Frequently Asked Questions - What To Do After A Personal Injury Accident?
Being in an auto accident can be a scary situation for most people. There are many things that go through your mind such as does the person that just hit me have adequate insurance, do I have adequate insurance, what do I do about my vehicle, should I call the police? It is always best to call the police immediately after an auto accident. Even if the other party tells you that they want to work out the damages with you directly and do not want the police involved, you should always call the police to protect yourself and your interests. If you do not have a crash report documenting your accident, it is hard for the insurance companies to determine liability, especially if the other party who hit you does not accept fault or changes their story when speaking with the insurance adjusters. This could result in time-consuming and costly lawsuits later down the road. Usually, a police officer can determine who is at fault from interviewing all parties involved in the accident and any independent witnesses that saw the accident happen. Police officers can also sometimes determine liability based on where the damage is to each vehicle.
Immediately after your accident, you should consider seeking medical treatment at the emergency room if you are feeling any type of pain. All of your injuries should be documented right away. If you do seek medical treatment in an emergency room, you should always remember to give them your personal injury protection information. In the State of Florida, personal injury protection coverage is mandatory for you to have a valid auto insurance policy. This coverage covers you, any relatives residing in your home, or anyone riding in your vehicle at the time of an accident if they do not have their own source of personal injury protection. Personal injury protection covers up to $10,000.00 in medical bills which are paid at 80%, lost wages that are paid at 60% any mileage you incur traveling back and forth to your doctor appointments and prescriptions that you have paid for out of pocket at 100%. By giving the emergency room your personal injury protection information, you will ensure that most of your bill is paid. You will still be responsible for the balance which personal injury protection does not cover but you can either pay this amount out of pocket immediately or you can work with the billing department to make monthly payments. If you hire an attorney to help you with your personal injury claim, your attorney can make sure any outstanding medical bills are paid out of your settlement when your case is over so you are not left with any medical bills.
If you decide you want to hire an experienced personal injury attorney for your injuries, your attorney and their staff will guide you through the process. Most personal injury firms do not handle property damage claims so its always best to work out this portion of your claim with the insurance company directly. If the insurance company is giving you a hard time with your property damage claim, your attorney can always make some phone calls on your behalf to try to sort out the issue but your attorney is normally unable to file a lawsuit based on just property damage. Unlike personal injury claims, attorneys have very little sway with the adjusters when it comes to property damage claims.
If your vehicle is repairable, the insurance company will send a field adjuster out to inspect your vehicle and take pictures. They will appraise the damages and write you an estimate. You have the option of accepting the property damage check yourself, taking the vehicle to a body shop for repairs, and paying the shop directly. A much better option is if you take your vehicle to a body shop of either your choice or the insurance company’s choice, you can have the insurance company pay the shop directly. This is a better option because if the body shop finds additional damage, they can easily call the insurance company, send their updated estimate and the insurance company will pay the shop the difference directly. This way, you do not need to be the middleman. If you choose a body shop that the insurance company recommends, the repairs are usually guaranteed for as long as you own the vehicle.
If your vehicle has been deemed a total loss, the insurance company will appraise the vehicle for the amount it is worth based on the make, model, any pre-existing damage, and mileage on the vehicle. If you finance your vehicle, the insurance company will work directly with your finance company to pay off the vehicle. If you owe the finance company more than the vehicle is worth, you will be responsible for the difference out of your own pocket. Most finance companies offer GAP insurance which is coverage you pay for, typically rolled into your finance payments, which covers any the remaining amount left on the finance charge if you owe more than the vehicle is worth. This way you are not left still paying for a vehicle that you no longer own.
If you are injured in the accident, you should always consider treatment with a licensed medical professional. In the State of Florida, your medical bills are paid by your personal injury protection coverage as stated above. You must treat with a doctor within the first 14 days of an auto accident to be covered by the entire $10,000.00 in personal injury protection coverage. If you do not treat with a doctor within 14 days, you will only be afforded $2,500.00 in coverage. Your doctor must declare if they believe you have sustained an emergency medical condition to also qualify for the full $10,000.00.
Medical treatment in a personal injury claim is the only way to document your injuries and prove to the insurance company that you truly were injured in the accident. Insurance adjusters take sporadic medical treatment as a sign that you may not have been as injured as you claim to be. Consistent, well documented medical treatment will benefit you greatly when it comes time to settle your claim. If the adjuster can see that you have treated with the medical doctors as much as they advised you to and you practiced all of their recommendations, the adjuster will be much more inclined to make a fair settlement offer as opposed to someone who treats 3-4 times per month for their physical therapy treatments. Consistent medical treatment proves to the insurance company that you are truly injured and you are doing everything you possibly can to try to relieve your pain and get back to your pre-accident condition