I Should Settle This On My Own With The Other Driver
After a car accident, some drivers may prefer to avoid calling the police or getting their insurance companies involved. Don’t make this mistake! Although it may be tempting to avoid the hassle of getting other people involved, it’s important to protect yourself and be aware of your rights. Florida law requires police officers to prepare a crash report in certain situations, including any time there is a crash with injuries or when there is damage to property of at least $500.00. This means that even a minor fender bender should always be reported to the police.
What if the other driver changes their mind and refuses to pay for the repairs to your vehicle? Your failure to report the accident and obtain a crash report may result in inconsistent statements. They may call their insurance company and place the fault on you, instead of them. Remember, insurance companies have an obligation to defend their insured. That’s why it is important to go through the proper steps and always report the accident to both police and to the insurance companies. Setting the record straight from the start is the best way to ensure your rights are protected.
I Don’t Want To Use My Automobile Insurance. What If My Premiums Go Up?
One common concern after being involved in an accident is that your insurance premiums will automatically increase if you report the accident. You may be reluctant to file a claim or notify your agent. Do not let this misconception keep you from making a claim! In Florida, it is illegal for your insurance company to increase your premium unless you were at fault for the accident. Florida Statute § 626.9541 describes illegal dealings in insurance premiums:
Unfair Methods Of Competition And Unfair Or Deceptive Acts – Imposing or requesting an additional premium for a policy of motor vehicle liability, personal injury protection, medical payment, or collision insurance or any combination thereof or refusing to renew the policy solely because the insured was involved in a motor vehicle accident unless the insurer’s file contains information from which the insurer in good faith determines that the insured was substantially at fault in the accident.
If you were not substantially at fault for the accident, then your premiums cannot increase simply because you were injured and are making a claim. Although the law does not define what “substantially at fault” means, if the police report clearly indicates the other person caused the accident, then your insurance cannot in good faith try to place the fault on you. However, there are insurance companies that may increase premium rates every renewal period, regardless of whether you were involved in an accident or not. Although it may happen, even if your insurance rates go up, the risk of the increase is not worth losing the benefit of getting the treatment you deserve for your injuries now.
More importantly, insurance policies are a contract. Most insurance policies have provisions that require that all accidents be reported. If your insurance company or agent finds out about the accident after a significant amount of time has passed, your company may very well deny coverage completely. Personal injury protection, or PIP insurance, is the coverage required which pays your medical expenses after being injured in an accident. In Florida, PIP insurance covers 80% of your medical bills, up to a maximum of $10,000. If your claim is completely denied, then your PIP coverage will not pay any of your medical bills and you will be personally responsible for these expenses. One of the reasons you pay for insurance every single month is to be covered in situations where you have been hurt in a car accident. Why should you have to pay out of your own pocket if you have insurance?
I’m Not That Badly Injured. I’m Sure It Will Go Away In A Couple Of Days.
Many injuries after an accident are not immediately apparent and may take days before they show up. Often, your adrenaline is pumping from the immediate shock of being injured in a traumatic accident. You may not notice symptoms for several days. Once this adrenaline and shock have worn off, you may notice pain setting in.
Some of the most common types of injuries after an accident are soft tissue injuries, which involve muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Soft tissue injuries can take days or even weeks before they start to flare up because of the nature of the injury itself. The aching and swelling are not immediate but as time goes on, your pain and discomfort increase. If you wait too long before seeing a doctor, the insurance company may use this delay to decrease the value of your claim.
Your PIP carrier is required to provide coverage to every person who was injured in an accident and who seeks medical treatment within 14 days of that accident. If you do not see a doctor within those first two weeks, then your insurance may deny the claim and you may lose your PIP benefits altogether. This would make you personally responsible for all of your medical bills if you decide to see a doctor later on, which the insurance company would otherwise have been responsible to pay for. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible to ensure you get the medical treatment you need.
My Car Isn’t That Bad. I’ll Just Fix My Car Later.
Another common misconception is that if your car is not too badly damaged, you can still drive it around and just pay for your own repairs later on. By not filing a claim with the insurance, you are possibly losing benefits that you pay for every month when you pay your insurance premium. More importantly, if you were not at fault, then the other person’s insurance should pay for the damages they caused to your vehicle. Your insurance company should only get involved when the other driver does not have insurance or is taking too long to process your claim. If you have collision coverage, it will pay for your repairs, but you’ll still have to pay your deductible. If the cost of the repairs is less than the deductible, then you will have to pay the entire repair bill yourself. All of these out-of-pocket expenses can be avoided by promptly notifying the other person’s insurance after the accident.
Every driver also has an obligation to mitigate their damages after an accident. To mitigate simply means to make something less severe or serious. If you drive your car with physical or mechanical defects and these damages become more severe the more you drive around, you may find yourself facing additional repair bills that the insurance company may not cover. Don’t delay or diminish the value of your claim by putting off necessary repairs.