What Happens If I am Hurt in an Accident?
Frequently Asked Questions ABOUT CAR ACCIDENTS AND SERIOUS BODILY INJURY
Unfortunately, the Fort Myers / Cape Coral area can be a dangerous place when it comes to motor vehicle accidents. Serious accidents happen when cars, motorcycles, and commercial trucks of all shapes and sizes try to share the road. Unfortunately, Lee County, Florida, is on track to exceed 100 traffic crash fatalities in 2015 – the first time that would occur since 2007.
At Goldberg Noone Abraham, we represent people who have been seriously hurt in an accident through no fault of their own. Their lives, and those of their loved ones, have been completely torn apart by the careless or negligent actions of someone else. After such a devastating crash, our clients are left with countless questions about getting on with their lives. There are almost always huge medical bills, costs relating to continuing medical care and rehabilitative treatment, repairing or replacing their vehicle, and myriad other concerns.
We have compiled a list of our most frequently asked questions our clients have after being involved in an accident. While it is impossible to cover every potential situation that can arise after a crash, we have made every effort to provide accurate and comprehensive answers to the key questions someone may have in that situation.
WHAT DO I DO IMMEDIATELY AFTER A CRASH?
Once you recover from the initial shock of being involved in a serious crash, you should call 9-1-1. This will dispatch law enforcement and emergency medical first responders, if necessary, to the accident scene. Florida law states that the police are obligated to issue a report of the accident details if the property damages exceed $500.00. The police report will become a key factor if it becomes necessary for you to hire an attorney after your accident. Even if you do not feel that you have suffered any serious injuries, always obtain a copy of the accident police report – the information contained in it may very well determine who is at fault, and who will ultimately be held liable for your injuries and damages.
DO I MOVE MY CAR BEFORE THE POLICE ARRIVE?
Depending on the severity of any injuries you may have suffered in the crash, you may wonder whether it is safe to remove your car from the flow of traffic. Florida law requires that “if a damaged vehicle is obstructing traffic, the driver of such vehicle must make every reasonable effort to move the vehicle or have it moved so as not to block the regular flow of traffic”. (In fact, if you are physically able to move your car and fail to do so, you may subject yourself to a citation for a non-moving violation.) If you do move your car, make every effort you can to pinpoint exactly where your car was immediately following the crash, and take photographs with your cell phone to document not only your car, but those of any other parties involved. These pictures will be another critical part of your defending your legal rights after being hurt in a crash.
DO I NEED TO COLLECT INFORMATION FROM OTHER DRIVERS?
If you are safely able to do so, it is always a good idea to gather the pertinent information involving the other drivers involved in the crash. This should include their complete legal name, their address, the name of their insurance company and policy number, and their driver's license number. Don't panic if you're physically unable to get this information – the police will do it once they arrive at the scene.
PEOPLE APPROACHED ME AND SAID THEY SAW EVERYTHING – WHAT DO I TELL THEM?
In many cases, having an eyewitness to an accident can be incredibly valuable in proving liability for the crash. We have had countless cases in which statements from witnesses or their testimony about the crash are used to help prove liability, and become instrumental in determining exactly what happened in a crash. If you can, it is always best to obtain a written statement from any witnesses, including their name and contact information.
SHOULD I CONTACT MY INSURANCE COMPANY, OR THE OTHER DRIVER'S INSURANCE COMPANY?
When it comes to dealing with any insurance company after a crash – especially one in which there were serious injuries – you may be in for an unbelievable hassle. Prior to getting too far down that road, we suggest you contact us for a free initial consultation to review the facts of your accident. It should come as no shock to learn that no matter if it is your insurance company or that of the other driver, they will do everything in their power to pay out as little as possible on your claim, or maybe even deny it completely. Insurance companies have entire teams of lawyers and claims investigators whose sole job is to keep as much money as possible in their pockets. You can expect to deal with endless requests for making a recorded statement, provide accident reports and a host of other related documents in an effort to support your claim, and it is not an easy process. Don't make the mistake of taking this on by yourself – give us a call and allow us to help.
DO I PROVIDE A RECORDED STATEMENT TO AN INSURANCE COMPANY?
You may feel that the accident was in no way your fault, so there is no harm in providing a recorded account of what you think happened. (Most auto insurance policies have a requirement within the fine print that says you will agree to provide a recorded statement following an accident.) In actuality, no matter how honest you feel your statement is, providing a recorded statement to an insurance claims investigator prior to speaking with an experienced accident injury lawyer is NEVER a good idea. The type of questions you will be asked – and the manner in which they ask them – can very likely come back to haunt you. Remember, these investigators are trained to frame their questions in a way that seems innocuous enough, and most people think there is no harm in providing information. But as we stated earlier, any insurance company, whether your own or that of another driver who was involved in a crash, has one purpose; to pay out as little as possible on a claim, or to deny a claim completely. We suggest getting advice from a qualified personal injury attorney at Goldberg & Noone before you agree to provide a recorded statement to anyone.
WHAT DO I DO IF I GET A TRAFFIC CITATION?
The law enforcement agency investigating a crash will generally issue a citation to one or more of the driver's involved, after they complete their investigation at the scene. You, and one or more of the other drivers involved, could be cited for a civil infraction, or a criminal citation may be issued for more serious offenses, like DUI or reckless driving. In cases like those, or those crash cases that involve serious bodily injury, we strongly recommend you seek the legal counsel of Goldberg Noone Abraham's experienced personal injury attorneys.
It is important to point out that if you are found guilty of a criminal charge, that fact can be used against you should someone ever attempt to file a civil lawsuit for damages. If you are found guilty of a civil charge, that fact cannot come back later if someone files a lawsuit against you. The bottom line is that it is always best to enlist the help of a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after a crash. This will help alleviate your fears and answer your questions – it doesn't cost a thing to come in and talk to us about your accident.
WHAT IF THE OTHER DRIVER HAS NO CAR INSURANCE?
If one or more of the other drivers is not carrying any auto insurance, you can make a claim for damage repair to your vehicle under the collision coverage of your car's policy. Even if you carry what is called “uninsured motorist” coverage that will only pay for bodily injury, not for damage to your car. If the accident is minor and you do not have collision coverage, you may be able to negotiate with the other driver(s) in an effort to get them to pay for the damage to your vehicle. But if it was a major accident that involved injuries but the other party has no insurance, your best recourse may be to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party in order to be financially compensated for your losses.
If you are seriously hurt in a crash, you will be facing a number of financial hardships, including all the medical costs related to your injuries. Even if the other parties that were found to be responsible for your injuries have no auto insurance, there may still be an opportunity to receive compensation for your losses and injuries. Our personal injury attorneys analyze each specific case to determine every legal course of action to protect your rights, and to help you obtain the compensation that you deserve.
If you are awarded compensation by a settlement or by a jury trial against a party that had no car insurance, the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend the driver's license and registration of the at-fault party until the entire judgement has been paid.
The bottom line is that any serious motor vehicle accident represents a huge challenge in dealing with insurance companies – yours, and that of any other parties. Their aggressive tactics and unrelenting pressure to get you to settle your claim for pennies on the dollar, or maybe even deny your claim altogether, can be an unbelievable uphill struggle. Our experienced personal injury lawyers know what to do in our fight to get the money and the justice you deserve, and help you put your life back in order.
DO I NEED TO LOOK FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR MY INJURIES RIGHT AWAY?
Now, more than ever before, seeking immediate help from an experienced auto accident attorney after having been involved in an accident has become critical in protecting your legal rights. Changes to Florida law concerning Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage and limits of liability were passed into effect as of January 1, 2013, and could severely impact those who are seeking fair and legal compensation after having been in an accident.
Florida law states that those seeking PIP medical benefit compensation only have 14 days from the date of the accident to seek medical treatment for their injuries. You will lose the ability to use your PIP coverage if you do not see the appropriate medical provider within that time frame, even though you paid for the coverage. There are now restrictions that restrict exactly what type of medical practitioner can diagnose you as having an “emergency medical condition”. Most notably, in order for you to be eligible to receive your full $10,000 in PIP benefits, an emergency medical condition can only be diagnosed by an MD, a DO, an ARNP (Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner), or PA (Physician's Assistant) or dentist. The 2013 PIP Law does not allow a chiropractic physician to render such diagnosis to qualify you for the full $10,000 in PIP benefits. If massage therapy is recommended or if acupuncture is sought to treat your injuries, PIP will no longer pay for these treatments.
This makes it critical that you seek medical care from one of the above-referenced medical providers immediately. Injuries often don't manifest themselves fully until days, or even weeks, after an accident. If you do not go to an emergency room or medical facility by ambulance after a crash, you should seek out a qualified practitioner like a walk-in care clinic to have your injuries evaluated thoroughly as soon as possible.
Even though you are still required to faithfully make your premium payments on your $10,000 worth of benefits, THERE ARE NOW SITUATIONS IN WHICH YOU ARE ALLOWED ONLY $2,500 IN ACTUAL BENEFITS. The law requires that you have been determined to have an “emergency medical condition” in order to have access to your full $10,000 of coverage. And it's no secret that most insurance companies will try to prove that you don't, and only allow you $2,500 in benefits. These types of situations are often litigated. We represent people who need someone to fight for their rights under the law.
IF I FILE A CLAIM WITH MY INSURANCE COMPANY, WILL MY RATES GO UP?
Florida has laws regarding what is called “comparative negligence” in personal injury lawsuits. That means there is a chance that an insurance company – either yours or that of the other party – will not find an individual 100% responsible for the crash and resulting bodily injury. In some cases, it can be determined that there is more than one party at fault, and will divide the negligence into what they feel is an equitable split.
However, if it is proven that you were in no way responsible for the cause of the accident, an insurance company is bound by ordinances set forth by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation to not raise your premium costs.
I WAS IN AN ACCIDENT OVER A YEAR AGO – CAN I STILL GET HELP?
In Florida, there are Statutes of Limitations regarding how long a person has to file a claim for damages and personal injury. Generally, you have 4 years from the date of the accident to file a civil lawsuit against another party. In cases of wrongful death fatalities, the Statute is just 2 years. The key is to seek medical evaluation and treatment, along with accurate legal advice from one of our personal injury attorneys, as soon as possible following a crash. This is your best choice of action to best protect your legal rights.
After a serious accident, time can become a blur and the months can go by fast. Contacting one of our personal injury attorneys immediately after the incident is critical to getting financial compensation for your injuries.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I EVEN NEED A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY?
Not every accident requires the help of a lawyer. At the Goldberg Law Firm, we are happy to meet with you to determine if we feel there is a legal cause of action in your accident case. You can sit down with one of our personal injury lawyers at no cost for a confidential consultation. We are not what is known as a “settlement mill”, a law firm that depends on the quantity of their cases as opposed to the quality of their work. Settlement mills will regularly accept low-ball insurance offers in order to close your file, and move on to the next one. You may not ever speak to an actual attorney, but be passed along to a paralegal or case file worker to process your claim.
The law firm of Goldberg Noone Abraham does not operate that way. Our attorneys have more than 80 years of combined experience in aggressively protecting the legal rights of people hurt in some type of accident, through no fault of their own. Our local reputation, which is well known by the giant insurance companies we negotiate with, is one of integrity, and the highest possible ethical standards. If we feel you do not need our services, we will explain that to you. If we are hired to represent you in your accident case, you can rest assured each of our attorneys are prepared to stand by our clients through every step of their case.
IF I DO END UP HIRING GOLDBERG LAW, WHAT CAN I EXPECT YOU TO DO?
Many people never consider seeking the help of a personal injury lawyer because they don't think they can afford it. In fact, if we agree to represent you in a personal injury case, you will pay us no fees or costs unless we are successful on your behalf. When we reach a favorable financial settlement through an insurance carrier, either through aggressive negotiations or in a jury trial, our fees and costs are paid to us from that settlement.
When we are representing clients in a personal injury case that requires ongoing medical treatments and expenses, we will work with your treating medical provider under what is known as a Letter of Protection, or LOP. An LOP is essentially an agreement between our firm and your provider that ensures they will be paid for their services rendered over the course of your treatment, following the successful settlement of your case. Further, we are skilled and experienced in monitoring and negotiating all costs and invoices related to your medical care and treatment, and often are successful in reducing the final balance on bills submitted by your medical provider.
Other services we perform as part of our personal injury case work:
- Contact and interview all the witnesses to the crash, conducting taped depositions if required
- Obtain scene photographs and photos of the damaged vehicles to help determine liability
- Thoroughly investigate the background of the defendant
- Gather and analyze all related medical records and the medical history of our client, both prior to and following the crash
- Hire expert investigative, crash scene reconstructionists and accident forensic specialists to assist us with presenting our case
- Obtain cell phone records of the at-fault party to determine if they were distracted at the time of the crash
At Goldberg Noone Abraham, we focus primarily on personal injury cases. Over our many years in business, we have developed a reputation as formidable opponents in the courtroom. You may be surprised to learn that about 80% of our cases come via referrals from our past clients. We are proud of our ability to offer help to people who have been seriously hurt in a crash for which they had no responsibility, and we will gladly provide you with personal testimonials from those with whom we have worked.
WHY SHOULD I SELECT THE GOLDBERG LAW FIRM?
Personal injury cases are extremely difficult to litigate, and require the highest possible level of attorney knowledge and skill. Because of our extensive local history and insights in the legal system in Southwest Florida, we are fully prepared to develop and execute the most appropriate and aggressive legal strategies to best represent you and your legal rights. You will work together with your own experienced personal injury attorney, or even a team of attorneys, and will have complete and total communication about every ongoing issue involving your case. We understand that you will have many questions about your case, and our attorneys provide you with their personal cell phone numbers, and can be reached day and night.
We are local people, with local knowledge, and our law firm has been in Southwest Florida since its inception. Some out-of-town law firms establish an “office” here in order to gain more business. Our firm has been here since we opened our doors, and our record of success speaks for itself.
If you, or someone you know, have been seriously hurt in any type of accident, let us know how we can help. Going through the aftermath of a crash can be a daunting, exhausting proposition. The personal injury attorneys at Goldberg & Noone are always available to help.
Q): When will my case settle?
A): When you and the insurance company agree on a monetary amount to compensate you for your injuries. The amount of time depends, in part, on the length of time it takes to treat your injuries. Never attempt to settle your claim until you first receive all the medical care you need. Generally, that point in time is called Maximum Medical Improvement. Settlement negotiations will begin after the insurance company then receives all of the documentation to support your injury claim. The clock then starts to run as to how long it should take to settle your claim. Each injury claim is unique and the time it will take to settle will then depend on the insurance company and your willingness to accept what is being offered. We'll provide you with advice, but the final decision to settle will be yours.
Q): Why does it take so long?
A): Insurance companies are not anxious to part with their money. They are interested in paying as little as they can to settle a claim. A “quick” settlement benefits the insurance company, and may not compensate you for all of your damages.
Q): How long do I have to settle my case?
A): Each state has specific laws with respect to the length of time to voluntarily settle your claim. The type of claim will also impact the amount of time to voluntarily settle your claim. The length of time is called the Statute of Limitations. If a claim cannot be settled before the Statute of Limitations expires, we'll will file a lawsuit on your behalf to protect your claim.
Q): I'm not at fault – why is my insurance company paying my medical bills?
A): Florida is a “No Fault” state. Florida insurance companies had “no fault” laws enacted thru the legislature. These laws make your auto insurance, the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits, primary in the payment of your medical bills. Newly enacted provisions to these laws require very specific guidelines about exactly when, and from whom, you seek medical attention or treatment. The amount not covered by your insurance policy will then be the responsibility of the at fault party.