Depending on their severity, car accidents can range from a mild annoyance to a life-altering event. If you were in a car accident in Florida, you will need to take steps to make sure that you are fully protected.
1. Report the Accident
If your car accident involved injuries or property damage over $500, you must report your accident. To report your accident, call the local police department, sheriff, or the Florida Highway Patrol. If your accident resulted in serious injuries or an unsafe situation, call 9-1-1.
2. Gather Information
Make sure to get the name, phone number, address, vehicle make and model, license plate number, and insurance information (carrier and policy number) from anyone involved in the accident. Also, ask for names, phone numbers, and addresses of any passengers and witnesses; this information could be helpful if your accident results in a future lawsuit.
3. File a Claim With Your Insurance Company
After an accident, you should file a claim with your insurance company. You should do this even if you were not responsible for the accident. The company will investigate your claim to determine fault and damage. If you have any questions about your insurance coverage or benefits, do not be afraid to ask your insurance company.
4. Seek Medical Treatment
Florida has Personal Injury Protection (also called "PIP" or "no fault") automobile insurance. Under Florida’s PIP laws, drivers are required to carry insurance to cover the driver’s own injuries and lost wages, regardless of whether the accident was the driver’s fault or the fault of the other driver.
Under Florida’s new PIP law, an injured driver must seek treatment within fourteen days to receive PIP benefits. If you have PIP automobile insurance, you should consult your family doctor or go to an emergency room as soon as possible—even if you do not think your injuries are severe. Some injuries do not manifest themselves immediately after an accident. You do not want to be prevented from recovering PIP benefits because of this technicality.
If you were a passenger in an accident, you should also immediately seek medical treatment. Passengers are also entitled to PIP benefits. If the driver you were riding with had PIP automobile insurance at the time of the accident, you should be able to recover for your injuries.
If you have any questions about your PIP benefits, talk to your insurance company.
5. Get a Settlement Offer From the Insurance Company
The insurance company or companies liable for the accident will send you a settlement offer. This offer will indicate how much (if any) the insurance company will pay for the property damage and injuries. If the offer is not enough to cover your injuries and property damage, you can try to negotiate with the adjuster. If you cannot negotiate with the adjuster to get an acceptable settlement, you should consult a personal injury attorney.
Consult a Personal Injury Attorney
An experienced attorney in Florida can negotiate with an insurance company, file a lawsuit (if necessary), evaluate your case, and help you decide on a course of action. Many personal injury attorneys work on contingency fees, which means that you will not have to pay them unless you win.