10 Steps to Take After a Car Accident in Florida

A man being treated for his wounds after a car accident in Florida

The average driver will be involved in three to four accidents in their lifetime; the best-case scenario is that there’s little to no damage and no injuries. They get themselves together, take a breath, and drive away. In some cases, drivers are not so lucky. In some cases, accidents result in significant damage to their vehicle, injuries, and, tragically, loss of life. They also cause often crushing financial burdens, compounded, of course, by injury and the inability to work. After a car accident in Florida, it is critical that you take steps to protect yourself. What you do now plays an important role in what will happen if you must take legal action to secure compensation from your car accident.

Despite how careful and cautious you are, there really is no defense against bad luck – or bad drivers. If you are involved in an auto accident, stay calm. That’s easier said than done; however, knowing what to do can help stave off the panic and ensure you can take the proper steps.

What to Do After a Car Accident in Florida

1. Stay at the Scene

Do not leave. Under Florida car accident laws, you must immediately report any accident that results in injury or death, results in $500 or more in property damage, involves an intoxicated driver, or was a hit-and-run.

You may think an accident was “minor.” But $500 in damage is a very low threshold. Even if your car has a scratch or small dent, for example, it could be hiding more significant damage (e.g., structural issues, parts shifted out of place, etc.). Injuries, too, can be hidden. When adrenaline is pumping through your body, it can mask pain and some injuries (e.g., concussion, internal bleeding, soft tissue injuries) are not discernible immediately. This isn’t a legal term, but it applies: better safe than sorry.

Contact the Florida Highway Patrol or the appropriate police authority in the area. If you’re not sure who to report the accident to, call 911.

2. Check for Injuries and Seek Medical Treatment

Check to see if you and your passengers have any obvious injuries. If it is safe to do so, ask the other driver and his/her passengers if they have any injuries. Do not admit fault, apologize, or speak about anything else. A simple, “Are you injured?” is enough. Do not engage in conversation. (More on this in a moment.)

As mentioned, you may feel all right, but remember, this could be the adrenaline speaking. Be aware that according to Florida car accident laws, you must report injuries within two weeks in order to receive compensation from your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy. Even if you think injuries are minor, make sure you are fully checked out at the emergency room or your regular doctor. The sooner, the better.

3. Report the Accident

We urge you to contact the police immediately, even if you believe the accident to have been minor. The responding officer(s) should file a report; but if they do not, you must do so. Fortunately, this is easy enough to do online. You will need a police report as you go forward with insurance and if you need to take further legal action.

4. Exchange Contact Information

When there is another driver involved in the accident, try to exchange your insurance information with him/her. You do not need to provide your phone number or address; they will need to interact with your insurance company, not you directly.

When speaking with the other driver, keep your conversation to a bare minimum. As mentioned, ask if anyone is injured and ask for their insurance card. That’s it. Do not, under any circumstances, apologize. It’s human nature to blurt out, “Are you ok? I’m sorry” – regardless of the facts of the situation. Unfortunately, anything you say that can be twisted into an admission of fault can be used against you.

5. Try to Obtain Contact Information from Witnesses

If there are any witnesses to the accident, ask if you can get their name and contact information. They may be able to help paint a more complete picture of the situation, which can come in handy down the road. They are not compelled to give you their information, so remember to ask respectfully and calmly.

The responding officers will also talk to them if they remain on the scene. If they don’t, however, the information you obtain can be invaluable.

6. Document the Scene

If it is safe to do so, use your phone to take pictures and/or video of the accident. Include your vehicle, other vehicles involved, visible injuries, road conditions, signs, debris, skid marks, and any other items that may have evidentiary value.

7. Contact a Lawyer

Yes, seek legal counsel even before you contact your insurance company. This is a critical step in protecting your rights, as well as your ability to pursue the compensation you deserve. Dealing with insurance companies can be challenging, and if there is a way they can escape paying out for your accident, rest assured they will. Your car accident or personal injury attorney can interact with the insurance company on your behalf and provide essential guidance in terms of the next steps.

8. Notify Your Insurance Company

After receiving legal counsel, report the accident to your insurance provider. Remember, the clock is ticking here. Most insurers require that you report an accident within 72 hours, while many require you to do so immediately. This means you must contact an attorney ASAP and then handle the insurance company. Do not wait to do either.

When speaking to an insurance representative, stick to the facts. Do not embellish, guess, or speculate. Just tell them what happened in clear terms. And again, do not apologize or admit fault. Your lawyer can help you prepare for a formal statement; until you have that guidance, do not proceed with that statement.

9. Stay off Social Media

Now is not the time to post about your accident. Do not say anything about it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform. To paraphrase the famous warning, “Anything you post can and will be held against you.”

10. Keep an Eye on Your Health

We have emphasized that, oftentimes, injuries do not present at the scene of the accident. Some take hours or even days to make themselves known. That does not mean that they are not serious. Concussion, soft tissue injuries, internal bleeding, and other injuries can worsen and cause other complications. Make sure to monitor yourself for injuries and changes, and keep a log of all symptoms.

Do not wait to contact an attorney with extensive experience in Florida car accident laws. Protecting your rights and your ability to pursue a personal injury case is of the utmost importance. Get in touch with Clayton Trial Lawyers for an initial case consultation. We are here to help. Call us now at 833-938-2300.