What You Need to Know After a Car Accident During the Holiday Season in FloridaShare December 15, 2023 | Category: Auto
The holiday season is a busy time of year. Between shopping, decorating, and making arrangements with friends or family, there is a lot to do, and you can quickly find yourself with less time to get ready than you originally planned.
With everyone in a rush, you might also find yourself dealing with the aftermath of a car accident.
Unfortunately, car accidents are common during the holiday season. In fact, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), December is among the months with the highest number of car accidents each year. It had the third-highest total in 2022 and the highest total in 2019 and 2021. If you find yourself dealing with the aftermath of a collision during the holidays in Florida, you should speak with a Fort Myers car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
You Should Not Wait Until After the Holidays to Deal with Your Car Accident
When you are involved in a car accident during the holidays, it can be tempting to delay dealing with the insurance company. But ignoring your car accident is a mistake, and it is a mistake that can prove very costly. To protect your legal rights, you need to take action as soon as possible after your accident.
While this might not be enjoyable, you will be glad you made the right decision when the process is over. You will still have time to enjoy the holidays, and you will be able to rest easy knowing that the process is in motion. If you hire a Fort Myers car accident lawyer to represent you, your lawyer can deal with the insurance companies on your behalf.
Conducting an Investigation is the First Step for Assessing and Protecting Your Legal Rights
One of the reasons why it is so important to take action promptly is that conducting an investigation is the first step for assessing and protecting your legal rights. If you do not hire a lawyer to investigate promptly, the evidence you need may disappear. If this happens, proving your legal rights may become much more difficult, and the options you still have available after the holidays may be limited.
With that said, you may already have some key evidence in your possession, and if you do, you should be sure to keep it safe until you can share it with your attorney. For example, all the following could help with proving your legal rights:
- Photos or videos you took at the accident scene
- Any vehicle information you were able to record at the accident scene (i.e., vehicle color, make, model, and license plate number)
- The other driver’s (or drivers’) auto insurance policy information
- The names and contact information of any witnesses
- The damage to your vehicle (or photos taken at the repair shop)
- Your medical records from after the accident
- Your notes recording everything you can remember about the crash (if you have not taken notes, you should do so while your memory is still fresh)
But many additional forms of evidence may be available (at least for now), which may be necessary to recover the financial compensation you deserve. From forensic evidence at the accident scene to traffic or surveillance camera footage, your car accident attorney will work to collect all the available evidence before it is too late to do so.
There Are Additional Steps You Can (and Should) Take to Protect Yourself
While hiring a Fort Myers car accident lawyer to investigate is important, it is just one of several steps you need to take to protect yourself after a collision during the holiday season. For example, in addition to hiring a lawyer promptly, you should also:
- Get Treatment for Your Injuries – Just as you should not ignore your car accident, you should not ignore its effects. If you are in pain or experiencing any other symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. When you do, be sure to tell your doctor that you sustained your injuries in a car accident so that he or she can note this in your medical records.
- Report Your Car Accident – Under Florida law, you are required to report any car accident that results in injuries or property damage of $500 or more. If the police did not respond to the accident scene, you may need to file a form with the FLHSMV. Your insurance policy almost certainly requires you to report the accident as well, and if you don’t report your accident to your insurance company, this could lead to a denial of coverage.
- Start Keeping Track of Your Accident-Related Costs – To ensure you do not leave any money on the table, you will want to keep track of your accident-related costs. This includes paid and unpaid medical bills, payments for prescriptions and medical supplies, and your loss of income. It also includes the physical pain and psychological trauma you experience on a daily basis—as well as any holiday-related festivities and events that you are forced to miss as a result of your injuries.
While it may be the holiday season, all of these steps are extremely important, and, if you don’t do them now, you will wish that you had done them later. When dealing with the aftermath of a car accident, it is important to maintain a long-term perspective and protect your legal rights.
What Florida’s “No Fault” Auto Insurance Law Means for Your Claim (or Claims)
As a Florida resident, you may be aware that we have what is referred to as a “no-fault” auto insurance law. But, you may also be unclear about what exactly this means.
Under Florida’s “no-fault” auto insurance law, all drivers are required to have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage under their policies. This coverage is available to you any time you are involved in an accident no matter who is to blame. The minimum PIP coverage amount is $10,000, and PIP provides coverage for medical expenses and lost wages.
But, after a serious car accident, your medical expenses and lost wages could far exceed $10,000. You could also be dealing with pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and other losses. If this is the case, you will want to talk to a Fort Myers car accident lawyer about filing a claim outside of PIP.
While Florida’s “no-fault” auto insurance law limits accident victims to PIP coverage in some cases, it does not do so in all cases. Under the law, you can file an auto insurance claim outside of PIP if you are diagnosed with a significant or permanent injury. The law defines these injuries as:
- "Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;”
- "Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement;” or,
- "Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.”
A claim for a significant or permanent injury is not a “no-fault” claim. Instead, you must be able to prove fault to secure the coverage you deserve (which is why a prompt investigation is critical). You also need coverage to be available. Unfortunately, while PIP insurance is mandatory, bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance is not, and many drivers do not pay for this coverage.
That is why it is important to carry uninsured/ underinsured motorist (UM) coverage. If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, you can assert the claims that arise when you have a significant and permanent injury. Filing an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim is similar to filing a BIL claim, except you are dealing with your own insurance company. Your Fort Myers car accident lawyer can determine what auto insurance coverage is available and pursue all available claims on your behalf during the holiday season.
Seeking Auto Insurance Coverage Might Not Be Your Only Option
In addition to determining what auto insurance coverage is available to you, your lawyer can also determine if you have any other claims for damages. If you cannot fully recover your accident-related losses through auto insurance, you may be able to recover them through other means. For example:
- Filing a Claim with the Driver’s Employer – If the driver who hit you was working, you may have a claim against his or her employer.
- Filing a Claim with the Driver’s Rideshare Company – Even though rideshare drivers are not employees, companies like Uber and Lyft have insurance that covers their drivers’ accidents (rideshare drivers are required to have additional coverage under Florida law as well).
- Filing a Claim with a Vehicle Manufacturer – If your accident involved a vehicle defect, the manufacturer could be liable for your accident-related losses.
If you have any of these claims available, you will need to hire an experienced Fort Myers car accident lawyer to pursue them on your behalf. While these types of claims present unique challenges, your attorney can deal with these challenges for you, and review with you what insurance coverage will be available.
Recent Changes to Florida’s Personal Injury Laws Could Impact Your Legal Rights
In 2023, Governor DeSantis signed some major changes into Florida’s personal injury laws. These changes have the potential to impact your legal rights, and you will want to discuss their implications with your Fort Myers car accident lawyer.
One of the most significant changes impacts Florida’s “comparative negligence” law. This law comes into play when two (or more) parties share responsibility for a car accident. Previously, accident victims could seek proper compensation regardless of their percentage of fault. Under the new law, however, you must be less than 51 percent at fault to be eligible for just compensation.
While blaming victims is a common insurance defense tactic, Florida’s new “modified comparative negligence” law gives the insurance companies even more reason to blame victims for their own injuries. If the insurance companies try to avoid liability for your accident by claiming you were partially at fault, you will want to work with your lawyer to ensure that the outcome of your claim is decided based on the true facts at hand.
There Are Several Ways a Fort Myers Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You
One of the most important things to know after a car accident during the holiday season is that there are numerous ways an experienced Fort Myers car accident lawyer can help you. While it is up to you to start the process, your lawyer will be able to handle most aspects of your claim (or claims) during the holidays. As your case moves forward, your lawyer will also be able to help with things like:
- Assessing the financial costs of your long-term medical needs;
- Calculating just compensation for your loss of earnings;
- Placing a dollar amount on your pain and suffering;
- Negotiating for an insurance settlement on your behalf; and,
- Providing you with all of the information to help you decide when (and if) to accept a settlement.
So, if you are dealing with a car accident during the holidays, do not ignore it. Instead, hire a lawyer to help you move forward. Hiring a lawyer costs nothing out of pocket, and you pay nothing at all unless you win.
Speak with a Fort Myers Car Accident Lawyer for Free
If you find yourself dealing with a car accident during the holiday season in Florida, we invite you to contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A. today. To speak with Fort Myers car accident lawyer Randall L. Spivey in confidence, please call 888-477-4839 or request a free consultation at Spiveylaw.com today.