Tampa Car Accident Lawyers
According to the latest statistics from the Florida Highway Patrol, there
were 235,461 traffic crashes in the state, with an average of 645 crashes
per day. Of those crashes 2,444 resulted in fatalities. Another 195,104
Floridians were injured during their accidents. The odds are good, that
at some point during your driving career you will be involved in a motor
vehicle accident. The result may be injuries to the driver, passengers
and occupants of one of the vehicles. You may also face citations, loss
of use of your vehicle, property damage claims, medical bills and loss
of income stemming from your inability to return to work.
In most cases, we can assist you in recovering your lost wages, medical
bills, property damage, loss of the enjoyment of life, and other damages.
We can help you repair you car, obtain a rental car and we will help you
fill out all the necessary claim forms requested by your auto insurance carrier.
Let's start with some common coverage:
PIP or Personal Injury Protection is the "No Fault" part of
your policy and usually pays 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your
lost wages until a maximum of $10,000 is paid by your insurance company.
Some people have less coverage by having a deductable apply before any
benefit is paid. Some people have more coverage by purchasing Medical
Payment Coverage or MedPay. This extra coverage can range from $1,000
to $100,000. MedPay will pay 100% of the related auto injury medical bills
to the extent of its coverage.
PIP coverage is available from each person's own auto policy. If Adam
has a vehicle which is insured and is in Betty's vehicle (whether
a driver or passenger) and gets injured, Adam's policy provides PIP.
It doesn't matter who is at fault, thus the "No Fault" part
of the policy. If Cathy is also in the vehicle and she has coverage on
her own or through a family member with whom she lives, Cathy has coverage
through her own car insurance or the family member's policy. If Cathy
does not have coverage personally and lives alone or with family who also
do not have coverage, she gets PIP under Betty's policy because she
was in Betty's car.
PIP coverage can even apply to people who are walking or riding bicycles
who are struck by vehicles. This area of the law is particularly complicated.
The Insurance Companies have attorneys advising them, and SO SHOULD YOU.
PROPERTY DAMAGE/COLLISION COVERAGE.
If the other party is clearly at fault (such as a rear end collision or
even an intersection collision with witnesses who stay to talk to the
police) the property damage liability policy of the other vehicle will
usually pay to repair or replace your vehicle as well as pay for a rental
vehicle during repairs or estimates. Frequently there are 3 main problems
that can occur.
1. Many people purchase insurance and pay each month. When they miss a
payment, the policy is cancelled. Then there is no insurance available
and you are on your own.
2. Many people purchase the lowest amount of coverage allowed. If the at
fault vehicle has $10,000 policy and your car and all the other cars damaged
in the accident have more than $10,000 in damages, you may be limited
to a percentage of your damages.
3. Insurance companies will delay approving repairs or rentals until they
speak to their insured. If that person is hard to reach (intentionally
or not), the repairs can be delayed indefinitely. Some people cannot admit
to being at fault, no matter what the evidence may otherwise show. Some
Insurance companies use this as an excuse not to pay.
Many accidents are not clear liability circumstances or have no witnesses
willing to wait and talk to the police. Insurance companies will rely
upon their insured's version of the accident and deny or only partially
pay for repairs to your vehicle.
The only and simple solution to all these possibilities is Collision Coverage
on your own policy. Carefully select your deductible based on what you
can afford, but Collision Coverage will promptly repair or replace your
vehicle, even if the accident was your fault.
Here are a few simple steps we recommend you take right away to protect
yourself in the event of an accident.
Review your insurance policies
. We often hear clients say they have "full coverage" when in
fact they have no idea what that means. In the State of Florida, the only
insurance you are required to have by law is PIP and property damage liability.
So even if you have been conscientious enough to buy liability coverage
for yourself, it doesn't mean the at fault driver purchased Bodily
Injury Liability coverage. If you have suffered injury in a car accident
and the other driver is a fault, it is the other driver's liability
coverage that will compensate you for your injuries. Often the other driver
is uninsured, or carries only a minimal liability policy. That's where
your preparation comes into play.
If you have purchased an UM policy (uninsured/underinsured motorist protection),
your own policy kicks in to pay any excess damages. So for example, if
the at fault driver only had a $10,000 liability policy and you carried
a $100,000 UM policy, the other driver's insurance would pay the first
$10,000 in damages and you would have another $100,000 in insurance protection
from your policy to pay up to the full limit of protection
you purchased. It's not just about the insurance the other guy purchased,
but what steps you took to protect yourself may be the key to a fair financial
recovery for your damages and injuries.
With new laws set to go into effect which would require you visit a hospital
to document your injuries, purchasing a substantial UM policy is just
a smart move. If there is more than one vehicle in your home you can even
elect to stack the policies, doubling or tripling your protection. Your
family's financial future could depend on your preparation. Get out
your policy, review the declarations page and call your agent. UM coverage
costs only pennies on the dollar to obtain and 9 times out of 10 it's
the most critical element of insurance protection. Be especially careful
not to "Waive" UM Coverage. Many insurance companies encourage
you to do so as a cost saving measure. It may save you a very small amount
but cost you thousands if you ever need it.
Prepare an emergency crash kit
. This includes a few items of basic first aid, a camera, if you don't
have a camera phone, pen and paper to exchange information, your insurance
card, names and numbers of who to call in an emergency, medic alert information,
road flares and reflective hazard triangles. If you want to carry window
punch tools or seat belt cutters it might be a good idea. Florida is full
of water hazards, and power windows and door locks often fail when submerged.
A window punch allows for a quick exit out the driver or passenger window.
After the accident call 911 immediately. Be aware that law enforcement
agencies do not always respond or fill out a long form crash report if
there are no reported injuries, there is less than $500 in property damage
or the accident occurred on private property or a local road. These kinds
of claims will result in only a driver exchange of information, with no
citations or assessment of fault. This can be problematic because many
injuries do not manifest themselves right away. You can have a low speed
rear end collision and not feel any pain until days later.
Even in cases where you are not sure whose fault the accident was, or if
you were cited in the accident, it is best to consult with an attorney
right away. Often time both parties had some degree of fault and traffic
citations are not the final word on liability. Without witnesses, police
often issue traffic citations based upon comments made at the scene, by
just the drivers themselves. Never admit fault at the scene of an accident
and if you received a ticket, speak to an attorney right away. Consider
fighting the traffic ticket if you believe you were not at fault.
Document the accident
. If you are medically able, take pictures of the accident scene. If you
have a camera phone, take a few quick pictures from inside your car before
it is moved. Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle damage, their
vehicle damage and any visible physical injuries. Get the contact information
for any witnesses. Photograph the entire scene so the direction of travel
for each car is apparent. Get a copy of the driver exchange of information,
the police report number and the name of the towing company. Remove any
valuables from the car. When you get home, draw a diagram of the accident.
Indicate direction of travel for all vehicles, and note any speed limit
signs, traffic control devices, medians, green arrow lights and the like.
Note the time of the accident, road conditions, where you had been and
where you were going.
Seek medical attention
. It is critical that you document and photograph any injuries resulting
from your accident. Even if you don't immediately feel pain, it never
hurts to get checked out once the discomfort begins. If you are hospitalized
as a result of your crash, make sure family members contact an attorney
so photographs and the documentation process can begin right away. Witness
statements need to be taken and evidence of liability must be preserved.
Report the accident to your insurance company
. Provide any information you have, but do not provide and written or recorded
statement until after you have spoken with an attorney. This is especially
true if you are taking medication for pain, which may alter your thought process.
Contact the towing company or repair shop
to make sure the car is available for inspection and photographing before
any repairs are made or the car is sold for scrap. Make arrangements for
your insurance company to inspect the vehicle. Make sure no damaged parts
are thrown away. If the accident is particularly serious talk to an attorney
immediately so they can make sure all evidence is preserved. This can
include other vehicles in the accident. An accident reconstruction expert
may need to inspect all of the vehicles involved in order to determine
There are many things to consider when making a personal injury claim,
but nothing is as critical as preserving the evidence during the first
moments following a crash. Property damage, skid marks, and damage to
your person will all change after a day or two. Don't make the mistake
of waiting to contact an attorney.
The attorney's at Harris & Riviere can put all the personnel in
place to make sure you are well protected in the event of a car, truck,
motorcycle, bicycle or pedestrian crash. Protect you and your family.
Call our Tampa office at
for a consultation, send us an
email, or fill out one of our free
case evaluation forms.