What should I do if I am in a Car Accident?

When you get into a car accident, there are likely many thoughts and questions that race through your mind. Should I call the police? Should I call a lawyer? Should I go to the hospital? How do I get my car fixed? The answers to these questions and more are provided below.

1. Should I call the police after a car accident? After most car accidents you should call the police (city police, county sheriff or highway patrol). When you call the police, usually an officer will come to the scene, obtain statements from the parties involved in the accident and any witnesses to the accident, and investigate the crash. The officer will have the parties involved exchange identification and insurance information. The officer will usually provide the parties involved with a copy of the “drivers’ exchange of information” form at the scene of the accident. Later, the officer will usually complete a traffic crash report that you can obtain from the law enforcement agency. Depending on the law enforcement agency, the traffic crash report is usually available 1-3 days after the accident but can take longer depending on the circumstances. If it is a very minor accident where you do not think that there is any possibility that you will be making any type of property damage claim or personal injury claim in the future, you may not need to call the police.

2. What if a police officer does not come to the scene to investigate the crash after a car accident? If a law enforcement officer does not come to the scene either because you chose not to call or the department refused to send an officer for some reason, which does happen sometimes, you should exchange identification and insurance information with the other driver. I recommend exchanging pictures of drivers’ licenses and insurance cards.

3. Should I take pictures after I am involved in a car accident? Yes. Regardless of whether an officer comes to the scene or not, in addition to exchanging identification and insurance information, always take pictures of the damage to all vehicles involved and other relevant information at the scene of the accident such as skid marks, other markings on the road, stop/yield signs, deployed airbags, license plates, the overall condition of the other vehicle if it is in disrepair, and anything else you think may be relevant.

4. What if the other driver will not provide his/her identification and insurance information? If the other driver will not cooperate in providing identification or insurance information or there is a question about their identity or insurance coverage at least obtain their license plate number. Again, snapping a quick picture of their vehicle and license plate is a good idea and can usually be done without the other driver’s cooperation.

5. Should I speak with the other driver after a car accident? Use your best judgment but be careful of what you say to the other driver and make note of what they say to you. Statements you make about the accident can be used against you in court. Likewise, statements made by the other driver can be used against him/her in court, so make note of any statements made to you by the other driver or you hear the other driver make to others. Often the full extent of your injuries are not realized until hours or even days after the crash. Therefore, you should avoid making statements about whether or not you are injured or to what extent you may be injured. Also, do not admit fault at the scene of the accident to the other driver. Immediately after the accident, all of the facts regarding fault for the accident may not be known to you or the other driver. Do not be frustrated if the other driver does not admit fault to you or suggests that you are at fault for the accident. Do your best to remain calm.

6. Is it okay to move the vehicles involved in an accident before the police arrive? In many cases it is okay and sometimes necessary to move the vehicles before the police arrive. If it is unsafe for you or other drivers to leave the vehicles where they are located at the time of the collision, you will likely need to move them to a safe location nearby. You will need to use your best judgment. If you decide to move the vehicles off of the roadway before law enforcement arrives, take pictures of the vehicles and location of the vehicles before they are moved. If there are skid marks, take pictures of the skid marks. If there are not skid marks, make note of that.

7. When should I seek medical attention after a car accident? If you were injured or think you may have been injured in an accident, you should seek medical attention as soon as practical by a medical provider that is trained to evaluate individuals injured in car accidents. That usually means going to an emergency department or an injury clinic that specializes in treating patients involved in car accidents. If you feel your injuries require immediate medical attention, then it is reasonable to go to the emergency department. Certainly, if you unable to drive due to your injuries, you should go to a nearby emergency department via ambulance or call someone to the scene to drive you there. If you do not need emergency medical treatment, you can make an appointment with an injury clinic to be seen as soon as reasonably possible. Most injury clinics will see patients the same day that they call or the following day. If you do not know where to seek treatment after a car accident, call us. We can help you find clinics that specialize in treating patients injured in car accidents. Pursuant to Florida law, if you do not seek medical treatment within 14 days after the accident, you will lose entitlement to your valuable PIP benefits, which pay for the majority of your initial medical treatment up to $10,000. Your PIP benefits are provided through your automobile insurance.

8. If I am injured in a car accident caused by the fault of another, should I report the car accident to my insurance company? Yes. Notify your insurance company of the accident as soon as reasonably practical. However, do not give a recorded statement to any insurance company until you have spoken with a car insurance attorney. You likely have a contractual obligation to give a recorded statement to your insurance company. You have the right to have an attorney present during that statement. Furthermore, you have no legal obligation to give a statement to the other party’s insurance company, and we recommend that you refuse to do so until you have spoken to a car accident attorney and obtained advice regarding whether a recorded statement should be given to the other party’s insurance company. In most cases, we advise our clients not to give a recorded statement to the other party’s insurance company.

9. If the other party was at fault, should I process the property damage claim through my insurance company or the other party’s? It depends. If the other party’s insurance company accepts fault for the collision, usually by processing the property damage claim through the other party’s insurer you avoid having to pay a deductible up front. However, often the other party’s insurance company disputes who was at fault or the other party may not have insurance. In those scenarios, you will likely want or need to process the property damage claim through your insurance company. If you have a deductible, you will have to pay the deductible, but you can recoup your deductible from the at fault driver at a later date. The car accident attorneys at McBreen & Nowak, P.A. do not charge a fee to assist with your property damage claim if needed when we represent you for an injury claim.

10. If my vehicle was not totaled, do I have any other property damage claim if the other driver’s insurance company pays to fix my car? You may have a claim for diminished value to your vehicle. We can help you evaluate whether you have a diminished property value claim and assist with this type of claim.

11. Should I call an attorney after a car Accident? ALWAYS CALL AN ATTORNEY AS SOON AS PRACTICAL AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT! There is no reason not to contact an attorney at McBreen & Nowak, P.A., regarding your car accident. We do not charge for consultations nor do we charge you a fee if we take your case unless we make a recovery on your behalf. No matter how much you like your insurance company and no matter how long your relationship with your insurance company has existed, your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company are in business to pay you as little as possible. We can help you maximize your recovery, help you obtain all benefits to which you are entitled, and ensure that you are treated fairly.

Please remember that these are just tips and that the above does not include everything you need to know regarding a car accident claim. If you or a loved one is injured or have any questions about your rights or what you should do in the event that you are in a car accident, you should contact McBreen & Nowak, P.A. at 813-284-4024. We will be happy to answer any questions you have concerning your car accident and we offer free consultations.