What to do After an Accident

What follows is not legal advice and does not take the place of the advice of a lawyer. Each situation is different and anyone needing legal advice after an accident should contact an experienced lawyer to discuss his or her particular situation.

What to Do in the Event of a Motor Vehicle Accident Stop

You must stop anytime you have been involved in a collision with another vehicle, pedestrian, motorcycle, bicycle, animal or another person's property. Leaving the scene of an accident is not just wrong, it is illegal.

Report the Crash

All traffic accidents on Florida’s roadways must be reported to a law enforcement agency. If the collision caused any damage to any vehicle involved in the crash, immediately call 911. Many automobile insurance policies contain provisions which require the insured to report an accident to the appropriate legal authorities, and a failure to comply with this provision will result in a denial of coverage under the policy.

Bottom Line: Failure to report the accident to law enforcement will not only jeopardize your ability to be compensated for the losses you sustained as a result of the crash, it may even subject you to criminal prosecution.

Accident Scene

Often an accident in the roadway can lead to additional accidents because of obstructed views, onlooker delays, debris or disabled vehicles. BEWARE OF ONCOMING TRAFFIC! Many traffic fatalities have resulted from people being struck by oncoming vehicles while attempting to get out of their vehicle or while waiting for help after an accident. If able, do your best to protect the area around the accident and the cars involved while waiting for law enforcement personnel to respond. If flares or other warning devices are able to be safely deployed, without jeopardizing the health or safety of anyone involved in the accident, they may be utilized to warn oncoming motorists of the roadway obstruction caused by the accident.

Bottom Line: While preserving evidence at the scene of the accident is certainly important, safety should always come first.

Accept Medical Treatment at the Scene

Do not be a tough guy – or lady – at the scene of the crash when the law enforcement officer asks you if you are injured or if you require medical attention. Seek treatment for your injuries, even if they feel minor or insignificant at the time. Often, minor injuries or pain experienced immediately after a forceful collision can indicate or give rise to a serious problem. Consequently, be sure to report all injuries to responding personnel, even those that don’t seem like a big deal at the time. Finally, go to the hospital if you have any doubt about your condition; as Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Bottom Line: Don’t just ignore the pain that you are experiencing with the hope that it will go away. Receiving proper medical attention and care is the surest route to a safe and speedy recovery. It is better to be safe than sorry!

Cooperate With Law Enforcement Personnel

The law enforcement officers who respond to the scene of the accident are there to help, treat them with dignity and respect. Be polite and courteous at all times, and provide them with the information which they request. You may also request that the law enforcement officer carefully document the physical evidence present at the scene of the collision. It is advisable, however, not to speak to the other driver(s) and/or individual(s) involved in the crash. Tensions often run high at the scene of a crash, and avoiding contact with the other parties may avert an unnecessary verbal, or even physical, confrontation. You may, however, listen closely to any statements made by any of the other driver(s) and/or individual(s) involved in the crash regarding how the accident happened or who was at fault. If you are able, take note of these statements so that they may be preserved for future reference.

Bottom Line: Cooperate with law enforcement, and do not become argumentative, abusive or belligerent. The accident report which will be created by the responding law enforcement personnel will be treated as an important resource for determining how the accident happened and who bears responsibility for causing the crash.

Note: If you believe you have committed any criminal offense during or before the accident, please ignore these provisions and immediately contact a criminal defense attorney for legal advice.

Record All Witnesses and Facts

The following may be accomplished by you, or by a friend or family member who has met you at the scene of the accident. Remember that your health and well-being always comes first, so do not attempt to collect the following information at the cost of delaying necessary medical treatment!

Do your best to record the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all witnesses to the accident. It may also be useful to make a brief note of what each witness describes having seen, even if you think law enforcement has taken care of it. Write down your recollection of events as soon as possible after the accident, step by step, including times, dates, names, places, weather conditions and anything else you can remember. Minor details can prove important. Taking pictures or making a sketch of the accident scene also can be of great assistance in any future dispute about the facts and circumstances of the accident. Do your best to record obstructions (such as foliage that might later be trimmed or out of season), traffic signals, potholes, road signs, speed limit signs, skid marks, gouges in the roadway and anything else that might be useful in determining what caused the crash.

Bottom Line: Most accidents never result in a lawsuit. Yet, in the unlikely event that your accident is one that reaches a jury at trial, every additional piece of evidence helps. Do your best to preserve and record all the available evidence at the crash scene.

Notify Your Insurance Company / Giving Statements

Most automobile insurance policies require that you notify your insurance carrier immediately if you have been involved in an accident. Failure to notify your insurance carrier may result in the insurance company denying your claims and refusing to render any payments which you would otherwise be due according to the terms of your insurance policy. While you may be required, by the terms of your insurance policy, to give a statement to your insurance company about how the accident happened or the injuries you received, you should give no statements, under any circumstances, to the other party’s insurance company or attorney. If you become confused or overwhelmed, or simply want help in dealing with all the insurance companies involved in your claim, contact an experienced Southwest Florida Personal Injury Attorney, such as those at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured.

Bottom Line: Immediately contact your insurance company (or companies) and advise them of your accident.

Obtain Pictures

Taking pictures at the scene of an accident or as soon after as is possible is always a good idea, even if you don't think the accident will result in a lawsuit. You may be sued! Or what are thought to be initially minor injuries may become more severe. Always seek the appropriate medical treatment and take care of yourself first. But if you or a family member can take pictures of the accident scene, document the scene from as many angles as possible.

Even if you are unable to take pictures at the time of the accident, returning to the scene soon after and taking photographs of skidmarks, obstructions, vegetation, street signals, road signs and other environmental factors can be helpful. And you should take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and, if possible, any other vehicles involved from as many angles as possible.

You should also take pictures of your injuries as soon as soon as possible after an accident. The old adage "A picture is worth a thousand words" can be especially true of injuries and having pictures can help you document how badly you were hurt as a result of the crash.

Seek Appropriate Medical Treatment

Don’t ignore your pain. If you continue to hurt after the accident, seek out a qualified specialist to care for your injuries. Often what seemed a minor injury at the time of a crash can become more severe with the passage of time. Or an injury caused by the accident can become apparent weeks or months later. If you need to visit a doctor, hospital or specialist to treat your injuries or lingering health problems, do so promptly. Take care of yourself.

Maintain Contact Log

Moving forward, it is a good idea to keep a running log of who you talk to, their name, company, phone number, and date and time they called as well as what was discussed. All correspondence, letters and documents should be saved, as well as the envelope containing the postmark.

Contacting an Attorney

It is not unusual for minor injuries to become more serious or for accident victims to begin feeling a serious injury some time after the accident. Insurance companies, even your own, often present settlement documents as quickly as possible in an attempt to lock in or minimize costs. Oftentimes a personal injury attorney cannot only protect the rights of an accident victim but can spot potential current or future problems based on experience in representing people injured or killed in motor vehicle collisions.

Paying an Attorney

Many attorneys offer free consultations to help you determine if you have a case or need the help of an attorney to fight for your rights. Some personal injury attorneys charge no set or hourly fee but take your case on a contingency basis -- which means you don't pay them at all unless they recover you money and then they are entitled to a portion of any settlement or jury verdict -- usually one-third to 40 percent as regulated by the Florida Supreme Court.

And some attorneys will not even charge you any costs -- from copying and postage to investigators and medical experts -- unless they recover you money. At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, the consultation is free, there is no set or hourly fee and no costs without recovery. Our promise to you is simple: You'll Pay Us Nothing Unless We Win.

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