Car accidents happen every day. According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Department, 650 car accidents on average occur each day in Florida. While you may not always be able to avoid being involved in a car accident, there are steps you can take before and after a car accident to ensure you are prepared.
1) Know your insurance coverage
Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to car accidents. What does that mean? It means that if you are injured in a car accident, your car insurance will be the first line of coverage to pay for your medical care and treatment regardless of who caused the accident. This insurance coverage is called personal injury protection benefits or PIP. Typically, PIP covers 80% of the first $10,000 in medical bills. This begs the question as to who covers the additional 20% or who covers the amount that is billed in excess of the initial $10,000. If you are not at fault for the accident and someone else caused it, the next line of coverage is any insurance coverage the driver who was at fault for the accident had at the time of the accident. This type of insurance coverage is called bodily injury or BI coverage.
2) Make sure you have underinsured motorist coverage
If the person who caused the motor vehicle accident does not have bodily injury insurance coverage, there is still a way to recover compensation for any medical bills that you incur that are in excess of the initial $10,000. That insurance coverage is known as underinsured motorist coverage or UM coverage. This is the only insurance coverage that looks out for you. It is the only guarantee that there will be money available to you should you get into an accident that is not your fault and results in significant injuries to yourself. Underinsured motorist coverage is also available if the person who caused the accident does not have any insurance at the time of the accident.
3) Contact law enforcement
After you get into a car accident, you may feel inclined to not contact law enforcement because the drivers are being cooperative in exchanging information. However, it is imperative to contact law enforcement so there is an objective record of what occurred at the scene of the accident. In addition, and more importantly, the other driver who was in the accident with you may not report the accident to his or her own insurance company. If this occurs, it could tremendously slow down getting your vehicle repaired after an accident. Insurance companies will confirm with both parties that an accident happened before the vehicles can be repaired with insurance coverage benefits.
4) Report all injuries
Once you call law enforcement and exchange information with the other driver(s) involved, make sure you advise law enforcement of any pain you are experiencing. This is especially true if you do not seek medical care or treatment the day of the car accident. For example, you may be experiencing neck stiffness immediately following the accident, but not feel like it rises to the level of requesting an ambulance. Nevertheless, you should advise law enforcement that you are feeling pain. This is important especially if you experience a delay getting in with a doctor. Law enforcement indicating the parts of your body you have pain on his or her report, assists you in the future should you make a claim for personal injury and diminishes doubt should there be a question as to whether the injuries are related to the car accident at issue.
5) Seek medical attention
Obtaining medical treatment after an accident is of the utmost importance. This is essential for two reasons. First, why you may initially feel fine after a car accident, pain may come later in the day. Being evaluated by a healthcare professional can ensure that you were not injured as a result of the car accident. Second, should you experience an injury as a result of the car accident, you have fourteen (14) days to seek medical care and treatment in order for your personal injury protection benefits to be applied to the first $10,000 of your medical bills. If you do not seek medical treatment within the first fourteen (14) days, then you risk your coverage not being applied to any future medical care and treatment needed for the injuries you incurred as a result of the accident.
6) Find the right healthcare provider
Not all healthcare professionals treat patients who have been in a car accident. This may sound slightly unusual, but this is a reality that most victims of car accidents will face. The reason not all healthcare professionals treat car accident victims boils down to insurance. Remember how we mentioned PIP coverage in steps one (1) and five (5)? Well, not all healthcare providers accept this coverage and as such, will not see victims of car accidents even if they have had a longstanding relationship with that patient. So where do you get treatment? You can always go to an emergency room after a car accident. In addition, most chiropractors take PIP coverage and can get your treatment started if you don’t know where else to turn. If you already have a personal injury attorney, the attorneys can also direct you on what healthcare providers could provide treatment to you after a car accident and which ones take PIP.
7) Report the accident to your insurance company
Never hesitate to report the car accident to your insurance company. Your insurance company is there to help you after an accident, especially regarding any property damage you may have to your vehicle. Your insurance company will also communicate with the other driver’s insurance company to hopefully resolve the property damage as soon as possible. One thing to keep in mind, is that after you are involved in an accident, several people within the insurance company are assigned to your specific accident. These people are called adjusters. These adjusters handle different aspects of your claim. For example, you will have one adjuster assigned to your property damage and another adjuster assigned to your personal injury protection benefits. Even though these adjusters are in the same insurance company, they do not overlap and do not discuss the different aspects of your claim.
- 8) Follow your healthcare provider’s advice
After you initially seek medical care and treatment following a car accident, your healthcare provider(s) may have a plan for treatment of your injuries going forward. Make sure you follow your doctor recommendations. This can be overwhelming for someone who does not have a history of medical issues, but it is important to receive the recommended treatment especially if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim as a result of the car accident. If you do not follow the doctor recommendations, it will significantly diminish the amount of compensation you may be able to recover as a result of the accident.
9) Do not settle your claim prematurely
At some point in time, the insurance company for the driver who caused the car accident, may reach out to you. This adjuster is not your friend. He or she is not there to assist you with your personal injury claim. In fact, insurance companies are for-profit organizations that’s sole purpose is to protect its profits. Many insurance companies will try to lure you into an early settlement and claim they are paying you the 20% you will be responsible for after your PIP benefits are exhausted. Be wary when having conversations or signing any paperwork when you are communicating with an adjuster from the insurance company of the driver who was at fault for the car accident. When in doubt, do not accept any compensation or sign any paperwork without consulting with a personal injury attorney.
10) Contact an attorney
While it may seem insignificant at the time of the car accident, a personal injury attorney is someone who can help you navigate through all the issues that come into play after a car accident. From the insurance coverage, to where to get medical care and treatment, to interactions with the different insurance adjuster, a car accident is a catalyst to many moving parts that can feel overwhelming and confusing. A personal injury attorney is one who can manage all the moving parts and create one line of communication. Once a personal injury attorney is involved, the insurance companies are not permitted to contact you directly. If you are involved in a car accident, do not wait to seek assistance from an attorney. The above issues happen quickly and having someone on your side to look out for your best interest sooner rather than later is essential. Personal injury attorneys do not charge for consultations and work on a contingency fee basis. As such, there is no loss or cost involved in getting a personal injury attorney on your side from the beginning.