What To Do If Involved In An Auto Accident
- Give statement to police and fire and rescue only
- Do not move injured party
- Do not remove motorcycle helmet (emergency personnel only)
- Go to emergency room and get checked out
- Never give recorded statement to the insurance company (without having an attorney present)
- Consult with an attorney as soon as possible in order to properly protect your legal rights
IMPORTANCE OF RECEIVING MEDICAL CARE
If you have been injured in a car accident, following up with your medical care, beyond just the emergency room visit, can be extremely beneficial from both a health and a legal standpoint.
Many automobile accident victims make the mistake of not going to the doctor because they hope or expect the pain will soon go away. They feel that perhaps they have "whiplash" and their injuries will therefore not be permanent. "Whiplash" is a term commonly referring to either a strain or sprain of the soft tissue areas of the body- the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Contrary to what many people believe, soft tissue injuries can, and often do, become permanent injuries. The bottom line is to never underestimate your injuries. The problem with not seeking timely medical care is two-fold:
- It can delay or hinder you from obtaining maximum medical improvement in your condition.
- Delaying affords the insurance adjuster with a causation argument or defense-the further in time from the accident the medical treatment begins, the less likely it is that the specific accident was the actual event that caused the injuries. This is a common insurance defense argument, which can result in your receiving less settlement money than that which you otherwise would have recovered. Therefore, since the insurance company is not on your side, there is no point helping them create a defense which will only hurt your case later.
DO I HAVE A CLAIM FOR PERSONAL INJURIES IF I HAVE BEEN PREVIOUSLY INJURED?
Many people assume that if they have had prior injuries, they are not entitled to pursue an injury claim regarding an accident. We have represented many clients who have had pre-existing medical conditions and have been injured in an automobile accident. Some of these people have had such conditions and were not even aware of them since they were not experiencing any symptoms of pain before they had the auto accident they came to consult us about.
Under Florida law, the person causing your accident is legally responsible for the damages you sustain from a pre-existing medical condition that have been permanently aggravated or worsened as a direct and proximate result of their negligence. Your treating doctor will be able to best determine whether your prior medical condition has been made worse than what it had been prior to the accident in question.
Every owner of an automobile registered to be operated on the public roads of this state must carry an insurance policy containing no-fault (personal injury protection) coverage. No-fault coverage is payable regardless as to who is at fault for causing the subject auto accident.
No-fault benefits pay 80% of your medical bills, and 60% of any wage losses, less any particular deductible you may have chosen on your insurance policy. This coverage, in effect, allows you to pursue the medical treatment you need right away, rather than have to wait for the other party's insurance carrier to investigate the accident and make a decision as to payment of the claim. PIP also pays 100% of replacement services such as yard work, childcare and housekeeping services.
So even though you may not be the least bit responsible for causing the auto collision, the first $10,000.00 in medical bills and wage loss must first be processed through your own auto insurance company. The remaining percentages for which your company is not responsible for, the 20% if your medicals bills and the 40% of your un- reimbursed wage losses, are to be paid by the at fault party's insurance carrier, which will likely occur after you have completed your medical treatment and reached a point known in the medical and legal field as "maximum medical improvement."
MAXIMUM MEDICAL IMPROVEMENT
"Maximum Medical Improvement" is a common term used in the medical-legal field. This refers to the point in time where no amount of further medical care will make your condition any better.
In essence, it means you are at your highest plateau of medical recovery. You are as good as you are going to get. You are either 100% better, just as you felt before the unfortunate accident took place, or you are as close to 100% as you will ever be. Your treating physician will tell us when you have reached that point.
It is important to know that your lawyer should not begin to resolve your case until you have reached your maximum medical improvement. It is at this point when your treating doctor will also tell us the full extent of your injuries and what the future medical outlook for you is. We will obtain a final report from your doctor, which in many instances, will estimate the cost of your future medical care, and the type of such care. Until you complete your course of medical treatment and we know the true extent of your injuries, one will never be in the best position to determine a reasonable range of settlement value for your case. Please be weary of anyone who claims to know what your case is worth before you have completed your medical recovery.
Your doctor will state his or her opinion within a reasonable degree of medical probability, which is the legal standard. Your doctor will also tell us whether you have sustained a permanent injury as a result of the accident in question. Since certain types of accidents in Florida require the accident victim to reach a permanent injury threshold, this part of the doctor's final report will be critical in obtaining maximum value. Without a permanent impairment rating from your doctor, you may only be entitled to recover your out of pocket medicals and wage losses, and may then recovering nothing for your pain and suffering. So treating with right type of specialist for your injuries, and pursuing a consistent course of treatment, is extremely important from both your health and claim standpoint.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
The state of limitations is a legal principle that essentially states that you only have a certain period of time to present a claim or you will otherwise be barred forever from making any recovery. The limitations period varies depending upon what specific cause of action (type of case) you have.
For example, if you are injured in an automobile or motorcycle accident in Florida, the law provides that you have four years from the date of the given accident to file your lawsuit (i.e., file your written complaint for damages with the court). Now, in most instances, your claim will settle amicably without the necessity of even having to formally file a lawsuit. Nonetheless, there is a small percentage of cases that will present a statute of limitations concern. In such cases, there will be no further room for delay and sufficient action must be taken.
In addition, don't assume that if you are involved in an auto accident outside of Florida that the same four-year statute will apply. State laws do vary, and many other states give you less than four years to present your automobile accident claim.