative to also notify emergency dispatchers to send emergency medical attention to the scene.
Although you may be tempted to exclude law enforcement from a minor accident, this can cause some unintended consequences down the line. A police report is an important source of information following a car accident and will be often necessary for insurance claims involving property damage and/or injury. It is common for a vehicle to sustain more damage than initially thought. In addition, some car accident injuries can take time to develop or notice symptoms following a collision.
Be careful and aware of what you say
It is often in our nature as humans to be apologetic or overshare in the moments following a traumatic or frightening experience. Do not make any statements or admissions of fault to other drivers or witnesses at the scene following a car accident. You should, however, check if anyone involved in the accident is in need of immediate medical attention.
Gather documentation & take photographs
As you await the arrival of law enforcement it is important that you gather all documentation that you will need to provide including your Driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance coverage. If you copy the registration you can keep this copy along with your insurance card together with your license so you don’t have to go digging for them in the unfortunate circumstance that you need them.
Take photographs at the scene of the accident including the position of the vehicles, vehicle license plates, surrounding areas, and any and all damage to your vehicle, other vehicles, and/or property that has occurred as the result of the car accident.
If there are any third parties that witness the accident, ask them for their personal information so that they may be contacted as a witness if necessary.
Exchange of information and a police report
Law enforcement will provide you and the other driver(s) involved in the vehicle accident a document identifying the personal information, vehicle information, and insurance information of all individuals involved in the incident. This exchange of information is vital for your insurance claim and any further action that will be taken in the case.
Keep in mind the police accident report will not be given to you in the immediate aftermath of the accident. Rather, you will be provided a report number to retrieve the report from the law enforcement agency once it has been processed. In Florida, it can take up to 10 days for traffic accident reports to be available for retrieval.
Steps to take following the car accident
Notify your insurance company of the accident
Even if you are initially found not at fault in the car accident, you must notify your insurance company of the collision. Notifying your insurance company allows the claims process to get underway, and for an insurance record to be initiated of the car accident. It is possible for an insurance company to deny coverage if they are prejudiced by late reporting.
Speak with a car accident attorney
It is best to contact a personal injury attorney with experience in motor vehicle accidents as soon as possible following the accident.
The sooner you hire an attorney for representation in your case, the sooner your rights are protected. Do not answer any interview questions, make any statements, sign any papers, or accept any offers from insurance companies until you have obtained legal representation and guidance.
Navigating the aftermath of a motor vehicle collision alone can be frustrating, confusing, and overwhelming. From dealing with insurance claims to recovering from injuries and arranging for repairs to your vehicle, the process following a car accident is time-consuming and tedious. It is important that your best interests are represented in the matter from the outset. Obtaining an attorney will ensure the proper steps are taken throughout the process following a car accident.
Follow up with medical treatment
In the days and weeks that pass after the car accident, it is important that you follow up with medical treatment and rehabilitation necessary, and seek proper care for any symptoms or injuries that may arise as a result of the motor vehicle collision. In Florida you must treat within fourteen (14) days to use your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits. PIP pays for your treatment related to an automobile up to $10,000.00.
While damage to vehicles or property is relatively easy to address, healing properly and returning to a normal life is invaluable. It is important that you receive the proper treatment but also that the medical provider documents it well. A good provider will have daily notes each time you visit documenting the condition you are in after the accident, the treatments you are receiving, and the progress made. Keep a close on any injury symptoms following a car accident, and make sure to discuss each and every one of them with your medical provider on the initial visit. It is important that you discuss all of your symptoms and complaints because if they are not mentioned initially an insurance company may cast doubt that they are related to the accident. When treating with a medical provider it is important to follow their advice including attending follow up appointments and diagnostic testing such as MRI’s when necessary.
We know that being the victim of a car accident can be a frightening and confusing experience. It is not something that you need to, or should, shoulder alone. Make sure to get experienced advocates on your side.