Instructions from a Tampa car accident attorney on how to de-risk yourself after a crash
A car accident attorney in Tampa should be your third point of call when you get into a car accident. Whether it’s a fender bender or something more serious, it’s important that you know the right steps to take so you can adequately protect yourself from legal trouble. There are more than 398,000 auto accidents that occured in Florida in 2021 that resulted in more than 3600 deaths. Considering how frequently car crashes happen, we want you to be armed with the right info in case it happens to you. This blog will take you through the step-by-step and what you can anticipate from the legal process that follows a car crash.
Step 1: Call 911 or the non-emergency line (407) 836-4357 depending on the severity of the accident.
You need to assess any injuries you might have and consider if you can breathe properly. Check and see if you’re bleeding anywhere or if you can disentangle yourself and get out of the car. If you don’t have any serious injuries, go check on the other party involved in the accident. Assess if they are breathing or bleeding and call the 911 emergency helpline if the situation seems dire. In the interim, you can help stop or control any bleeding issues that seem urgent.
Either you or the person that calls 911 should stay on the scene until they arrive. You have to talk to law enforcement and you need to be as specific as possible with your account of events. If you appear vague and dodgy in your answers, you will cast doubt on any perception of innocence you might want to portray.
Remember to move yourself out of harm’s way. This could include getting out of traffic and away from any mangled, potentially dangerous mess that could be the vehicles. However, leave the crashed cars in place.
It is not advisable to speak to any insurance rep at this point. They can twist whatever you tell them to stiff you out of compensation that you rightfully deserve.
Step 2: Collect as much information as you can from the scene of the accident.
You need to collect as much documentation as you can and you can do this easily by taking photos or recording notes with your phone. These are some of the documents you will need to make it easy to follow up on your case:
Names of all the other drivers involved in the crash
- Names of all the other drivers in the crash
- Their driving license information
- The insurance information of everyone involved
- The car registration plates of all vehicles involved
Take as many photos and videos as you possibly can and do it from as many angles possible. Include images that show damages to all vehicles, the entire scene, any skid marks or any other thing you think could be potentially relevant in showing what happened. As soon as you’re in a position to, record your account of events on video or audio while it is fresh on your mind. If you’re able to capture any injury you have on video, do so or ask someone around you to do it for you.
The more information you get, the better your case will be should you get sued or want to sue for compensation.
Step 3: Call a car accident attorney in Tampa
The investigation into the car accident will start even before you leave the scene. Now, it’s time to call your lawyer so you can protect your rights. While you are under no obligation to use any legal services after a car accident in Tampa, it is strongly advisable to get an attorney. Having the most competent car accident lawyer in Tampa by your side could be the difference between ending up in massive debt, or getting paid for your troubles.
Your attorney will ensure you do not incriminate yourself by helping you know what the right thing to say is so you can maximize your chances of getting compensation. Remember, you or the other driver could have mild to serious injury. Sometimes, the injuries could require expensive medical attention or long-term care. If it ends in a permanent disability, either of you may be unable to work for a long time- or forever.
There are extensive expenses associated with getting back on your feet and someone has to bear those expenses. Insurance companies will try their absolute best to wiggle out of this responsibility. It is your attorney’s job to ensure that you’re not stuck with the check and that you get compensated to whatever extent you’re entitled to.
With the right attorney by your side, you can be sure that all your medical, living expenses are covered.
Step 4: Call your Personal Injury Policy Provider (insurance company)
Under Florida Laws, every driver should have a policy limit of at least $10,000; it is illegal to drive without one. Florida being a no-fault state, your insurance company is obligated to compensate you within the limits of your policy.
Your insurance company will need a statement of exactly what occurred. Even if you feel like you could be at fault, partially or completely, your insurance company has an interest in protecting your perceived innocence. Tell them what happened so they can get ahead of it.
The other party’s insurance company will probably also ask for your account of events. However, remember that they too are trying to get ahead of the situation. For them though, they want to have whatever excuse possible to not have to pay you. Even a simple, seemingly innocent statement you say can be twisted to try and stiff you out of a settlement. It is best if you allow your Tampa car accident attorney to handle it.
The other insurer may try to talk you into a settlement; please do not fall for it until you’re certain of all the costs associated with your care after the crash including car repair. Whatever offer they give you will likely not be enough to cover all the damages you experienced after the accident. Additionally, they will probably try and get you to sign a document that says that you cannot claim any other compensation from them. This essentially will lock you out of getting all the resources you may need to return to as normal a life as possible.
How much time do you have to claim compensation after a car accident in Tampa?
You don’t have an indefinite time period to move on your claim if you want to pursue one. If you know you need medical care, Florida Statute 627.736 says that you only have 14 days after an accident to go to the doctor’s. If you take any longer than that, insurance companies will quite likely use that as an excuse to not compensate you. Your PIP insurer is the first entity meant to pay for your medical costs, even if you have health insurance.
If you’d want to institute a negligence lawsuit against the other driver and their insurance company, you only have 4 years to do so. On the other hand, the statute of limitations for wrongful death is 2 years. Knowing these timing limitations can help you make the most informed decision regarding what you want to do next.
Once all parties have agreed to what compensation is due, it takes approximately 20 days for the money to be paid out. In simple, straightforward cases, insurance companies want it closed as soon as possible to limit their obligations toward you.
Having a competent attorney by your side will ensure you’re getting the best deal possible for your specific circumstances.
What happens when you cause a car accident and you have no insurance?
As mentioned earlier, it is mandatory for every driver in Tampa to have a PIP of not less than $10000 coverage. Because of Florida’s no-fault laws, your personal PIP should be the first point you go to when seeking medical and loss of income compensation after an accident. So what happens if you do not have one and you end up being the at-fault driver?
Well, it is quite likely that the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) will suspend your license plate. If no injuries were reported as a result of the accident, you could get back your license and registration once you produce a valid PIP.
Additionally, if there were no injuries, the no-fault laws kick in once again and the other party’s insurer will pay for their damages. You however, will have to pay out of pocket for any damages you have to your car because you have no coverage.
What if there were injuries in the car accident, and you’re the uninsured, at-fault driver?
If you have no insurance and you’re the at-fault driver that caused injuries, you will be responsible for taking care of the other driver’s damages. This includes paying for their medical costs and damage to their car. Once you do this, you will sign a form that essentially releases you from any further responsibility. If you’re unable to pay, you could negotiate with the other party for you to have a payment plan. Hopefully, they will allow you the flexibility of paying in installments.
What is the average compensation for a car accident in Tampa?
The truth is, there is no ‘average’. Compensation is determined on a case-by-case basis. Damages that have specific numbers to them are pretty straight forward. Such damages include:
Medical costs as determined by receipts for doctors’ visits
Car repair costs as listed in the invoices by the mechanics
Out of pocket costs such as towing
Loss of income costs based on time unable to work at your regular job for income.
These damages can be quickly added up using a calculator and a definite amount derived from the total. Where it gets complicated is the compensation for pain and suffering. The same accident with the same outcomes could be valued very differently in the pain and suffering scale. For example, younger victims are entitled to more compensation than older ones based on age and perceived length of life remaining. An athlete who cannot be competitive any more could be compensated higher than a regular person for the same broken leg.
This is why, having a car accident attorney who can fight to maximize your compensation can be one of the highest determinant factors on whether you end up paid or paying.
What is the time limit for car accident insurance payouts in Tampa?
In general, it takes about 30 days for insurance companies to investigate your claim. Simple cases take much shorter compared to more complex cases that have multiple victims and no obvious at-fault driver. It is understandable that you want your settlement cheque issued as fast as possible. There are ways in which you can ensure that the investigative period takes a short time.
For instance, provide as much information as possible and do so promptly. The photos and video recordings that you took in step 2 will come in very handy here. Any witness statements, police reports and insurance information of all parties involved can help the investigation phase go much faster. Additionally, provide all receipts of medical care, car repair and other relevant accident-related expenses.
If it was your fault, your insurance company will assign an adjuster to determine how much should be paid out to the other party for their injuries and property damage. If it’s not your fault, you’ll still submit the relevant documents to your insurer, but you’ll adjoin the other driver’s insurer as a 3rd party so you can claim from them.
Your insurance adjuster will be in constant communication with you, and you can expect the end-to-end process to take a few weeks to a few months depending on how serious the accident was.
If you feel like you need someone you can trust to fight for you as you focus on recuperating, you can trust Coleman Law Group to stand by you and get you everything you deserve to be compensated for.