The travel season is upon us. Unfortunately, historical data show that many motorists from Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties and beyond will be involved in dangerous car accidents over the next couple of months. That is why we want to share in advance several important factors that those impacted by a car wreck or other type of motor vehicle accident should keep in mind when dealing with the aftermath of an auto accident. First, there is a big difference between damage to a vehicle and injuries to a person. Insurance policies separate these losses into different categories—(1) damaged property and (2) injured people.
Damage to Your Vehicle
Property Damage covers damage to the vehicle and the contents within the vehicle such as smartphones and cameras. Injured drivers or passengers fall under coverages for bodily injury, personal injury protection (PIP), and uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverages. If the accident was caused by the other driver, their insurance company will likely send an adjuster to inspect damage to the property directly caused by the accident.
The adjuster will come out to the location of the vehicle (whether it is at your home, a body shop, or tow lot) and take photos of the damaged car or truck. They will inspect the vehicle and any other property that was damaged in the car wreck. Relying on Blue Book values or other references, they will estimate the difference between the market value of the vehicle (and other affected property) before the accident and its value after the accident.
Be Careful When Settling Your Property Damage Claim
At this point, the insurance adjuster may offer to settle the property damage claim by offering you a sum of money they calculate as fair. You can negotiate with them if you believe the amount is too low; however, at this stage of the claim process you need be very careful that you are not negotiating a settlement for both your property damage and your personal injuries. By signing the wrong form, you can severely harm any possibility for being compensated for an injury that may not be known yet. You should always check with an attorney to make sure the settlement offer you receive is only for your property damage and nothing more
Bodily Injury May Take Much Longer to Develop
The entire “property damage” process can take hours, days or weeks to finalize; but sometimes it takes much longer to gain an understanding of the scope and extent of someone's personal injuries. Not everyone is injured in a car wreck. It is common for injuries to be discovered several days after an accident. It is not uncommon for a stiff back or neck to turn into a serious debilitating spine injury months after an accident. In many cases, it takes a doctor nearly a year to determine if you have fully recovered from an injury caused by a car wreck. If you sign away your rights a few weeks after an accident, you do so without a full understanding of whether your body will fully recover or not.
Do Not Unknowingly Release Both Property Damage and Personal Injury Claims
Injured driver or passenger claims should not be addressed until your doctors have cleared you. You should expect this part of the post-accident process to take much longer than the property damage segment. You should never be led to believe that you have to sign one release that applies to both claims. Be wary of tactics used by local adjusters and offers to injured drivers of “a few thousand dollars” only days after an accident in exchange for a personal injury release. There is no way anyone can place a value on an injury so soon after an accident.
Tempting someone to give up their rights for a few dollars without a full understanding of what is being given up is blatantly unjust. Do not let that happen to you. To ensure that all of your rights are fully protected under Florida law, contact the attorneys at Taylor, Warren and Weidner, PA before you sign a release. Contact us for a free consultation.