Do you know the first steps to take after a car accident on a Florida road? Last year, there were more than 400,000 automobile accidents in the Sunshine State alone. While that figure accounts for just 2.7% of the Florida's 14.7 million licensed drivers, the truth of the matter is most Floridians will be involved in at least one car accident at some point in their life.
Being involved in an automobile accident is a scary and anxiety-filled time. Aside from your injuries, it’s quite common to have your heart beating a mile a minute, to be shaking, sad, confused and disoriented. It is often an uncomfortable, lengthy process. Yet, in the middle of all those crazy emotions, it is incredibly important to know what to do. What happens in those first few moments after your car accident can lay the groundwork for everything that comes later in your Personal Injury claim.
Any successful Personal Injury claim has two integral parts to it. First, is the other person responsible for what happened? This known as liability. If so, we come to the second question: how extensive are your injuries? The amount of money you will ultimately get is -- or, perhaps, should be -- directly proportional to your damages. As with many things in life, it isn’t necessarily what happened, but what you can prove happened. That’s why knowing what to do immediately after your accident is of the utmost importance.
After an accident, dial 911. Check on everyone involved in the accident to see if they are okay. You need to call the police especially if there are physical injuries, death or property damage. Ask for a police report to be filed. Further, it’s best to be the first person on the record reporting an accident. If possible, try to explain on the police recording what happened and how the other party was at fault. If you are in pain, notify the officer and tell them you need an ambulance immediately.
If possible, don’t move your car until the police arrive. You may have been told otherwise, but keeping your car in the same location is important because the police officer who shows up will draw a diagram on the police report of how the accident happened. If you move your car, the officer will have no way of recreating the accident other than through what you say. Keep in mind, the person who caused the accident often misstates the facts of what happened. If the cars were moved, and there were no witnesses, then it’s just your word against theirs. In this event, the police officer won’t write a ticket and he won’t document who was at fault. When that happens, forget about getting the other person’s car insurance to accept liability. For all these reasons, you should inform the other person not to move their car either.
If you are able to get out of the car safely, and you aren’t in horrible pain, your next step is to begin taking pictures immediately. Pictures can convey more information about what you are seeing and feeling than any amount of words could ever do. What exactly should you take pictures of?
You get the idea. Pictures are huge for your Personal Injury claims. If there is anything that you think could prove useful in your claim, take a photo of it. And considering the camera on your phone doesn’t require film, don’t hold back -- take pictures, pictures and more pictures. If the timing isn’t good to get enough pictures, don’t fret. Return to the scene of the accident at a later time (but as soon as possible) to take additional pictures and document what happened.
If the other person gets out of their car and approaches you, activate the recorder on your phone. Every cell phone will have one. Tell the person you are recording them and make sure that is on the recording too. You may be able to use what they say at that moment to your benefit. It’s quite common for people to admit that they were at fault immediately after the accident, but as time goes by, completely change their tune.
The Rules of Evidence have two particular Hearsay Exceptions which are important for the post-accident situation: the “Present Sense Impression” and the “Excited Utterance”. After an accident, all sorts of statements are made by the people involved in it. The law deems these statements made during an accident and immediately after as more reliable. For that reason, the law permits parties to introduce present sense impressions and excited utterances. This is why it’s important to get anything the other party may say recorded on your phone.
Further Reading: The Importance of Witnesses to Your Personal Injury Claim
If you find yourself in the unfortunate predicament of being hurt because of someone else’s actions, contact the The Ticktin Law Group. We handle all Personal Injury cases on a contingency basis, meaning you don't pay us anything unless, and until, we recover money for you. Get started by scheduling a free consultation to help you determine if you have a Personal Injury case. During the evaluation, an experienced Personal Injury attorney will go over the particulars of your claim and provide you with a much better idea of the steps to take. For a free consultation, call (561) 232-2222 or complete the contact form here.
About the Author
Attorney Grant J. Skolnick is the Director of the Personal Injury Department for The Ticktin Law Group. He is committed to providing each of his clients with the exceptional customer service, attention to detail, and dedication they rightfully deserve.