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When to hire an attorney after a car accident in Fort Lauderdale. According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department, 401,867 car crashes happened in 2019. Although the number is slightly lower than in 2018 with 403,626 crashes, automobile accidents are still a huge problem, especially since over half of them result in injuries.

Of course, the numbers would be higher, except that a lot of car crashes go unreported. A minor car accident with little to no damage usually ends with both parties simply exchanging insurance information and letting their insurance companies deal with the process.

However, there are situations where hiring a Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney can greatly turn the tide in your favor. A minor car accident that can be resolved with an informal agreement can quickly turn into a negotiation war between parties and a lengthy court proceeding. The question is not really if you need an attorney or not, but when do you bring in legal counsel after a motor vehicle crash.

Common Types of Car Accidents

When to Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident in Fort Lauderdale

Here are the most common types of motor vehicle accidents reported to the DHSMV:

  • Sideswipe collision - a sideswipe usually happens when two vehicles who are running parallel to each other, get too close and hit each other from the side. This usually happens when one vehicle tries to squeeze between two other vehicles on the road or makes an error when trying to overtake.
  • Side-impact collisions - a common type of collision also known as a T-bone collision due to the shape the two cars make when they crash. It happens when the front of one car hits the side of another car. This type of collision is often seen in intersections.
  • Rear-end accident - also known as a fender bender, it is considered one of the more minor types of car crashes. This can happen when the car in front of you stops suddenly, and you don't have enough time to hit the brakes. It can also happen when you're trying to park a car in tight spaces.
  • Head-on collision - one of the more serious types of automobile crashes. It can happen when a negligent driver loses control of their vehicle and drives into oncoming traffic from the other lane. This also happens a lot with sleepy drivers or drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If aggressive driving is paired with high speeds, it may end up resulting in a fatal crash.
  • Pileups - this refers to multiple vehicle collisions. Because it involves several vehicles, it can result in several injuries and excessive automobile damage.

 Filing an Insurance Claim for Automobile Accidents

Florida insurance laws require citizens to carry insurance in the form of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage Liability (PDL) insurance. If you sustained injuries and your car suffered from damages, the first step is to contact your insurance company to receive compensation based on your policy limit.

Even if you are the clear victim and the other party is at fault, Florida is a no-fault state, which means you must first file a claim against your own insurance to cover medical expenses and repair costs. Here are the steps you need to follow when filing an insurance claim:

  • Call 911. No matter how small the damage is, it's better to call 911 to inform them about the incident. In some cases, when there are no injuries and damage is minimal, the police might not come over at all. It's better to be safe than sorry later on. If the police do come to the accident scene, at least you'll have an official accident report, which you can submit to your insurance company.
  • Inform your insurance provider about your accident. Let your insurance company know as soon as possible - the earlier they start the process, the sooner you get your compensation for medical care and vehicle damage repair.
  • Collect the necessary documents. Any documentation relating to the incident should be collected and given to your insurance provider. This would include the crash report, your medical records, a damage appraisal of your vehicle, and more. If you're incapacitated, your insurance provider might do this themselves or ask a member of your family for help.
  • Ask your insurance provider for information. It is your right as the policyholder to know about the progress of your insurance claim. Your insurance provider is also obligated to communicate with you promptly, so don't be afraid to ask about how long the process will take, or if there are legal nuances that you need to know about.

What Happens if Your Insurance Compensation Isn't Enough?

Remember, you can only receive compensation within your policy limits. If your collision coverage is not enough for your medical care, you have two options. You can seek legal help to go over your insurance provider's compensation decision to determine if there's evidence of bad faith. Bad faith means that your insurance company has employed unscrupulous tactics to cheat you out of your well-deserved compensation. This can include altering your policy terms without notifying you, undervaluing your insurance payout, and not disclosing the breakdown of their compensation decision.

You may also sue the other driver for damages. As stated earlier, Florida insurance laws require citizens to have 2 types of insurance. You take a claim out of your own PIP, and if the insurance coverage is not enough, you can then file a claim against the other driver's PDL.

At the accident site, the two parties usually exchange insurance contact information for this purpose. If a police officer is present at the scene, they usually facilitate this exchange of information. If your own insurance coverage is not enough, you need to speak to the other driver’s insurance representative.

The process is more difficult compared to taking out a claim against your own insurance provider. With a personal injury claim, the insurance provider determines the legibility of your claim by determining who was at fault. Once fault is established, that will play a part when it comes to calculating damages that will be awarded to you.

Should You Hire a Car Accident Attorney at This Stage?

You should definitely think about hiring an experienced car accident attorney if you haven't yet. Before filing a personal injury lawsuit against the other party, your lawyer should first take a look at the compensation decision from your own insurance company to make sure there's no breach of contract. Yes, you might get taken advantage of by your own insurance company, so it's important to have a good car accident lawyer on your side to ensure that everything's done in good faith.

Once your insurance company is cleared of any shady practices, your auto accident lawyer will start preparing for your car accident lawsuit.  Typically, your insurance adjuster will handle your accident claim, and they will conduct negotiations with the other party's insurance provider. However, having a lawyer by your side can give you a definite advantage because the responsible party may have also lawyered up.

photograph the accident scene in Fort Lauderdale

Your lawyer will negotiate on your behalf, and usually, the process involves a lot of back and forth until your auto accident lawyer believes that the compensation they're offering is just and fair. It's better to leave the negotiations up to your lawyer, as the other party will try their best to find fault in you so they can get away with rejecting your claim or lowering its value.

If you think this is unfair, it's also something observed by the courts in Fort Lauderdale.  Called the rule of comparative negligence, this ruling takes into consideration the faults of both parties. Even if you are the accident victim and the other party is at fault, the courts will investigate if you have contributed to the accident.

For example, if the other car crashed into yours because they were over speeding, but you also didn't swerve out of the way fast enough because you were busy scrolling on your phone, the courts may find comparative fault in you, and they will reduce the final amount of damages to be awarded to you.

Also, it would be better for your sake to simply resolve the issue without going to trial. Court proceedings take a long time and you need proper compensation sooner rather than later to cover your medical expenses and automobile repairs. As long as you provide them with strong evidence of fault, you are likely to receive a fair settlement.

What Does Auto Accident Insurance Cover?

While insurance companies vary in terms of their collision coverage, most policies will give you compensation to cover the following expenses:

  • Medical expenses - this might include the ambulance trip, medication, therapy, laboratory tests, and surgery.
  • Loss of income - this covers income lost because you were incapacitated
  • Loss of future income - this covers income lost in the future due to permanent or long-term disability following severe injury.
  • Property damage - this will cover your car repairs
  • Death benefits - if the accident victim dies because of the accident, their family can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable party. They can also receive compensation for funeral expenses and dependency benefits.
  • Punitive damage - if you can prove that the other driver wants to inflict bodily injury intentionally, you can receive this benefit.

Aside from physical damages, you can also seek fair compensation for emotional pain and suffering. You can choose to file a lawsuit for the emotional distress and trauma you suffered because of the incident. While proving pain and suffering is more difficult because it cannot be quantified, you can show the following as proof:

  • Medical records showing the extent of damage
  • Expert testimony by a medical professional regarding the patient's state of mind
  • Therapist testimony to prove the diminished quality of life

Should I Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer from the Get-go?

While some car accidents can be resolved with a verbal agreement, if things do not go well, it is a long and arduous process, and a lot of things can work against you. So instead of hiring an experienced attorney when you start the legal process of filing an insurance claim, should you just hire one from the start?

A lot of legal professionals recommend calling your lawyer after you get into an accident. After calling 911, it's best to call your lawyer first, before calling your insurance provider. After a car accident, you might feel dazed and confused, and you might not have your story right the first time. If you call your insurance provider in this state, you may be giving them false details that will be proven wrong later when they start their investigation. Even if you got the facts wrong because of your diminished mental capacity, this can work against you when you start your claims process.

If you call your lawyer after getting into an accident, your lawyer can speak to respondents on your behalf, making sure that you don't say anything that can be used against you later on. Your lawyer will also take care of getting information from the responders and the other party. You can also ask them to talk to the insurance company on your behalf.

If you need medical attention, your lawyer might ask your insurance company if there are limiting terms in your insurance coverage regarding medical treatment. For example, some insurance companies are very particular about which medical facility you get treated at. Having a lawyer by your side will ensure that you won't be breaking the terms of your insurance policy unknowingly.

Another great thing about having legal representation from the beginning is that they will start to gather evidence to secure a favorable compensation decision for you. This means getting expert witness accounts from automobile appraisers, therapists, medical professionals and even bystanders on the accident scene. They will be working together with law enforcement to secure evidence such as security camera footage.

Remember that any hiccups or problems that arise during the claims process can effectively delay awarding of compensation. In some cases, your claim might get denied if you go about it the wrong way. For example, making mistakes while filing for an insurance claim against your own provider can give you a less favorable outcome and you will still need a lawyer to appeal that decision.

Evidence that can be collected immediately after a car crash can spell the difference between getting maximum compensation and getting your claim denied. The same goes for the statements you make to the authorities and your insurance company while your head is still reeling from the accident. Hiring a lawyer from the get-go means you get everything right from the start, thereby cutting short an otherwise lengthy and complicated process.

Why do people choose not to call their lawyers after getting into an accident? There are many reasons why people feel like lawyers are not needed, and we're debunking them one-by-one.

  1. Hiring a lawyer is an admission of guilt - This is a misconception that has permeated through time, not only in car accidents but other areas of the law as well. People think that if they hire a lawyer, it means they're guilty. This is simply not true. You hire a lawyer to make sure your rights are protected and someone is looking out for your best interests. Hiring a lawyer means you're serious about getting just compensation for any harm done to you.
  2. It's only a minor situation - Why hire a lawyer when most car accidents can be resolved with a verbal agreement and a handshake? Because verbal agreements don't hold any weight and the other party can change their mind easily. For example, both parties come to an agreement and you both drive away from the scene. The other driver calls up their insurance company or their lawyer and they were advised to file for damages against you. They can easily turn the tables on you, so it's better to have a lawyer around to make agreements legally binding.
  3. Lawyers are expensive - Understandably, you don't want to incur additional expenses since you already have a lot on your mind, from medical bills to repair costs. However, hiring a lawyer is more practical, especially since they can work on a contingency basis, meaning you only pay them once you get your settlement. Also, without proper legal representation, your insurance provider can take advantage of you, and you can receive inadequate compensation or have your claim denied outright, which will cost you more in the long run.
  4. It is overkill - If the process goes smoothly and you get fair compensation with little to no effort, you might think that hiring a lawyer was overkill and unnecessary. However, the mere presence of a lawyer can make a huge difference. Hiring a lawyer sends a message that you mean business. If you are filing an insurance claim on your own, your provider might take advantage of you, but if they see you have a lawyer helping you, they are more likely to do things by the book.

Hiring a Fort Lauderdale Auto Accident Attorney

Should I Accept the Insurance Offer After a Car Accident in Florida?

It's important to play it safe when you get involved in a vehicular accident. You never know when the other party will turn the tables on you, even if you feel like they're obviously at fault. It all comes down to who is more well-versed with the law, so representing yourself is not enough, especially if the other party has sought the services of a lawyer.

Here at VG Law, we take car accidents seriously. No matter how minor the damage or injuries sustained, we make sure that our client gets the maximum compensation they deserve. The insurance claims process following a car accident is a lengthy one, and we make sure to support and protect our clients throughout the whole ordeal.

Meta Description: Being a car accident victim is no joke. Hire an auto accident attorney to handle your personal injury lawsuit and get the maximum compensation available to you.

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