When to Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
The first thing to do when you are involved in a car accident of any type is to call 9-1-1 to report the accident. This is especially true if anyone involved is injured or in pain. It is also important not to make assumptions or claims about who was at fault in the accident. Each person involved offers a limited perspective of the circumstances.
Once authorities have been notified, the following are important items to consider:
Photos taken at the scene can be critical to documenting the accident. Use your cell phone camera to take pictures of damages to vehicles involved and the accident scene.
Be sure to gather identification and contact information from other drivers, along with their insurance information.
Be sure to gather identification and contact information of any witnesses to the crash.
Cooperate fully with emergency responders and law enforcement. Request a copy of the accident report.
Seek an immediate medical exam for yourself and any of your passengers, even if you don’t think you are injured.
Once you have taken care of these initial items, it is time to contact an experienced car accident lawyer to protect your rights. If you contact Frohlich, Gordon & Beason, P.A., we can deal with your insurance company for you and handle all the communication going forward. We will be your one point of contact so that there is no confusion regarding what you should or should not do following your car accident.
Florida Car Accident Laws Explained
All drivers in Florida should have an understanding of the Sunshine State’s auto accident laws to prepare oneself for the unfortunate event of being involved in a crash. Whether you are a new driver or simply need a refresher since your last driver’s education class, the following guide summarizes everything you need to know about Florida’s car accident laws.
Florida Car Accident Statute of Limitations
Under Florida’s statute of limitations for car accident cases, if you have been injured in a car accident, you have until four years from the date of your crash to file a lawsuit. Filing a claim after this deadline has expired could result in your case being dismissed, effectively prohibiting you from being able to take legal action. This window can sometimes be extended if your injuries were not discovered until some period of time after your collision. If your loved one was killed in a fatal crash, you only have two years to bring a wrongful death case against the at-fault driver. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your crash, it is imperative you retain the services of an experienced attorney as soon as possible to begin collecting key evidence and comply with all applicable legal deadlines.
When Do You Have to Report a Car Accident?
Florida law requires all drivers to stop at the scene of an accident and render aid to any injured parties. You must report a crash to local law enforcement (police, sheriff, or highway patrol) if the crash causes injury to any parties or if there is more than $500 in damage. If anyone was injured, you must stay and exchange information with everyone who was involved. Never flee the scene of an accident and make sure to stay until law enforcement gives you permission to leave.
You must also report any crash to your insurance company as soon as possible. Many insurance policies require claims to be submitted within a few days in order to be eligible for coverage. It is important to read and be familiar with the terms of your policy to ensure your compliance with all applicable deadlines.
Always report a crash to your insurance company, even if no one initially appears to have been injured. There are several reasons for this:
Cooperation clause: Many insurance policies include a “cooperation clause” which contractually requires policyholders to report an accident. If you fail to do so, you could be held in violation of the terms of your policy.
Delayed symptoms: It is not uncommon for individuals to feel fine in the immediate aftermath of a car accident only for injury symptoms to manifest themselves days later. If you do not report the crash promptly, your insurance company could argue that your injuries were not caused by your accident and deny you coverage.
Fraud: Unfortunately, there are some people who purposely involve themselves in accidents to “cash-in” on their insurance policies by filing fraudulent personal injury claims. The longer you wait to report a crash, the more likely they will be to accuse you of being untruthful in your claim.
Can I File an Accident Claim by Myself?
You can file an insurance claim without a lawyer after a car accident if you only suffered minimal damage to your car and no injuries were involved. Since Florida is a “no-fault” state, your insurance company will provide you compensation for your losses under your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage regardless of who was actually at fault for the crash.
If you have suffered serious injuries that will permanently change your life or require you to miss work for an extended period of time, contact our firm. We can help you seek additional compensation from the at-fault driver and ensure your rights are protected during every step of your claim.
Florida’s No-Fault Car Insurance System
Florida is a no-fault state, meaning that each driver is financially responsible for their own accident expenses regardless of who caused the crash. Drivers must turn to their own insurers after an accident for compensation for medical bills and other costs up to the limits of their policies.
All drivers much carry at least $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) and $10,000 of property damage liability (PDL)coverage to legally operate a vehicle in the state of Florida. PIP insurance covers non-property related costs such as personal injury and lost wages up to the limits of your policy, while PDL coverage pays for vehicle repairs and other property damage costs. If a collision causes more damages than your insurance policy covers, you may then file a lawsuit against the other driver for additional damages as long as certain circumstances are met.
Generally speaking, you may only step outside the no-fault system if you have suffered a “serious injury” as defined by the state. This may include:
Fractured or broken bones
Permanent damage or limitation of use of an organ or member
Significant impairment of a bodily function or system
Substantial disability for 90 days or more
PIP Coverage May Not Be Enough
While every Florida driver is required to purchase PIP coverage, in many cases, this coverage is not enough to offset the financial repercussions of an accident.
Consider the following:
PIP will only cover 80% of your medical expenses
PIP only compensates you for 60% of your lost wages
PIP does not provide any compensation for property damage
PIP only pays for treatment from certain medical providers
Even with these limitations, PIP insurance providers may try to bully you into accepting a lower amount of compensation than you should receive. For this reason, it is important to enlist the services of a knowledgeable Port Charlotte car accident attorney who can guard your interests and fight for the full compensation you deserve under your policy.
Pure Comparative Fault in Florida
It is likely that the person you believe to be responsible for your accident will attempt to blame you for the crash, either in full or in part. Florida’s “pure comparative fault” laws dictate that the amount of compensation that an injured person can receive will be reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if you were in a crash and suffered $20,000 worth of damages and a court finds you 20% at fault for your collision, your eligible compensation will be reduced to $16,000 (Or the $20,000 total minus $4,000 which accounts for your share of the fault).
Damages for Car Accident Claims
You may seek compensation for a variety of economic damages after a crash, including:
Present and future medical expenses
Lost present and future wages
In-home health care costs
Rehabilitation and physical therapy
If the crash resulted in serious injuries, you may also be able to recover compensation from the at-fault driver for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of consortium if a loved one died in the crash. It is best to consult with a skilled attorney to get a more accurate representation of your case’s value.
Assisting You with All Aspects of Your Car Accident Insurance Claim
Your vehicle needs to be repaired or replaced. You and your passengers may have medical bills to pay and treatment decisions to make. There may be missed time from work and other interruptions to your regular routine for necessary medical care. In some cases, there may be long-term disability or trauma issues in the future. You carry insurance to protect you from these losses—but will it suffice?
Unfortunately, your friendly insurance agent has little to say about the results of your claim. The insurance company will do their best to limit their liabilities and settle the claim in their best interest, which may not always match yours. That’s why you need personal representation for your interests from a skilled and understanding car accidents attorney. Our Port Charlotte car accident lawyers have dealt with many car accident cases in Sarasota, Desoto, Charlotte, and Lee counties.