I was just involved in a car accident and I was not at fault. Who do I sue? Who pays? What should I do?
These questions are the most common questions accident victims have after being involved in a car accident. Fortunately, Schirmer Law is here to help you navigate through the challenging times post-accident.
After you are involved in a car accident there are tons of questions and concerns you have. Who will pay to fix my car? Should I get an attorney? Who will pay for my medical bills? In this blog post, we will explain the basic procedures and recommendations any person involved in a car accident should take and how the typical legal process works from claim to Complaint.
First and foremost, after you are involved in a car accident, make sure that you, your passengers, and the occupants of the other vehicle(s) are safe and out of harms way. The local police department should be contacted immediately to report the accident. Once these first two steps are taken, be careful about talking too much to the occupants of the vehicle “at fault.” You do not want to tell anyone that you are “O.K.” or that you “feel fine” because, although you might feel physically fine post-accident, signs and symptoms of injuries might later arise. If you have communicated to anyone that you “felt fine” post-accident, the insurance companies (the ones who will be paying for their insured’s negligence and your injuries) will use your own words against you to allege that your injuries are not serious or that you are lying about your injuries. It is very important to know that insurance companies will do anything and everything to either (1) not pay for your injuries or (2) reduce their liability. Be weary of your statements regarding your physical health to anyone post-accident. Of course, make sure that you are completely honest and open when discussing your injuries with any medical professional and your attorney.
Next, make sure that you receive a Driver Exchange Information document from the reporting police officers. This Driver Exchange sheet will have the information regarding the accident such as names, addresses, insurance policies, vehicle information, location of accident, date, and time. This sheet can also be used to get a full accident report that will usually depict the accident scene and state who the police officer opines was a fault for the accident. Give this Driver Exchange information sheet to your attorney so your attorney can begin the claims process for you.
Make sure you seek medical treatment within the first 14 days of the accident. As a matter of fact, the earlier you seek medical attention/treatment, the better. You want to make sure you see a medical professional that can make a determination as to whether you had an “Emergency Medical Condition” (EMC) as defined by the PIP statute. If you are not sure if a medical professional can make this determination, ask your attorney to refer you to a medical professional. An EMC will allow you to use the full $10,000.00 of your own automobile insurance policy’s Personal Injury Protection benefits for your medical treatments. Further blogs will be posted that will go in detail regarding the PIP statute and how those benefits work. For now, it suffices to say that you can get at least $10,000.00 worth of medical treatment paid for by your own automobile insurance provider.
Depending on what medical providers you go see, you might need diagnostic tests done such as MRIs and X-rays. Depending on what these diagnostic tests show, you might be referred to specialists. These specialists may then recommend surgery. You might also consider doing some pain management treatment such as steroid injections. Every case and injury is different so the treatment for everyone will not be the same. As long as you communicate constantly with your attorney as to what treatment you are receiving, you should be on the right track to eventually demanding payment for your injuries.
Now, this is the part that gets tough. In Florida, every driver on the road is required to carry a minimum amount of insurance coverage. However, the minimum amount is simply Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which is only $10,000.00 and is only for the insured, not for liability. This means that if you are in an accident and the individual that was at fault for the accident only has the minimum insurance coverage (PIP), then there is no liability insurance that you can sue them for to cover for your injuries, pain, and suffering. Most attorneys in Florida will not pursue cases against individuals unless that individual has liability automobile insurance coverage. Unfortunately, Florida is notorious for having many uninsured (UM) or underinsured (UIM) motorists on the roads. This is why it is so important for you to carry UM/UIM coverage on your own policy in Florida.
If the person that is at fault does not have liability insurance or does not have enough liability insurance to cover for your injuries, pain, and suffering, and you carry UM/UIM insurance on your own policy, you can now seek to use those UM/UIM benefits from your own insurance policy. However, when you make a claim for UM/UIM insurance benefits on your own insurance policy, your insurance provider has the right to “step in the shoes” of the person that was at fault. This means that your insurance provider may deny providing you with UM/UIM insurance benefits if it believes you were at fault for the accident or if it does not want to tender the full amount of those benefits to you. Remember when I said that insurance companies will do anything and everything to not pay out benefits?
If the individual at fault has liability insurance and you have been seeking treatment from medical providers for some time, you are now ready to make a demand for money from the at-fault individual’s insurance company or file suit. This step in the process should be discussed with your attorney to decide what is the best approach. Remember, although this process might seem long and arduous, the attorneys at Schirmer Law will be there to guide you every step of the way and will make sure that you are compensated for your injuries.
If you have been involved in a car accident, are experiencing health issues due to mold in your residence, or have slipped on someone’s property, give the attorneys at Schimer Law a call to schedule a free consultation.
Kevin J. Guerrero Esq.
DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to substitute legal advice. For more information, please contact Schirmer Law directly and ask to speak with an attorney.