If you have been injured in a car accident, you’ve most likely experienced some significant out-of-pocket expenses from medical bills as well as lost wages from not being able to return to work during your recovery process. In addition to the financial strain a car accident causes, you also may experience pain and emotional suffering.
To recover what you have lost in a car accident, you want to get the best car accident settlement possible. And you’ll need to understand how the car accident settlement process truly works before you call an auto accident lawyer.
The car accident settlement process works on the following fundamental proposition: if you have suffered injury and inconvenience because someone else did not do what he or she was supposed to do (negligence), then you have the right to be put back into the same position in which you were before the accident.
In this guide, we will provide helpful information about the car accident settlement process.
Accident Settlement Process & Timeline
As a driver in Florida, it’s important to know when to contact law enforcement regarding an accident. If the accident involves an injury, death, or property damage greater than $500, a police officer or sheriff’s deputy should be called out to the scene to file a report. If the accident does not require a police report to be filed, the driver still needs to file an accident report within 10 days.
Drivers involved in an accident are required to offer “reasonable assistance” to anyone who may be injured and are also expected to exchange information with any other drivers involved. We recommend that you also get the names and phone numbers of witnesses, document the weather and road conditions, and take photographs of all vehicles involved. Even if you feel that you were at fault, it’s important to never assume responsibility for the accident while speaking with an investigating officer.
CONTACTING YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
Florida’s “no-fault” insurance system means that each individual’s insurance provider will cover their own bills and expenses, regardless of fault. However, it is possible to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company for property damage to your vehicle.
Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible following the accident to find out what steps need to be taken in order to successfully file the claim. If medical attention is required, do not wait to see a doctor.
STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS
In Florida, the statute of limitations for a vehicle accident depends on if the accident caused an injury or a death. If there was an injury caused by the accident, or if there was damage to your vehicle, a lawsuit can be filed up to four years after the date of the accident. If someone dies as the result of a car accident, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years after the date of the person’s death.
HOW MUCH MONEY WILL I GET AS A SETTLEMENT?
Settlement amounts vary greatly depending on the severity of the accident. If there was only vehicle damage, the insurance company will only pay out the “reasonable” cost of the vehicle’s repair or replacement. As previously mentioned, if property damage exceeds $500, you may be able to fight for a settlement from the other driver to cover your vehicle/property repair or replacement costs.
If you’ve suffered an injury from the accident, this portion of your settlement case is negotiated separately from the property damage portion. The amount paid out by insurance is usually determined by medical bills, lost wages, and the extent of injuries as determined by a medical professional.
Pain and suffering settlements compensate for past and future discomfort stemming from injuries suffered during the accident. Completed medical treatment and a release from a doctor are required before submitting this portion of a settlement claim. Insurance will only pay out one settlement as pain and suffering compensation, so it’s important to understand your medical condition and if any additional healthcare may be required later in your life. Therefore, it’s important to consult with a personal injury lawyer to discuss a settlement that involves residual pain and medical care in order to ensure that you don’t waive your options involving future medical care.
ACCIDENT-RELATED COSTS AND YOUR SETTLEMENT PAYOUT
In Florida, the majority of drivers only carry $10,000 in medical care coverage on their automobile insurance policies. If you’ve been in an accident that has caused your bills to start piling up, you need to have an experienced car accident attorney in your corner — because your accident settlement is even more important in this situation. Drawing from our experience working with hundreds of clients who were injured in a car accident, let’s discuss some of the most common expenses.
Medical bills from a collision can vary greatly depending on the severity of the accident. Minor accidents may require a visit to the emergency room or to a chiropractor for a stiff neck or back. More serious accidents can rack up even more bills, ranging from ambulance transport from the scene of the accident to the hospital, to the ER doctor, hospital, and radiology bills (all separate bills from the same visit!), to post-care services like physical therapy or in-home care. It’s important to keep detailed records and copies of all bills following an accident.
DAMAGED OR LOST PROPERTY
As previously mentioned, if your vehicle has more than $500 worth of damage, you can seek reimbursement in your settlement from the other driver’s insurance company. If there were other personal items of value in the vehicle that were damaged or lost in the accident, those items can also be included in your settlement.
COSTS OF MEDICATIONS
We always hope that our clients don’t need medication to treat pain or ailments caused by the accident, but the unfortunate truth is that many clients end up with multiple prescriptions to help them go about their day-to-day lives comfortably. The costs of medications are generally covered by your health insurance policy, but it’s still important to keep all records of prescriptions written by the medical professionals who treated you after the accident.
The average cost of a hospital stay in Florida is $1,500 to $2,250 per day. While most car accident injuries don’t require an overnight hospital stay, some injuries require extended observation. For example, when the head, neck, or spine is injured. We recommend you keep copies of all bills to share with your personal injury attorney.
Serious accidents can leave drivers and/or passengers in bad shape. In many cases, serious injuries come with significant recovery times. During that recovery time, rehabilitation and physical therapy are needed to restore range of motion, flexibility, and strength.
When an accident leaves a driver or passenger injured and unable to show up for work, the question of who will make up for the lost wages comes into question. Discussing your lost wages is important during an initial consultation with an auto accident attorney. The attorney should be able to provide you with an actionable plan to ensure that you and your family are not going to go without during your recovery period.
COST OF MEDICAL EQUIPMENT
Wheelchairs, crutches, ramps, and accessibility tools for getting around the home are just a few of the dozens of pieces of medical equipment that could be required for post-accident recovery. While health insurance often covers these items, it’s important to save all receipts and documentation for any medical equipment. Often, these costs can be included in a settlement payout.
EXPENSES PAID OUT OF POCKET
There are an estimated 27 million Americans who are not currently enrolled in a health insurance program. Not carrying a health insurance policy can lead to a tremendous amount of bills that must be paid out of pocket. Keep a record of any and all out-of-pocket expenses caused by the accident and be sure to share them with your car accident attorney.
HOW MUCH WILL I GET FOR MY CAR ACCIDENT SETTLEMENT?
Due to the unique nature of each accident and subsequent claim, there is no “formula” for calculating the amount that will be paid out for an accident settlement. One area that insurance companies focus on when determining a payout is what is referred to as “special damages.” These damages encompass financial losses resulting from the accident such as medical bills and lost wages. The insurance company’s goal is to close in on an amount that a jury would award if the accident case goes to trial. The most common determining factor in the payout amount of an accident settlement involves putting a monetary value on the amount of pain and suffering caused by the accident.
GET A FREE AUTO ACCIDENT SETTLEMENT CONSULTATION
If you were recently in an accident and sustained injuries that caused financial losses, our team at Denmon Pearlman is here to help you get back on your feet. Let one of our experienced auto accident lawyers look into the details of your accident, including your medical expenses and/or lost wages, to determine what sort of settlement could be expected. Your consultation with Denmon Pearlman is a completely FREE service that we provide to potential clients to help them understand what they may stand to gain by filing for a settlement. For more information, please contact Denmon Pearlman at 1-888-992-7947. Our law firm has four locations in Tampa Bay.