Injured in a car accident?
The personal injury law firm of Lyons, Snyder & Collin aggressively represents victims of automobile accidents and motorcycle accidents throughout South Florida. As a courtesy to our clients, we created a frequently asked questions section concerning “the nuts and bolts” of an automobile accident case and the first steps that should be taken after an accident.
Car accident not my fault … should I call my insurance company? What about the at-fault driver’s insurance company?
Yes; regardless of fault, it is important to call your insurance company and report any accident that involved injuries or property damage. That being said, please remember that EVERYTHING you report to (either) insurance company could be used against you to reduce or exclude coverage.
If I call my insurance company, should I answer the adjuster’s questions? If yes, how?
If you were injured in any manner as a result of the accident do NOT disclose any information concerning your injuries (including type of injuries or level/degree of pain) over the phone to any insurance adjuster. Simply advise them that YOU ARE INJURED AND PLAN TO VISIT A DOCTOR. When reporting a claim you only have one obligation: REPORT THE ACCIDENT (i.e. time/place/insurance information) … no more, no less.
- discuss your current or past injuries;
- advise the insurance adjuster that you are NOT injured (as injuries could have a delayed onset (i.e. low back injuries);
- admit liability (even in jest); or
- provide your social security number to the insurance adjuster.
Either insurance company could use this information against you if/when you make a claim for damages.
Once you report the claim, politely hang up the phone – you are not required to answer any additional questions. From there on out, one of our experienced personal injury attorneys will handle all correspondence / interaction with both your insurance company and the at-fault insurance company.
You can speak with the PROPERTY adjuster only as it relates to setting up a time to value the damage to your vehicle and/or other PROPERTY damage questions. Refrain from answering any other inquiries – especially inquiries relating to your injuries or liability. If you are unsure whether you should answer the insurance adjuster’s questions, direct the adjuster’s phone call to one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.
Why should I call MY insurance company if the accident wasn’t my fault?
So they are on NOTICE. It is important to place your insurance company on notice of the accident to preserve possible coverage claims. Insurance companies are in the business to make money – not pay out claims; Do not give them any reason to exclude a benefit under your policy by failing to comply with their reporting requirements. Stated another way, your insurance company MAY decline benefits if you fail to place them on notice of the accident.
In the event you are injured…you MUST report the accident to your insurance company to provide for your personal injury protection insurance (PIP) to cover the first $10,000.00 in medical bills and lost wages. PIP coverage is required in the State of Florida; PIP benefits are paid by YOUR insurance company regardless of who was at fault for the accident. PIP benefits pay for 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your lost wages – up to $10,000.00. EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT THE AT-FAULT DRIVER, YOU WILL SEEK TO HAVE YOUR MEDICAL BILLS PAID THROUGH YOUR PIP COVERAGE. Contrary to popular belief, there is no “penalty” for utilizing your PIP benefits after an accident.
If there is property damage…A common reason to contact your insurance company is when the at-fault driver’s insurance company is slow to accept responsibility for the accident. Contacting your insurance company can oftentimes expedite the process – in the event your policy contains collision coverage – (i.e. the faster your vehicle is repaired or replaced). No fret, your insurance company will later seek reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurance. This is called subrogation. Your insurance policy may also contain towing and/or rental car coverage. You paid for the benefits – you might as well use them.
The most overlooked reason to contact your insurance company is that the other driver may claim that YOU are at-fault and pursue a claim against you for damages. Under the terms of your automobile insurance policy, your carrier is required to defend your claim for free – assuming they are properly placed on notice.
Finally, in the event you purchased uninsured and/or under-insured motorist (“UM/UIM”) coverage, you can file a claim with your insurance policy if the at-fault driver did not purchase insurance or purchased inadequate insurance.
The bottom line – call your insurance company after any accident involving injuries or property damage to put them on NOTICE of the accident and to preserve any claims. Please remember that any statement you provide to an insurance adjuster concerning the events leading up to and including the accident could be disastrous in future litigation. Even an innocuous statement such as “I feel OK, I guess?” when asked by an insurance adjuster days following the accident could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in litigation. Take the prudent course – decline to answer any questions and/or give a recorded statement until after you speak with one of our experienced accident lawyers.
Will my insurance premium increase if I file a claim and the accident wasn’t my fault?
IF THE ACCIDENT IS NOT YOUR FAULT, FLORIDA LAW PROHIBITS YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY FROM RAISING YOUR RATES FOR FILING A PIP CLAIM, PROPERTY CLAIM, OR MEDICAL PAYMENTS CLAIM (Florida Statute, 626.9541).
This information is surprising to many of our personal injury clients who are under the false belief that filing a claim through their insurance company will automatically raise their rates.
There are dozens, if not hundreds of reasons your insurance company can increase your rates at any time (also known as an increased surcharge). Some of the reasons include: speeding ticket(s), adding a young driver to your policy, your age, poor credit, a new job, a friend wrecks your car, you are now single, the amount of the property damage claim, etc. All that being said, your involvement in an automobile accident that is not your fault can not be considered when determining a rate increase.
Of note, when your insurance company receives notice of the accident (regardless of whether you are the at-fault driver), they (likely) will recalculate their risk parameters as a result of “new” information. Again, your filing of a PIP claim where you were not at fault cannot be used as factor. In the event your insurance company decides to raise your premiums (or worse, fails to renew your insurance), they will point to another reason (unrelated to the accident) for the increased surcharge. Unfortunately, insurance companies can manipulate the parameters when deciding who fits their “risk” profile to issue a policy and at what premium. As such, whether you file a claim with your insurance or not, just the fact that you were involved in an automobile accident could have negative repercussions on your insurance.
Of interest, it is our understanding that your insurance company will become aware of your accident even if you file the property damage claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance and not through your insurance. Your insurance company will certainly become aware of the accident if you are injured as result of filing a PIP claim.
Should I go to the hospital after a car accident?
It depends. Every case is different and many unique factors must be considered before making the decision to go to the hospital. That being said, when in doubt our personal injury attorneys recommend that you immediately have someone drive you to the hospital.
It goes without saying that you should immediately have someone drive you to the hospital if you have suffered any closed head injury, even if you do not initially feel any “concussion like” symptoms (such as dizziness, headaches, loss of consciousness, vertigo, double vision, etc.) as closed head injuries can have a delayed onset. Do not take any chances with these types of injuries as they could be life-threatening. A closed head injury could occur from whiplash or hitting your head on the steering wheel or door during impact.
Assuming you do not have a closed head injury, ask yourself two things…1. “Am I injured (and what type of injury)?”
If you believe you have suffered any “major” injury such as a broken (fractured) bone (especially an open fracture) our personal injury attorneys recommend that you immediately have someone drive you to the hospital. At the hospital, a doctor will take x-rays (to confirm the break) and place you in a cast or splint, if necessary. A doctor will also check your vitals and confirm you do not have any other injuries, such as internal bleeding.
If you believe you have suffered any “major” injury such as a torn ligament (i.e. torn ACL) our personal injury attorneys recommend that you immediately have someone drive you to the hospital, an orthopedic surgeon or physiatrist (physical/pain management doctor).
The reason being is that an emergency room doctor will typically administer X-rays (which check for broken bones) and not MRIs (which check for soft tissue injuries and ligament tears). An X-ray will not uncover an injury such as a bulging or herniated disc. In these cases, an emergency room doctor will advise you that you do not have any broken bones, provide you with pain medication, and refer you to a doctor (such as an orthopedic surgeon) for a follow up visit – which will likely include MRIs. As a result, if you can immediately be treated by an chiropractor, orthopedic surgeon or physiatrist, they may be better able to diagnose the injury, without the added step (i.e. significant cost) of checking into a hospital.
If you are unsure of your injuries (especially if you have a closed head injury) or cannot schedule an immediate appointment with an orthopedic surgeon or physiatrist, our personal injury attorneys recommend that you have someone drive you to the hospital.
If you believe you have suffered any “soft tissue” injuries (such as strained back or neck), our personal injury attorneys recommend that you immediately make an appointment with a physiatrist, chiropractor or orthopedic surgeon, in the event that you do not want to check yourself into an emergency room. Many times, soft tissue injuries have a delayed onset. A large number of soft tissue injury clients do not report significant pain until a few days after their accident. Do not wait until the pain becomes debilitating – make an appointment at the first sign of pain, even slight pain. A physiatrist, chiropractor or orthopedic surgeon can diagnose your injuries and determine the severity of your injuries. A physiatrist, chiropractor or orthopedic surgeon can refer you to receive a MRI, if necessary.2. “Do I have insurance?”
I don’t have health insurance, who will pay for my medical bills?
In Florida, your automobile insurance policy will be the first to pay for your medical bills and lost wages via your personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. Your insurance will be responsible for 80% of your reasonable medical expenses related to the accident and 60% of your lost earnings subject to the limits of the coverage and any applicable deductible (or up to the specified policy limit). It is important to note, however, that only the first $10,000.00 of medical bills and/or lost wages will be paid from your insurance company. Any amount after the first $10,000.00 will have to obtained from the at-fault driver or your uninsured/under-insured carrier, if applicable.
After you exhaust your PIP benefits, your personal injury attorney will next attempt to seek recovery of your medical bills (past and future), lost wages, and pain and suffering (if your injury is of a permanent nature) through the at-fault insurance company.
If the at-fault insurance company tenders their insured’s limits (i.e. pays out $25,000.00 on a $25,000.00 bodily injury policy), the personal injury attorney can then seek recovery from your insurance company, provided you have purchased uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage. You can only seek to pursue your uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage benefits subsequent to the exhaustion of the at-fault’s party’s benefits – if any.
In many cases, our clients do not have the present ability to pay for medical care and do not have health insurance. In that case, the client will enter in to a “Letter of Protection” a/k/a “LOP” with their attorney and medical provider. An LOP allows the client to receive medical care with the understanding that the medical provider will get paid first out of any recovery achieved by settlement or judgment. In other words, the LOP acts as a lien against the Plaintiff’s claim.
My injuries seem “minor”, is there any rush to receive medical treatment?
You should seek medical treatment, preferably with a licensed physician, within fourteen (14) days of the accident as a result of the new Personal Injury Protection (PIP) laws which came into effect January 1, 2013.
- Starting January 1, 2013, the initial treatment must be obtained within fourteen (14) days from the accident.
- That “initial treatment” and care must be lawfully provided, supervised, ordered, or prescribed by a licensed physician, D.O. (Doctor of Osteopath), Dentist or Chiropractor or provided in a hospital or in a facility that owns or is wholly owned by a hospital.
- Follow up treatment: PIP will only pay for follow up services if there was an initial treatment within fourteen (14) days and the following occurs: (a) The follow up services are referred from an licensed physician, D.O, Dentist, Chiropractor, supervised Physician’s Assistant or Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner; and (b) The follow up services are consistent with the underlying medical diagnosis rendered on the initial visit.
- If the thresholds are met, there are two (2) levels of PIP medical benefits: (a) $10,000.00 for an emergency medical condition; and (b) $2,500.00 for treatment that is not for any initially diagnosed emergency medical condition.
- Up to the full $10,000.00 PIP medical benefit is available only if a licensed physician, D.O, Dentist, supervised Physician’s Assistant or Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner determines that the insured has an “emergency medical condition.” Otherwise, the PIP medical benefit is limited to $2,500.00
- Massage therapy and acupuncture are not reimbursable under the new PIP Statute (change from old PIP laws).
- A Chiropractor cannot diagnose an emergency medical condition and thus will be limited to $2,500.00 in reimbursements for services provided unless referred by one of the specified medical professionals listed above.
The Statute defines “emergency medical condition” as: medical conditions manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity, which may include severe pain, such that the absence of immediate medical attention would be reasonable expected to result in any of the following:
- Serious jeopardy to the patient health.
- Serious impairment to bodily functions.
- Serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.
Should I immediately contact a personal injury attorney after an accident?
Without question, you should immediately contact a personal injury attorney after an accident. There are many reasons to contact a personal injury attorney right after an accident, here are a few…
- Personal injury attorneys offer FREE consultations with no obligation to sign up;
- Personal injury attorneys are only compensated in the event they recover a settlement on your behalf;
- Personal injury attorneys almost always secure higher settlement amounts than individuals who deal directly with an insurance company. The fear of a possible trial (i.e. exposing the insurance company to unknown and unlimited risk) is the best weapon in a personal injury attorney’s arsenal;
- Insurance companies are NOT working for your best interests. Insurance companies will do everything under the law to sidestep responsibility, seek exclusions, and deny claims. Not retaining a personal injury attorney only emboldens insurance companies make minimal settlement offers (see #3);
- Insurance companies will attempt to lock you into a position (by a sworn statement) early in the case (liability, degree of injuries, etc) to your detriment;
- Insurance companies oftentimes “drag their feet” when dealing with your property damage (“PD”) claim;
- An experienced personal injury attorney can advise you of potentially unknown avenues of recovery (for example, if you are hit on your bicycle or are a pedestrian you may be able to recover benefits through your automobile’s uninsured/under-insured (“UM”) policy OR if your automobile is hit by an at-fault driver who works for a business, you may be able to recover benefits through multiple parties);
- An experienced personal injury attorney can help facilitate medical treatment providers on a letter of protection (“LOP”), even if you did not purchase health insurance.
- [With regards to auto accidents] personal injury protection (“PIP”) laws are confusing; if you miss certain deadlines, you can be excluded from benefits.
Will I have to pay my personal injury attorney out of my own pocket?
Lyons, Snyder & Collin’s personal injury attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis, which means that you never have to pay any fee or cost until and unless we obtain a settlement and/or jury award at trial. Of course, if we are unsuccessful, you do not pay anything.
We have a no-fee guarantee!
When retaining an accident attorney to represent your best interests and obtain the maximum compensation for your injuries, it is important to seek out an attorney with the highest level of credentials (such as Martindale AV rated, Top 100 Trial Attorney, recognized in Super Lawyers magazine, nominated as Legal Elite, etc.), reviews, trial experience, and someone you will trust will investigate all sources of recovery (i.e. “pockets”) to make you financially whole. Do not simply settle for a “volume mill” you heard in a radio jingle that burns through thousands of clients per year. Commonly, our experienced personal injury attorney will seek monies from numerous sources including — all owners of the vehicle, employers, and possible your own insurance company via uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage.