What to Do If You’ve Been Injured in a Car Accident in Florida
Being involved in a car accident can be a life-changing and shocking experience. The sense of shock and disbelief which follows an accident can leave a victim not knowing what to do next. This can result in a victim not taking immediate action which, in turn, can hurt their chances of receiving compensation. This article is written to provide information which can help an accident victim know how to proceed.
Florida Car Accident Victims Should Seek Immediate Medical Care
The first step a victim should take after any car accident is to immediately seek medical care. This is true whether or not the injury seems serious. There are several reasons why it is important to seek care. The first is that, as explained below, you cannot make a claim against your PIP coverage if you wait more than two weeks after the accident to seek treatment. Second, it is common for insurance adjusters and insurance defense attorneys to claim that any injuries you sustained were from an event other than the car accident. If you do not go to the hospital immediately then you create a situation in which the defense will often argue that your injuries were not the result of the auto accident. They will argue that, instead, you were injured through an event which occurred in between the accident and the time when you sought care. Finally, and importantly, you may have sustained a serious injury, such as head trauma, even if you believe that medical care is not necessary. The symptoms of such injuries can often take time to manifest themselves.
Contact an Attorney Before Speaking To an Insurance Adjuster
The second step is to contact an attorney once you have been discharged from the hospital. Adjusters for the defendant’s insurance company will often call you immediately after a car wreck. These adjusters will commonly claim that it is in your best interest to deal with them directly and to not involve an attorney. These adjusters, however, work for the insurance company and their goal is to settle the case for as little money as possible. An attorney, by contrast, represents your interest and will strive to gain you the largest possible amount of compensation. Once you retain an attorney then they will deal with the insurance adjuster directly so that you may begin focusing on your recovery.
File a Claim Against Your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance
Your attorney will quickly file a claim against your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. Florida is a “no-fault” injury state. This means that accident victims must bring a claim against their own insurance before suing the negligent party (PIP coverage is a mandatory part of any Florida auto policy). If your damages are in excess of $10,000 (the required minimum for PIP coverage), then you will be able to bring a claim against the defendant(s). If you have suffered anything greater than a soft-tissue injury then there is a very good chance that your damages will be in excess of this $10,000 threshold.
It is important to note that PIP will only pay a certain percentage of your wages, up to the $10,000 threshold. In other words, if you suffer $10,000 of damages then PIP will only reimburse a portion of that amount.
Continue To Treat For Your Injuries
You will need to continue to treat your injuries through your medical providers. This includes attending all physical therapy sessions and not missing follow-up appointments. Missing your medical appointments can hinder your recovery which will only drag your case out longer. Also, and importantly, missing medical appointments can allow the defense to argue that you are not as seriously injured as you claim. Keeping all of your appointments, and following all advice of your physician, is critical.
Your attorney will have you sign a HIPPA release at the outset of their representation. This will allow them to stay in contact with your treating physician and to continuously receive your updated medical records as the case progresses. By having this level of access, your attorney is able to keep an ongoing tally of your medical expenses. They are also able to stay up to date as to the status of your treatment without having to interfere with your life on a regular basis.
Take the Advice of Your Attorney as the Case Proceeds
It is very important that you take the advice of your attorney as the case proceeds. This includes advice as to whether or not you should accept a settlement offer. The defendant’s insurance company will typically be willing to settle the case at any time. A quick settlement, however, will typically represent a “lowball” amount. Your attorney will not advise you to settle until they believe that the best possible offer is on the table. This is why taking your attorney’s advice is crucial.
Part of any advice your counsel will give you, regarding settlement, is the need to not resolve the matter before your chances of a full recovery are known. If you have been seriously injured then your doctors may state that it will take multiple surgeries and/or extensive rehabilitation before you know whether you will fully recover. Unfortunately, some victims assume that they will fully recover and accept an early settlement. If such a victim does not fully recover then they will be left without the money they need to cover future medical expenses, lost wages, etc. This is why your counsel will advise you to not settle until your long-term prognosis is reasonably known.
Contact Us Today To Speak With a Florida Car Accident Attorney
If you have been in an auto wreck then it is important that you speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. We devote our practice to protecting those who have been injured through no fault of their own. We believe in protecting the rights of individuals over those of insurance companies and we will give your case the attention it deserves. Call us at 800-780-8607 or contact us online to speak with a Florida car accident attorney.