The short answer to if you should hire an attorney after a minor car accident is yes. In fact, the question “do I need to hire a lawyer for a minor car accident,” doesn’t have as much to do with the accident as it does with your injuries. If you suffered an injury, it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney as soon as you can.
After a minor car accident that results in minor damages, it may be tempting to ignore the situation and just head home. However, if you don’t file a police report or exchange information with the at-fault driver, it may come back to hurt you down the road.
Along with not having information recorded about the incident, in Florida, failure to report an accident is considered a non-moving traffic infraction. While it is not a criminal act, it may still result in a fine.
Also, after you have left the scene of an accident, it’s much more challenging to get all the facts straight and recall the information accurately. Even the details of minor accidents can get somewhat murky. Because of this, it’s best to contact the authorities before you leave the accident scene.
Besides the legalities of the situation, not reporting the accident may result in you ruining a possible claim you have against the at-fault driver. Even if there’s no damage to your vehicle, this is the case.
Some of the reasons you need to do this can be found here.
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Hidden or Delayed Injuries From Minor Car Accidents
Studies have proven that there are many injuries an individual may experience in a minor car accident that won’t appear for several days after the incident. For example, if you are rear-ended and barely jolted, you may feel fine right after the accident. There are no obvious injuries and no signs of pain.
Unfortunately, many people view “injuries” as obvious issues, such as head trauma, lacerations, or broken bones. They think of more severe and life-altering conditions. You don’t think about the impact of contusions, stretched ligaments, or strained tendons.
If you were hit from behind, there’s a possibility that your body moved forward, your neck snapped back, or you moved forward suddenly. If this happens, there’s a chance that you will wake up in the next few days after the accident with serious neck and back pain. An accident results in those involved being full of adrenaline. This is part of the reason you don’t notice the pain or injuries you have sustained right away. Most Florida car accident attorneys will encourage you to go to the doctor as soon as you can after an accident to make sure you aren’t dealing with hidden or delayed injuries.
If you decide to leave the scene and don’t file a report with the authorities or your insurance provider (or, in some cases, both), you are going to find it challenging to take the case to court. This is the case even in situations where you have a doctor or another medical professional testifying about your injuries.
Some of the most common injuries that may occur, even in a minor car accident, include:
Soft Tissue Injuries After Minor Auto Accidents
A soft tissue injury will cause damage to your ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Even accidents that occur at a low speed can generate a large amount of force. A driver may hit their brakes, which can cause the vehicle to stop suddenly and jerk the neck forcefully back and forth. If this occurs, it may result in whiplash. Most whiplash injuries don’t produce symptoms for a few days. When they do appear, you may experience:
- Stiffness and swelling in the neck
- Pain in the neck when it is moved
- Muscle spasms
- Memory loss
- Numbness or tingling in the arms
- Shoulder pain
Minor Car Accident Head Injuries
If another driver hits you, it’s possible that you will bump your head on the steering wheel and not even notice it happened. However, if this situation occurs during your accident, you may suffer a head injury, such as a concussion. Some concussions can be serious; however, the symptoms may take a day or so to appear. Some of the most common symptoms that occur if you experience a concussion include:
- Ringing in the ears
- Blurry vision
- Fatigue or drowsiness
Don’t Wait to See a Doctor After A Car Accident
It’s important to note that both concussions and soft tissue injuries commonly occur in minor car accidents. Both injuries may require you to stay in the hospital, imaging testing, multiple doctor visits, prescription medications, rehabilitation, and more.
It’s clear that the cost of treatment for even a minor car accident can add up quickly. Because of this, it’s a good idea to get medical attention right away after you are involved in an accident, even if you don’t believe you suffered an injury. If you settle the claim too quickly and accept the first settlement offer made, then you are eliminating your ability to recover additional compensation for injuries that are discovered down the road.
It is best to go to the doctor and have your injuries documented right after the accident. This is going to allow you to have the documentation and proof needed to hold the other driver responsible for the accident and your injuries.
Contact the Police Immediately Following A Car Accident
In some minor accidents, you may decide to exchange information with the other party involved in the accident, shake one another’s hands, and go about your day. You never report the incident to the authorities.
However, a few weeks later, you receive a summon to come to court because the other driver filed a claim stating the accident was your fault. While you may know for a fact that the accident was the other person’s fault and that the injuries and damages they are claiming aren’t accurate, if you didn’t report the accident to the police, you don’t have a record of what occurred. In this situation, it turns into a situation of who has the more convincing story.
While suits like this usually don’t get very far, especially if both parties leave the scene, you will still have to deal with it. This includes going to court and presenting your argument. You can avoid this by contacting the police and an accident attorney right away.
Another tip to keep in mind is that you should never admit fault for the accident (in any way) or let the other party know about your policy limits.
Steps to Take After Being Involved in a Minor Car Accident
If you stayed at the scene of a minor car accident with the other party involved and filed a police report, you are off to a good start. At this point, you may file a claim with your insurance company, receive a settlement, and move on with your life.
However, sometimes, your PIP insurance won’t be enough to fix your vehicle and handle medical bills (especially if you are dealing with a delayed injury).
Remember, insurance companies are businesses. This means they are trying to protect their bottom line rather than your best interests. If you accept the insurance settlement, then you will also be signing documentation that states you are giving up the right to future legal action. While some people believe that an insurance company is going to provide them with a fair settlement, this is usually not the case. That’s because they want to pay you as little as possible for the claim you submit.
Even with a minor car accident, you need to have a competent personal injury attorney evaluate your case before you agree to accept a settlement. The attorney you hire will help ensure that you get the maximum amount of compensation for your damages and injuries. An attorney will also help ensure you don’t have to pay for your car repairs or medical bills from your own funds.
Following a Minor Car Accident
While this is the best thing you can do, you need to make sure that you take the right steps after a car accident too. Some of the things that you should make sure you avoid doing after any car accident include:
Contact the Authorities
Like what was mentioned above, if you leave the scene of a minor car accident and don’t report it to the authorities, you are making a big mistake. Having a police report for your accident is invaluable if you plan to file a personal injury lawsuit. It will also help ensure that you receive a fair compensation amount for your damages and injuries.
Gather Evidence While You Are at the Scene
Try to take pictures of everything you can at the scene. This includes the position of the vehicles, road conditions, any nearby signs, damage to each vehicle, and visible injuries. It’s also a good idea to collect phone numbers from people who saw what happened and exchange information with the other driver. You should collect as much information as possible and give it all to your car accident attorney. They can sort through the information you gather to determine what is important and what isn’t.
Never Admit Fault
After any car accident, it’s important to avoid admitting fault. Even if you believe that the minor car accident was your fault, there’s no way to know for sure. After all, you only have one vantage point and perspective. Because of this, you need to let the police dictate who was at fault in the minor car accident you were involved in. Regardless of what you think, it’s best to never admit fault. Instead, allow the police and your attorney to determine who is at fault and if comparative fault plays a role in the accident.
Get Medical Care Right Away
It’s important to go to a doctor right away if you sustained any injuries because of your accident. If you fail to do this and develop injuries a few days later from the accident, it can be difficult to prove they were caused by the accident rather than something else. This may also mean it will be difficult for you to recover compensation.
Utilize Your PIP Coverage
In the state of Florida, you are required to have Personal Injury Protection coverage. This is what you use to ensure your protection if you are involved in an accident. If you are involved in a minor car accident, it is a good idea to file a claim on this policy. After all, that is the whole reason to purchase this insurance coverage.
Understand How Insurance Companies Work
It’s important to remember that an insurance company is a business. Their goal is to make money. This means they want to collect and keep as much money as they can while minimizing what is paid out. If you make a claim, the insurance company is going to try to offer you a low settlement. You need to have an attorney to help you negotiate what is fair for your damages and injuries.
Take Time to Review the Police Report
You need to review the police report to ensure the facts are correct and that you agree with what was reported. If you don’t agree, then you need to make sure you speak up at the accident scene and have changes made before you sign anything.
Don’t Accept the First Settlement Offer
Just like any other negotiation, it’s important to understand that the first offer is going to be the lowest that the insurance company believes it can offer and potentially get you to accept. Try to avoid saying yes to the first offer. Having a car accident attorney review the settlement offer and negotiate on your behalf will help ensure that you receive fair compensation for the accident and that you aren’t accepting a settlement that isn’t in line with what you deserve.
Attempting to Settle the Case on Your Own
While you may believe that minor car accidents don’t require you to hire an attorney, this isn’t a smart move. Clients who hire experienced legal representation often have settlements that are around three times larger than those who try to settle their case without legal representation.
How an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Can Help
As you can see from the information above, one of the smartest things you can do after an accident, including a minor one, is to find and hire an experienced car accident attorney. This is going to ensure that your interests are protected and that you get what you deserve when a settlement offer is made.
Hiring a Car Accident Attorney Should Cost You Nothing
One of the best things about hiring car accident attorneys in Florida is that you don’t pay them for their services upfront. In fact, they work on a contingency fee basis. What this means is that their fee is taken out of the settlement you receive. This means if no settlement is given, then you don’t pay for their services. This makes hiring a car accident attorney completely risk-free for you.
Types of Compensation You Can Recover From a Minor Car Accident
After any car accident that wasn’t your fault, even a minor one, there are a few types of compensation you can potentially recover.
One is economic damages. This includes things like your medical bills, cost of property damage, lost wages, and your loss of earning capacity.
It may also be possible for you to recover non-economic or intangible damages. These include things that don’t have a set amount you can prove and include things like the loss of enjoyment of life activities, mental anguish, and pain and suffering. Remember, if you hire an attorney for help with your case and plan to file a car accident lawsuit, there are time limitations on how long you must do this. You need to ensure you act quickly to ensure that your lawsuit can be settled. The attorney you hire will ensure that you are meeting deadlines and filing documents as needed to protect your ability to recover compensation for the injuries and damages you sustained.
Benefits of Hiring an Attorney for Minor Car Accidents
By now, you should better understand why it is such a good idea to hire an attorney even if you are involved in a minor accident. Be sure to keep the information here in mind as it is going to help you take the right steps after this type of incident occurs. While there is no guarantee that your lawsuit will be successful when you hire an attorney, your likelihood of success and a fair settlement offer are much higher.
If you have recently been involved in a minor car accident and need legal advice or representation, contact our legal team today. We are here to help you with your claim and protect your rights throughout the process. We can get started with a free consultation. Our team is ready to fight for your rights and ensure you get a fair amount of compensation for a minor accident.