Auto Accident Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if I am in a car accident?
The first and most important step is to look out for the safety of yourself, your loved ones and anyone else who may have been involved in the accident. After the appropriate steps (moving the vehicles out of the road if they are still drivable, calling emergency services, etc.) have been taken to assure the safety of everyone involved, the decisions you make while at the scene can significantly influence your chances of getting the compensation you deserve.
Most important, remain cool and calm. Your goal at this stage is simply collecting information. Exchange information with the other driver(s) involved; also make sure to get the names of any passengers in the other cars. If there are any witnesses, collect their names and contact information.
If you have a camera or a camera phone with you, take pictures of all cars involved and of the scene of the accident. Photograph any non-car objects involved like guard rails or telephone poles. If you don’t have a camera, try to obtain as much information as possible from observation and document it in whatever way you can.
Be honest while discussing the incident with responding police officers, but do not discuss the concept of fault or blame with anyone.
Even if you just feel a little sore and bruised, you should go to the emergency room. The adrenaline of being in a collision may be blocking out pain, and some back and neck injuries won’t be immediately apparent. Your health and safety always need to be your top priority.
My insurance card tells me to call my insurance company immediately; won’t I get in trouble if I wait?
You should report the accident to your insurance company immediately. However, you must always remember that while you are a customer of the insurance company, every employee of that insurance company you speak to owes a duty to his or her employer first, and you second. The insurance company will look out for their own best interest; the only person who can be relied on to look out for you is YOU. For this reason, we do not advise giving recorded or written statements until you have the opportunity to consult an attorney.
I’ve heard Florida is a “no-fault” state; why should I care who was to blame for the accident if everyone’s insurance company will pay his or her own damages?
The state government requires every Florida insurance policy to cover the first $10,000 of medical bills and lost wages caused by a car accident incurred by the policyholder (it does not include pain and suffering). That coverage makes Florida a “no-fault” state. Above that limit a determination of fault will affect civil liability, and while $10,000 might seem like a large amount of money any injuries that require hospitalization or long-term medical care can easily result in over $10,000 of costs.
Do I have a case?
As a personal injury lawyer, the first question I hear from potential clients is, “Do I have a case?” My stock answer is that anybody can file a lawsuit; the question is if you can win the lawsuit and collect a judgment. To be worth pursuing, a personal injury case must satisfy five elements: (1) Negligence, (2) Damages, (3) Causation, (4) Credibility, and (5) Money.
When is someone liable for the acts of another?
In automobile accident cases, the owner of the vehicle involved is responsible for the actions of the driver, so long as the driver was given permission to drive the car. There are also situations in which the owner of a business can be held liable for the negligent acts of an employee. The legal concept is respondeat superior; it is Latin for “let the master answer.” When tort liability is assigned to another it is known as vicarious liability.
In the common law, the concept was that the master was responsible for the actions of his servants. It also incorporates concepts, such as the duty of an employer to monitor his employees and ensure that he or she act accordingly, the duty to be cautious in the hiring of new employees, and the duty to make sure that those only capable of handling the job properly are hired.
However, liability is not always transferred to the employer for the actions of the employee. Generally three criteria must be met before liability can be transferred. These requirements are known as the Birkner Criterion:
- Was the act committed within the time and space limits of the agency?
- Was the offense incidental to, or of the same general nature as the responsibilities the agent was hired to perform?
- Was the agent motivated to any degree to benefit the principal by committing the act?
These serve to limit the instances in which the employer is liable for what the employees do. If a bank teller or a waiter/waitress gets into a fight at a baseball game on a Saturday that is not within the time and space limits of the agency (when and where the person is working) and thus the first criteria is likely not met.
The second criterion excuses actions taken irrelevant to the actor’s job, but still when they are or should be working.
The third focuses on instances in which the employer benefits or would benefit from the act or attempted act of the employee.
Often, the above can fall into gray areas. The answer regarding if the criteria are or are not met can be unclear. If someone causes a car accident during office hours but was driving to get lunch, the above may or may not be met. It is still during the time limits of the agency, but it could be out of the space limits. These often become questions for a jury to evaluate and make a determination.
When the above criterion’s are met, an employer is, or can become, liable for the actions of his or her employees.
This concept also assigns to the employer the duty properly to supervise the employees to ensure they are doing his or her jobs and doing them safely, and also to use proper care when selecting and hiring new employees to ensure that he or she are capable of handling the tasks and stress associated with the job.
Personalized service from attorneys who care
Call or text a lawyer now, 24/7/365, at 850-224-3310 or contact Barrett, Fasig & Brooks online for your free initial consultation.