From Tampa, Florida based attorney Scott Distasio
It’s that time of the year when our thoughts turn to beach getaways and heading south. For many, that means an annual Florida vacation. Unfortunately, even experienced drivers can get into an accident through no fault of their own.
This is exactly why it’s essential to know what to do in case of an auto accident in the Sunshine State. Read on to find out what are the first steps that you should take immediately if you are involved in one.
Check On Everyone Involved in the Accident
Before you make the call to 911, check on those who were involved. There may be injuries and passengers who need immediate assistance. Once you’ve gathered this information, you can request medical help.
Make the Call to Emergency Dispatch
Let them know if there is a need for immediate medical assistance at this time. Follow the dispatcher’s instructions, and do not leave the scene of the accident.
Move Everyone to Safety
If the accident has occurred in an area where drivers or passengers may be in danger, make sure that everyone has moved to a safe area, away from traffic. Wait for help to arrive.
Be aware of situations where the other driver may be at fault
Some scenarios make it likely that the other driver may be liable. Here are some of them:
- Failure to yield: If you had the right-of-way, and tried to avoid the accident by steering or breaking.
- Rear-end collisions: When the other person drives into the back of your car, they are usually found to be at fault.
- Disobeying stop signs or red lights: This is viewed much like a failure-to-yield issue. If you tried to avoid them, they are likely to be at fault.
- Driving under the influence.
- Admitting that they were the cause of the accident.
In these cases, be particularly diligent about gathering information.
It’s hard to stay calm after an accident, but remember to gather information. Don’t forget the following:
- Photos and Video
- If you happen to have a dash cam, make sure you save the footage. Use your phone to get photos of license plates, damage, and the scene. If there are traffic signs, stop signs or lights, or other traffic control devices that may be pertinent, take photos of them in relationship to the scene of the accident. Document the road conditions.
- Take a photo of each piece of paperwork with your phone.
- You might want to see if your camera is recording the GPS location with each photograph. This could be helpful later.
If there are witnesses, get their names, numbers, and addresses – even a photo, if possible.
Get the vehicle information, driver information, their license information, insurance information, and find out who owns the car. (It may not be the driver, and this information is critical.) Make sure the insurance information includes the contact info for the company or agent.
Cooperate With the Authorities
When they arrive, cooperate with the authorities. Give them accurate information, and ask how to get copies of any reports.
Seek Medical Treatment if Advised
If you are advised to seek emergency treatment by the attending medical personnel, do so. Injuries from car accidents can be long-lasting in their effects, and some conditions may not be obvious at the time of the accident. Neck injuries are particularly common in collisions, and their effects may not show up until later.
If you are advised to go to a hospital for treatment or evaluation, be sure to do the following:
- Tell the physician why you are being treated. It’s important that the reason for your injury is recorded in your medical notes.
- Make sure you get copies of all your medical records. You will need to request records at a later date, if you are seeking legal damages.
- Make copies of all your medical bills and invoices.
Contact Your Insurance Company
As soon as possible, contact your insurance company and advise them of the accident. The contact information will be printed on your insurance cards.
Continue to Document
Maintain a separate file for all copies of paperwork that is related to the accident. Don’t forget correspondence with your insurance company, invoices for repairs, medical bills, and other items.
There may be lingering effects from your accident that aren’t physical. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be caused by physical injury or accident. You’re more than twice as likely to develop PTSD after your own physical injury than after seeing someone killed or hurt.
Consult a Qualified Attorney
If it was the other driver’s fault, it’s best to let a professional deal with the insurance companies, advise you of your rights, and follow up with the party at fault. Approximately 23% of Florida drivers do not carry insurance – it could be a real issue. It’s easy to become overwhelmed in the aftermath of a car accident, and letting a skilled attorney handle the negotiations for your reparation can be invaluable assistance.
Driving in Florida has its fair share of accidents. If you do become involved in an automobile accident, ensure that everyone is safe, that your property value is fully reimbursed, and that any medical bills are taken care of. Take a moment to review the steps and gather your documents now, and you’ll be prepared and calmer if a problem occurs.
Scott Distasio is the founder of a personal injury firm in Tampa. His work reflects his belief that all law professionals should take their responsibility of outstanding service seriously.
Follow @scottdistasio on Twitter to see what legal wisdom he shares next.