Florida has one of the highest rates of car accidents in the United States. It’s common to see one or more accidents each week just from your daily commute. But, as frequent 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. Being prepared and informed can make a big difference in any of these circumstances. Whether you have just been in an accident or want to be prepared, this step-by-step guide will help you know the steps and how an attorney can help.
Step-by-Step Guide: What to Do After a Car Accident in Florida
1. Make Sure You and Everyone Else Are OK
Florida Statute 316.062 requires motorists to provide reasonable assistance to anyone involved in the accident, such as drivers, passengers, or bystanders. This includes making arrangements to ensure any injured people receive necessary medical treatment. This requirement applies whether a person visibly needs assistance or if an injured person requests it.
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. 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
In the stress of the moment, it can be common for people to blurt out comments or express some kind of contrition. This can include apologizing, that you didn’t see the other motorist, or that you were distracted. Don’t ever do this. 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 later investigations.
This is because Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction, which means someone can be found only partially at fault. For example, even if you didn’t see the other driver because you were distracted and then collided, other factors could still be involved. It’s also possible that the other driver may have also been distracted, speeding, or driving under the influence. Poorly marked signs, damaged roadways, or poor driving conditions can also be factors.
Admitting responsibility at the scene could later be used against you and potentially skew the investigation and judgment in the other party’s favor. Do not lie or withhold information if an officer or investigator asks, but do not apologize or admit any fault, particularly to the other party.
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 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, bystanders, and employees or patrons of nearby businesses.
5. Report the Accident to the Police
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 following:
- Date, time, and location of the accident
- Description of the vehicles involved
- Names and addresses of everyone involved, including drivers and passengers
- VIN of each vehicle
- Names and addresses of witnesses
- Names, badge numbers, and law enforcement agency of the officers investigating the crash
- 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
What happens if there are contradictory testimonies? One of the best ways to prove a claim is to show photographic or video evidence of what occurred. Photos will have to be authenticated, but this is an issue your attorney can worry about later. Your job is to get as many usable pictures as possible.
Tips for photographing accidents include capturing:
- All injuries
- 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:
- Nearby homes
- Businesses that may have surveillance videos
- Traffic lights that may have cameras,
- Anything else that may be relevant to the accident, including potholes, wet pavement, obstructed road signs, and insufficient lighting
7. Seek Medical Attention within 14 Days
Car accident injuries very often have a delayed onset, so it’s possible to be injured and not be aware of it. This is particularly with internal injuries or injuries such as whiplash.
It is also important to establish a medical record so you can be compensated for any medical expenses. Florida law establishes a timeframe of 14 days to seek medical care to make certain types of claims, such as personal injury protection (PIP).
What’s more, the longer you wait to see a doctor, it can be harder to establish that the accident caused your injury. 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, or carrying heavy groceries.
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. They may try 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. What may seem like a harmless comment made by you could later be used against you. It could be seen as either an admission of partial or total fault, or as information that puts your side of the story into question. If they want to get information from the accident, they can talk to their insured and your lawyer if you get one.
9. Talk With an Attorney
Every single car accident is different. There can always 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 how to prep you for sworn testimony.
Your lawyer can also depose the other party, as well as medical providers, witnesses, and accident reconstruction experts. Having a lawyer means an experienced professional is watching out for your best interests and maximizing your recovery. This can include compensation for injuries, property damage, car repairs, lost wages, car rental, mental anguish, wrongful death, and future medical expenses.
What if it’s your first accident?
If you have never been in an accident before, the questions can race through your mind: How much will it cost to fix your car? Is your insurance rate going to increase? Are you going to be fined for any traffic violations or be on the hook for the costs of someone else’s medical bills and repairs?
One of the most important things you can do after an accident, especially your first, is to remain calm and go one step at a time. While there can be a temptation to move on as quickly as possible and take the first settlement your insurance offers, knowing what to do and following each step can help you achieve the best possible outcome.
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.