A car accident can create a stressful situation that leaves drivers unsure about what comes next, especially if it is their first accident. If someone else causes an accident, Florida law permits you to seek compensation for losses related to the accident and your injuries. In the minutes, hours, and days after a Fort Lauderdale car accident, you need to take steps to ensure the value of your claim, giving you the best chances of prevailing in your claim and receiving the maximum possible compensation.
Below you will find 13 things to do after a Fort Lauderdale car accident that was not your fault. The list begins with actions to take in the minutes after an accident and ends with things you need to do in the months after an accident. However, you do not have to follow these steps in exact order. In fact, depending on the circumstances of your accident, the severity of your injuries, and how much time has passed since your accident, you might not be able to complete them all. Always do what you can, and do not be afraid to rely on a loved one to help you out.
1. Call 911
If you are conscious, you should immediately call 911 to report the accident. They will dispatch emergency response teams, including law enforcement, to the accident scene immediately. This helps to ensure that you and everyone else involved in the accident has access to medical treatment as soon as possible. Emergency response teams also help distinguish any car fires and clean up dangerous liquids that could cause harm, such as engine fluids or gasoline.
Sometimes drivers, who know they caused an accident, choose to leave the scene of an accident to avoid a citation. This leaves accident victims to absorb losses related to the accident and their injuries. The sooner the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) or Fort Lauderdale Police arrive, the less likely the at-fault driver will try to leave the accident.
2. Move Your Vehicle out of Traffic
Ft. Lauderdale has no shortage of traffic, especially during the peak travel season. Residents and tourists alike find themselves in heavy traffic, which adds an extra layer of danger to a car accident. Leaving people and vehicles in the middle of the road after an accident puts everyone at risk of getting hit by passing traffic. Accidents also cause bottlenecks and slowdowns, potentially leading to other accidents.
From an evidence perspective, it is best to leave your car as it is until police arrive; the location of the vehicles after an accident can provide clues as to how the accident occurred. However, leaving your vehicle is not always the safest choice. If your vehicle is blocking traffic, and you are physically able, you should move it to the side of the road if you can do so safely.
3. Get Information From Other Driver
Sometimes it takes law enforcement more time than one would like to come to an accident scene. They might not be close, or they might be busy with other accidents or incidents. While you are waiting, it is best to collect as much information as possible from the other driver. You can write down information or use your cell phone.
In either case, take note of:
- Make and model of the at-fault driver’s vehicle
- License plate numbers of vehicles involved in the accident
- Name, phone, and email of the at-fault driver
- The at-fault driver’s insurance information
You should also record other information, such as the location of the accident, including the nearest cross street. Additionally, take note of the weather conditions, road conditions, traffic conditions, and any road hazards that might have caused the at-fault driver to crash into you. If you cannot record all this information, you will get most or all of it from the official crash report.
4. Gather Witness Information
Fort Lauderdale is a relatively busy area most of the time, especially during the spring travel season. One or more people may have witnessed your Fort Lauderdale car accident from the sidewalk or the inside of another vehicle. Whether a pedestrian or someone from another vehicle, you should try to get contact information for all witnesses if you are physically able. Sometimes witnesses do not stay at the accident scene, which means they might not be there when law enforcement arrives. Getting the name and contact information from any witnesses can help support your insurance claim and personal injury lawsuit, if necessary. You can help ensure that the officer filling out the accident report has the witness information, and you can share the information with an attorney if you choose to take legal action.
5. Take Pictures or Video
If you can take pictures or video of the accident scene after your crash, you should get as much photographic evidence as possible before street crews clean up the accident and tow trucks take damaged vehicles away.
Get pictures of the entire accident scene and close-up photos.
- Damage to property, including vehicles, fences, and other stationary objects
- License plates of each vehicle involved in the accident
- Visible injuries you and others sustained during the accident
- Hazards or road conditions that might have led to the accident
Law enforcement likely will take pictures when they arrive at the scene. However, sometimes vehicles move, or law enforcement takes too long to arrive, so it is best to take your own pictures. This helps ensure that you have the photo or video evidence you need to support your claim.
6. Go to the Emergency Room
If you were involved in a severe car accident, you likely were rushed by ambulance to Broward Health Medical Center, Kindred Hospital, or another nearby hospital to receive treatment in their emergency room. If you were conscious after the accident and only felt a little sore, you might have denied medical treatment at the scene and refused a ride to the emergency room. Even if you only feel minor soreness or have a couple of bruises, you need to go to the emergency room.
Car accidents sometimes cause hidden injuries, such as brain injuries and internal organ damage that, if left untreated, could lead to death. It is best for your health to let a doctor check you out. Additionally, you need proof of your injuries to prevail in a claim against the at-fault driver. Your medical record provides evidence to the insurance company and legal defense team that the accident led to your injuries.
7. File a PIP Claim Under Your Policy
Florida requires residents who register a motor vehicle to carry a minimum of $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to comply with the state’s no-fault insurance laws. Although you did not cause your Fort Lauderdale car accident, you still must file a claim under your PIP insurance policy. PIP pays up to 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages related to the accident and your injuries.
The minimum amount of PIP coverage does not go far when car accident victims suffer severe injuries. Additionally, PIP insurance does not provide benefits for pain and suffering, disfigurement, reduced quality of life, or other non-economic damages. You must file a PIP claim as soon as possible. Once you exhaust your policy limits, you can take further legal action to recover damages.
8. Get a Copy of Your Official Accident Report
The police officer who filled out the accident report after your Fort Lauderdale car crash might provide you with a preliminary copy of their report. However, you eventually need a copy of the official crash report. You must wait a minimum of 10 days for the officer to complete the report and get it in the system. Once your report is available, you can request a copy online with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV).
When you complete the payment, you have immediate access to the report. You must download it to your files within 48 hours. FLHSMV will email you a download link. You can also request a copy in person or via mail, but you typically must wait four to six weeks for delivery.
9. Record Economic Losses Related to the Accident
Car accidents are traumatic events that come with economic losses on top of physical pain. Fortunately, when a car accident is not your fault, you have the right to seek compensation for economic losses related to your injuries. However, you need to prove those losses to the insurance company and possibly to the court. Your financial records serve as evidence to support your claim, so make sure you keep detailed records of all economic losses related to your injuries.
Try to keep a digital file of all documents. You can always scan or take a photo of paper documents. Back up your files on one or two flash drivers to ensure you have everything you need. If you are unsure whether something qualifies as a loss, keep the receipt or the bill. You can always remove it later. Examples of common documents car accident victims save to prove their economic loss include medical bills, pay stubs, gas receipts, and receipts for additional services around the home such as lawn care, a cleaning service, or a handyman.
10. Keep a Daily Journal
Car accident victims experience a wide range of physical conditions and emotions in the wake of a car accident. Lawyers and insurance companies can see the physical injuries someone suffers in their medical records, but getting insight into the way an accident has impacted someone’s life is not as easy.
You can support your claim and provide additional information about your challenges by keeping a daily journal. You can write down your thoughts, type them in a file, or keep a video journal. Regardless of the format you choose, try to provide thoughts and descriptions about continued physical pain, feelings of sadness and depression, and things you have missed out on because of your injuries.
11. Contact a Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer
As soon as you or your loved one is stable after your car accident, you should consult with an experienced Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyer immediately. A skilled attorney can help you with many of the previous items on this list, such as investigating an accident and obtaining an official crash report. In fact, the sooner you consult with an attorney, the sooner they can investigate your accident and build a case against the at-fault driver. Lawyers dig deeper in their investigations by looking at driver history, criminal background, cell phone records, and anything else that might help you win your case.
12. Only Give Basic Information to the Other Driver’s Insurance Provider
If you exceed your PIP policy limits and file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier, they will want to get your statement. Call a Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyer first. Your lawyer may want to provide that statement for you or accompany you to the interview. Your lawyer may advise you not to give that statement.
The insurance company might also want to record an interview with you and request you to release your medical records. Do not let them record you; they may look for things to use against you later on. Also, do not give them access to your entire medical history. They can search for a way to devalue your claim by looking for pre-existing injuries. Let your lawyer decide what medical records they need to see.
13. Stay off Social Media
Avoid posting on social media accounts until your car accident claim is settled or litigated. Investigators and insurance providers may use questionable tactics to gain access to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Harmless photos from a family vacation or a graduation party sometimes provide information the other side can twist to their advantage and use it to devalue your claim. Instead, it is best to stay off social media until your Fort Lauderdale car accident claim resolves.