Frequently Asked Questions - What Do I Do if I'm in a Car Accident?
An auto accident can be a very scary situation to find yourself in, especially if it’s your first accident. Most people are shook up and scared and are unsure of what they should do. If you’ve been hit by another vehicle, the first thing you should do is call 911 immediately. Some people make the mistake of not getting the police involved and that is a huge mistake. By calling the police, you ensure that an accurate account of the accident is taken and you receive the other party’s insurance information. Insurance companies have been known to refuse a claim because there is no police report showing that the accident actually happened, especially if there is little to no damage to the vehicles. Even if it’s a small fender bender that seems like no big deal, you should always call the police and get a report. It can be a huge headache if you don’t.
If you feel any immediate injuries, you should request to be transported by ambulance to the nearest hospital. If you do not go by ambulance and later on you feel pain, you will have to sit in the emergency room for sometimes hours before you will be seen. By taking an ambulance, you ensure that you will be treated right away. Sometimes you don’t realize just how injured you really are when the adrenaline kicks in. It’s always best to be checked out by the emergency department as they can document your injuries and make sure there are no serious issues. X-rays and CT scans will be taken to rule out any fractures. If you do end up with a fracture, it will be treated immediately instead of you having to wait for several hours to be seen. Any serious injuries will be treated right away and you will be given a referral to follow up with your physician or a specialist.
You should always report your accident to both insurance companies right away, no matter who was at fault for the accident. If you fail to report an accident to your insurance company, your insurance company could refuse to pay for your damages due to untimely reporting. Your insurance company will require a recorded statement. If you plan on hiring an attorney for your injuries, you should not give any statements to either insurance company until you discuss it with your attorney’s office. Any statements you give will be recorded and can be used against you in your case. If your attorney decides it is ok to give a statement, a representative of their office will be on the phone with you during your statement. If you do not plan on hiring an attorney, per Florida Personal Injury Protection laws and regulations, you must submit to a recorded statement from your own insurance company. If you do not give a recorded statement to your insurance company, they could deny your benefits due to uncooperating with your case. You do not have to submit to a recorded statement for the at fault’s insurance company. If they require a statement before they will move on with the claim and process your damages, advise the adjuster that you will submit to a non-recorded statement.
If your vehicle is damaged to the point where it will take a few days to repair it, the at-fault insurance company should be able to put you in a rental during that time frame. If your vehicle is totaled, the at-fault insurance company will put you in a rental vehicle while they process the total loss and send you your check to replace your vehicle. Once you have received that check, you will have to turn in your rental vehicle. If there are multiple vehicles in an accident and there is only limited property damage to be paid out, you will probably be advised to process the damages through your own insurance company to avoid any delays. This is why it is very important to have collision and rental coverage on your own policy. The more coverage you have, the easier life will be for you after an accident.
If your vehicle is totaled, it will be towed to a storage facility. It is very important that you cooperate with your insurance company or the at fault’s insurance company to process your claim in a timely manner. If you do not, your vehicle can incur storage fees which will be your responsibility. Once the insurance company has accepted liability and received everything they need from you, they will tow the vehicle to their own storage facility where it will not incur fees.
In the State of Florida, you have 14 days after the accident to treat with a physician or hospital in order to be afforded the full $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection money. If you do not treat within 14 days of the accident, you will only be afforded $2,500 in Personal Injury Protection. Personal Injury Protection pays for your medical bills at 80%, your prescription reimbursement, mileage to and from the doctor, and 60% of any lost wages you incur. If you are injured, your doctor’s office will treat you and bill your insurance company. Your insurance company then pays your doctor’s office, but you are always responsible for the 20% remaining balance. If you have an attorney for your claim, your attorney's office will work with your doctor's office once your case is settled to pay the remaining balance out of your settlement so that you don’t have to pay the doctor out of your pocket at each visit.
If you are severely injured and are kept under a physician's care, you will likely go through a series of physical therapy treatments and undergo an MRI to determine if there are any underlying injuries. If there are, you will probably be referred to a specialist for additional treatment. Sometimes if the injuries are severe enough, you could possibly have to undergo surgery. Once you are completely finished with all of your medical treatment, the at-fault insurance company will review all of your medical bills and records and will make you a settlement offer to compensate you for your damages and injuries.