|What should you do if you're in a car accident?
Florida law requires the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident to immediately stop at the scene. You should make sure you do not block traffic any more than necessary. If the accident involved an unattended vehicle or other property you should attempt to locate the owner. If you cannot find the owner, then you are required to leave a conspicuous note, giving your name, address and vehicle registration number. You must notify police of the accident immediately.
If the accident involved an attended vehicle or property, both drivers must stop at or close to the scene without obstructing traffic any more than is absolutely necessary.
2. ASSIST THE INJURED
Your first responsibility in the event of an accident with an occupied car or property is to find out if anyone is hurt. If someone is seriously injured, get an ambulance, rescue squad, or doctor immediately. You are required to provide the injured person all reasonable assistance, including attempting to obtain treatment for him or transportation to a doctor or hospital. However, you should not attempt to provide treatment for injuries yourself unless you are trained in first aid. Even with good intentions you may make the injury worse if you do not know what you are doing.
3. PROTECT THE SCENE
The cars should be left where they came to rest unless they are blocking traffic. If they are, it is essential that you carefully note the positions of any vehicles involved in the accident that are obstructing–and then move them.
The use of flares, flashlights, or your car’s four-way flashers can help provide warning to other drivers of the accident scene.
4. NOTIFY AUTHORITIES
All accidents do not require police notification. Only accidents involving injury to or death of any person or damage in excess $500.00 requires police notification. All other accidents (minor in nature as defined by the Statute) do not have to be reported to the police as long as the drivers exchange information or notice is given to an unattended vehicle or property of the cause of the damage.
Written reports of accidents have to be made to the Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles within ten (10) days after an accident which results in bodily injury to or death of any person or damage to any vehicle or other property of any apparent amount of at least $500.00 unless an investigating police officer has made a written report having been notified of such accident.
5. PROVIDE REQUIRED INFORMATION
You are required by law to provide the other driver in an accident with your name, address, and vehicle registration number, and to let the driver see your license. You are entitled to the same. Always ask to see a driver’s license, and copy down the number as well as his name and address. You are also required to provide the investigating officer with whatever information is needed to determine the cause of the accident. The statements you make to the officer alone to assist the investigation are privileged. If you are charged or sued, they cannot be used against you in court.
6. DO NOT COMMENT
With the exception of your exchange of required information, you should not comment on the accident. Keep your notes and opinions to yourself. Do not admit you were wrong or careless. Such admissions, made in the tension and excitement of the moment, may not be accurate – but they could turn out to be costly. There is time to admit responsibility after the facts are all in if they clearly show you were wrong. If the accident was a serious one, you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible–before making any admission. A plea of guilty to a traffic charge may sometimes be used against you in a lawsuit to establish your civil liability for damages.
7. OBTAIN WITNESS NAMES
Get the names and addresses of all the witnesses you can. Attempt to have them write down or at least state to you what they know, at the scene. Keep a pencil and pad in your car so you will be able to make necessary notes.
8. TAKE NOTES
Sketch a diagram of the scene, pace off distances, and note skid marks, broken glass, positions of the cars, and location of damage. If you have a camera with you, take a photo of the scene. Try to clarify what happened in your own mind while events are still fresh. Write down all you have noted –you will forget a great many details in a short period of time.
9. WHEN TO LEAVE
After you have assisted the injured, obtained identification from the other driver, provided your own name, address and identification, gotten the names of witnesses, studied the scene so that you know what happened to cause the accident, and assisted the investigating officer, you are free to go.
10. SEE A DOCTOR
Serious injuries do not always show immediate symptoms. It would be wise to have your doctor examine you as soon as possible.
11. BILL OF RIGHTS
Florida has personal injury protection insurance which is known as “no-fault” insurance. This insurance will reimburse expenses up to $10,000. Your insurance company will pay 80 percent to all reasonable expenses for necessary medical care and treatment. Your insurance company will also pay 60 percent of any loss of gross income or loss of all expenses reasonably incurred in obtaining other ordinary and necessary services in lieu of those that, but for the injury, the injured person would have performed for the benefit of the household.
Your insurance contract may also have medical payments coverage. This medical payments coverage may also be applied to your medical bills either in total or to pay the 20% remaining from no-fault.
Check your coverage carefully and review your policy with legal counsel.
12. COMPLY WITH INSURANCE LAWS
Everyone who lives in Florida or who operates a motor vehicle here for over 90 days a year must have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, and personal property damage insurance.
13. OPTIONAL COVERAGE
You may also purchase insurance to cover damage to your auto, auto liability insurance, medical payments coverage and uninsured motorist coverage.
Auto liability insurance may be very important to you. It protects those who are “insureds” from legal liability for bodily injury or property damage to others, caused by auto accidents. Further, the insurer agrees to defend insureds against all liability claims for which coverage is afforded.
Uninsured Motorist Protection should seriously be considered. In effect, you are establishing insurance coverage for those situations in which the other at fault driver is uninsured or insufficiently insured.
14. MAKE NO PAYMENTS
The driver of the other car cannot force you to pay anything without legal proceedings, and you or the other driver’s insurance company must pay for damages in many instances. Accordingly, you should carefully consider the circumstances before making payment to other drivers for damage to car or property. You would be prudent to seek the advice of your insurance agent and your lawyer.
15. DISPUTES REGARDING PIP BENEFITS
Do not allow anyone to rush you into a settlement. You may be entitled to significantly more, or you may not be obligated to pay as much. By consulting a lawyer, you will safeguard your own rights. Any attempt by lawyers to contact you for employment without your request should be reported to The Florida Bar.
16. SELECT YOUR OWN LAWYER
The material here represents general legal advice. Since the law is continually changing, some provisions may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities regarding your particular case.