You just had a crash and you don’t know what to do. You are nervous, overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. Your Tampa car accident lawyers came up with some things to do to keep you safe physically and legally. It is a long list but we tried to break it down to simple steps. If you hire an attorney, we can do many of these steps for you:
- Stop your car and don’t block traffic. TAKE PICTURES (this is often the best evidence) and then get off of the roadway (if your vehicle is operable) and move to a safe place. Do not stay in the middle of the road in order to preserve evidence of a crash. Just take pictures and then move out of the way. Again, if you are blocking traffic, you have to move your car immediately. Take more pictures once you out of the way.
- Call the police. Report the accident and get help from first responders like police and, if necessary, fire rescue.
- If someone is hurt, get them medical help right away. Do so for yourself too – but not the emergency room unless you are bleeding, struck your head or if you have a broken bone. Quite often Urgent Care is cheaper, faster and better service.
- Listen to the 911 dispatcher. If they say not to move someone or give them water, do not do it. They tell you things for reasons. You don’t want to find out why they told you not to do something because you did it.
- Give your name, address, car information, and insurance to anyone in the accident who asks for it. When the first responders get there be polite and respectful. If there was an injury or damage over $500, the police will do a report which is helpful.
- Investigate and take more pictures and get names and numbers if you can. The best place to get photos is usually the scene of the crash. See if you or someone with you can get pictures of the resting points of the cars, the damage to the other cars. Sometimes in a rear-end crash your car will not have a lot of damage but the other car will have a lot. Get pictures of that.
- Also, sometimes the police will not put everyone on the accident report. So a witness who would be helpful to you will not be there to help if you do not get his or her name at the scene. If they offer it, don’t lose it. At Fernandez and Hernandez, LLC we see witnesses all the time who were not listed on the crash reports. Tampa-Hillsborough roads are busy but try to get the information we need. It can only help your car accident lawyer do his job.
- Don’t say sorry. Lots of times, people say ‘I’m sorry’ even though they don’t even mean to say they caused the situation. The words come out to be nice and feel empathy. But don’t do it. Because the other person will remember. And, under the Florida Rules of Evidence 90.803(18), a comment like that is admissible in court as an exception to the hearsay rule. So be nice and ask them if they are ok. But do not apologize.
- Be open with the police officer investigating the accident. Believe it or note, statements to the police officer are inadmissible in a personal injury trial. Talk to them if you were in the right and are not worried about any actions of your own. The statements cannot come into trial in a personal injury case. This is commonly known as the ‘Accident Report Privilege’ described in Florida Statute 316.066(4).
- Don’t leave the scene without exchanging information. In Florida, you could be arrested for leaving the scene of a crash with injuries or damage EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT AT-FAULT.
- Call your car insurance company. Under your car accident insurance policy, you have to report this crash. It is part of the policy that you cooperate and tell them about it. You have benefits under your own policy called personal injury protection (PIP) benefits that will pay for your health care from the crash. You need to report the crash to the company to get the benefits. If you don’t they won’t pay.
Don’t worry if the other driver doesn’t have insurance. Lots of people driving around Tampa do not have insurance. Don’t worry – take care of your body first. Your lawyer may be able to find insurance. Or, you may have uninsured motorist coverage which a lawyer can help you with. Either way, don’t do anything about your crash just because you hear the driver has no insurance. There may be a solution.
What else can you do?
Choose the right doctors. It is important to do good research on your medical doctors. Just like what you are doing right now, reading up on your Tampa car accident lawyer, you should investigate the background of your medical doctor. Their credentials and results are important in your treatment. It is important to get the right care for the right condition. And, in settlement negotiations or at trial, your doctor’s credentials will be placed at issue by the defendant. You want a doctor who comes off as believable. Sometimes, your own doctors (like a primary care physician) may refuse to treat you because you were in an accident and they do not want to be bothered with what comes with treating an accident victim. Others may just want to write your prescriptions and not to physical therapy to get you better – instead of masking the pain by doping you up. Your lawyer may be able to help you find a doctor who can treat you. Ask us and we will recommend you a doctor within 3 to 5 miles of your home or work.
Get your car out of the tow yard. If your car was towed, get it out of the yard. Use your own insurance, the insurance from the person who hit you, or pay for it. But do not leave it at the yard because they will charge you storage daily and most times will not cut the bill when you get over there to get the car. And, if you leave your car there long enough, they can take it by following the process in Florida Statute § 713.78.
Get an estimate for your car. If you do not have insurance to fix your car but the other person was at fault, you have to rely on the other person’s insurance. It is important to remember if you are relying on the other person’s insurance, they only have to pay if you can show the other person was at fault. And, if the other person says the crash was not their fault, then the insurance can delay and say they are taking their insured’s side. If you do not have insurance and the other person is saying they are not at fault, then you will almost certainly have to sue the other person to get your car fixed and for your injuries. This may be frustrating because the crash seemed simple. But under these circumstances, your car will not get fixed and you will not get paid until the case is done in court.
Keep track of your ‘out of pocket’ expenses. They include co-pays, wrecker bills, medicines, bills for devices like a boot or brace, rental cars, pillows for your neck, a new chair at work, crutches, the housekeeper’s extra day because you can’t clean, a gardener if you can’t do it anymore, or even a nanny if you need help with the kids. When your car accident lawyer does demand to the insurance company, he or she will need these. Or, if your case goes to court, your accident attorney will need these expenses to produce to the other side to get you money for them. You want recovery, right? So keep track of what you spend. Tampa is expensive. If you keep track of what you spend, your lawyer can help you get it back.
Make a PIP claim for your lost earnings if you missed work. Your PIP (Personal Injury Protection) policy will pay 60% of your lost earnings up to $10,000 or the remaining limits after medical bills have been paid out. Use this if you did not waive it when you got your insurance. Your insurance company will have forms to fill out to get the benefits.
If you got a ticket, that does not mean the other party is not partially or substantially at fault for this accident. The fact you got a ticket and what the judge did with the ticket is inadmissible in a personal injury case. That means that if you got a ticket, the insurance company’s defense lawyer is not allowed to talk about the ticket at trial.
Do not plead guilty if you got the ticket. If you plead guilty to the ticket, it will be admissible and they can use it against you in any personal injury trial. This all assumes that the crash was not really your fault and you want to hire a car accident attorney to try to get you compensation.
Get regular treatment. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself. And consistently. If you do not go steadily, the defense lawyers and insurance companies will say you must not have been that hurt since you didn’t feel the need to go often. And, if you do not do the therapy your doctor prescribes, they will say you did not do everything you could to get better. Tampa is a busy place, but you have to find the time for treatment.
Don’t jump at offers from the insurance company. The insurance companies like to get in there early and settle cases before you get a car accident lawyer.
Call a car accident lawyer. Experience and results matter. Our Tampa Car Accident Lawyers try cases. We get results.
If you have been injured in a Tampa car accident, call Tampa Injury Attorney Martin Hernandez at 813-229-5353.