You're cruising down Clematis Street taking in the fun-loving atmosphere of West Palm Beach. It sure is a perpetual spring break vacation here. Everywhere you turn there's something to see: beautiful people (well, mostly), live music performers, cool, old-style buildings. You could almost picture moving here. Your kids would love it and "Hey, watch out! Stop daydreaming. You're going to hit a" ... never mind, too late. Your knack for getting "easily distracted" caused a three-car collision and damage to an innocent palm tree.
Hopefully this is your first and only West Palm Beach car accident. Even it's not, you'll probably have many questions about your rights and the steps you will need to take to protect them. Here's some information to help guide you through the process.
Florida law requires you to stay put after an accident. Don't leave. Don't to Starbucks. Don't go home. Don't even think of driving away. Make sure everyone is safe. It doesn't matter if the accident involves a pedestrian, a moving car, a parked car or someone's property. You must stop and stay at the scene to exchange information or render reasonable assistance to the injured. If you leave, you could be charged with hit-and-run and face severe criminal penalties such a suspended or revoked driver's license. Nobody wants to deal with the Palm Beach County criminal courts if they don't have to.
Attend to your Injuries
Get medical treatment right away. Call 911 or see your doctor as soon as possible. Sometimes symptoms of serious injuries appear later. Having a record of receiving medical treatment will also be helpful if you need to make a legal claim later.
Contact the Police
You should always call the police, even if it's a minor accident--especially if you think the other driver is drunk on drugs or both. Call the West Palm Beach Police, Florida Highway Patrol or 911 as soon as possible. A police officer will respond to your location and take a report. If the police take a report, you may not have to report the accident to Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Be prepared to exchange information with the other driver -- your name and driver's license number, the vehicle identification number of the car you are driving, the name and address of the car's owner, the name and address of your insurance company and your insurance policy number. You may wish to collect contact information for:
1. Other car's owner
2. Any passengers in the other car
3. Any witnesses to the accident
Consider making note of traffic and weather conditions. Pull out that trusty Smartphone and make it earn its keep. Snap pictures of the scene and accident from as many angles as possible.
What Damages Are Available
If you have suffered harm from the accident, you can seek money damages for your loss. These damages may include lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage and more.
No Fault Insurance
Florida is also one of several states with a no-fault insurance program. No-fault car insurance is designed to cover any injuries you sustain as a result of the accident as long as you weren't intoxicated by drugs or alcohol or engaged in other criminal behavior. It doesn't matter who is at fault. Your own insurance company will pay out of pocket for personal injuries up to the policy limits. This means you don't have to sue the other party's insurance company to take care of medical bills and other resulting damages such as lost wages. Simply contact your own insurance carrier and make a claim.
In some cases, you can also seek compensation from the at-fault driver's insurance company, particularly if the car accident has caused permanent injuries, scarring and disfigurement or the death of a family member.
What if the other driver leaves the scene or doesn't have insurance?
If you have a certain type of insurance policy known as "uninsured motorist" coverage, you should be OK. If you or your passengers are injured in a car accident caused by an uninsured driver, this insurance can pay for your medical bills, lost income and other expenses arising from the accident. You file a claim with your own insurance company. This coverage can also protect you if you are in a "hit-and-run" accident in which the at-fault driver can't be identified.
More on Insurance Companies
Report the crash to your insurance carrier right away. Your carrier will open an investigation. Be honest with the adjuster, but remember you don't have to automatically accept their estimate or appraisal. Here's a list of do's and don'ts when speaking with insurance adjusters.
If you are looking for updated crash information in your area, click here for information by county put together by the Florida Highway Patrol. If you are in a car crash, always remember to remain calm. Call the police if necessary and always seek medical treatment if you need it.
Free Case Review from a Florida Attorney
If you aren't sure what to do or want to know more about your case, talk to a lawyer who specializes in car accidents. A car accident attorney will be able to discuss your legal options with you and answer any questions you may have about your claim. You can start the process today by getting a free case review from a Florida car accident attorney.
Contact a qualified attorney.