Every driver dreads the distinctive thud that indicates that they’ve had an accident, but car accidents are almost inevitable for anyone who drives regularly. If you are involved in an accident or collision in Florida, you must be prepared to act responsibly and in accordance with State law. Here are some general guidelines and more specific requirements to follow in case of an accident.
Don’t Leave the Scene
You must never leave the scene of an accident. Not only is it essential that you provide any necessary help immediately following an accident, but leaving an accident scene can result in having your driving privileges revoked, your license suspended or being charged with a third or second degree felony. Check to see if anyone needs urgent medical care. If you can, do not move the vehicles unless they are causing a major problem with traffic. If possible wait for the police before moving anything. Once you’re in a safe spot on the side of the road, you must offer “reasonable assistance” to anyone who is injured and exchange personal, vehicle, and insurance information with the other drivers pursuant to Fla. Stat. §316.062.
Call the Police
In Florida, you must immediately contact law enforcement for accidents involving an injury, death, or property damage greater than $500. See Fla. Stat. § 316.065. The police officer will submit a report for these types of accidents. For accidents that do not require a police report (such as minor car damage), or where no police investigation was conducted, the driver must file a crash report within ten days. See Fla. Stat. § 316.066. The reports can be obtained at the DMV or online on the DMV website.
If you are involved in an accident in Florida, you are required to provide certain information to the other parties involved. Likewise, fellow motorists, passengers or pedestrians involved in the accident must share similar information with you. Also, it is often wise to ask for the information of witnesses to the accident just in case you need to have them testify at a later date. Be sure you write the officers name down who is called to the accident scene. You should also get the names and contact info for any witnesses, document weather and road conditions, and take photographs of the vehicles.
Never Discuss Fault
Although you should tell the truth to an investigating officer, never assume responsibility for the accident at this point. Even if you feel responsible, the facts might show that you were not actually at fault. Florida has a no-fault insurance system which means each driver’s medical bills and related expenses are covered first by his or her own insurance carrier, regardless of fault. See Fla. Stat. § 627.731. However, for property damage, you can pursue a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance. Every driver must carry at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and $10,000 of property damage liability insurance. See Fla. Stat. § 627.736.
Notify Your Insurance Company
If you have any claim you must contact your insurance provider as soon as possible. The insurance company should provide you with the appropriate forms for the claim. Ensure that the forms are filled out correctly and completely and take a copy for yourself. An insurance agent will assist in filing the claim. Once you’re home safe after an accident, you should file a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible, but you can check your policy to see what the exact deadline is.
Seek Medical Treatment
Florida has Personal Injury Protection (also called “PIP” or “no fault”) automobile insurance. Under Florida’s PIP laws, drivers are required to carry insurance to cover the driver’s own injuries and lost wages, regardless of whether the accident was the driver’s fault or the fault of the other driver. Under Florida’s new PIP law, an injured driver must seek treatment within fourteen days to receive PIP benefits. If you have PIP automobile insurance, you should consult your family doctor or go to an emergency room as soon as possible—even if you do not think your injuries are severe. Some injuries do not manifest themselves immediately after an accident. You do not want to be prevented from recovering PIP benefits because of this technicality. If you were a passenger in an accident, you should also immediately seek medical treatment. Passengers are also entitled to PIP benefits. If the driver you were riding with had PIP automobile insurance at the time of the accident, you should be able to recover for your injuries. If you have any questions about your PIP benefits, talk to your insurance company.
Take Pictures of the Damage
It is important to take photographs of the damage to your vehicle following a car crash in Florida. If you are able to take photographs of the other vehicle(s) involved, do so. Most cellular phones have cameras built in. If it is safe to do so, take a picture of the accident scene prior to the vehicles being towed away. After you have sought medical care take pictures of your personal injuries resulting from the accident. If you have a bruise from your seatbelt get a picture of it as that can offer proof that you were wearing a seat belt.