If you are involved in a car accident, there are many emotions that are trying to take over. There’s adrenaline, fear, confusion, anxiety, and sometimes there is pain. Because of this, sometimes it is hard to decide exactly what to do in these situations.

Take these 4 steps after being in a car accident:

  1. Call the Police

The main objective after a crash is to make sure that everyone is safe. When calling 911, you have two things that this can cover: you’re letting the officials know there has been an accident and you’re also able to report if medical attention is needed. Even if no one is hurt, calling law enforcement can help with a potential lawsuit. The authorities will write a report detailing everything such as the accident, the names of those involved, vehicle registration, road conditions and even witness statements.

The officer that arrives at the scene will report the collision by documenting how the accident occurred and makes sure that all the necessary information about the other driver is recorded. Nowadays, most police must wear bodycams to capture any evidence from the scene. This report will also help you with your claim through your insurance.

If you’re unsure about calling the police, for example, if it is considered something small like a fender-bender, then call the authorities any way. The dispatcher can let you know if the police should be on their way or if the officers should decline. If the police decided to decline to come to the scene of the accident, ask the dispatcher for advice if you’re unsure about what to do.

In this case, no police report will be filed unless you go to the station and file it yourself. If this happens, it is still a good idea to go down that route for different reasons:

  • If there are any damages to the vehicles or an injury that were delayed until after leaving the scene.
  • You have future liability even if you and the other driver have an agreement. Just because there is an agreement at the scene doesn’t mean there will be later.
  • Having a police report done can also make your insurance claim process go quicker which makes the settlement go faster as well.

Once the officers arrive to the scene, if they have decided to do so, then make sure you identify the officers. Get names and badge numbers of all the police that responded.

Make sure you also ask the officers where you can get a copy of the report so you can file an insurance claim. Sometimes there are mistakes and this could hurt your claim with your insurance company so make sure to review your copy. This might not happen often, but it can, and its better to be safe than sorry.

The Florida Statutes 316.066 requires motorists to report an accident by calling the police from the scene of the accident.

(1)(a) A Florida Traffic Crash Report, Long Form must be completed and submitted to the department within 10 days after an investigation is completed by the law enforcement officer who in the regular course of duty investigates a motor vehicle crash that:

1. Resulted in death of, personal injury to, or any indication of complaints of pain or discomfort by any of the parties or passengers involved in the crash;

2. Involved a violation of s. 316.061(1) (hit and run) or s. 316.193 (driving under the influence);

3. Rendered a vehicle inoperable to a degree that required a wrecker to remove it from the scene of the crash; or

4. Involved a commercial motor vehicle.

(c) In any crash for which a Florida Traffic Crash Report, Long Form is not required by this section and which occurs on the public roadways of this state, the law enforcement officer shall complete a short-form crash report or provide a driver exchange-of-information form, to be completed by all drivers and passengers involved in the crash, which requires the identification of each vehicle that the drivers and passengers were in. [1]

  1. Take Photographs and/or Video

Having pictures or video of the accident gives visuals for the report and insurance claim. There is a list of items that should be in pictures or video:

  • Both vehicles with different angles and showing the damage.
  • The other driver’s license plate.
  • The other driver’s license.
  • Any injury of anyone involved in the accident.
  • Type, color, and model of the other person’s vehicle.
  • The location of the accident; try to include any street signs or streetlights.
  • Any property damage caused from the crash.
  • If taking video, make sure it has sound so if the other driver speaks, you might have that person admitting fault or if the other driver might be intoxicated.
  • Any witness that is willing to cooperate (with their full name and contact information).

If you have taken the pictures or videos, make sure you send them to yourself in an email so as not to lose them. It could take a while for the insurance company to ask for the photos or recordings, so save them to the cloud if you can.

It is also good practice to write down everything you can remember from the accident and what was happening in your vehicle and surroundings beforehand. Also, if the other driver is cooperative, get their full name, date of birth, insurance information, any information on the person that owns the vehicle if they don’t, and contact information.

If it’s a hit and run accident, jot down everything you can remember about the other vehicle. Even remembering bumper stickers and dents can help find the person. Try and remember the color of the vehicle, the make, and as much of the license plate you can remember.

  1. Seek Medical Treatment

If possible, make sure you can move to a safe position, but sometimes you might have to wait until the police and EMTs arrive before moving. It’s always a good idea to seek medical attention after a motor vehicle accident; just to name a few reasons:

  • If you have a minor injury, it might get worse later.
  • Some injuries might not show up until later.
  • Many times, adrenaline can mask any pain you have right after the accident.
  • Having medical attention can show that you were worried about your health because of the accident.
  • There is going to be records of any evaluations, diagnosis, or treatments you may have for financial reasons.
  • Getting checked immediately can also stop the insurance companies from stating you received injures from something else.
  • Having medical records help to record injures to prove that you didn’t have them before the accident.

If you’re worried about the cost it might be for going to the doctor or even the hospital, you have help. The vehicle insurance that you have can cover up to 80% of your medical bills, up to $10,000 because of your Personal Injury Protection (PIP). It is even illegal for your insurance company to raise your rate because of a PIP claim.

Make sure to report all your injuries to your doctor. Even if you feel they are minor, mention them anyway. Sometimes other injuries are bad enough to mask the pain of something else, but if you feel anything, even just a slight twinge, mention it to your doctor.

The automatic thought for the doctor you think you should see is usually your personal physician. Sometimes, this isn’t the case because general practice doctors have little to no experience with car accident injuries. Some of the reasons for that is because dealing with being billed by an auto insurance company can get messy. Another reason is because car accident victims have different types of soft tissue injuries that many doctors just aren’t comfortable with dealing with it.

The most common injures that are noted after a car accident are as follows:

  • Whiplash: A common injury that occurs because your head is suddenly jolted back, and forth which makes the neck muscles and tendons stretch and sometimes tear. There is usually neck pain, stiffness, and headaches. For this injury, it is best to see a chiropractor or a physical therapist.
  • Head Injuries: Just like with whiplash, the sudden jolt from being in an accident can cause the head to turn in unnatural ways. Sometimes there are cuts or bruises because of hitting the steering wheel or the window. There can be concussions as well as traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Some of the symptoms for a concussion are dizziness, memory loss, and even changes in behavior. TBIs can cause long term issues such as problems with thinking, sensations, and movement.
  • Back and Spinal Injuries: The pains from this can be small, but sometimes they can be very bad. Sure, there are mild strains or sprains, but sometimes there are fractures or dislocations that might require surgery. These can lead to chronic pain or even limited mobility.
  • Broken Bones: It takes a high-speed collision, usually, to cause broken bones. The type of impacts that can distort or twist a vehicle can also cause your body to do that. Your body can have crushed areas, fractures, or breaks. All these issues need immediate medical attention and often require specialized care to heal.
  • Internal Injuries: Depending on the force of a car accident, sometimes the injuries are internal. These are life-threatening and require immediate attention. Internal bleeding can even lead to loss of libs or something even more fatal.
  1. Contact a Florida Personal Injury Attorney to Assist You

Most of the time there is an accident, the insurance agencies of the drivers will come to some sort of mutual agreement. Other times, though, one person might want to involve the courts.

It is best not to try and settle your case on your own. Many times, if you settle without an attorney, you might not receive everything due to you.

All it takes in one call, and that call is free. Calling an attorney for help doesn’t mean you have to use them or that you’re going to be charged just for a consultation. Many times, you don’t even have to pay up front fees and if you’re still unsure after making an agreement, the Florida Bar Rules that even after signing, you can still cancel if it is within three days of signing the contract.

If you decide to hire an attorney, make sure that you call them any time you are asked to sign something. Just because an agreement is in front of you, doesn’t mean that it’s right for you, so make sure to call your attorney.

If you have been injured in an auto accident and need legal assistance from an attorney to help in Panama City or the surrounding areas, contact The Tabbaa Firm for a consultation.

[1] Florida Statute 316.066

(Updated Sept 2023)