One of the first thoughts you may have after an accident is about hiring a lawyer. Should you get a lawyer for a car accident? If so, who’s the best auto accident attorney for you? To help you answer these questions, we’ve put together this guide to hiring a lawyer, steps to take if you’ve been in an accident, what to know about dealing with an insurance company, and more. We’re also glad to answer your questions any time of day or night. Call or text us now at 904-251-1111.
What a Car Accident Attorney Does
A car accident attorney seeks justice after injuries and losses have occurred during an accident by obtaining financial compensation for victims. The attorney does this by providing injured passengers with the legal guidance they need during this emotionally challenging time, including educating them about their rights, relevant Florida laws, and more. It also includes negotiating a settlement for them and, if it reaches the point of litigation, representing them effectively in court.
The sooner a victim contacts a qualified attorney, the more successfully a case can often be built. The attorney can independently investigate the accident, and collect police reports, witness statements, photos, and more, and then file a personal injury claim with the insurance company of the driver. That said, Florida statutes of limitations only allows victims to pursue compensation within a certain time frame after the car accident occurs. So, if a victim didn’t immediately contact a car crash lawyer, but still within the statute time period, it can be beneficial to contact a lawyer to learn options and what recourse is available.
Attorneys can play a key role in the negotiation process. It isn’t unusual, for example, for an insurance company to pitch an initial lowball offer. When that happens, the accident attorney can negotiate with the insurance company for a fair settlement—and, if that process isn’t satisfactorily completed, then the attorney can file a lawsuit and represent the victim in court.
When a Car Accident Isn’t Your Fault
Florida has no-fault insurance laws. This means, in part, that the no-fault coverage drivers are required to have will cover the costs of medical bills and lost wages that arises from minor accidents. This takes place in the same way, no matter who was at fault. So, even if the accident wasn’t your fault, no-fault insurance would cover your injuries and lost wages incurred due to the accident.
When the accident is more significant, then the damage and injuries often go far beyond what the no-fault coverage system covers. When this happens, we will file a claim with the insurance company on behalf of our client to be sure fair compensation is received.
Next, here’s more about the personal injury protection mandate that’s a central part of our state’s no-fault insurance laws.
Florida Personal Injury Protection
Florida requires the purchase of personal injury protection (PIP) coverage for everyone who registers a vehicle in the state. The idea behind the no-fault PIP is to reduce the number of lawsuits and to streamline the receipt of compensation when people are injured in a car accident.
PIP covers the policyholder, it can also cover any relatives living with the policyholder who aren’t required to have their own or people who drive the policyholder’s vehicle, as long as permission to drive is given, along with anyone hit by the car who wasn’t in a vehicle when the collision took place. However, if any injured persons have PIP coverage of their own, their policy will cover their injuries and lost wages first.
There are minimal benefits that are associated with PIP. They include:
- Up to $10,000 in medical expenses if a car accident occurs and the injury qualifies as an “emergency medical condition.” If the condition is not an emergency, then the coverage is limited to $2,500. PIP covers 80% of eligible medical expenses, which means it resembles medical insurance.
- 60% of lost wages if an injury is covered under PIP. It can also cover the costs of tasks that are necessary that can’t be performed because of the accident. This can include, for example, housekeeping services. There is a limit, though, of $10,000, and that’s when medical benefits and disability benefits are combined.
- Up to $5,000 per person in death benefits. This is available beyond the medical and/or disability benefits that are paid out. They are payable to the estate of the deceased, or to a surviving spouse or other family member.
These benefits, unfortunately, can quickly be spent, especially when you consider that an overnight stay at a Florida non-profit hospital can cost $2,300. And, with more serious injuries, hospital stays can be significantly longer than one night. Extensive care may be needed, including rehab, with work missed. Plus, under certain circumstances, PIP benefits can be denied.
To receive PIP benefits, you must:
- Receive a medical assessment within 14 days of the accident
- Have a medical professional assess whether your injuries fit within the emergency medical category
- Submit a PIP claim; your carrier must then pay benefits within 30 days of written notice of the claim
Sometimes, an insurance carrier may ask you to sign a claim waiver in order to receive your PIP benefit. If you sign a document that waives your claim, this could end up being a serious mistake if damage or injuries go beyond what is immediately apparent. We recommend always consulting with a car accident lawyer before signing.
Florida’s PIP coverage is not intended to address all of the aspects of more serious injuries.
What to Do If You’ve Been in an Auto Accident
First, report the accident to the police, also letting them know of any injuries. In Florida, accidents that must be reported include those that:
- Have damage in excess of $500
- Result in injuries
- Cause the loss of life
If you or a loved one experience injuries, it’s crucial that you receive medical attention, doing so as quickly as possible. Sometimes an ambulance that arrives at the accident scene will take the injured people to the emergency room. However, this doesn’t always happen. The reality is that not all injuries are immediately apparent, especially when you’re in shock after the trauma takes place. There can be brain injuries or damage to internal organs that won’t manifest right away. Don’t second-guess yourself, it’s important that you have your injuries checked out as soon as possible.
Plus, when medical attention is not sought quickly enough, then the legal representative of the other driver may claim—and quite aggressively—that the injuries did not take place during the accident. When there is a gap between the date of the accident and the medical records presented to the insurance companies and/or in court, this can give the other driver’s attorney a wedge to work with to dispute your testimony.
Meanwhile, when that gap isn’t there, this gives your own car accident attorney more leverage for a better settlement.
If possible, take photos of the vehicles’ damage and any injuries, and be on hand to answer questions from the police (unless your injuries are severe enough that this isn’t possible). While at the scene of the accident, do not admit to any guilt or even concede that it could exist. Do not make any recorded statements to insurance companies of another party to the accident.
Other first steps to take right after a car accident include to:
- Document everything you can, including the names and contact information of everyone who was in vehicles during the accident.
- Get copies of police reports and witness statements, as well as results of medical exams.
- Keep track of any expenses you incur, whether that’s for towing the vehicle, renting a car, or paying for rideshare or taxi services.
- Also record losses, including missed time at work because of the accident and associated lost wages.
- Write about any pain you’re experiencing or other symptoms.
As another way to look at the process, here are mistakes to avoid after a car accident.
To help ensure that you manage each of these steps in a way that can benefit you, contact an experienced auto accident attorney. This can help you to receive proper compensation.
Right of Passengers in an Accident
As a passenger in a car accident, it can be confusing to know your rights and how you should proceed if you’ve suffered injuries. In this situation, the driver at fault may be someone driving another car—or it may be the driver of the car in which you were riding. In either case, it’s generally true that the driver can be held responsible for not operating the vehicle in a responsible way.
Drivers are responsible for safely operating their vehicles while obeying traffic laws and avoiding risks that could put a passenger in danger. If you’re a passenger in a car and the driver doesn’t own the car, then the owner of the vehicle may also be held liable for passenger injuries. In cases when you’re riding in a taxi or in an Uber vehicle, or a bus, truck, or other commercial vehicle, there may be multiple parties who may be held responsible to some degree.
Responsibilities of passengers include not going into a vehicle that would be driven by an impaired person, wear seat belts, and encourage your driver to remain distraction-free throughout the ride. Texting while driving is a very common type of distraction, however, there are many more driving distractions that most people don’t realize.
Passengers injured in a car accident should take steps that are similar to ones that drivers should. This includes getting medical attention; obtaining contact information of people involved in the accident; taking photos; and so forth. Compensation you may be entitled to is similar to what is described later in the post, in this section: Types of Damages We Can Help You Recover.
Sometimes passengers are injured in a car accident where a friend or family member was driving, and this may cause them to be reluctant to file a claim. It’s important, in that case, to keep in mind that the claim is being filed with the driver’s insurance company, not the driver himself or herself. Seeking fair compensation does not mean that you desire to harm a friend or family member. That said, if you hire us as your car accident attorney, we recognize how this can present a challenging situation and we address it with appropriate care and discretion.
Bonus Tips For Passenger Injuries
What to Know About Car Insurance Companies
After a car accident, people involved nearly always need to deal with insurance companies—with these insurance companies wanting to pay out as little as possible to the accident victims. Behind the scenes, here’s what typically happens.
After the insurance company is informed of the accident, they usually assign a liability adjuster. This person investigates the claim and recommends a certain amount of compensation. The investigation process may include interviews of the accident victims (you could even be contacted on the day of the accident), along with gathering police reports, photos, witness statements, and so forth.
The adjuster will also request information about the victim’s medical treatment after the accident, as well as previous medical history. The latter is collected to look for medical patterns and information gathered about your past could be used against you when the compensation offer is calculated.
Factors they’ll use when determining what settlement to offer include:
- Your ability to earn a living
- How much income was lost
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Limits of the insurance policy
The amount may also be impacted by the strength of your claim, or at least their perception of that claim.
Throughout the process, keep in mind that you are not required to make a statement to the insurance company that represents the driver responsible for the accident. That includes the adjuster assigned to your claim. You just need to provide your contact information. If the adjuster comes to the accident site while you’re still there, you are not required to sign documents; they may, for example, ask you to sign a medical release form at that time.
You may need to make a statement to your own insurance company under circumstances where you’re making a claim against them. In either case—meaning, when it comes to talking to the insurance company of the driver at fault or your own if you’re making a claim against them—it can be very helpful to have the guidance of a car accident attorney first.
If you’re contacted before you’ve had a chance to talk to an attorney, simply ask for the adjuster’s contact information and let them know there will be a follow up after you’ve talked to a car crash lawyer.
If the adjuster contacts you and quickly offers a settlement amount, it’s fair to assume it’s the smallest amount possible. Even if the amount sounds enticing, don’t accept it. Get legal advice first.
Types of Damages We Can Help You Recover
Factors that contribute to the value of the settlement we can obtain include physical and economic damage, along with emotional damages. More specifically, this can include:
- Your vehicle’s damage
- Car insurance coverage/limits
- Medical expenses, current and future
- Pain and suffering
- Lost earning capacity
- Loss of quality of life
As for how much compensation a car accident victim can receive, each situation is different. The severity of the injury plays a role, for example, and so does the number of parties involved, among other factors. Since there are such a wide range of factors, we invite you to visit our Verdicts and Settlements page on our website for a sample of cases we’ve resolved. Here are just a couple:
A 49-year-old mortgage broker who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury after being broadsided. The defendant had failed to yield at an intersection and the settlement was $4,500,000.
We also represented a man who was involved in a head-on collision and needed three orthopedic surgeries and several weeks of in-patient rehab. The settlement for this client was $3,255,000 for expenses, wage claim, and medical bills.
Some claims end up being settled fairly quickly while others can take months or more, especially if litigation is involved. Again, each situation is unique.
How We Charge for Our Legal Services
We work on a contingency basis, which means you don’t pay us anything unless we recover compensation for you. If that happens, then our fees come from that compensation.
Experienced Car Accident Attorneys at Harrell and Harrell, P.A.
As a direct successor of Reinman and Harrell, P.A., at Harrell and Harrell, P.A., we’ve been practicing personal injury law since 1974, using an outstanding combination of personnel, professional alliances, technical support, and continuing legal education.
We have licensed investigators on our staff, which allows us to quickly respond to any car accident, preserving vital evidence and testimony. We are dedicated to our clients and urge you to not settle for less than what you deserve—and we leverage our experience to accurately review your case and determine which legal action you should pursue when seeking compensation for damages.If you or a loved one has been the victim of a car accident, call or text us now at 904-251-1111.