Every year in the United States, thousands of Americans suffer serious and sometimes fatal injuries in car accidents. Some car crashes are honest accidents due to mechanical failures, roadway hazards, or vehicle defects. However, most car accidents happen because a driver was negligent in some way, and did not exercise proper care while driving his or her vehicle.
When drivers fail to adhere to the rules of the road, operate their vehicles unsafely, or do not pay close enough attention to the road ahead, they put every other driver around them at risk. Car accidents can happen anywhere, from secluded residential neighborhoods to highways and busy metropolitan areas. Regardless of where a car accident occurs, if a driver’s negligence caused it, that driver needs to be held accountable for their actions and the harm they cause to others.
Florida citizens in the Tampa Bay area can reach out to our experienced Tampa Car accident attorney at Fiol Law Group for help. If you have questions about a recent car accident, or think you may be eligible to file a lawsuit, read through the following for more information, then give our team a call if you’d like to set up a consultation.
Tampa and Hillsborough County Car Accident Statistics
Car accidents are a growing problem in Tampa and throughout Hillsborough county. In fact, both total collisions and resulting injuries have steadily increased every year since 2011.
That is over a 50 percent increase in collisions from 2011 to 2016! Often, a significant increase in crashes occurs along with a large swell in population, however, Hillsborough county’s population grew only 12 percent over the same period.
First Steps to Take Following a Car Accident
Every car accident is different, but it’s a good idea to have some knowledge of what you can do following a car accident to protect yourself and hold any negligent drivers responsible for the damages. If you find yourself in a car accident, the very first thing you should do after your vehicle comes to a stop is to check yourself for injuries.
A car accident is likely to send your heart rate skyrocketing, which means you may not immediately feel the pain of an injury. Make sure you’re stable enough to stand up, and that there are no other oncoming cars, before exiting your vehicle. Once you’re out of your car, check on the other drivers. Just about everyone carries a cell phone with a camera these days, so if you have a smartphone, it’s a good idea to snap several pictures of the accident scene before anyone moves their cars. Try to take pictures of the damage to your vehicle, the accident scene, skid marks on the road, and the positions of the other vehicles involved in the crash. If there are any disputes as to who was at fault for the accident later, these photos can be a valuable asset to you and your accident attorney.
1. File a Police Report
If everyone is well enough to move their vehicles, try to get the cars off to the side of the road, out of the flow of traffic. Florida law requires drivers to call the police after a car accident if anyone was injured – even slightly – or the accident caused property damage estimated to be in excess $500. Call 911 if you or anyone else involved suffered serious injuries or require assistance. If everyone is all right, try to contact your local police department or the Florida Highway Patrol.
The police will conduct brief interviews of everyone involved and assess the accident scene. At this point, it is imperative to contact a trusted Tampa car accident lawyer and be careful of what you say. Even seemingly harmless, casual statements like “I’m so sorry,” or “I didn’t see the other car” could be construed later in court as an admission of fault. Don’t admit to anything, in any way, even if you think you may be at fault for the accident. Once the police finish their work, you can request a copy of the police report. This document is a vital piece of building a car accident case against a negligent driver, so make sure you obtain this report. Even if you are unable to obtain the report, we will obtain it for you as soon as it is available.
2. Seek Medical Attention
After the police finish at the scene, your next priority should be addressing your injuries. It’s important that even if you don’t see any visible wounds to get yourself checked by a doctor. Car accidents can cause internal injuries, and as previously stated, some injuries do not immediately manifest symptoms. See your doctor and have your condition assessed in a medical report. If you suffered any injuries, your doctor will list the extent of the injuries and the details of his or her treatment plan for you in your medical report. This is another vital document in case you need to build a personal injury case later.
Another reason you should see a doctor as soon as possible after your crash is that, if you do suffer an injury and seek to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit, a jury might wonder why you didn’t see a doctor immediately. They will more than likely assume that since you didn’t seek medical care immediately your injuries probably weren’t severe. After a car accident, attempting to “tough it out” or disregarding your own well-being can not only potentially cause you serious health problems, it can also hinder you when it comes to filing a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent driver.
Finally, in Florida you must see a medical provider within 14 days of the crash. Otherwise, you personal injury coverage will be denied.
3. File an Insurance Claim
After the immediate issues of dealing with the police and your medical concerns are handled, it’s time to contact your insurance company and file a claim. Even if you were not responsible for the accident, it’s important to file a claim. Your insurance company will investigate the claim and make their own assessment of fault and damages. However, do no give a recorded statement without representation by an attorney.
It’s important to note that insurance companies may be in the business of making money, but they have a legal obligation to act in good faith when investigating a claim. This means honest reporting of the facts, ethical interview practices, and timely responses to claimant issues and inquiries. If you feel as though an insurance claim adjuster is being combative or unfairly underestimating your claim, they may be acting in bad faith.
Bad faith insurance cases are serious issues, and more often than not, simply filing a letter to your insurance company stating you believe an adjuster acted in bad faith can get them to change their tune when it comes to your claim settlement. Most insurance companies prefer to pay out on a claim rather than undergo a prolonged court battle, so speak to an attorney if you have any concerns about insurance bad faith after a car accident.
4. Choose a Tampa Car Accident Attorney
After you have addressed the police, medical, and insurance concerns of your car crash, you should contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your case. There are countless personal injury firms across the country, so it’s important to be selective about who you choose to represent your case. Look for a law firm or an accident attorney with great reviews from past clients and a strong track record of successful cases.
Choosing the right lawyer is critical to a successful outcome in your personal injury case. You want to hire an attorney with extensive experience in car accident cases so every aspect of your case is covered. Depending on the nature of your car accident, you may be entitled to different types of damages.
Types of Car Crashes
There are many reasons car accidents happen, and those caused by negligence typically lead to lawsuits. Depending on how your accident happened, your case can potentially become very complex. Some of the most common causes of car accidents that lead to lawsuits include the following:
Cars are more technologically advanced today, and even self-driving cars appear to be just over the horizon. However, despite all the gadgetry and technological marvels in the automotive world, cars require attentive drivers. Distracted driving is a serious issue and claims many lives every year. If you were injured by a distracted driver, he or she should be held accountable for negligence.
Distracted driving typically falls into one or more of three categories of distraction:
- Visual distractions are anything that causes a driver’s eyes to stray from the road ahead.
- Manual distractions are things that require the use of the driver’s hands.
- Cognitive distractions occur when a driver is mentally preoccupied, and not paying enough attention to driving.
Driving is like second nature to most drivers once they’ve gained enough experience – most people drive solely through muscle memory and don’t need to think much about how to drive. However, complacency can easily lead to crashes, and it’s vital for every driver to pay attention to the road ahead, and wait until the car is stopped to address distractions.
One particular kind of distracted driving is texting while driving. Smartphones are ingrained in our everyday lives now, and some people attempt to use their phones to text while behind the wheel. Texting while driving is actually all three types of distraction listed above rolled into one: Your eyes divert from the road to the phone screen, your hand moves from the wheel to the keyboard to type out messages, and your mind is preoccupied with the text conversation. Texting while driving is incredibly dangerous, and phones should only be used when the vehicle is parked.
Drinking and Driving
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a pervasive issue that claims many American lives every year. A driver who injures another motorist due to driving under the influence will more than likely face much steeper penalties than a typical car accident and may even face jail time.
Fatal Car Accidents
Unfortunately, not everyone walks away from car accidents. Some accident victims suffer severe injuries and tragically die from their wounds. In fact, The U.S. Department of Transportation recorded 3,174 car accident fatalities in 2016, just in Florida alone.
Unfortunately, if a car accident results in a fatality, the deceased’s surviving loved ones will not be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. Instead, they will have to pursue a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims in Florida function very similarly to personal injury lawsuits with some distinct exceptions. One principal difference is that the Statutes of Limitations is two years for a wrongful death claim.
When head-on collisions happen, they are typically caused by a driver swerving out of his or her lane to avoid a hazard, or a driver falling asleep behind the wheel and drifting out of the lane. In some situations, an aggressive driver may attempt to pass a slower vehicle by driving into the opposing lane. If such a driver misjudges the distance or doesn’t see a vehicle in the other lane, a head-on collision is likely. Head-on collisions are typically far more serious than other types of car accidents with a higher chance of serious or even fatal injuries.
Railroad Crossing Accidents
Accidents at railroad crossings usually happen when a motorist thinks he or she can “beat the train,” and speed across the tracks before the incoming train arrives. It is always safer to wait, even if it appears that the train is approaching slowly. More often than not, the train is moving much faster than it initially appears to be, and if a car is stuck on railroad tracks, the car will more than likely be completely obliterated.
Accidents on the highway are often more serious than those that occur in residential areas. Cars on the highway are moving at much higher speeds, meaning the initial crash is likely to be severe, and other passing motorists may not have time to stop. Highway accidents often involve multiple vehicles and multiple victims.
See Also: Tampa Truck Accidents
Hit and Run Accidents
If you are struck by another driver who then flees the scene, it’s vital to record as much information about the other vehicle and driver as possible. If you catch the license plate, try to write it down. Human memory is unreliable, so it’s important to try and record the first things you observe about a hit-and-run accident. If the other driver is found, he or she will more than likely face criminal charges in addition to your civil lawsuit.
Protect Your Rights
If another driver injured you in any way, it’s important to hold them accountable for the damages and injuries caused. A reliable car accident attorney will be your best ally when it comes to securing compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, property damage, and lost income from time you were forced to spend away from work after an injury.
The Fiol Law Group of Tampa is dedicated to personal injury cases, and we are committed to doing everything we can to maximize our clients’ recovery. Our firm believes in accessible representation for every client, and we offer services for both English and Spanish speakers. If you need a personal injury attorney to fight on your behalf after a car accident in the Tampa area, reach out to our team to request a free consultation.