Being involved in a car accident can be a stressful and intimidating experience. Following the trauma of a serious car crash, a person is often in a state of emotional shock, and at the same time getting treatment for multiple injuries. Depending on how the accident occurred and how serious the damage is, it can be easy to let emotions take over. Here are some important steps to help you stay safe and remain calm following an auto accident.
- Assess injuries and call 911.
If you or anyone is hurt, immediately get checked out. The first step you should take after a car accident is to assess the situation. Most importantly, determine if anyone is injured, including yourself. Call 911 to let the police and paramedics know about the crash. Injuries may not always be obvious. Even seemingly minor accidents can result in serious injuries if left untreated. It is important that you receive medical care immediately following an auto accident.
The police should be called so that an official police report can be written up. You will want to request a copy of this at the scene of the accident. Even though Florida is a No-Fault Insurance state, meaning that each party will need to file a claim with his or her respective insurance company, most insurance companies will require that a police report be submitted to prove damages.
- Be careful with your words.
It can be easy to make a statement to the other party involved in the accident that may be deemed an admission of fault, such as “I’m so sorry” or “I didn’t see you there.” However, making a statement like this could seriously hurt your chances of pursuing a legal claim for damages in court later. While Florida’s No Fault law requires that most damage claims be sought from the injured party’s insurance policy, if your injuries are permanent or even life-altering, you may be able to file a legal claim against the liability insurance company for the person who caused the accident. The last thing that you would want is for a statement made in the heat of the moment to prevent that from happening later.
- Get to a safe location.
If no one is seriously injured, the next step to be taken is to move all vehicles involved to a safe area, if possible. For example, if your accident occurred on I-4 during rush hour, find a way to safely get to the shoulder or to the closest exit. If the accident occurred at night and you are not able to get off to the shoulder, be sure to put up reflective emergency triangles and emergency flares to warn other drivers of the upcoming hazard.
- Exchange information with the other driver(s) and document as much evidence as possible at the scene of the accident.
After proceeding to safety, it is important to exchange information with the other driver(s) involved, including names, addresses, and vehicle registration. Exchanging insurance information is not required since drivers will be filing claims with their own providers. For purposes of a potential legal claim, it is wise to get the names and contact information of any individuals who witnessed the accident. Any photos you can take with your cell phone at the scene of the accident which document the driving conditions, positioning of the vehicles, damage done to your vehicle, your injuries, etc. can also be helpful.
- Know your insurance policy and what it covers.
Be aware of what kind of damages and injuries your policy covers- not only to yourself, but to others as well. Many insurance policies will cover 80 percent of the medical bills connected to injuries resulting from an accident. Additionally, PIP may cover 60 percent of lost wages resulting from your injuries from the accident. Keep in mind, this coverage is the bare minimum. It helps to understand if your insurance policy covers above the limits offered through PIP since the minimum policy limits can be quite low. For example, if your injury is not considered an emergency, the more basic PIP policies will only cover $2,500 of benefits. If your damages are more than this, if you do not have coverage on top of the bare minimum to fill the gap, you may be stuck footing the bill yourself. This is why we always recommend drivers know what their insurance policy covers.
- Consult with an experienced auto accident attorney.
It is important that you speak with an experienced Orlando auto accident attorney as soon as possible after the crash, particularly if you have suffered serious injury as a result. Many people believe you should call the insurance company first before speaking with an attorney, and while it is important to report the accident to your insurance company- insurance companies do not have a duty to act in your best interest (yes, even your own insurance company). Only an attorney must act in your best interest. By contacting an attorney, you can make sure you get compensated fairly for your injuries and damage sustained to your vehicle.
A civil trial attorney with the firm Wooten, Kimbrough, Damaso & Dennis, P.A., Mr. Damaso concentrates on cases involving personal injury and wrongful deaths and solely represents individual victims and consumers. He takes his clients' cases personally and is committed to their best possible outcome. His strong sense of community has led to his support of numerous charities in the Orlando area.