10 Things To Do After A Car Accident
Have you or a loved one been injured in a car accident in Boca Raton? The actions that you take immediately following the incident will have a major impact on your ability to recover financial compensation in an insurance claim. Don't let common mistakes cost you your right to a fair settlement! John A. Willis has authored a guide, Ten Things You Need to Know if You Are in a Car Accident in Florida. Read this guide to get answers to questions including:
ONE: If you are involved in an auto accident in Florida that results in an injury, you must stop your car at the scene, remain there and render aid to any injured person. Every stop must be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. If a damaged vehicle is obstructing traffic, the driver of the vehicle must make every reasonable effort to move the vehicle or have it moved so as not to obstruct the regular flow of traffic. You must make an accident report within ten days of an accident when more than $500 in damage is caused.
TWO: You are required by Florida law to speak to the law enforcement officer to answer questions about the accident. If you make an incriminating statement that could lead to a criminal or civil charge against you, all of the information you provide during the accident investigation is privileged and may not be used against you in any criminal or civil proceeding. This is commonly referred to as Florida’s “accident report privilege.” However, these statements may be used against you for purposes of issuing a traffic citation.
THREE: If you are issued a ticket for the accident, you are legally required to sign the ticket. You are not admitting anything by signing the ticket except that you will appear in court if you do not pay the ticket by mail. If you refuse to sign the ticket you may be arrested.
FOUR: Even when the other driver caused the accident, Florida residents must use their own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) auto insurance to pay medical bills and lost wages. PIP insurance (also called No-Fault insurance) pays 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your lost wages up to $10,000. Health insurance will not pay these medical bills until they have been provided proof that PIP benefits have been exhausted. This law does not apply to those riding in vehicles that are not considered “automobiles” such as motorcycles or school buses. The negligent driver is responsible for the amount not covered by your PIP so long as the medical treatment and lost wages are reasonable in amount and related to the accident.
FIVE: Florida does not require drivers to carry insurance to pay for injuring someone (bodily injury liability or BI insurance). The legally required minimum insurance in Florida is $10,000 PIP/No-Fault Insurance and $10,000 of Property Damage Liability Insurance (PD). However, the State of Florida does require BI coverage in some instances, such as when a person has a history of drunk driving, or when someone enters into a long term auto lease. Many auto lenders require BI coverage as a condition of the loan and most reputable insurance companies will not sell an auto policy without some BI coverage.
SIX: Florida does not permit injured victims of auto accidents to recover “pain and suffering” and other non-economic damages unless they have been permanently injured. Whether a person has been permanently injured is usually determined by a licensed physician in accordance with American Medical Association guidelines. This is commonly referred to as Florida’s “No-Fault Threshold.” Many of the auto accident lawsuits filed in Florida courts are disputes about whether the injured party has suffered a permanent injury related to the crash.
SEVEN: Insurance companies will look at whether a ticket was issued by a police officer as evidence of who caused the accident, but the ticket and the police officer’s opinion are not admissible in a court of law, unless the officer witnessed the accident. This Florida rule of evidence is intended to prohibit juries from relying upon the police officer’s opinion and forces them to reach their own conclusions about who caused the accident based on the evidence.
EIGHT: The jury in an accident case in Florida is usually not made aware that the person being sued has insurance coverage. In fact, the negligent driver’s insurance company cannot be named in the lawsuit. This is known as Florida’s “non-joinder rule.” This Florida rule of evidence is intended to prevent juries from awarding damages merely because insurance is available.
NINE: The owner of a car who lends it to another is legally responsible for the driver’s negligence, even if the owner did nothing wrong. This is known as Florida’s “Dangerous Instrumentality Law.” However, rental car companies are shielded from liability by Federal law.
TEN: If your car is damaged by a negligent driver you usually have two choices of how to get your car fixed. You can have your own company fix the car and pay your deductible. If you choose this option, you will usually have your car fixed quickly. Your insurance company will seek to collect back the money itspends to fix your car from the negligent driver’s insurance company. You can ask your insurance company to collect your deductible back as well. This is known as “subrogating your deductible.” The other option is to have the negligent driver’s insurance company fix your car. Remember that the driver’s company is only responsible to fix your car if the driver they insure was negligent. This usually requires that they conduct an investigation, even if a ticket was issued to their insured. (See number SEVEN). This can take some time and may delay getting your car fixed.