Florida is one of the states in the country with the highest rates of car accidents. Just driving back and forth from work and other daily responsibilities is often a display of their aftermath. No matter where in Tampa Bay you drive, chances are, you’ll see traffic delays because of a car crash. But, as common as they are, it can still be confusing to know what to do if you’re involved in one. There are so many things to think about — making sure everyone is ok, exchanging information with the other driver, and worrying about how this will impact your life in the near future. So, what should you do?
Step by Step Guide: What to Do After a Car Accident in Florida
1. Make Sure You’re Ok and So Is Everyone Else
Florida Statute 316.062 requires motorists to provide reasonable assistance to anyone involved in the accident (drivers or passengers). This includes carrying or making arrangements to take injured individuals to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical treatment. This requirement applies whether a person visibly needs assistance or if it’s requested by an injured person.
2. Get Out of the Flow of Traffic
If possible, move your car to the emergency lane, nearby parking lot, or anywhere else where the rest of the traffic can continue with its usual flow. If your car won’t start, call a towing company. This is required by Florida law in crashes involving damage to a vehicle or property. Specifically, it states that every stop must be made without obstructing traffic more than necessary, and, if a damaged vehicle is obstructing traffic, the driver of such vehicle must make every reasonable effort to move the vehicle or have it moved so as not to block the regular flow of traffic.
3. Do Not Admit Fault
Sometimes, out of nervousness, it’s common for people to blurt out comments such as sorry, I didn’t see you, or sorry I got distracted, or anything along those lines. Don’t ever do it. Even if you were thinking about something else or otherwise took your eyes off the road for a moment, let all the facts of the case come out during litigation.
This is because Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. For example, let’s say you didn’t see the other driver because you were thinking about issues you’re having at home or at work. While that may have been a cause for the accident, it’s also possible that the other driver may have also been distracted, or speeding, or driving under the influence. If such is the case, your percentage of fault will be deducted from any recovery you may be entitled to.
4. Exchange Information with the Other Driver
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. Also note the make and model of the other driver’s vehicle, as well as the color of the 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. This may include other motorists, passersby, and/or employees or patrons of nearby businesses.
5. Fill Out a Police Report
Filling out a police report is only required in certain circumstances. Specifically, Florida Statute 316.066 establishes the responsibility to do so in accidents where anyone is complaining of pain, if one of the vehicles involved is a commercial vehicle, or if anyone was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The report must include the date, time, and location of the accident, a description of the vehicles involved, the names and addresses of everyone involved (including drivers and passengers), the VIN of each vehicle, names and addresses of witnesses, name, badge number, and law enforcement agency of the officer investigating the crash, and the names of the insurance companies for each party. The report must be submitted to the police department within 10 days after an investigation has been completed by the law enforcement officer who in the regular course of duty investigates the crash.
6. Take Pictures
Although your testimony would be admissible in court, so would the other driver’s. What happens if you contradict each other? One of the best ways to prove a claim is to show photographic or video evidence of what occurred. They will have to be authenticated — an issue your attorney can worry about later — but do your part in getting as many of them as possible.
Photograph all injuries (yours and anyone else’s), damage to your vehicle as well as the other driver’s vehicle, the intersection, the other driver’s driver’s license and license plate, the police officer’s badge number. You should also take pictures of any environmental considerations, such as any nearby homes and businesses that may have surveillance videos, traffic lights that may have cameras, and anything else that may be relevant to the accident — such as potholes on the road, wet pavement, obstructed road signs, and/or not enough lighting at night.
7. Seek Medical Attention
When a person is involved in a stressful or frightening situation, the body releases a hormone called adrenaline. This is intended to make you act on instinct as part of the fight or flight response. It can also numb pain. Therefore, it’s possible to be injured and not be aware of it (such as can be the case with internal injuries).
In addition, Florida law establishes a timeframe of 14 days to seek medical care to make certain types of claims, such as personal injury protection (PIP). Furthermore, the longer you wait to see a doctor, the more likely it is the other party’s attorney may claim that any injuries you discovered later may have been caused by something else — such as your work duties, athletic hobbies, working, out, carrying heavy groceries, etc…
8. Do Not Talk With The Other Driver’s Insurance Company
If you’re not represented by an attorney, it could be possible that the other driver’s insurance company may give you a call. They may be nice. They may sound reasonable. It could also be entirely possible to have a cordial conversation. Don’t do it.
At the end of the day, that person’s job is to minimize the other party’s responsibility, and even what may seem like a harmless comment made by you could later be used against you as either an admission of partial or total fault, or to otherwise put your side of the story into question. If they want to get information from the accident, they can talk to their own insured and to your own lawyer if you get one.
9. Talk With an Attorney
Every single car accident is different. Even with a step-by-step guide, there may be factors that come into play that are very specific to your accident. An experienced personal injury attorney will know which questions to ask, which documents to request from the other party, and prep you for depositions (sworn testimony) if the other party wants to depose you.
Your lawyer can also depose the other party, as well as medical providers, witnesses, and accident reconstruction experts. Having a lawyer means having a strategy to watch out for your best interests and maximize your recovery — for injuries, wrongful death (if applicable), property damage, car repairs, lost wages, car rental, mental anguish, and future medical expenses.
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.