Just this last year, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported over 400,000 crashes. Every state differs when it comes to car accident laws. Here is what you need to know if you are involved in an accident in the state of Florida. Remember to keep calm. Doing so will help to ensure you correctly document the accident and protect your rights.
Check for Injuries
First things first, make sure everyone involved in the accident is okay. If there are any injuries (even minor), call 911 immediately. Even if no one is injured, you might consider calling 911 so you have an official accident report for your insurance company.
Florida requires all motorists to report an accident in the event of an injury to a passenger, driver, pedestrian, bicyclist, etc. as well as in the event of a death. Additionally, if any property (including vehicles) is damaged in what appears to be in the amount of $500 or more, the accident has to be reported.
You should also report the accident if anyone is complaining of pain or discomfort. As well as if one of the drivers involved is operating a commercial vehicle. Or if one of the drivers appears to be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Exchange Information and Document What Happened
Drivers involved should exchange information including:
- Full name and contact information
- Insurance company and policy number
- Driver’s license and license plate number
- Type, color and model of vehicle
- Location of accident
It is best not to discuss the event or disclose too much information to the other driver, particularly who might be at fault. You do not want to accidentally accept blame for the event. Once you’ve notified your insurance company, it will be the responsibility of the adjuster reviewing your claim to determine who’s at fault based on a full investigation.
The insurance adjuster will base his or her decision on an inspection of the vehicles/property damaged, the information provided by you and the other parties involved in the accident. Also taken into account is any supporting documentation, including the crash report. Remember, however, that you are not required to speak with the other person’s insurance company or to give them a statement. It is always best to consult with an attorney before providing a statement to the other driver’s insurance company, especially if there is a disagreement about who was at fault.
To help protect yourself, take photos, get names of police officers, any witnesses, take your own notes and get a copy of the accident report if possible. Sometimes other motorists stop at the accident scene, but they leave before providing a formal statement to law enforcement. Sometimes they leave without even providing their name. If able, get the name and contact information for all potential witnesses at the accident scene.
What about photos? The more photos the better, but try to at least get photos of the following:
The accident scene
Damage to the vehicles, including the inside of your vehicle, especially if the airbags deployed
Where the vehicles ended up after the collision (only if you can do so safely – avoid oncoming traffic and get to a safe location)
Any evidence of how the crash happened such as vehicle debris in the roadway or skid marks
Any physical injuries like bruises, cuts, or abrasions
Although you may be tempted to post photos and information about the accident on your social media accounts, you’re also sharing this information with the insurance companies and possibly with the attorneys for the other driver in a lawsuit, if it comes to that. Your posts can be used against you, so it’s best not to post anything about the accident or your injuries.
What if I don’t Report?
Failure to report is a non-moving traffic infraction and you may face a fine. However, leaving the scene of an accident (hit and run) without providing the required information referenced above is a criminal act that can result in serious charges. If the accident involved a death, leaving the scene of the accident can be a first-degree felony with penalties of up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
If for whatever reason, you are unable to wait for police assistance, you can complete a “Driver Report of Traffic Crash (Self Report)” or “Driver Exchange of Information” online, or download the form at https://www.flhsmv.gov/traffic-crash-reports/ and send the completed form to the address provided.
Contact Your Insurance Company
While it might be tempting to handle the accident without your insurance provider, especially if you are at fault, what appears to be minor damage might in fact equate to thousands of dollars according to Consumer Reports.
Even when an accident is minor or doesn’t qualify as a “reportable accident,” it is still a good idea to contact your auto insurance company. If you fail to timely report a reportable accident to your insurance provider, coverage for any damage that occurred could be denied. Different policies have different deadlines. It’s best to play it safe and report to your insurer as soon as possible.
Seek Medical Attention if Necessary
If you’ve been injured it’s imperative that you seek treatment with a medical professional immediately. Even a minor impact can sometimes mask serious (even permanent) injuries. So regardless of how minor your pain or discomfort may be, seek the opinion of a medical professional as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the longer the gap between your accident and when you seek medical treatment, the more likely it is the insurance company will question the validity of your injuries.
It’s not uncommon in the heat of the moment that you may not immediately feel the onset of any symptoms. Many accident victims report an increase in pain and symptoms over the first 24 – 48 hours after the accident. Also remember in Florida, under our “no-fault” system, you must seek medical treatment within 14 days of the accident date in order to receive payment for your medical expenses through your Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) coverage.
Protect Your Rights
If you received any medical treatment and are in pain from your accident, it is a good idea to consult with a reputable personal injury attorney. Contacting a qualified lawyer is the best decision you can make when it comes to protecting your legal rights.
A personal injury or accident attorney will be able to educate and guide you through a complicated legal system. At the same time, preventing you from making any mistakes that might hurt your case. An experienced attorney will negotiate a settlement, or file a lawsuit if necessary, to obtain the full and fair value of your damages, so you can sleep peacefully at night knowing your bills are paid.