Victims must understand that proper steps to take following an accident—failing to take these steps can prove harmful to their health, their property, and their chances of success should they elect to pursue legal compensation for damages.
Experiencing an accident can be a traumatic and confusing experience. If you sustain injuries during the accident, the aftermath can be even more overwhelming. But no matter what you do after an accident, it’s critical to remember to stay calm. This will help allow you to think clearly and may prevent your injuries from worsening while you await medical attention. Even if you don’t believe that you will take legal action in the future, you should remain at the scene of your accident and contact the appropriate authorities as soon as you can safely do so.
If, after your accident, you believe that you may have a case, it’s important to get in touch with a seasoned legal professional as soon as possible. Your own memories of the incident will likely prove more accurate and helpful soon after the accident than they will over the longer term. You may also receive valuable legal insight that could inform you about your likelihood of succeeding in court.
After Your Accident: Taking the Right Steps
Remain at and Protect the Scene
If you’ve been injured in an accident, it’s critical to remain at the scene. Never drive away from or otherwise leave the location of your accident before law enforcement has confirmed that you are free to go. Even if you believe you won’t be interested in pursuing legal action in the future, it’s important to properly document the accident’s events. Many victims who express initial disinterest in pursuing compensation find that they have a change of heart later.
Your injuries may be more extensive or pose a greater risk to your long-term health than you initially believe. Brain injuries like concussions and minor issues like sprains may not present immediate symptoms, but rushing to return to normal life without being assessed by a medical professional can prove harmful (or even fatal). Victims who have sustained injuries in an accident should always remain on-scene and wait for medical clearance before leaving.
Depending on your own abilities following the accident, you should aim to protect the integrity of the scene to the best of your ability. This serves several purposes:
- It prevents further accidents: The circumstances of your accident may put others around you at risk; remaining on-scene to keep bystanders at bay, set up flares, or make sure those nearby are otherwise warned helps protect the people around you.
- It minimizes the risk of further damage to property: If you’ve been injured in a car accident and leave the scene before receiving clearance to do so, you could risk further damage to your vehicle by driving it despite hidden damage.
- It preserves the integrity of evidence: You’ll be able to ensure that nobody tampers with evidence or changes anything to do with the scene if you remain nearby; you’ll also have more time to inspect the scene and consider your circumstances, which could help you see more details about the accident.
Contact Authorities Immediately
Not every accident that leads to injury may seem to necessitate medical treatment, but Florida law requires that those involved in an accident that leads to property damage or injuries call the police and remain on the scene until law enforcement clears them to leave. You should never forego calling the police due to concern about the “hassle” or pressure from another party. Not only can getting in touch with police and emergency services help expedite treatment and even save your life if you were injured, but you may be subject to punishment for leaving the scene even if you were not at fault, and failing to make that call can have a major impact on your experience in court if you elect to pursue legal action.
It’s best to contact the authorities even when it seems like there is no pressing need. Even if you’re sure that you don’t require assistance, you may need proper legal documentation of what happened to you later; it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Countless accident victims feel compelled to get out of the situation as soon as possible and they don’t worry about the legal ramifications of failing to make an official report of the accident. But if you later elect to bring a case against the party at fault for your accident and injuries, the chances of your case ending favorably increase if you can provide legal documentation of what occurred.
You should call on the authorities for assistance and documentation as soon as possible following your accident. Obtaining a police report will make it much easier to partner with the appropriate parties (like insurance companies and legal representatives) later.
Gather Evidence and Information
Contacting the police helps ensure that evidence is properly gathered and documented, but there are some things you can do on your own (if you’re physically able to do so after an accident). One step that will help prove your damages and paint a clear picture of the accident is taking pictures of any property damage or injuries the accident caused.
You can do this while you wait for emergency services and authorities to arrive. If you can manage to avoid impeding the police investigation once officers arrive, you may also take pictures while they work. Gathering this evidence often proves crucial for victims. A clear record of injuries and damage leaves little room for interpretation in court.
It’s also important to exchange information with anybody else who was involved in the accident. The authorities should obtain this information as well, but you can take steps to gather it on your own before they arrive on-scene. Make sure that you ask anybody else who was present for their name, address, and telephone number. If applicable, you should also take note of their insurance information. Florida law requires drivers involved in accidents that result in injury, death, or property damage to provide this information.
If the time following your accident proves too hectic, the police report should have gathered at least some of this information. The police should provide you with a police report number (if they don’t, you may ask for it) that you can use to obtain this information in the future.
Seek Additional Medical Attention
Some accidents result in injuries that lead to hospitalization. These injuries are often major or time-sensitive. Many injuries, however, have the potential to derail your quality of life even if emergency responders don’t see the need to transport you to the hospital. Serious complications like broken bones or spinal cord trauma will be treated immediately, but other less obvious issues may be left for you to address on your own.
It’s important to seek out a medical professional who can help treat your injuries as soon as possible. Many common injuries that victims see as benign or minor have the potential to transform into more serious or chronic problems over time. Many accident-related injuries are not even immediately apparent and, in some cases, adrenaline or shock can play a role in masking them for some time following an accident.
Victims should pay a visit to their primary care physician as soon as possible after an accident. If you believe that your injuries may require urgent medical attention or you’ll need to wait longer than a day or two to see your doctor, head to your local emergency room or urgent care clinic. The staff there will be able to assess your injuries and wellbeing and determine the best course of action.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
As with virtually every other step you should take following your accident, this task should be completed as soon as possible. Many insurance policies actually require you to report an accident immediately and see a failure to report in a timely manner (within reason) as a lack of cooperation.
Even if your policy is lenient when it comes to timing, it’s best to get in touch with your insurance company at the first opportunity following your accident. The more quickly you report your accident to your insurance company, the sooner you’ll be able to receive assistance and compensation from them. You’ll also be able to find out if there are medical benefits that you can take advantage of to help offset costs.
Keep in mind that Florida has no fault insurance laws. This means you’ll need to work with your own insurance provider when it comes to non-serious injuries or property damage that fall within your own insurance limits.
This is, perhaps, one of the most critical steps when navigating the difficult time that follows an accident. You should keep detailed notes about anything and everything that could be linked to your accident. Keep whatever information you received at the scene of the accident or via a police report with these notes.
Your notes should include detailed records of your medical appointments and expenses and information about the daily process of your recovery. If you elect to pursue compensation for pain and suffering in the future, a court may struggle to determine how much to award you, and maintaining a thorough and accurate record of your recovery process and mental state can aid your case tremendously.
If you filed a claim with your own insurance company, jot down information about your claim’s adjuster’s name and number, too. Hold onto contact information and receipts for any professional service that you depend on in the time that follows your accident. This might include things like rental car expenses or other services.
Consult a Legal Professional
You deserve the peace of mind that comes with taking steps to protect your rights. While your health and safety should always be the top priority, consulting an attorney after your accident can also prove to be one of the most important steps that you take. A lawyer will be able to guide you through the legal process and help ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve after your accident.
If at all possible, try to speak with a legal professional before providing a statement to your insurance company. It’s always best to receive the advice of a trustworthy attorney before making any statements that could impact your case’s outcome.
Speaking with an attorney will afford you assistance and insight you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. If they elect to take on your case, they’ll assist you in:
- Preserving evidence, filing information, and keeping track of records and notes
- Speaking to your insurance company and other parties’ insurance companies
- Pursuing appropriate medical treatment
- Navigating the legal process to receive compensation and appearing in court if necessary
Don’t forget that while it’s best to speak to a legal professional as soon as possible following your accident, you have ample time to come around to the decision if you forego pursuing legal counsel initially. Florida affords personal injury victims four years from the date of their accident to file a civil lawsuit. If you hesitated to take legal action immediately following your accident, you may still have the chance to receive compensation.
The Importance of Legal Help
Looking to an attorney for help streamlining and organizing your responsibilities following your accident may benefit you more than you anticipate. Rather than trying to worry about legal proceedings, confusing contracts, or communicating with insurance companies, you’ll be able to focus on healing from your injuries and regaining your quality of life.
Removing the weight of dealing with these difficult and time-consuming processes after your accident may help expedite your healing process both mentally and emotionally. You deserve to feel informed, supported, and empowered as you begin the journey towards healing and compensation. A trustworthy and compassionate attorney can offer the tools and guidance you need to pursue what’s best for you.