Lately there have been several articles in the media and on various web sites discussing what you should do if involved in a car accident. While most of the information is valid, a majority of the recommendations regarding what you should do if you are involved in an auto accident are perhaps somewhat incomplete. Keeping in mind that each situation may be somewhat different, the general “ground-rules” remain the same. To ensure that you are doing everything possible to protect your rights, meet all legal requirements and to help assist your attorney (should you decide to hire one), we here at The Law office of Mark A. Risi, PA have prepared the following list of what you need to do if you are involved in a car crash.
Document, Document, Document – Pictures, Pictures, Pictures!
Remember that every situation is in some way perhaps unique. Yet the bottom line in any type of accident situation is to Document, Document, Document! Although everyone hopes that they will never be involved in a situation such as an auto crash, we advise that perhaps you print out this page and actually have it accessible should you find yourself in an accident. We also recommend sharing the information with relatives and friends, since so far in 2017 The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) reports that there have been a total of 258,672 car crashes in Florida. Of these accidents, over 160,000 injuries and almost 1,800 fatalities have been documented from January 1st to October 1st of 2017 throughout the State of Florida.
Many experts have named this era in human history as “The Age Of Documentation“. With computers, iPads, smart phones, videos and email at our “fingertips”, never before has fast and easy documentation been so readily available to an individual. Additionally, with “Big Data” now an established part our lives (large databases of information that are shared between both the public and private sectors), documentation can be the key between successfully establishing the truth about an accident situation versus the old “he-said-she-said” scenarios seen in the past.
Ground Rules When You are Involved In a Car Accident
- Call the police. NEVER let the person who caused the car accident talk you out of calling the police.
A police report is most likely required by your insurance company. In some instances you actually risk the possibility of having your insurance coverage voided by failing to contact the police. A police report can be of unparalleled assistance as documentation. It describes who was at fault, lists the general facts of the accident and documents the various individuals that were involved in the incident. Additionally, it will list each driver’s insurance information. Because of their experience, the police are usually better at obtaining information from the other driver(s) and any witnesses (such as their names, addresses and phone numbers). However, if you do talk to any witnesses at the scene, it is very important to get their names, numbers, or addresses, if possible. Additionally, ask any “locals” if they’ve ever seen any other accidents in the same location.
- Take pictures and videos of the accident scene while the vehicles involved are still there in their damaged condition. I can’t emphasize this enough. Pictures, Pictures, Pictures. Today, most everyone has some kind of camera in their phones. They are more than adequate to take pictures and videos of the scene and vehicles involved in the accident. You will never get another chance to capture what the scene of the accident looked like. However, even though most of us have cameras in our phones, many people after an accident are shaken up and the last thing they think about is taking pictures of the scene. While this is understandable, a few good pictures can shut down any argument that any insurance company may try to use to get out of paying for an accident. But if you condition yourself ahead of time, you will be more likely to take pictures and videos. Once again, documentation is key.
- When taking pictures of the damage to your car (or the other vehicles involved in the accident), take pictures from each side of the car. Be far enough away from the car so you can see the entire car in the picture. Take as many as possible, just get at least one from each side with the entire car in the frame. If you want to get close ups for some damage to the car, that is fine as long as there are at least one from each side. Make sure the license plates of the cars are in the pictures of the rear of the cars.cIf there is any damage to the inside of your car, take pictures of that as well. You can never take too many pictures!
- Finally, make sure to back up and save all pictures you take with your phone. I have had clients take pictures in the past with their phones only to have the phone break or the memory cards get damaged. If you use a memory card, take it out and save it so it doesn’t get corrupted. If your phone backs up to the cloud, make sure you include the pictures in the back up. If you don’t already, use one of the free picture saving apps to back up your pictures. There are a number of apps that allow this: Google Photos, Amazon Prime Photos, Microsoft OneDrive or even Dropbox. Save the pictures to your computer if you have one. Lastly, then print them out as well for safe keeping.
- Do NOT refuse medical attention at the accident scene if there is a possibility that you incurred any injuries. Allow any medical personnel who respond to the car accident to examine you at the site of the crash. Share with them how you are feeling and describe each area of your body where you feel pain (or perhaps any other symptoms such as a headache, disorientation, nausea, numbness and any tingling in your arms or legs). It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to document any injuries that you feel you may have sustained. This includes pain, stiffness, soreness, headaches any anything other symptom that you did not have before the accident. Remember also that sometimes a person involved in an accident doesn’t really begin to feel symptoms until a few hours after the crash occurs. This can be due to the increase in adrenaline your body will produce due to being involved in the accident. You can tell if your adrenaline is elevated if you are experiencing a higher heart rate, faster breathing or just feel shaken up due to the accident. Do not let anyone rush you or force you into saying that you feel all right.
- If you don’t go to a hospital, it’s very important that you do follow up with a medical provider as soon as possible if you are experiencing any pain, discomfort or other symptoms of injury after the car accident. Once again, the documentation of your injuries by a medical provider is a key element in helping you to protect your rights. Understand that going to a walk-in clinic or to your family doctor as soon as possible after the accident can be very important in documenting how you feel.
- Also, in Florida, in order for your auto medical insurance to pay for your medical treatment, you must treat with a doctor within 14 days of the accident. But if you are feeling any symptoms from the crash, you should never wait anywhere near this long to seek treatment.
- Have an independent body shop prepare an estimate for you on the costs of repairing the property damage to your car. If you don’t see a lot of exterior damage, be aware that there may be still be significant hidden damage that only a trained repair shop expert can find. Often times a scratched or dented bumper can still have significant frame damage that will go undetected if not inspected by a professional. Don’t rely on the adjuster from the insurance company to provide you with an accurate estimate to repair the damages. They will usually only ” eyeball” the car and only report damages based on a cursory visual inspection. The insurance company will then argue that the lack of any visual property damage means that you could not have been injured. Make sure to retain copies of any estimates that you obtain for your records.
- You must notify your own insurance company of the car accident. You must cooperate, within reason, with your own insurance company by assisting them in their investigation of the incident or crash.
- If you are contacted by the other party’s insurance company, it is important for you to know that you are not legally required to provide them with any type of statement. There is absolutely no obligation on your part to take a call from the other party’s insurance company, and under no circumstances should you allow a call to be recorded. Additionally, you are in no way obligated or required by law to sign any paperwork for them. By signing the wrong paperwork on behalf of the other person’s insurance company, you may actually be granting them access to your information that they are not entitled to obtain (such as your past medical records or other sensitive personal information). The bottom line is that you should use caution in discussing the accident with anyone other than your attorney (if you choose to hire one). If you are called by the other person’s insurance company, it is easy to say “call my attorney to arrange an interview”. Don’t forget to document the call and tell your lawyer about it.
- If you have any questions following a car accident or automobile crash, we strongly urge you to consult with an experienced car accident lawyer to get the answers you need.
What To Give To Your Attorney
If you do choose to hire a personal injury attorney, keep in mind that the more information that you can provide to your lawyer, the greater the chances are that you will be compensated for your damages, losses, medical expenses and any pain and suffering that you may have experienced from the car accident. Additionally, the more detailed the documentation you are able to provide the attorney, the greater the chances are that the case will be more quickly resolved and settled. Here is a list of items to provide to ensure that your attorney has all the possible information that he or she may need.
- Your vehicle’s information (make, model, year, mileage, VIN number, previous condition prior to the accident, plus all previous service work or repair documentation that you may have).
- Your insurance information (company name, policy number and contact information).
- Your driver’s license information.
- Details of the accident or crash. These should include:
– Date and time
– Exact location
– Passenger information (if any were riding with you in your vehicle)
– Weather conditions
– Traffic conditions
– Road conditions (especially if there was any road construction taking place at the location of the accident)
- Information pertaining to all other vehicles involved:
– Make, model and year of car(s) involved
– Who was driving, the number of passengers and where the passengers in the other car(s) were seated or located.
- Copies of any accident report or any incident reports filed.
- Copies of any traffic tickets written at the crash scene.
- Any photos and/or videos of the accident scene.
- Any doctor report or medical records related to the crash. This includes any X-rays or test results that are related to injuries from the accident.
- Information about any previous conditions or injuries that you had prior to the accident. In some instances these may have been aggravated and exacerbated due to a crash.
- All expense records for treatment, therapy and medications. Remember to document all expenses, including such items as rental cars and transportation costs.
- Documentation of wages lost due to the accident.
- All correspondence with any insurance company, both your own and the other party(s) involved.
We also strongly advise each of our clients to keep a personal journal or diary following the accident. Start documenting as soon as possible (and as often as possible) as many of the following that you can:
– Insurance company contact (both by phone and mail)
– Medical condition (including any changes)
– Your overall “feelings”. Include any emotional feelings, such as stress, anxiety, mood swings and depression that you are experiencing.
Doing this daily may seem excessive, but making it a part of your daily routine will in many cases be a major help in obtaining a faster and better resolution to your case.
Florida Auto Accident Attorney
If you or someone that you care about is involved in a car crash that results in significant injuries or even death, please consider contacting The Law Office of Mark A. Risi, PA. Our experienced car accident attorneys have been serving clients throughout Central Florida for over twenty five years, with clients in Orlando, Winter Park, Kissimmee, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, Daytona Beach, Leesburg and many other locations. Whether you’re a local resident, or in Central Florida on business, or simply visiting from out of state on vacation, our experienced Orlando car accident attorneys can help you receive the compensation you deserve.
At the Law Office of Mark A. Risi we pride ourselves in providing quality and aggressive legal representation on behalf of our clients. We take pride in providing personal service to our clients in all personal injury cases in Orlando, Central Florida and throughout the state of Florida. For an absolutely free consultation with no risk or obligation, please feel free to call us at (407) 423-1313 or contact us online and we will answer any questions that you may have. We would be honored to work for you to obtain the best settlement possible.