You’ve Been in a Car Accident…What Should You Do?
At the scene of the accident:
• Call the police, even if the accident is minor, and wait for law enforcement to arrive and complete their paperwork.
• If you have a cell phone and you or anyone else is injured, call 911.
• When in doubt, ask for an ambulance. Once the EMS personnel arrive and assess the injured parties those people not seriously injured will have the option of refusing ambulance transport to an emergency room. Your required Florida personal injury protection benefits insurance coverage will make payment towards your ambulance and emergency medical treatment up to $10,000. Florida has “No-Fault” motor vehicle insurance law that requires every vehicle owner to purchase up to $10,000 in personal injury protection coverage to pay towards your medical bills. Your own No-Fault insurance pays 80% of your medical bills. If there is an emergency medical condition, your basic medical coverage is up to $10,000. Some people have additional optional automobile medical payments coverage.
• Always follow the instructions of law enforcement personnel.
• If your vehicle is not operable and you can exit it safely, do so.
• If your vehicle is not operable and its location may cause another accident, turn on your hazard lights. If your hazard lights are not operable and you have a cone or emergency flare, use those.
• If your vehicle is operable and in a hazardous position, move it to a safe location as close to the accident scene as safely possible. Before you move your vehicle, if you can safely photograph the location of the vehicles in the accident with a cell phone, do so.
• If you are able to, take photographs from as many angles as possible of the damage to the vehicles. Those photographs may be helpful when a claim is later made. Many modern vehicles show greater bumper damage right after an accident because many modern rear bumpers are designed to automatically “reshape” or “reform” the rear bumper quickly after an impact, so pictures taken thirty minutes or later may not show the same damage that was present right after the crash. If there is any damage inside your vehicle, take pictures. Is your inside mirror intact? Did your seatback break or get damaged from the force of your body being thrust forwards and backwards?
• If you are able to, get the name, address, and phone number of any witness. If they will show you their driver’s license, take a photograph of it with your cell phone. Ask what they saw and make a note of their answer.
• If you are able to, for all other drivers involved in the accident, if they are cooperative and it is safe to do so, get their names, address, driver’s license number, license tag and insurance information. Request their permission to take photographs of their license and insurance card. Always be cordial and polite. If another driver was at fault, you can ask that person what caused them to cause the accident. You should make a note of their response in writing or by making a note of their response on your cell phone.
• When you are able to, contact your insurance company. You may have coverage to pay for a wrecker if one is necessary. When you speak to your insurance company, be aware that the claims representative’s job includes obtaining all information that will be helpful to the insurance company. You are immediately being viewed as a claimant who will be seeking money one way or another from your company. To protect your interests, it would be wise to speak with an attorney who is experienced in handling motor vehicle accident claims. I take calls 24/7 from accident victims. I offer free consultations.
• If you go to an emergency room, be sure to give your motor vehicle insurance information to the emergency medical personnel and the hospital. If you have health insurance, also provide that information.
• Be sure to tell all medical personnel ALL of your symptoms. If they recommend medical testing, it is usually best to follow their expertise and advice.
• Under Florida law, if you fail to seek medical treatment within the first 14 days after an accident, your personal injury protection benefits insurance does not have to pay your medical bills. You can still seek medical treatment that can be submitted to your health insurance. If the accident was not your fault and you fail to seek medical treatment within the first 14 days, you can still attempt to recover your unpaid medical bills from the at fault party’s bodily injury liability insurance coverage. If the at fault party does not have bodily injury liability insurance coverage, you can still recover those medical bills if you have uninsured motorist coverage.
• Get the advice from an attorney experienced in handling motor vehicle accident claims before speaking with the at fault party’s insurance company. Experienced personal injury attorneys offer free consultations. You can call us from the accident scene 24/7.
Making An Accident Claim for Vehicle Damage
The at fault party is required to have insurance to pay up to $10,000 for the damage to your vehicle. Many people have coverage to pay up to $25,00 or more for the property damage they cause. On rare occasions the at fault party does not have insurance because it lapsed for one reason or another. The at fault party’s insurance company is also required to put you in a comparable rental vehicle while your vehicle is being repaired or while you are waiting to receive a check if your vehicle is determined to be a total loss.
If you have collision coverage on your damaged vehicle, you have the right to elect to have your own insurance company handle your property damage claim. You paid a premium for that insurance coverage. If you have rental reimbursement coverage, your company will pay for a rental vehicle for you under the terms of your policy.
What is Your Vehicle Worth?
Florida law requires the insurance company to pay the fair market value of your vehicle at the time of the accident. Fair market value is what your vehicle was worth if you had to sell it to a private buyer on the day of the crash. There are many websites you can review to see what private buyers are offering to accept for the sale of the same year, make, and model as your vehicle. If you have made recent repairs or purchases of equipment or tires for your vehicle, the offer on your vehicle should include those recent expenses. If your vehicle is totaled, the insurance company is also required to pay you the tax on the value of your vehicle.
Under Florida law, if the estimated cost of repairs to your vehicle exceeds 80% of the fair market value of the vehicle, the insurance company can declare your vehicle to be a total loss and pay you the fair market value of the vehicle, plus tax.
If your insurance company low-balls you with an unfair offer on the value of your vehicle, we can help you. If we file suit for your property damage against your insurance company and it is determined your insurance company’s offer was too low, then your insurance company will owe our attorney fees and costs. For that reason, most often your own insurance company will attempt to avoid a possible lawsuit by making you a fair offer on your vehicle.
Diminution in Value
Everyone knows a vehicle that has been damaged in an accident has less value than if the vehicle had not been damaged in the accident. We will make the diminution in value claim against the at fault party for you.
Your injury claim will be based on the documentation available concerning the extent of your injuries and how your injuries have affected your life.
The extent of your injuries is documented in your medical records. X-rays show bone fractures, but do not show disc, ligament, or muscle tears and damage. MRI scans show disc and ligament damage. The physician who provides treatment for your injuries will evaluate and assess the nature and extent of your injuries.
- Keep a diary as to how the injuries affect your everyday life. Include the enjoyment of life activities you have avoided due to your injuries.
- Save your empty medication bottles and receipts for the prescription and over the counter drugs you needed due to your injuries.
We periodically request medical records of our clients, so we can stay informed as to the extent of the injuries and the treatment are clients are undergoing. Keep your attorney informed as to your medical treatment, especially if there has been a recommendation for a pain management referral or for a surgery evaluation.
Glenn Klausman has been practicing injury law in central Florida for over 30 years and can provide information concerning physicians to whom he would send his family member for treatment or for a pain management or surgery evaluation.
No-Fault Insurance Coverage (also referred to as Personal Injury Protection or PIP coverage):
If your physician determines you are disabled from your regular employment or places you on restrictions that prevent you from working, your available Florida No-Fault insurance coverage includes payment of 60% of your gross income loss. To receive that payment, it is necessary to have the disability and restrictions slip from your physician and documentation from your employer of your time missed from work. Even though your employer may pay you sick time or vacation time for your missed days, you are also entitled to recover the 60% of income loss under your available No-Fault insurance coverage. The at fault party will owe whatever income loss you can document that your own No-Fault coverage did not pay.
80% of your reasonable and necessary accident related medical bills are also required to be paid by your available No-Fault insurance coverage. Most people have a $10,000 limit on their No-Fault insurance coverage. That limit applies to both your medical bills and your income loss. Your physicians are required to bill your available motor vehicle No-Fault coverage within 30 days of providing the treatment. If your physicians have your No-Fault insurance information and fail to bill your available No-Fault insurance timely, then you do not owe the medical bill your physician failed to bill. No matter what amount your physicians charge, under your available No-Fault coverage your physician is required to accept 200% of the Medicare rate for the service provided. If you have exhausted your No-Fault insurance coverage, the 30 days to submit bills and the 200% of Medicare limitation do not apply. Your No-Fault insurance coverage also applies to reimburse you for your prescription expenses and your mileage cost for travel to and from your physicians. I am surprised by how many lawyers who handle these claims fail to make sure their clients are getting the full benefit of their No-Fault coverage.
You can see Florida No-Fault law is complex. If your insurance company fails to properly pay your No-Fault insurance claim we can pursue payment for you on a “No Recovery = No Attorney Fees or Costs” basis, with the agreement that if we are successful the insurance company will owe our attorney fees and costs and if we are no successful you owe no attorney fees or costs for that claim.
Because No-Fault Insurance law is complex, Glenn Klausman receives referrals from other attorneys to pursue these claims for their clients.
Motor Vehicle Medical Payments Coverage
Many people purchase optional motor vehicle Medical Payments Coverage that pays medical bills above the limits of the Florida No-Fault PIP benefits coverage. If you have Medical Payments Coverage, your physician should continue to bill your motor vehicle insurer. Your attorney will make sure your insurance company is paying the medical bills for which you paid premiums.
Health Insurance for Motor Vehicle Accident Bills
A common misunderstanding is that health insurance does not pay medical bills due to a motor vehicle accident. Your Florida No-Fault Coverage and any motor vehicle medical payments coverage pay first, but if balances remain those bills should be sent by your health care providers to your health insurance. Once you have reached the limit of what your Florida No-Fault Coverage will pay, then your health insurance should begin paying. For that reason, it is important your health care providers know to bill your health insurance.