Every adult knows that other people, and sometimes businesses, can fail to keep their promises or own up to their actions. If you are injured by a negligent driver in a traffic collision, you may have difficulty getting that driver to accept liability or getting an insurance company to meet its obligations. In fact, that’s exactly what happens far too often to innocent accident victims. If you’re injured by a careless driver, how can you get justice? Keep reading …

When an accident happens, and especially if you’re injured, you must act to protect your interests. Listed here are the general “do’s and don’ts,” or rules of thumb for what to do after a collision and for filing an auto insurance claim. If you’ve been seriously injured, you’ll need to speak promptly with an experienced Stuart personal injury attorney, but even before you consult an attorney, your list of “do’s” includes the following:

WHAT ARE THE “DO’S” OF CAR INSURANCE CLAIMS?

Do #1: Stop, catch your breath, stay calm, and summon help. If you leave the scene of an accident with property damage, it’s a misdemeanor, and if you leave the scene of an accident with an injury or a fatality, it’s a felony. Your first job is to summon medical help for yourself and for anyone else injured in the accident.

Do #2: The next call is to the police. Under Florida law, you must report accidents involving death, injury, hit-and-run, intoxicated drivers, and property damage appearing to exceed $500. When the police arrive, ask them when and how you can obtain a copy of the accident report. You’ll need it.

Do #3: Exchange contact information and insurance information with the other driver or drivers. Make certain that you get the other driver’s license number, license plate number, and his or her insurance company’s name and phone number along with the policy number.

Do #4: If it’s possible, take pictures of the accident scene, the damages to the vehicles, and your own injuries. If there were eyewitnesses to the accident, try to get their names and a way to contact them. You may need their statements or testimony if you have any difficulty obtaining compensation for your injury or injuries.

Do #5: You’ll have to report the collision to your auto insurance company. Give only the bare facts, and don’t make any formal statement or let yourself be recorded.

You’ll have to think clearly and do all of this on your own. A personal injury lawyer will help you later but obviously cannot help you at the accident scene. Jordan R. Wagner is a partner and an experienced Stuart personal injury attorney at Kibbey Wagner, PLLC. He summarizes the “list of do’s” this way:

– “Immediately after the accident, stop and wait for the police, exchange information, etc.”
– “Go and get checked out immediately (same day).”
– “Treat consistently with your medical providers and follow their recommendations (don’t self-treat or self-diagnose).”
– “Tell your medical providers about all your ailments. Don’t leave anything out.”
– “Call an experienced personal injury attorney who is board-certified and has worked for the insurance companies – like me – so you give yourself the best chance of getting what you deserve.”

WHAT ARE THE “DON’TS” OF CAR INSURANCE CLAIMS?

Don’t #1: Don’t move an injured person. Unless there’s an immediate danger of fire, explosion, or a second accident, do not attempt to move an injured person. If it’s a serious accident, don’t even move your vehicle until the police give you permission.

Don’t #2: Do not admit fault. This is critical. If you are naturally inclined to apologize – even for things that may not be your fault – seal your lips. Any words you say after a car crash could be twisted and used against you. Apologizing – even just saying “sorry” as a figure of speech – could conceivably be construed as an admission of fault. Don’t post anything online later that might be used against you, either.

Don’t #3: Especially if you’ve been injured, do not sign any insurance documents or accept a settlement before consulting an injury attorney. You could be accepting far less than the amount you’re entitled to, and your signature could waive your right to take any further legal action.

Don’t #4: Don’t miss any deadlines. Many auto insurance policies specify a deadline for filing a claim. Many policies also require you to take legal action within one year if you feel the claim hasn’t been dealt with properly. Florida’s statute of limitations gives traffic accident victims four years to file a personal injury lawsuit.

That deadline shouldn’t be a problem, because you shouldn’t wait four years to discuss your legal options with your attorney. In fact, as soon as you’ve been checked out by a healthcare provider, contact a personal injury lawyer. Attorney Jordan R. Wagner summarizes the important “don’ts” this way:

– Don’t “talk to the insurance company without an attorney.”
– “Don’t post about these things on social media.”
– “Don’t forget to tell your medical providers if you’ve had similar problems in the past and now those issues have been aggravated.”
– “Don’t do anything strenuous that your medical providers have told you to avoid.”

HOW DOES PIP INSURANCE COVERAGE WORK IN FLORIDA?

If you are driving and you are injured in a traffic accident in Florida, your PIP insurance policy must be used for the first $10,000 of medical costs and lost wages. PIP provides no liability coverage if you injure another person while you’re driving and that victim files a personal injury lawsuit against you.

PIP coverage is automatic, and it doesn’t matter which motorist caused the accident. Collision victims who are injured by negligent drivers may pursue a personal injury lawsuit only if the injuries are deemed permanent, if substantial or permanent disfigurement or scarring took place, or if the crash victim lost an important bodily function.

If you’ve been seriously injured, $10,000 will not go far – so speak as early as possible to an experienced personal injury attorney. If you’ve only sustained vehicle damage – and maybe the most minor scratches or bruises – there’s nothing wrong with filing a claim and negotiating without a lawyer’s help, but if you need help, or if an insurance company delays paying you or denies your claim, get legal advice at once.