In a perfect world where all parties are willing to take responsibility for their actions, a car accident claim would be pretty straight forward. Unfortunately, the world is far from perfect; people at fault in accidents and insurance companies rarely take responsibility or even uphold their agreements.
Therefore, it’s important you take measures to protect your interests while enhancing your ability to recover full and just compensation for damages caused by the at-fault driver. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind for filing an insurance claim after a car accident in Tampa.
Immediately After Collision
Stop and Stay Calm
Florida law requires you to stop at the accident scene in the event of an accident. Failure to comply with this requirement is considered a felony in the face of injury or death, and a misdemeanor in the event of property damage. Your first priority is to ensure you and any other passengers are not seriously injured. If injuries are sustained, it’s crucial to stay calm while waiting for help to arrive.
Take Photos and Gather Details
If possible, you will want to take pictures of the accident scene to document any damage to your vehicle and bodily injuries of the passengers. This will serve as additional evidence if the matter goes to trial and will help with presentation of your case. Gathering details about how the accident occurred is a crucial step to the filing process.
Move an Injured Person
Avoid moving any unconscious and injured individuals or even your car unless, of course, there are indications of fire or looming danger.
After an accident, many people have the instinct to apologize regardless of whether or not they were at fault. Anything you say immediately following a car accident can open you up to liability. Apologizing implies you were at fault. Even if you feel you were responsible for the accident, don’t apologize, stick to the facts, and don’t make assumptions regarding guilt. Leave the analysis of the accident and fault up to an attorney experienced in car accident cases.
Reporting the Accident
Contact the Authorities
Florida laws require you to report accidents involving death, injury, property damage, hit-and-run or an intoxicated driver, especially those appearing to be over $500 to law enforcement. If you have just been involved in an accident, contact the Tampa Police Department or the Florida Highway Patrol immediately.
Contact Your Insurer
Report the incident to your own insurer as soon as possible while also getting insurance and contact information from the other driver. Upon the police inspecting the scene of an accident, they will give you and the other driver a document detailing the accident. Remember that filing a police report is an important step for initiating an insurance claim.
Don’t Wait to Correspond With Your Insurer
Do not delay starting the case or you can weaken the claim process. Getting the most out of your settlement is largely dependent on timely submission of your claim coupled with diligent follow-up. The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida is 4 years in most cases and can be shorter depending on the type of case.
Don’t Give A Recorded Statement
Avoid giving a statement, especially a recorded one to your own and the other party’s insurance company without consulting your lawyer first. Insurance companies may try to use a recorded statement to make it look like you lied or cannot accurately recall details of the accident in order to pay you less.
Filing a Claim
Review Your Insurance Policy
Successfully filing your insurance claim will entail giving a copy of your insurance policy declarations page to your attorney. This will give the attorney insight into what is covered or excluded in your policy. Besides, comprehending your policy terms will go a long way in enhancing the attorneys ability to negotiate with the insurance company.
Don’t Accept the Initial Settlement
Do not accept the initial claim settlement; the insurance company will attempt to offer you the minimum payout amount against your claim.
If you accept a check labeled “final payment,” you will further limit legal options if you become aware of other issues or costs that would favorably impact the amount of your final settlement. Unless you are completely content with that amount, do not cash that check. It is wiser to hire an experienced attorney.
Don’t Sign Any Documents Without an Attorney
Avoid signing a blanket medical authorization; the insurance company will be interested in reviewing your medical records, but they can try to obtain additional medical records to weaken your case.
More importantly, do not sign any document, including a medical release unless you fully understand the implication of doing so. Such documents will often confer the insurer’s legal authority to gather your historical medical information and subsequently use it to deny your claim or minimize its value.
Being in an accident can be both physically and emotionally exhausting. Although you may want to resolve the situation as quickly as possible, not taking the appropriate steps could diminish your ability to receive fair compensation for damages. Insurance companies are fully aware that the average person may not understand the complexities surrounding car accident claims, and will take full advantage of this.
A well-qualified Tampa car accident lawyer can help you navigate these complexities to ensure you get a fair settlement. With over 34 years of experience, Jack Bernstein is familiar with insurance tactics and is committed to helping you get the compensation you deserve.
If you need help dealing with your insurance company or the at fault drivers insurance company while filing a claim, call Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys at (813) 333-6666 to schedule your free consultation today.