As one of the leading personal injury lawyers in Pensacola, Florida, Joe Zarzaur has dedicated his life to helping car wreck victims protect their rights. One major way that Personal Injury Law Firm, Zarzaur Law achieves this mission is by fighting extremely hard for the clients he represents. But a second and equally important component of Zarzaur Law Firm’s work is providing the community with the resources they need to keep themselves protected.
If you’ve been the victim of a car wreck, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Instead, follow the car wreck checklist below and put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve.
Zarzaur Law: The Car Wreck Checklist
1. Call 911 And Always Request A Crash Report.
Many drivers who cause collisions do not want to wait for a police officer or a trooper to arrive at the scene to complete a report. The problem with not waiting around and getting an official wreck report is that when people get away from the scene, they will suddenly start thinking about how someone other than them caused the wreck. When they call their insurance company and the adjuster finds out that no official report was completed, that adjuster will also start suggesting that they were not at fault too. All of this will likely result in that “at-fault” driver, who may have been contrite at the scene and apologized, suddenly suggesting that you stopped too quickly or that you were driving too fast. So, it is always better to get a formal report.
Obviously, if your injuries necessitate emergency transport, then your focus should be on that and none of this until you are stable.
This consultation is free and can be scheduled 24/7 at 855-HIRE-JOE (447-3563).
2. Do Take Pictures Of Your Car And The Car That Hit You.
Take a lot of pictures and videos of the cars and people involved. is extremely visual, and proving your injury case after a car wreck is no exception. The insurance company and, eventually, the jury will be impressed by the photographs of the injuries. Videos are sometimes even better. Some now even have video cameras running in their windows that provide footage of the impact. That footage is especially moving in this context. Photos of damage to the inside of your car can also be useful. If there are damages inside the passenger compartment, please also document those for use later in the case. Many clients only take pictures of their vehicle when the other car’s damages are also important. Take pictures of everything and take more than you think you need because it is always better to have more than not enough.
3. Do Not Sign Anything Until You Have Spoken To A Lawyer.
Call your car insurance company and report the wreck. BUT DO NOT AGREE TO PROVIDE A FORMAL RECORDED STATEMENT TO ANY INSURANCE COMPANY WITHOUT US ON THE PHONE WITH YOU.
Your car insurance policy obligates you to inform the company when you are involved in a car wreck. This initial call is generally received by an intake type person, and they take general information and provide you with a claim number. Write that number down or put it in your phone since you will need it when you get treatment. Sometimes the first call results in an immediate transfer or return call where an adjuster is on the line and asks you if you would consent to a recorded interview about the wreck. You should never agree to this recorded statement until you have a lawyer involved.The main reason this is a bad idea is that the company is not looking for just information to help with your claim. Insurance companies (yours included) are also always looking for information to DENY your claim and not provide any coverage for the event. They also use these recordings later to try and argue that you said you felt “OK” even before you had a chance to feel anything from the wreck. Be careful with all insurance company calls.
4. Insurance Adjusters Get Bonuses If They Settle Your Injury Case In The First Week.
Insurance companies have the data on everything. They know, for example, how many millions (perhaps billions) they save every year by pushing quick settlements on unsuspecting car wreck victims. The way they do this is generally in this form. They call and they say, “We are going to accept full responsibility for the wreck and we are going to take care of your car.” Then they go into the injury conversation (BTW, this is when you should get off the phone). They then tell you whatever they can to get you to think that you are going to be fine, and if you are not fine, whatever you have wrong with you would certainly not be worth more than the PIP coverage on your policy that pays the first 10k in medical expenses. So, why don’t you go ahead and take $1500.00 or $2000.00 as an injury settlement?
What they are not saying is that very few victims know the extent of their injuries within days of a wreck. In fact, most of the car wreck injury clients do not appreciate the full extent of their injuries for months following the wreck.
Without knowing the full extent of an injury, it is impossible to know how much your case is worth. We do know for certain that it is worth more than $1500.00. Consult with us before signing a release for any injury settlement since as soon as you do, that case is likely over no matter what you find out is wrong with you.
5. Property Damage Claim (Fixing Or Totaling Your Car) Is Separate From The Injury Claim.
The damage to your car will be handled by either the at-fault driver’s car insurance or your own car insurance if you have full coverage on your car.
I always tell clients that it’s probably better to go through your coverage if you have full coverage since it is a faster process. The only difference is that your company will take out your deductible from the amount they pay to fix or repair your car, and then the at-fault driver’s insurance will reimburse that later. In our opinion, the pros of having your car handled by your company outweigh the small inconvenience of having to wait for the reimbursement of your deductible.
6. Unless You Have A Rental Car Coverage On Your Policy, The At Fault Driver’s Insurance Will Be Paying For The Rental, If There Is Coverage.
The wreck happens, and most clients are typically concerned about transportation. They assumed that the at-fault driver’s insurance would immediately offer a rental car. This is not immediate. In fact, it typically takes 48 hours (2 business days) for an insurance company to complete their “investigation” and accept fault for a wreck. Until they do so, they are not going to offer to pay for anything. This means that there is usually some period of time where no one is offering to help you with alternate transportation.
Once the at-fault driver’s insurance has accepted responsibility, they will then see how much property damage coverage their insured has and compare that to the amount of the damage to your car. If the amount of damage to your car does not come close to or exceed the amount their insured has for property damage liability coverage, then they will offer a rental.
Remember, Florida only requires that people have $10,000.00 in property damage liability coverage. This means that if your car’s damage appears to be close to $10,000.00 (or if the car is totaled and the fair market value is close to or above $10,000.00), then the insurance company is likely going to refuse to provide a rental car. However, if the damage to your car is not close to exceeding the limits, then they will offer and set up a rental car for your use.
Florida car insurance policies all have personal injury protection coverage. It is like temporary health insurance for wrecks and it comes from your own policy, not the other drivers. Health providers like this stuff since it pays dollar for dollar unlike health insurance, which usually has a negotiated discounted rate. Protect it and make sure you get the best medical care for your money.
7. Social Media Postings Should Not Be Used To Discuss Your Car Wreck
In nearly every case, it is not a good idea to publish your wreck on social media. The main reason is that your friends on social media will force you to answer whether you are OK, and unless you say no, the details of your injury will be public record. There is nothing private about social media and if your case goes to court, all of that will be printed for everyone to see, and even things you post and delete will be available to all parties later. See this link about social media issues in personal injury cases:
8. The First $10,000.00 in treatment for car wreck injuries is paid by YOUR car insurance regardless of the fact that you were not at fault.
Virtually everything about a car wreck that is not your fault signals to you that the other party will be responsible for all of your medical expenses, right? Not quite right, at least in Florida.
Florida (and 13 other states in the USA) has a no-fault statute that basically makes each party in a wreck responsible for their own medical expenses for the initial $10,000.00. After that, the at-fault party then becomes responsible for all such expenses. When you go to the ER following a crash, you will be providing the ER with YOUR car insurance information. They will bill YOUR car insurance. If you take an ambulance, they too will bill your car insurance. This remains true even if you have both car insurance and health insurance. Car insurance is primary for the first $10,000.00 in medical expenses.
9. Most Permanent Injuries From Wrecks Do Not Show Up In The ER.
Emergency rooms are looking for life/limb threatening injuries only. Most permanent wreck-related injuries can only be seen via MRI, which are rarely provided in the ER.
The second day following wrecks is the day most people feel the worst. Go to an ER or an urgent care.
10. Hiring a lawyer for a car wreck case is generally FREE unless you win. When you win your case, most lawyers charge the same 33.3% if the case settles without court and 40% if it goes to court. The catch is that even though most lawyers charge the same, no fee, no cost unless you win, not all lawyers are the same.
Only 1% of Florida lawyers are board-certified in civil trial. Mr. Zarzaur and the lawyers handling cases with him are board certified in civil trial. So, if you are going to pay the same fee hire the most qualified lawyer to handle your file.
This consultation is free and can be scheduled 24/7 at 855-HIRE-JOE (447-3563).