Do I Need an Attorney If I am Injured In a Car Accident?
According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles “Florida Crash Dashboard”, the most recent data shows that 403,626 accidents occurred in the state of Florida in 2018. This figure includes bicycle, motorcycle, pedestrian and hit and run accidents. Notably, a staggering 63% of all crashes in the state of Florida involve injury. In most situations, these accidents are the result of the carelessness or negligence of the person who caused the accident.
In Pinellas County, Florida, during 2018 there were 17,875 total crashes (the total number of people who sustained bodily hurt or damage or complaint of bodily hurt or damage as a result of a traffic crash). Alarmingly, of those total crashes, 10,751 people were injured and 130 were fatal. Areas like Saint Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Pinellas Park and Downtown Saint Petersburg are all heavy pedestrian traffic regions in the area, but unfortunately, in 2018, these areas saw 504 total pedestrian crashes; 41 being fatal.
What should I do if I am Injured in a Car Accident in Florida?
We don’t share these statistics to warn you about the dangers of driving, we do it to inform you of the large number of negligent driving accidents that are caused in this state. Should you ever find yourself in an accident, you need to know what to do and how to best prepare in the event you sustain injuries. We want you to be knowledgeable of your rights and to know what steps to take going forward, if necessary.
Unfortunately, most people during their lifetimes will either be involved in or will have a loved one involved in a life altering accident. However, our team of attorneys and support staff are ready to assist you in all aspects of your representation to ensure you receive all compensation to which you are legally entitled.
Whether you are injured in an accident, or just filing a claim with an insurance company following an accident, it’s a good idea to contact an attorney. If you are injured in an accident, regardless of whether it involves a motor vehicle, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney who can guide you through the claims process and determine whether a personal injury lawsuit should be filed. Individually negotiating and waiting for an insurance company is frustrating and expensive, especially when paired with a debilitating injury. Having a skilled attorney argue your case against the insurance company can make a substantial difference during settlement negotiations.
This guide breaks down what you should do if you are involved in a car accident in Florida. From navigating the claims process, to obtaining the best outcome, this guide will explain what to do after an accident, and how an experienced accident attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Is Florida a No-Fault State and What is PIP Protection?
The Florida no-fault law means that, when an accident occurs, both parties file claims with their insurance, regardless of who was at fault. No-fault laws are in place to make claims for crashes (resulting in minor or no injuries) easier for the policy holder, but that isn’t always the case. In order to cover injuries, all Florida drivers are required to have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage included in any automobile insurance policy. However, problems may arise when you exceed your PIP coverage for medical expenses; PIP will only pay up to a certain amount. If you sustain serious injuries that exceed your PIP coverage, your only option is to pursue the other driver to cover the costs of your injuries.
This is where things become complicated; when injuries exceed PIP coverage, multiple insurance policies and parties become involved. This is where a highly experienced and skilled attorney can take the reins of your case to give you the best opportunity of recovering the compensation to which you are legally entitled.
Before you even register your vehicle in Florida, you are required to show proof of PIP and Property Damage Liability (PDL) automobile insurance. PIP covers 80% of all necessary and reasonable medical expenses up to $10,000 resulting from a covered injury, regardless of who caused the crash. PIP coverage will also cover up to 60% of lost wages as a result of your accident. On the other hand, PDL insurance covers damage to another person’s property caused by you or someone else driving the vehicle insured by you. It is important to note that PDL insurance does not cover damage to your own property. So to sum it up, in Florida you need to have the following coverage for your automobile:
- A minimum of $10,000 personal injury protection (PIP), which covers your injuries regardless of fault. Remember, PIP only covers 80% of all necessary medical expenses up to $10,000, and 60% of lost wages.
- A minimum of $10,000 property damage liability (PDL), which covers any damage you cause to another’s property during an automobile accident.
Though on their face PIP and PDL insurance seem reasonable and straightforward, injuries resulting from automobile accidents notoriously skyrocket past $10,000, and quickly. The average settlement for an automobile accident in Florida is roughly $15,000 (though many are much higher). Individually pursuing these claims without first consulting a lawyer might cause you to pay out of pocket for treatment costs and lost wages, which is why it is imperative to speak to an attorney immediately following an accident.
What should I do After I am in a Car Accident?
Every car accident is different, but there are a number of things you can do to benefit yourself when encountered with an unfortunate situation. Everything you do following an accident can greatly affect your outcome when making a claim for damages. As a general rule of thumb, simply avoid discussing fault with the other party. Remember, anything you say can be used against you by the insurance company, especially when looking for a reason to avoid paying a claim. These tips are meant to inform you of appropriate actions to take either before an accident occurs, or even after an accident has already occurred.
It’s important to note that these tips are not to be a “cure all” for every personal injury, but they are helpful should find yourself in a predicament. Though a skilled attorney will certainly gather the majority of this information, everything you can do to help goes an extremely long way. These tips will provide you and your attorney with important evidence that will be used to prove the extent of your injuries, as well as determine the liability and negligence of the other party.
- Seek Medical Treatment as Soon as Possible: Often times accident victims will feel fine immediately following a collision, only to end up in the hospital shortly thereafter. It’s very common for people to walk away from an accident, only to later recognize the severity of their injury. For your own health, please get checked by a doctor as soon as you can following an accident, even if you don’t think you are hurt. In the days following the accident, be sure to note any symptoms you are experiencing and return to the doctor to document the injury. Immediately seeking medical treatment following an accident not only benefits your health, it also benefits your claim. Seeking treatment demonstrates proof of your injury and will provide leverage for your attorney when negotiating a settlement with an insurance carrier.
- File a Police or Crash Report: In Florida, you must immediately contact law enforcement for an accident involving injury, death or property damage greater than $500. For accidents that do not require a police report (such as a minor fender bender with minimal damage), you must file a crash report within ten days.
- Gather as Much Information as Possible: Following an accident, you need to get the contact information of the driver and all other people involved in the accident (further discussed below). Take note of the time and location, weather and road conditions, including any other useful observations you think are pertinent. For example, if you are in an accident at the intersection of Gulf Blvd. and Punta Vista Dr., and the other driver drove out of a nearby liquor store before hitting you, be sure to note that to the law enforcement officer and for your own personal records. The most important information drivers should exchange following an accident is the following:
- Full name and contact information
- Insurance company and policy number
- Drivers license and plate number
- Type, color and model of the vehicle(s)
- Location of accident
- Take Photos: If possible, take any photos or videos of the accident scene and surrounding areas. Take photos of the damage to all vehicles involved, any hazard that may be a contributing factor to the accident, and any other photos you think could be useful. If possible, try to get photos to get a clear and accurate depiction of the accident. Taking photos provides evidence for you or your attorney to assist you with the insurance company, or if necessary, in court.
- Notify your Insurance: even if you didn’t cause the accident, you must notify your insurance carrier that you were in an accident. The advantage of immediately notifying your insurance is that you may be able to take advantage of policy benefits like medical pay coverage, car repair reimbursement or coverage for a rental vehicle. You must also notify the at-fault insurance company once you have collected the appropriate information from the other party(s). Although it is likely the other party will notify them first, you must do the same. If possible, be sure to take note of the claim number and the claims adjuster’s contact information.
- Keep All Records from your Accident: Keep all police/crash reports, medical records, pay stubs, or any other document related to your accident. Pay stubs are critical for proving lost wages. Keep any receipts you may have for vehicle repairs or other expenses incurred from the accident. Make sure to keep bills for any expenses incurred as a result of your accident. If you lose a record before consulting an attorney, contact the hospital/doctor/FLHSMV to obtain duplicate copies of your records. For example, you can obtain copies of your crash or police reports online here.
- Keep Note of your Recovery: You may experience depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress or even headaches for the period following your accident. Though you can’t recover damages such as loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering and loss of consortium from an insurance claim, you can pursue these damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Make sure to detail any pain, post-traumatic stress, or emotional distress you experience as this information will be extremely useful to your attorney.
- Contact a Personal Injury Attorney: If you have any questions or concerns following your accident, you should immediately make contact with an attorney who is experienced in accident injuries. They will advise you on what steps to make, and will see to it that you your claim is handled appropriately. Remember, the insurance company will have experienced professionals working on their side immediately, and so should you.
When Should you Hire an Attorney?
If you receive any injury during the course of an accident, whether it be motor vehicle or pedestrian, you should contact an attorney. If you have any broken bones, permanent scarring, head, neck or back injuries, you should immediately seek medical attention and call an attorney. Do not trust a claims adjuster to give you the appropriate settlement following a “hard injury.” Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that insurance companies will make lower settlement offers to those who do not have an attorney. If you have suffered a serious or permanent injury due to an accident, you simply have too much on the line to pursue a claim on your own.
How Much Will Hiring an Attorney Cost?
Many people are afraid to hire an attorney out of fear of attorneys fees or because they’re afraid they cannot afford an attorney. However, the vast majority of personal injury lawyers handle claims on a contingency fee basis, meaning your attorney will not ask for money up front. Contingency fees provide that the firm will subtract fees from any compensation secured by the through the course of settlement or litigation. The fee will cover all of the following:
- Court Costs
- Expert Witness Fees
- Administrative Expenses (copying, postage, etc).
- Deposition Costs
- Costs of Investigation and Information gathering
What can you Expect When you Hire Jones Law Group?
When you have been involved of an accident, you have plenty to worry about and your case should not be one of them. As soon as you retain Jones Law Group for your personal injury case, you can expect that we will:
- collect all of your medical records and bills
- obtain the accident report/crash report/police report
- conduct our own investigation and take pictures of the scene and vehicles
- perform background and asset searches on the Defendant
- deal with the insurance companies on your behalf
- negotiate the best settlement possible
- assist you in evaluating settlement offers
- file a lawsuit on your behalf, if necessary
- retain experts to assist with and testify at trial
- depose all necessary witnesses in anticipation of trial
- try your case
- communicate with you and keep you up-to-date with your case.
Don’t attempt to take on an insurance company after you or a loved one has sustained an accident injury. You run the risk of severely impacting your ability of recovering the compensation to which you are entitled. From collecting your medical records, to conducting our own investigation, Jones Law Group will be there for you every step of the way.
Your consultation is free. We understand that after you have been involved in an accident, you may be without transportation or unable to make it to our office. A lawyer from Jones Law Group is always available to meet you at the location of your choosing. While we are conveniently located in St. Petersburg, we have successfully litigated cases in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Bradenton, Sarasota, Fort Myers and throughout the State of Florida.
At our firm and it is our belief that evaluating each case on an individual basis produces the best result for our clients. We handle your personal injury case differently than many of the bigger firms that are constantly advertising on TV (or on a bus). These firms are constantly advertising in order to attract new clients because their old clients won’t refer them new business. At Jones Law Group we rely on referrals from our current and former clients. Our clients can reach their attorney 24 hours per day. Each client has their lawyer’s cell phone number. To put it simply, your case is treated on the basis of its own merits. We will carefully evaluate and discuss each facet of your case, and if a better result can be obtained by taking the case to trial, we will take the case to trial.
At Jones Law Group, our Law Firm believes that our client’s success determines our own. It is our goal that you feel like an important client and strive to provide the personal attention to which you are entitled. We understand how difficult the decision is to hire a personal injury attorney, but you can rest assured knowing you have a skilled and experienced team behind you to support your case. Contact us online or call us today at (727)571-1333.