When I first started practicing law over ten years ago, I was shocked by how many car accidents occur in Orlando and the surrounding cities. Often times when these clients called my office they would tell me they signed a release form with the insurance company agreeing to $1,000 to $2,000, but then feeling taken advantage of, they decided to call a lawyer. Never talk to the other driver’s insurance company without lawyering up. Suffice to say, the best way to maximize your auto accident case is to hire an attorney. Worried about how much it will cost. Don’t. Our firm does not charge any money upfront and we only get paid if you recover money.
Car accidents cause a tremendous number of injuries and deaths in Florida every year. A serious automobile accident can turn your life upside down. The effects can be physically, financially, and emotionally devastating. After an auto accident, the next step is usually to work with the insurance company to file a claim for damages.
Most of these claims are resolved through an auto accident settlement. The process can be lengthy at times, depending on the type of accident and the extent of the injuries. Automobile accident cases can be complex and require sophisticated investigation tools, evidence gathering techniques, and case evaluation. Certain steps you take immediately after the accident can help maximize the settlement you receive in an auto accident case.
- Request a Police Report from the Authorities
After the accident occurs, if you are able to, move your car to safe spot. But before you do, TAKE A PHOTO WITH YOUR CELL of both cars position. Especially if the other driver rear-ended you or t-boned you. If you drive the vehicles to a gas station parking lot, it is he said -she said, and the police will have to decide who is at fault or worse, if he is having a bad day, may decide to not give anyone a ticket. One of the first things that the parties should do of course is call the police. Emotions tend to run high after an auto accident and having the police there can help keep the situation under control, especially if the other driver is emotional or upset. It is also an excellent way to document important evidence. When it comes to make a settlement offer, insurance companies rely heavily on police reports since police officers are considered neutral third-parties who assess what happened in the accident.
2. Document the Scene of the Accident
After the police have been called, it is helpful for the injured party to take pictures of the scene of the accident, as well as the injuries sustained. It is hard to recreate the scene of an accident to tell what happened, and you only really get one chance to document everything immediately after the accident occurred. Be sure to take pictures of the cars that were involved as they were immediately after the collision occurred, and take pictures of the surrounding environment, including the weather and road conditions, if it is believed they will play a factor. Look around to see if any witnesses observed what happened, and if there were witnesses present, get their names and contact information in the event additional information is needed from them. If you were injured in the accident, take pictures of the injuries, as well. It never hurts to have these pictures as evidence to back up a claim, even if they never end up getting used. Always err on the side of caution when taking pictures of the accident scene. Having more pictures is a far better scenario than not having enough. Don’t forget to take a cell pic of the other drivers info even if you are on the side of I-4.
3. Document the Property Damage
In addition to taking pictures of the scene of the accident, it is recommended that the injured party take his or her car to a trusted mechanic. Have that person thoroughly inspect the car and take additional pictures of the damage, especially if frame damage is suspected. Even if the injured party took pictures of the car at the accident, a mechanic will know what to look for when it comes to specific types of damage. If certain parts fell off the car or needed to be replaced, keep the damaged parts in the event they are needed later.
4. Make All Doctor’s Appointments
One red flag the insurance company will be looking for is any evidence that the injured party is not as injured as he or she claims to be or that the injury was caused by something not related to the accident at all. One of the biggest mistakes someone involved in a car accident can make is to not get checked out by a medical professional as soon as the accident occurs. If the medical provider prescribes the injured party medication or treatment for the injuries, it is extremely important that this be followed. Otherwise, the insurance company will have evidence to argue that the person is not as injured as was claimed or will have a gap in time to argue that perhaps an additional injury not related to the accident occurred. The best rule of thumb is to get injuries checked out even if they do not seem too severe on the surface. Be careful what you post on social media, insurance investigators are experts in finding evidence that can discredit your injuries.
5. See the Proper Medical Professional
In addition, it helps if the injured party is seen by the proper medical professional for the given situation. It is always recommended to go to an emergency room immediately after the accident, but a follow-up with the injured party’s family doctor should be made. Make sure that the right diagnostic treatment is used to properly diagnose an injury. An x-ray such as an MRI can be expensive, but it also is helpful in properly diagnosing an injury to a bone or other organ. Physical therapy may be needed for an injury, as well, after initial diagnosis is made. Keep any and all medical statements and bills in the event they are needed to be submitted later to make a claim.
6. Exercise Caution in Speaking with the Insurance Company
Be aware that the insurance company is likely to try to get the injured party to agree to a lower payment, if possible. Insurance agents are trained in certain tactics to get parties to agree to a lower payout. Never agree to give a recorded statement without speaking first to an attorney. Do not assume that the insurance agent is there to help you. They are there to serve their employer and to pay the lowest amount possible to close the case. Letting down your guard and providing too much information can also harm your case, as well. Always be careful in what is said and how much is said when talking to the insurance agents involved.
7. Consult with an Auto Accident Attorney
Insurance companies have their own legal departments who handle these types of claims and cases on a regular basis. One of the biggest mistakes someone involved in a car accident can make is to walk into a settlement negotiation alone without any understanding of what rights he or she has. Most personal injury attorneys will meet with the person for a free consultation to discuss the facts of the case. It never hurts to at least bring the facts to an experienced attorney who can advise you on what to do before starting negotiations. In our offices in Orlando and Kissimmee, we Uber clients to our office if they are unable to come in their own vehicle.
8. Be Aware of Your Insurance Coverage
It is also highly recommended that the parties involved in an accident properly understand their insurance policies, what they cover and what they do not cover. Consult with an experienced auto accident attorney who can review the policy and advise the injured person on what types of claims are covered per the terms of the policy. Know what limits are listed in the policy, and make sure that these limits are understood before making a request in a personal injury settlement.
9. Document Your Life Post-Accident
One big element that needs to be proven in any personal injury case involves how the accident and the resulting injury has negatively impacted the person’s life. A pattern of behavior needs to be shown and keeping a diary can help the injured party document what day-to-day life has been like since the injury occurred. This documentation helps especially when the person is seeking “pain and suffering damages.” He or she will need to show how the accident has impacted their overall quality of life.
10. Do Not Wait
Every state has a statute of limitations, which dictates the length of time an individual has to file a legal claim for his or her injuries. In the State of Florida, a party involved in a car accident has four years from the date the accident occurred to file a legal claim. If the party waits too long, he or she can be completely barred from pursuing the legal claim later.
The Benenati Law Firm has recovered millions of dollars for its injury clients and accident victims. In Orlando and throughout Central Florida victims injured in accidents or through negligence need only hit the 7s to reach the personal injury offices of the Benenati Law Firm. We understand the stresses related to the aftermath of these accidents and we can help take some of the pressure off you and your family, so you can concentrate on recovery. Our oath to you is handling your case from start to finish effectively, competently, and aggressively. Allow us the opportunity to give you the personal attention you deserve in your case. You pay us nothing unless we win your case. Please do not hesitate to call our office today at 407-777-7777 for a free legal consultation. Abogado Hispano con experiencia en juicios sirviendo las necesidades legales de la comunidad de la Florida.