7 Things You Should NOT Be Doing After a Car Accident
If you’ve been in a collision in Florida, knowing what not to do after a car accident can protect your legal rights to financial compensation. While the immediate aftermath of a car accident can be overwhelming and chaotic, it is important to remain calm and gather evidence and information to support your insurance claim.
Understanding what to avoid after a car accident, such as admitting fault, delaying medical treatment, and accepting a settlement offer too soon, can increase your chances of a successful outcome.
1. Leaving the Accident Scene
In Florida, you are legally required to stop and stay at a crash site when there is property damage or the collision results in injury or death. Leaving the scene is considered a hit-and-run and can result in legal penalties. It can also impact your ability to get compensation for injuries you suffer in a crash.
If you leave the scene of an accident, you could forfeit your right to compensation from your PIP insurance or the other driver’s liability insurance company. Typically, when you suffer significant damages in an accident, you can file for coverage for medical costs from your PIP insurance and a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer for additional compensation.
However, these insurers may deny your claim if you leave the accident scene. Leaving could be seen as an admission of guilt, or it could demonstrate that your injuries were not serious. If you can’t file a claim, you’ll be responsible for paying for your medical bills and any other expenses related to the accident.
Additionally, Florida uses pure comparative negligence. This doctrine means that each party can win damages, no matter their percentage of fault. If the other driver decides to file a claim against you and you leave without gathering evidence at the scene, you may be unable to disprove their claims. This can result in you not receiving full damages or having to compensate the other driver.
When you’re involved in a car accident, it’s essential that you stay at the scene of the accident until the police arrive, exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver, and provide any necessary aid to anyone injured in the accident.
2. Admitting Fault
While you must cooperate with law enforcement and other parties involved in the accident, you should never take responsibility for or apologize for the crash. The main thing not to do after a car accident is to admit fault. When you acknowledge fault, even if unintentionally or out of politeness, you can jeopardize your insurance claim and potentially be liable for damages.
For instance, if your injuries from a car accident were severe or permanent, you may seek damages in a lawsuit beyond what your insurance policy covers. However, Florida’s comparative negligence system means you must prove your injuries and the other driver’s fault to receive maximum compensation.
Determining fault in a car accident is a complex process that considers various factors, such as traffic laws, road conditions, and driver behavior. Gather as much evidence as possible about the accident, including photographs, witness statements, and details about the location and time of the crash.
Follow your attorney’s advice and refrain from discussing the accident with anyone other than them. They will help protect your legal rights and ensure you receive fair compensation for any damages and injuries resulting from the accident.
3. Delaying Medical Treatment
Delaying medical treatment can impact your insurance claim since the insurance company may dispute the claim’s validity without proof. It can make establishing a connection between your injuries and the accident difficult and result in the insurer denying your case.
Florida requires that you seek medical attention within 14 days of the accident to qualify for 80% coverage of your medical expenses. Waiting longer than 14 days could result in losing your right to receive compensation for your medical bills.
Some injuries may not immediately present symptoms and can become more severe if left untreated. For example, whiplash symptoms like neck and low back pain might not become apparent for at least 24 hours after the accident.
However, symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, numbness, tingling, or irritability may also indicate a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A severe TBI can lead to long-term physical, psychological, and cognitive health problems, with in-hospital costs ranging from $2,130 to $401,808.
Proving that an accident caused your injuries and warrants compensation is only possible with proper documentation and follow-up visits. The sooner you seek medical attention following a car accident, the better.
Attending all your doctor’s appointments allows you to advocate for your medical needs. You can ask questions about proposed procedures and ensure your concerns regarding your injuries are addressed. It will not only ensure your health and well-being, but it will also help your lawyer connect the accident to your injuries.
4. Not Collecting Evidence
Failing to gather evidence makes it difficult to establish the facts surrounding the accident and may lead to a lack of proof. The lack of evidence may lead to disputes between you and your insurance company regarding what occurred and who was at fault.
If you’re involved in a car accident, gathering evidence as soon as possible is crucial to help establish the facts surrounding the incident. While your health and well-being should be your top priority, gathering evidence at the accident scene can help start your case quickly.
You can strengthen your compensation claim by documenting the accident scene and injuries and knowing what not to do after a car accident. Obtaining evidence at the accident scene can preserve vital information and support your claim.
After ensuring your safety and calling the police, take the following steps to collect evidence for your case:
Ask for the Driver’s Insurance Information
Getting the other driver’s information is crucial to ensure that you can file an insurance claim or legal action if necessary. Politely request the other driver’s name, contact information, license number, and insurance details. If the other driver refuses to cooperate, you can wait for the police to interview them and ask the officer for the contact and insurance information.
Take Pictures and Videos of the Accident Scene
You should photograph the accident scene, including pictures of debris surrounding the cars, road conditions, traffic lights, and skid marks. It is vital to take photos of the entire vehicle from multiple angles, including close-up shots of the damage. This will ensure that you have a clear record of the damages. Ensure you take photos of the entire scene from different angles until you’ve covered the accident site.
Obtain Contact Information and Statements from Witnesses
A witness statement is crucial in a car accident claim because it provides first-hand accounts of the accident and clarifies if there were any aggressive driving behaviors, such as speeding or tailgating. You can ask a witness if you can record their statement. If they’re uncomfortable with giving their account, you can request their contact information for your lawyer to obtain their testimony.
Find Out Where to Pick Up the Police Report
Florida law mandates that police produce a Long Form Traffic Crash Report within 10 days of completing an investigation. This report provides additional information, including a typed accident description, citations issued, witness identities, weather conditions, and accident-related factors. The responding police officer will inform you where to pick up your report at the nearest police station.
Keep Records of Your Damages
You can collect pay stubs and documentation to show lost wages and all medical bills and record mileage for your medical appointments. Keep receipts and estimates for vehicle repairs, towing, and bills for home modifications.
Consider writing in a personal journal to document your injuries and the extent of your pain and suffering. Sharing these records with your attorney gives them the necessary information for valuing the non-economic damages you experienced.
5. Discussing the Accident with Others
Sharing details about the accident can negatively affect your claim because insurance companies will use posts, pictures, or statements you make to reduce or deny you compensation.
When discussing the accident with friends, family, or acquaintances, you may inadvertently reveal information that could be used against you. For example, you post a social media post stating, “Just got into a car accident, it wasn’t my fault, but my car was totaled! My neck is really sore, so I might have to go to the doctor soon.”
This statement about your physical condition during the accident can be misinterpreted or taken out of context. The insurance company can take your mention of your injuries to argue that your injuries were pre-existing or unrelated to the accident and deny your claim. A harmless video on social media, such as you performing your regular activities, can be exploited to challenge the severity of your injury.
It is best to avoid posting anything related to the accident on social media and to set your accounts to private until you resolve your claim. Limit your discussions about the accident to your attorney to protect your legal rights and avoid jeopardizing your claim.
6. Accepting the First Settlement Offer
Insurance companies often try to minimize their financial liability by offering low settlement amounts that do not fully account for your damages, including medical bills and lost wages.
Once you accept a settlement, you relinquish your right to pursue additional compensation or legal action related to the accident. You can’t seek further restitution if you later discover that your injuries are more severe than initially thought or that your damages exceed the settlement amount.
It is crucial to have a thorough understanding of your injuries, damages, and potential future expenses before agreeing to a settlement. A personal injury attorney from Emerson Straw can help you negotiate a fair settlement with an insurance company.
Your attorney can assist you in understanding the actual value of your claim, negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, and guide you through the legal process if needed.
7. Filing a Claim on Your Own
When injured in a car accident, you may be tempted to file a claim on your own. However, filing a claim or lawsuit on your own can result in denied compensation, or if you win damages, the settlement will likely be less than you deserve.
One of the best actions you can take if you are injured in a car accident in Florida is to hire an auto accident attorney. A car accident attorney from Emerson Straw has the skills to navigate the legal system and help you win your case. Our lawyers have years of experience dealing with insurance companies and understand their tactics to deny or minimize claims.
When you hire an attorney, they will help you gather evidence to support your case, including police reports, medical records, and witness statements. They can also work with accident reconstruction experts to determine liability and establish the facts of the case.
Your lawyer will negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf. They can advocate for your rights and ensure that you receive a fair settlement. They can handle all communications with the insurance company, allowing you to focus on your recovery.
If your claim goes to court, your attorney can represent you during litigation to win you maximum compensation and fight for your rights.
At Emerson Straw Injury Law, our attorneys will do the following to help you win damages for your injuries:
- Provide legal advice and guidance throughout the entire process
- Conduct a thorough investigation of the accident and gather evidence
- Hire expert witnesses such as doctors, psychologists, and accident reconstructionists to strengthen your case
- Negotiate with insurance companies to secure a fair settlement
- Prepare testimonies and depositions if your case goes to court
- Advise you on the value of your case and what compensation you should receive
- Handle all communications with the insurance company and other parties involved in the case
- Help you understand your rights and legal options
- Advocate for your best interests and fight for maximum compensation
Get Fair Compensation for Your Injuries
Car accidents can be a traumatic and overwhelming experience. However, taking the proper steps and working with a skilled attorney can increase your chances of a successful outcome in your insurance claim.
In the aftermath of a car accident, seeking legal counsel is crucial for addressing any accident-related concerns and navigating what not to do after a car accident. At Emerson Straw, our attorneys are dedicated to providing personalized and compassionate representation for car accident victims. We will evaluate your case and help you navigate what not to do after a car accident.
Contact us today for a free consultation.