On average, there are 1,016 car crashes in Florida every day and nearly 400,000 crashes per year. Accidents are always unexpected, but they happen often in Florida, and drivers should be prepared.
Below, the personal injury lawyers at Heintz & Becker share step-by-step instructions on how to file an injury claim in Florida.
1. Report the Accident to the Police
In Florida, it’s mandatory to report accidents involving an injury, death, or property damage that exceeds $500.
Plus, law enforcement will know how to investigate the crash for specific contributing factors like distracted driving, driving under the influence, and so on. An official police report is a valuable tool when filing a personal injury claim.
If it’s safe and you’re able to do so, the following is also recommended:
- Take pictures of any damaged property and/or injuries
- Gather contact information from all parties involved including eye witnesses
- Document the weather and road conditions
And remember: never assume responsibility for a crash. Contact an experienced car accident lawyer for guidance on how and when to discuss the accident.
2. Review Your Car Insurance Policy
Next, you’ll need to know what’s covered by your car insurance policy.
Florida’s no-fault system allows injured drivers to collect compensation directly from their insurance provider, regardless of fault, up to the limits of their specific policy. This is also true for injured passengers.
The minimum limits for Florida car insurance coverage are:
- $10,000 of no-fault or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance; and
- $10,000 of property damage liability (PIL) insurance
Under Florida’s personal injury liability law, drivers are not liable for another’s injuries (even if you caused the car accident!), unless those injuries meet a specific medical threshold.
There are four types of injuries that meet the medical threshold:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
The same injury can impact people differently—Florida’s injury threshold isn’t black and white and often requires the expertise of a personal injury lawyer.
Property damage works similarly: minor property damage is paid by a driver’s own insurance company, up to the limits of their specific policy.
However, if the other driver was at fault and you suffered significant property losses, you may seek compensation through the other driver’s insurance.
This is especially true of new, exotic, sport, and luxury vehicles with diminished values as a result of the accident.
3. Contact a Florida Car Accident Attorney
Before filing a personal injury claim, your attorney will send a demand letter to the insurance company. If the insurance company refuses the demand and no compromise can be made, the case becomes a lawsuit.
Next, your attorney will file a complaint outlining the nature of the dispute in a court of law. Among other things, the complaint will describe why the defendant is liable and make a request for damages.
Next, the court issues a summons to the defendant and serves the complaint. The defendant has 20 days to answer to the complaint, or the plaintiff wins the lawsuit by default.
You may not know if your injuries or property damage meet Florida’s personal injury threshold, but an experienced attorney can advise you on a course of action.
At Heintz & Becker, we’re dedicated to representing victims of negligence in Bradenton, Sarasota, and nearby communities in Florida.
Our experienced attorneys, professional paralegals, and legal assistants are essential to the success of our personal injury cases. Whether communicating with clients or working behind the scenes to prepare cases for trial, our dedicated legal team is why our firm has been so successful.
If you’ve got questions about your accident, call Heintz & Becker at 941-748-2916 for a FREE case consultation.
4. Document Your Experience and Expenses
As you move through the claims process, it’s important to document your experience and all related expenses. Keep a journal of daily activities and include details about your injury and how it impacts your life.
Also, keep track of what you spend. This includes expenses to and from medical appointments, rehabilitation, necessary medical equipment (e.g., wheelchairs, crutches, etc.), and so on. Preserve evidence you might need to prove your losses.
Generally speaking, compensation for economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) and noneconomic damages (pain and suffering) have no limit in Florida.
Document your experience and expenses to ensure compensation is enough to cover total losses.