Car Accident Attorney Gainesville FL

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Car Accident Lawyers Serving Gainesville & North Florida

While new cars come with safety technology that makes them safer, millions of car accidents occur in the U.S. every year. According to Forbes, Americans are involved in an accident every 17.9 years, which means that you can expect to be involved in three to four accidents during your life. In Florida, 400,831 crashes were reported in 2019 alone. If you have been involved in an accident, you will likely need to deal with many issues. If you have been injured, you will also likely want to recover compensation for your losses. Following these 10 critical steps after an accident can help you to build a stronger claim so that you will be likelier to recover damages for all of your losses.

How Rush & Frisco Law Can Help With Your Auto Accident Case in Gainesville

If you or a loved one were seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident in the Gainesville area, our attorneys can help.  At Rush & Frisco Law, our car accident attorneys have significant experience handling all manner of motor vehicle collision cases.

  • We have secured millions of dollars for our clients in the past 30 years.
  • We have the skills, experience and resources needed to take cases where they need to go.
  • We have a proven track record of winning cases against large insurance companies, government entities and even automobile and parts manufacturers.
  • We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning we charge absolutely no fees unless we win.
  • We offer a free and confidential case evaluation.
Rush and Frisco - Car Accident Attorneys Gainesville Florida

What Are 10 Critical Steps After a Car Accident in Florida

Being involved in a car accident in Florida can be overwhelming for most people. After your accident, you might not know what to do. Following 10 critical steps after a Florida car accident can help you to protect your rights and potentially recover the compensation to which you should be entitled. When you know what to do after the accident at the scene and the reporting process with your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company, you are likelier to be successful in negotiating a settlement. A personal injury attorney may recover more compensation for you than you might recover without legal help when you have been seriously injured.

1. What to do immediately after an accident in Gainesville, FL

Immediately after an accident, you must stop and remain at the scene or park as near to the scene in a safe spot as possible. Check everyone for injuries and call 911. If someone is injured, provide first aid until help arrives.

When you call 911, tell the dispatcher where your accident occurred, whether anyone is injured, and whether you need the police, an ambulance, and a tow truck. Tell the exact location of your accident, including information about cross streets or highway mile markers. Tell the operator what the crash scene looks like, including information about hazards such as downed power lines or fuel leaks. Make sure to tell the dispatcher if anyone has been injured or is asking for help.

After most accidents, police officers and first responders will be sent to the accident scene if there are injuries or if they are blocking traffic. If your accident was only a fender-bender and occurred in a large city, the police will not be sent to the scene.

If your accident happened in a city, the city’s police department will handle your case. If it occurred outside of the city limits, the sheriff’s department will be dispatched. If your accident happened on a state highway, officers from the Florida Highway State Patrol will be sent. Make sure to note which agency responds so that you know where to get a copy of the police reports.

Crash definition: The operation of a motor vehicle in the state which results in property damage, complaint of bodily injury, bodily injury or death to any person.

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.flhsmv.gov/

2. Reporting your accident to the police

Some accidents do not need to be reported. Whether you are required to report your accident will depend on the damage and if anyone was injured. Under Fl. Stat. § 316.065, any accident that causes the damage of $500 or more or that involves injuries must be reported to the local police as soon as possible. If you call 911, that call satisfies the requirement. You do not need to file a separate report if an officer was sent to the scene and files a report. If your accident involved injuries or death, property damage of more than $500, was a hit-and-run, or involved a drunk driver, you must submit a crash report to the Florida Highway Patrol within 10 days if the officer does not file a report under Fl. Stat. § 316.066. You can complete and submit a crash report on the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website.

3. Police officers' roles at vehicle accident scenes

Police officers undergo substantial training in how to investigate accident scenes. When they are sent to an accident scene, the officers will do several things. Police officers have the authority to do the following things:
The officers are not obligated to talk to you about the contributing causes of your accident. You must provide the officer with your identifying information, including your driver’s license, registration, and insurance proof. If the officer asks you about whether you have been using drugs or have engaged in other activities that could result in criminal charges, you have the right to remain silent. The officer may issue a citation to you if he or she thinks that you violated the traffic laws. If a citation is issued, you must accept and sign it. Your signature only indicates that you will appear in court. You can contest the traffic citation at that time.

In Florida, 400,831 crashes were reported in 2019 alone.

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.flhsmv.gov/

4. Why evidence is critical in a car accident

Evidence will be crucial after your accident if you have suffered injuries and property damage. You need evidence to support a claim for compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The moments immediately after your accident are important. If you can gather evidence while you are still at the scene, it can help your claim. Gather evidence can help you to show that the other driver was at fault and that the accident caused your injuries and losses. Gather the following types of information while you are at the accident scene:
Make sure to get the names and contact information for any witness who saw what happened. Take pictures and videos of the accident scene, including the damage, weather conditions, traffic control devices, and other relevant information. Take pictures of your injuries. As soon as possible, write down what you remember from your accident and include plenty of details. Draw a diagram of the accident scene that shows the location of the vehicles before and after your accident. Write down the direction that you and the other driver were traveling and the approximate speed of each vehicle. When you video the scene, make sure that you have the sound turned on. This can help to capture any admissions about fault, insurance, and other relevant details and helps to prevent people from changing their stories later. If you can get the witnesses to write a statement that tells what they saw and heard, it can also be helpful. Ask the witness to give his or her full name and contact information and to sign any statement that he or she provides.

5. Understanding Florida's no-fault insurance law

Florida has a no-fault insurance law that requires all drivers to carry personal injury protection on their auto insurance policies. If you are injured in an accident, you must report it to your insurance company to be compensated. Your PIP insurance will pay for your out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and medical bills up to your policy limits. However, you cannot recover damages for pain and suffering through your PIP insurance. Your PIP insurance will cover you, others who live in your home, or others who drive your vehicle. It also covers passengers who are injured in your accident. Under Fl. Stat. § 627.736, PIP coverage must be provided in the following minimum amounts:
While you must file a claim with your insurance company, you can also file a claim against the at-fault driver if your injuries exceed the personal injury threshold. Under Fl. Stat. § 627.737, exceeding the personal injury threshold means that one of the following circumstances have occurred:
In addition to PIP, your auto insurance must also provide at least $10,000 in property damage coverage. However, you are not required to use your insurance to be compensated for damage to your vehicle. You can choose to file a claim for property damage with the at-fault driver’s insurance company or with your own insurance company. You can also file a lawsuit against the other driver to recover the cost of repairs.

6. Notifying your insurance company

Your insurance policy is a legal contract between you and your insurer. The policy obligates your insurer to defend you after an accident and to provide coverage to you up to your policy limits. You are obligated to report your accident to your insurance company even if you believe the other driver was at fault. You must also cooperate with your insurance company after your accident. If you do not cooperate with your insurance company during its investigation of your accident, your policy may be canceled or your premiums may be increased.

Even if your accident was not serious, there are still several reasons why you should report it to your insurance company. If the other driver suffered injuries that fell under the threshold injury exception, he or she may file a claim with your insurance company. Cooperating with your insurance company also means you must report your accident. If you don’t, you will violate your contract.

Some injuries may have delayed symptoms. Since the onset of symptoms can take days to appear, the other driver or passengers may have been injured even though they didn’t initially believe that they were. If the other driver was underinsured or uninsured, failing to report your accident to your company may leave you without recourse. Reporting your accident also helps the company to investigate it and discover whether the other driver might be committing fraud by filing a fraudulent claim.

After you report your accident to your insurance company, you should then contact the other driver’s insurance company to report the accident. Give the company the at-fault driver’s name, contact information, insurance policy number, and vehicle registration number. Ask for bot the claim number for the property damage claim and the personal injury claim since these will be handled separately.

You should never admit fault at the scene of an accident or try to settle with the other driver for payment instead of reporting it to your insurance company. There may be factors that contributed to your crash that you aren’t aware of. If the other driver later decides to blame you, your insurance company will be contacted. This can place your insurance company at a disadvantage when it works to defend you.

Many insurance companies now have apps to make reporting a car accident easier. Check with your company to see if it offers a free app for accident reporting.

7. Understanding comparative negligence law in Florida

Florida follows a legal principle called pure comparative negligence under Fl. Stat. § 768.81. Under this law, the negligence of all drivers who are involved in an accident is compared. The jury determines the percentage of fault held by each driver when it distributes compensation. The law allows you to seek compensation from the other driver even if you share some of the fault for its cause. If you were partially to blame, the amount that you can recover will be reduced by the percentage of fault that is allocated to you.

8. When you should hire an attorney for your Gainesville, FL car accident case

Some personal injury claims that only involve minor injuries can be handled without an attorney. However, if your injuries are serious, you should work with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Soft tissue injuries such as minor bruises, strains, or abrasions that do not require stitches and other minor injuries will normally not lead to substantial bills. For these types of injuries, it is usually possible for you to negotiate a fair settlement with an insurance company without the help of a lawyer. In many accidents involving only soft tissue injuries, there may not be sufficient compensation available to pay your medical bills and your lawyer while still leaving you with some compensation for your pain and suffering.

If you have suffered more serious injuries, including fractures, severe burns, serious lacerations, head trauma, or others that require extensive medical treatment, you should hire a lawyer. The compensation that might be available in a claim involving serious injuries can be substantial. A personal injury lawyer is likelier to secure a settlement that will fairly compensate you for all of your losses than you might get on your own. A lawyer may have many legal tools at his or her disposal to secure the highest possible settlement amount for you. To secure a proper settlement amount in a serious personal injury claim, it is often necessary to file a lawsuit. Lawsuits require many steps that an attorney can successfully complete. Attorneys can also learn about the policy limits of the other driver’s insurance and his or her prior traffic record.

Most injury lawyers offer free consultations, and many offer to represent clients on a contingency fee basis. This arrangement allows you to not pay your attorney his or her fees until the lawyer wins your case at trial or successfully settles it. If your lawyer cannot negotiate a successful settlement or loses at trial, you will not have to pay your lawyer’s attorney fees. If your lawyer does reach a settlement or verdict, your fees will be paid out of the recovered amount. They can range from 25% to 40%, depending on whether your case goes to trial, its complexity, and the time that was involved.

When you meet with a lawyer, bring your medical bills and records, the accident report, witness statements, photographs, videos, and other documents that relate to your case. After the lawyer reviews your documents and hears your story, he or she will talk to you about the potential value of your claim and if you might need to file a lawsuit.

9. Florida small claims court

Small claims court is an option if your claim is worth $5,000 or less. The small claims courts in Florida provide a forum for people to have a judge hear their cases. They are a more relaxed environment in which the parties are not expected to follow the formal evidentiary rules. You can pursue the property damage claim against the at-fault driver in a small claims court since you are not required to file that portion of your claim with your insurance company. You can find the forms that you need for filing a claim against the at-fault driver in small claims court on the Florida Bar Consumer Information website.

10. Pay attention to the statute of limitations

Whether you plan to represent yourself or to hire a lawyer, you must pay attention to the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations provides a deadline for when you must negotiate a settlement or file a lawsuit. if the limitation period expires without a settlement or a lawsuit, you will lose the right to recover compensation for your losses. Under Fl. Stat. § 95.11(3)(a),(h), the statute of limitations for filing car accident claims is four years. If the statute of limitations is almost ready to expire without a settlement, you must file a civil complaint to preserve your right to recover compensation. Make sure to write down the statute of limitations expiration date so that you will be reminded when it is approaching. You should not wait until the deadline is approaching to try to protect your rights. By getting help soon after your accident, your attorney will have more time to investigate your case and preserve evidence that might otherwise be lost over time.
Protecting your rights after a car accident involves many steps. If you have suffered serious injuries in a car accident because of someone else’s negligence or have lost your loved one, you should talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Contact our law firm today to schedule a free case evaluation so that you can learn more about the rights that you might have.
Rush & Frisco Auto Injury Law Firm Gainesville, FL | 11 SE 2ND Ave | Gainesville, FL 32601 | Map | Tel: (352) 373-7566