Car accidents are a common occurrence in Florida. No matter in which part of the state you live, chances are you know plenty of people who’ve been involved in one. You have also seen them frequently on your daily work commute. And, while there are plenty of billboards along highways telling you whom to call if you get in one, should you even bother with litigation after a fender bender? The truth is that it depends on the circumstances. However, there are certain things you should do to protect yourself in the event you do find yourself involved in a lawsuit.
What is a fender bender?
There is no legal definition for the term fender bender in Florida. However, it is used to refer to minor car accidents. They usually include being rear-ended at a low speed, or backing into another car while pulling out of a parking spot. In many cases, if there is any damage to property, it is minor. The parties exchange their names and contact information and go about their day.
However, the fact that these types of accidents sometimes do not cause any real damage is no reason to be blasé about them. The reality is that it’s possible to get into a fender bender that aggravates a pre-existing medical condition, or that — as bad luck would have it — actually causes physical injuries that manifest later on.
What to Do After a Fender Bender Accident
1. Get Out of Traffic
If possible, move your car to the emergency lane, a nearby parking lot, or anywhere else that allows traffic to continue with its usual flow. This is required by Florida Statute 316.061 in crashes involving damage to a vehicle or property. The stop must be made without obstructing traffic more than necessary.
2. Exchange Contact Information
Exchange full names, contact information, and motor vehicle information with the other driver. If they ask to see your driver’s license, show it, and ask for the same. Note the make and model of the other driver’s vehicle, as well as the color of their car. This will protect both of you in case either one of you has to file a claim. In addition, if there are any witnesses who would be willing to assist, get their full names and contact information.
3. Take Pictures
Whenever there’s litigation, it becomes a game of he said/she said. Pictures and video are the best way to depict something — as long as they’re authenticated first, which your lawyer can do. Take pictures of any damage to the vehicles involved, street signs, intersection, traffic signs, license plates, driver’s licenses, and anything else that may be relevant to the case — such as road or weather conditions, or injuries, if applicable.
4. Do Not Admit Anything
Let’s say you got distracted by a phone notification and you took your eyes off the road for a split second. Don’t mention it. Limit your interactions with the other driver to exchanging names and contact information. If you’re absolutely certain that the accident was your fault, speak with an attorney first. If you were the sole culprit of the accident, your insurance company can make a settlement offer to cover the other driver’s losses, and you’ll be able to sleep well. However, Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. This means that if the other driver is also partly to blame, what they can recover from you will be diminished by their own percentage of fault. The same thing happens if they were mostly negligent, but you had a minor role to play in the accident. So, don’t admit to anything, and let the lawyers sort it out.
5. See a Doctor
It’s possible to experience internal injuries and not be aware — even during a fender bender. You may not notice it initially because adrenaline numbs your body to pain. However, waiting to get medical attention can be detrimental to your case in several ways. In the first place, Florida Law requires all car insurance policies to cover up to $10,000 in medical injuries, regardless of who was at fault. However, you have to file such a claim within 14 days from the date of the accident. Also, the longer you wait, the more likely the other driver’s attorney will try to blame your injuries on something else, such as work duties or working out — anything that will diminish their client’s liability.
6. Do Not Talk With The Other Driver’s Insurance Company
The opposing party in a car accident lawsuit is not the other driver — it’s their insurance company. They will assign an adjuster to the case, and if you’re not represented by your own lawyer, they will call you directly. It doesn’t matter how likable or reasonable they may sound, their job is to limit their client’s liability. And, the only way to do so is to blame you for the accident. To do so, they can use your own words against you. Avoid this pitfall by telling them you will seek legal counsel and they can talk directly with them.
7. Talk With an Attorney
An experienced personal injury attorney will know all the questions to ask — both from you and the other driver involved — as well as know how to move forward. If the other party is claiming injuries after a fender bender, your lawyer can ask to see medical records and depose (take the sworn statements) the other driver, their doctor, and any witnesses. They’ll ensure to get maximum recovery if you sustained injuries and work to limit your liability if the other party is also claiming injuries.
Call Clark Law If You’ve Been in a Car Accident in Tampa Bay
If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Law, we have experienced attorneys who regularly represent clients involved in motor vehicle accidents, and we can help you determine the best next step.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.