10 Things You Must Know If You Have Been In A Motor Vehicle Accident

Florida has the unfortunate distinction of holding some of the worst car accident statistics in the United States. In 2021, our state saw approximately 3,332 traffic-related fatalities. This is the third highest in the entire country for motor vehicle deaths. Further, there were 341,399 car crashes recorded, according to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. That equals more than 935 accidents every day. What’s more, out of those roughly 140,167 led to injuries.

Sadly, car accidents are an unfortunate reality here in the Sunshine State. And while no one ever leaves the house expecting to get into an accident, they are more common than we think.

The attorneys at Woolsey Morcom are experienced in providing representation after a car or trucking accident. We have found that this can be an emotional time for the injured party, with many left wondering who will pay for the medical expenses. What if I can’t work? Do I have a permanent injury? What will insurance pay for? What are my future costs?

As lawyers, we get these questions nearly every single day. So, we put together a list of things that you should know in the event of an accident. We would encourage you to print this out and keep it with you in your glove box should you find yourself involved in a car crash.

Also, our firm provides a FREE consultation where we can review your case and discuss all of your options. Call us anytime at (904) 638-4235.

Without further ado, here is what YOU need to know if you have been involved in a Florida motor vehicle accident.

1. See a doctor. Even if you don’t believe you were seriously injured, you really should see a doctor at your first opportunity. The medical professionals we work with will tell you that many injuries don’t have symptoms that manifest for days or even weeks. During that time, you run the risk of further aggravating an injury and making it significantly worse. This is especially true with neck and back injuries. All drivers in Florida carry what is known as Personal Injury Protection or “PIP,” as it is commonly called. This is money that is there to help you get immediate medical treatment after an accident. But there are certain guidelines that must be followed in using your PIP benefits. Fortunately, we have guided hundreds of clients through the PIP process and can explain to you what is required in order to exercise these benefits.

2.     Speak with an attorney. If you think there is a chance AT ALL you might be injured, you need to call a lawyer. Time and time again we have seen situations where an individual thinks the accident he or she was involved in was no big deal only to find out later they experienced a lifelong injury. Because they waited, recovery has become much more difficult. Rather, it is better to have competent legal counsel help you through the process from the beginning so that you don’t miss a deadline or potentially give up a valid claim. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Our attorneys all work on contingency fees, meaning you owe nothing until you recover.

3.     Call the police and file an accident report. Having a police report is a critical piece of evidence in proving your case. It may come as a surprise to you that Florida Crash Reports are not admissible as evidence during the trial. Nonetheless, their importance cannot be understated. Not only do they provide the names and contact information for all parties and witnesses (so that we can properly investigate your claim), but they memorialize the accident and serve as an important tool for an insurance adjuster to help evaluate fault, injuries, etc. If you have been involved in a crash, DO NOT let the other driver convince you calling the police is not necessary.

4.     Start gathering evidence. If you can, take photographs (and videos!) of the scene of the accident, the vehicles, apparent injuries, the weather conditions. Gather as much information as you can. If there is a witness, and he or she is willing, get a recorded statement (we have even seen the other driver admit fault on camera). And get all names and contact information. BUT REMEMBER: If your case goes to trial, you will likely have to turn over all of this information to the attorneys for the insurance company. So be careful about admitting anything during a video and refrain from using degrading or disparaging language towards any party. 

5.     Trucking accidents are different. Not only is there the potential to have significant damages and injuries, but accidents involving trucking companies have a different set of rules. If you have been involved in an accident with a semi-truck, getting in touch with a lawyer should be a top priority. We have found that when we have clients involved in a trucking accident, not only are the injuries substantial, but time is also of the absolute essence. This is because when an employee of a trucking company is involved in an accident, he or she is obligated to report it to the company. This leads to them assigning a lawyer almost immediately. YOU DO NOT want to be behind the eight ball. Also, there are a host of federal rules and regulations that come into play. These can be very confusing, and an attorney is best positioned to assist you in understanding the relevant law. 

6.     Make an insurance claim. Regardless of fault, make an insurance claim. Florida is a “no-fault” insurance state. This means that you can file a claim with your own PIP coverage, no matter who is at fault for the accident. As soon as you are able, you should report the accident to your insurance company. This is important for preserving your rights. Florida Insurance Law requires that you seek medical attention within 14 days of an accident or your right to PIP insurance coverage may be denied. Don’t wait and go see a doctor. If you are unsure, call us and we can make a recommendation. 

7.     Do not admit fault. When questioned by law enforcement, it is important to tell the truth regarding what happened and what you remember. But do not say you caused the accident. Oftentimes, after investigating, we determine that it was the other driver’s fault despite the police report showing the contrary. We work with engineers and accident reconstructionists who utilize the latest technology in determining who the real at-fault driver is. Further, Florida is a comparative fault state. This means that even if you were somewhat at fault for the accident, you are not barred from recovering. Rather, the amount you receive will be offset by the percentage you are at fault. 

8.     Exchange insurance information with the other driver. Gone are the days when you could rely on a handshake and promise. This is especially true when it comes to accidents. Many of us want to avoid confrontation and strive to be as agreeable as we can. We might even feel bad for the other driver. As admirable as this quality might be, you need to get the insurance information from the person who hit you. Take a photo of their license plate while you are at it. If it is later determined that you have been injured and you can’t locate the other driver, you might end up being on the hook for the medical costs. 

9.     Pain and Suffering are evaluated using numerous factors. No doubt that lost wages and medical costs tend to make up the lion’s share of the claim. These are what are known as economic damages and can be determined by looking at medical bills and lost wages. But there are other losses you might be entitled to as well. These so-called non-economic damages include pain and suffering. Pain and suffering can be difficult to calculate and require precise adherence to the law in order to prove. But they can be substantial and include items like how the accident affected your life, your recovery period, future medical treatments, mental health issues, etc. Due to the somewhat subjective nature of these claims, a claim for pain and suffering almost always requires the engagement of legal counsel. While an insurance company may concede hard costs, like medical bills, we have found that they will often dispute pain and suffering.

10.  Policy Limits and UM Coverage. Unfortunately, more often than not the at-fault driver doesn’t carry enough insurance to fully cover all the injuries. In these situations, the injured party sometimes has little choice but to make a claim under their own Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage. This can be complicated and is something best left to an attorney. But it is important to keep in mind that when an injury is severe, there could be multiple sources for insurance coverage.

Woolsey Morcom has experience in navigating the complexities of Florida automobile personal injury law. Our lawyers have recovered tens of millions of dollars from insurance companies on behalf of our clients. If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident, we have accident attorneys on standby who can let you know what your rights are after an accident. Give us a call today at (904) 638-4235.

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