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How to File a Car Accident Claim in Florida: A Step-by-Step Guide

Car Accidents

The process one faces after a car accident can be daunting. It will typically begin with you receiving telephone calls from insurance adjusters almost immediately and can only become more confusing if you do not have experienced representation. Knowing what to expect from the process, however, can help to make the situation seem more under control and it can also assist you with selecting a personal injury attorney. So that you have more information about what to expect, we are providing this guide on how to file a car accident claim in Florida.

Seek Immediate Medical Care and Retain an Attorney 

The immediate step to take after a car accident is to seek immediate medical care. Not doing so can create a situation in which the defense attempts to claim that your injuries were caused by an event which occurred in between the accident and the time you sought care. Also, as discussed below, obtaining immediate care will be important for claims you make against your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. If you are offered an ambulance ride to the hospital after an accident then it is important to accept it. If you are not offered an accident ride, then proceed directly to the hospital by other means.

Retaining an attorney is the next step to take after obtaining medical care. It is common for the defendant’s insurance carrier to contact a victim immediately after a car accident. These calls may even come as early as the next day. The insurance adjuster will often attempt to reach a “quick” settlement and will also often claim that you do not need an attorney to represent you. Remember, however, that these adjusters work for the insurance company. Their goal is to protect the bottom line of their employer and it is not to ensure that your interests are protected. While these adjusters protect the interests of large corporations, an attorney will protect your rights.

File a Claim Against Your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage

Florida is a no-fault state in regards to personal injury cases. Under this legal system, all registered vehicles must carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage of at least $10,000. When a driver is injured by the negligence of another then they must first submit a claim against their PIP coverage. If the PIP coverage is not enough to compensate the victim for their losses, then they may bring an action against the negligent party or parties. Your attorney will assist you in dealing with your PIP carrier.

A victim will not be able to bring a claim against their PIP coverage if they do not treat their injuries within no more than two weeks of the accident.

Identify All Possible Defendants

One of the first steps your attorney will take is identifying all of the possible defendants in the case. While most car accident cases will only involve the at-fault driver, if the case involves a commercial vehicle then it may be necessary to bring an action against multiple parties. An example of this can be a delivery driver who causes an accident while performing his or her normal work-related duties. Under such a scenario it may be possible to hold the driver as well as the company they work for liable for negligence. Also, the employer may be liable for the negligent hiring or supervision of their employee. The issue of what causes of action can be brought against each of the various defendants will depend on the specific facts of the case. Not identifying all of the possible defendants can result in you not receiving the full amount of compensation to which you are entitled.

Submit a Demand Letter to the Insurance Carrier(s)

Once your chances for long-term recovery are known then your attorney will submit a demand for payment to the insurance carrier(s). This will be a written letter in which your attorney states the amount you are requesting for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, as well as your future losses. It will be supported with copies of medical bills, paystubs, and other information which support your calculations.

It is important that your demand letter not be submitted before you are reasonably sure of your long-term prognosis. Submitting this demand before you are reasonably sure about your long-term recovery can result in you accepting a “lowball” offer. You may find later that your injuries are more severe than initially thought and that your settlement did not fully compensate you for your losses.

Engage in Negotiations and Potentially File a Lawsuit

Your attorney will make every effort to settle your case after the demand letter has been sent. This will involve extensive back and forth negotiations with the insurance adjusters. You should not be immediately discouraged if an insurance adjuster states that they are denying your claim or if they offer a low amount. It is common for adjusters to outright deny liability or to make inadequate offers early in the process. As negotiations progress, the adjusters will often make better offers to avoid the threat of litigation.

If a settlement cannot be reached then it will be necessary to file a lawsuit. Such a suit must be filed within two years or you will otherwise lose your rights to recover damages under Florida’s statute of limitations. Settlement negotiations will continue after the filing of a lawsuit and the matter may be settled any time before the conclusion of a trial.

Contact a Florida Car Accident Attorney For Help With Filing a Claim

If you or a loved one have been in a wreck then it is important that you contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Counsel will deal with the defendant’s insurance adjusters directly. This will allow you to focus on the important business of your recovery. Our firm strives to provide the highest level of service to each and every customer we serve. Contact us online to speak with a Florida car accident attorney or call us at 800-780-8607 today.

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Posted By: Michael Geoffroy