Important Steps to Take
Immediately Following an Accident
Florida averaged more than 930 auto accidents that injured more than 580 people every day in 2020. There are steps each of those 580 people should have taken immediately following the crash which could have helped them protect their health and pursue a personal injury claim.
Even in a minor collision, the moments after a crash can be disorienting. What you do in the following minutes, hours, and days may be critical to seeking compensation for your injuries and other damage. Those steps might also be critical to your health and well-being.
The Hoag Law Firm represents accident victims in personal injury claims in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Clearwater, and Land O’ Lakes, Florida. Attorney Brian M. Hoag knows what insurance companies do to deny injury claims, and how to fight back. If you have been injured in a car accident, put the Hoag Law Firm on your side.
Follow These Steps After an Accident
Here are five key steps you should take after you've been involved in an auto accident:
1. Seek Medical Treatment
Some injuries commonly sustained in car accidents are not immediately obvious. Soft tissue and internal injuries, concussions, and hairline fractures, for example, may not be apparent until days or weeks later. Be aware that even low-speed accidents can cause serious injuries. You should seek medical treatment at the scene of the crash, or immediately after you leave at an emergency room, urgent care center, or at your doctor’s office to make sure you receive proper medical treatment.
Insurance companies look for ways to deny claims. If you do not seek treatment quickly, insurers will argue that either your injuries were not serious enough to warrant treatment, or you injured yourself subsequently in some other way and now blame those injuries on the accident. Furthermore, medical diagnoses tying your injuries to the crash are vital. If your medical records do not reflect the crash as the cause of the injuries or aggravation of existing conditions, your claim may be denied.
2. Call Law Enforcement
Florida law requires drivers involved in accidents to contact law enforcement immediately if the crash results in injury or death, involves a person or vehicle fleeing the scene or someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol, results in rendering a vehicle unable to move, or involves a commercial motor vehicle. Calling 911 will ensure that the proper law enforcement agency is contacted. Law enforcement will investigate and file a report within 10 days. This report could be critical in establishing fault for the accident.
3. Document All Evidence for Your Claim
Documentation includes writing down the other driver’s name, address, telephone number, and insurer information. You should also get the names and contact information of all witnesses to the accident. If possible, take photos of the vehicles and crash scene. Ask your healthcare providers for copies of all medical records following the crash, including admission and discharge notes, prescriptions, and radiology reports. Obtain a copy of the accident report once it is filed. Write down your own account of what happened while the incident is fresh in your mind and update it as you remember the events.
4. Notify Your Insurance Provider
Most insurers require notification of an accident within days, if not hours, of a crash. Provide the other driver’s insurance information to your insurer as well.
5. Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
You should contact an attorney to discuss your case immediately so your attorney can provide you with legal advice about prospective claims. Your attorney will also immediately put the at-fault driver’s insurer on notice of your retention of legal counsel, which means the insurer and anyone else involved in the claim must talk to your attorney and not to you directly. Finally, an experienced personal injury attorney will begin investigating the circumstances of the crash right away, preserving evidence crucial to your claim. The Hoag Law Firm provides free consultations to accident victims.
Potential Pitfalls for Your Claim
There are a few potential pitfalls that could compromise your ability to receive compensation for your injuries and other damages.
- You were hit by an uninsured driver. If you are injured by an uninsured driver, you will be unable to file a claim against that driver’s insurer. You can file a claim for uninsured motorist benefits from your own auto insurance if you have that coverage.
- You failed to consider all costs of your damages. As a no-fault state, Florida requires you to exhaust your own personal injury protection insurance coverage first. You can only assert a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance if your injuries are severe, disfiguring, or fatal. Failure to correctly estimate the cost will result in under-compensation by the insurer.
- You settled too early. If you agree to settle your claim before you have completed all medical treatment or before you have received all medical bills, or even before you return to work, you risk incurring substantially more expense and income losses than the sum you settled for.
- You accepted a low first settlement offer. The distance between what you believe is the value of your damages and the insurance company’s first settlement offer is telling. A significant disparity indicates the insurer is discounting your damages based on the evidence and documentation you have provided.
- You allowed the statute of limitations to expire. You must either settle a claim or file a lawsuit within four years from the date of the crash. If you fail to do so, you will be barred from filing a personal injury claim.
How an Experienced Attorney Can Help
You can see how important taking these steps is to your Florida personal injury claim, but you should not go through the process alone. An experienced personal injury attorney will help document your claim and stand up to an insurer who wants to avoid compensating you fairly. If you are unable to settle your claim and file a lawsuit, you need a litigator to present a compelling case before a jury. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney will help you avoid the pitfalls that could result from an unfair settlement.
Attorney Brian M. Hoag began his legal career working for insurance companies and now uses that knowledge to work for personal injury plaintiffs in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and surrounding Florida communities. He is ready to help you take the steps you need to garner fair compensation for your claim.
Timing is everything so don’t wait. Call the Hoag Law Firm now.