Injured in Automobile Accident? Immediate Steps to Take
You have been injured in an automobile accident … now what? The South Florida accident and injury attorneys at Lyons, Snyder & Collin, P.A. have the experience to answer all questions related to your automobile accident.
Our team of personal injury attorneys created this checklist of common questions and pitfalls in automobile accident cases.
- Always contact the police and obtain a police report (even if no one appears seriously injured). The police report will include: (1) insurance details of the parties; (2) license plate, VIN, and driver’s license numbers; (3) contact information; (4) and a diagram of the accident scene. A police report is crucial to your case as it memorializes the accident.
- Obtain the contact information of any witnesses to the accident.
- Receive prompt medical treatment, if warranted. This is especially true for medical emergencies such as head injuries (i.e. dizziness, loss of consciousness, blurry vision) symptoms of numbing/tingling/loss of feeling in your extremities, trouble breathing or broken bones.
- Go to the hospital, if warranted. Your PIP benefits will cover the medical expenses even if you do not have health insurance. In Florida, you must receive medical treatment within fourteen days after the accident to preserve your PIP benefits.
- Take pictures of your (1) vehicle; (2) the at-fault driver’s vehicle; (3) road conditions / accident scene; (4) and your visible injuries (i.e. bruising, scratches, casts, splints, walkers, etc.). The more pictures the better.
- Report the accident to YOUR insurance company. This phone call puts your insurance company on notice of the claim and generates a claim number. Many auto insurance policies require immediate reporting and full cooperation as part of your contractual agreement. Please be aware that (during this initial phone call) you should only report certain information such as (1) the time, date, and place of the accident and (2) the damage to your vehicle. You may be required to provide a PIP statement or sit for a PIP CME (compulsory medical examination) at a later point in time. A major misconception that clients have is that if they alert their insurance company after an accident, their rates will automatically rise. If you were not at fault, your rates should not go up. Regardless, you must report the accident to preserve your benefits (i.e. PIP and possibly uninsured/under-insured motorist).
- Provide a statement to the AT-FAULT’s driver’s insurance company. Your personal injury attorney will contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company to report the claim on your behalf and (eventually) submit a demand for settlement or file suit. Although you are required to speak with your insurance company (if requested), you are NOT contractually obligated to speak with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If you choose to speak the at-fault driver’s insurance company concerning repairs to your vehicle, limit your conversation to ONLY the property damage – not your injuries, prior accidents or injuries, or the theory of liability. Remember, your own insurance company can handle the property damage aspect of your claim and seek payment (subrogate) from the at-fault driver.
- Discuss your injuries or theory of liability with anyone but a medical provider or a lawyer. Many injuries as a result of car accidents (i.e. soft tissue injuries) have a delayed onset that may not manifest for up to 3-5 days. Even clients with multiple herniated discs as a result of an accident sometimes report only limited pain for the first 3-5 days after an accident. As a result, never advise law enforcement or the at-fault party that you are not injured. A more appropriate answer is that you are not sure of your injuries and plan to seek medical treatment.
- Admit liability (even to the police). Limit your conversation with the police to only the circumstances surrounding the accident.
- Apologize – even if you are just trying to console an injured (or upset) party. Insurance companies view apologizes as admissions of guilt and could limit your recovery.
- Negotiate with any insurance company / accept payment without the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney.
The bottom line – insurance companies will attempt to minimize any payouts at all costs. Following this checklist and speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney soon after an automobile accident will help you maximize compensation and avoid any common pitfalls. If you have any questions, please call one of our trial-tested accident attorneys for a free consultation. You will not owe us one penny if we cannot collect on your behalf.