You just got your first shiny new Smartphone. It does everything. Plays music. Finds your favorite restaurant. Talks to you. You can't seem to put it down. Even in the car while you are driving down Highway 95.
Unfortunately, your inattention to the road led to a major collision. You changed lanes without looking in your rearview and slammed into a big rig.
As you sit in your front seat with your airbag fully deployed you ask yourself, "What now?" If you've never been in a car accident before, you will 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 should you or someone you know be in a car accident in Daytona Beach.
Don't leave the scene!
Florida law requires you to stop. 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. Florida law requires all drivers in a crash to stop and stay at the scene, to exchange information, and render reasonable assistance to the injured. If you leave, you could be charged with hit-and-run and face severe penalties such a suspended or revoked driver's license.
Do I have to call the cops?
CALL THE POLICE -- even if it's a minor accident. This is especially true if the other driver appears impaired by drugs or alcohol. Call the 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.
Get Medical Attention
Get medical treatment right away (even if you don't think you are hurt). It's always a good idea to see your doctor after an accident of any kind. Sometimes, symptoms of serious injuries appear later. Having a record of receiving medical treatment will also be helpful if you make a legal claim later.
What information should I gather at the scene?
Be prepared to exchange information with the other driver -- your name, address and driver's license number; the registration number of the car you were driving; and the name your insurance company. You may wish to collect contact information for:
Consider making note of traffic and weather conditions. Draw a simple diagram of the collision scene and/or take photographs if you are able.
Remember that Smartphone that got you into a car accident to begin with? It also has a handy camera. Use it! Document the crash with photographs. Get pictures of the cars and where they hit each other or other objects, physical injuries, skid marks and broken glass.
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 could 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.
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 provided you were not 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, disfigurement, or the death of a family member. Contact a skilled personal lawyer for more information about your specific case.
After the Crash: Dealing with Insurance Companies
As soon as you can, report the crash to your insurance company. 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.
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.
If you aren't sure what to do, a trained legal professional may be able to help. Many lawyers take auto accident cases on a contingency fee basis. Basically, you do not pay the lawyer his or her attorney fees if you lose the case. If you win, you pay the lawyer a percentage of the money you get. A settlement is considered a "win."
Going to Court
If you do decide to sue, your attorney will provide details about where and when to appear in court. Here's a list of courthouses in Daytona Beach and other parts of Volusia County.
Contact a qualified attorney.