Preserving Your Claim in a Florida Auto Accident

When you’re involved in a car accident caused by another driver, you might find that the expenses start to pile up fairly quickly. Between medical bills, car repairs, and lost time at work, it can feel as though you’re being punished for someone else’s mistake. If the injuries or property damage were extensive, the insurance settlement offer may not be enough—you may only be able to recover damages for all of your losses in court. How do you build the best possible court case? It’s best to start immediately at the scene of your accident.

Immediately After the Accident

The very first thing you should always do at the scene of a car accident, whether or not you’re directly involved, is to stop and check if anyone needs medical attention. Call an ambulance if needed. You should also move your car out of the way so traffic can pass by. If your accident seems to have caused injuries or damage over $500, you must report it to the local police department, the sheriff, or the Florida Highway Patrol.

Exchanging Information

Speak with the other driver or drivers involved in the accident. You should all exchange names, phone numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, and basic insurance information. Write down other basic information like the date and time of the accident. For future reference, you’ll also want to record the police agency that investigated your accident, as well as the make, model, tag number, and VIN of the other cars involved.

Preserving Evidence

Unless you need to take care of an injury first, it’s crucial that you stop at the scene to gather evidence you can later use in court. Speak with witnesses and politely ask for their contact information. Make sure you take photographs of your car to document any damage; it’s especially helpful to have pictures of your car before the accident for comparison. You may also want to photograph the surroundings or take video of the scene, in case something in the environment contributed to the accident (like bad weather or a broken sign).

If you contacted the police, make sure you get a copy of the accident report, which will act as an authoritative account of the whole incident. Keep a detailed record of your medical treatment, including the names of your doctors, physical therapists, and other medical professionals. Likewise, get an auto shop (or two) to give you an estimate for any car repairs you’ll need.

Watching What You Say

It’s important to watch what you say to the other party at the scene. Your instinct may be to apologize out of kindness or guilt, even if you’re not sure exactly what happened. Be aware that this could be used against you as an admission of guilt. Focus on being cooperative with the other drivers, but don’t apologize for anything. It’s equally important that you keep the details of your accident off social media. Anything you say on a public online forum could be used against you in court.

Comparative Negligence Law

Negligent drivers are those who fail to exercise “reasonable care” on the road and cause harm to someone else in the process. Florida law follows a comparative negligence system, which helps insurance adjusters and the courts to assign a level of negligence to each party involved in a car accident. Under this system, the negligent drivers will pay penalties in proportion to the level of fault they share in the accident.

For example, let’s say you were turning left at a stop sign without using a turn signal, and a driver on the other side blew through the stop sign and hit you. The court might decide that the other driver was 70% at fault for ignoring the stop sign, and you share the other 30% of the fault for failing to use your signal. Under Florida law, that means the other driver is liable for 70% of the losses you incurred from the car accident.

Because of the comparative negligence rule, it’s all the more important to gather as much evidence as possible. You should also seek the help of a reputable attorney who can tell you where to look, help you build a strong case, and craft a convincing argument in your defense. Contact the law office of Patrick McGeehan to speak with an attorney who can do that and more. We will make sure you get fair compensation for your losses.