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.
PIP. 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 deductible 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.
We'll Be Your Advocate
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.
What to Do Next
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 liability.
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 (813) 669-2080 for a consultation or contact us online.
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