Personal Injury Lawyers,
Jacksonville, FL

Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accidents

If you've been injured in a car accident, you may be left reeling, both physically and mentally. We understand that. We know that accident victims often don't know the cause of what happened - and don't know what they need to do next. You're left to deal with the insurance companies, try to rebuild your life, and find a way to get the medical care you need.

You don't have to go through that process alone. The experienced car accident attorneys at The Law Firm of Pajcic & Pajcic can help guide you down the road ahead. These questions and answers are based on our more than four decades of experience helping accident victims throughout the Jacksonville area.

If you don't see your question answered here, or even if you do, you need to contact us right away. Remember, every accident is unique, and these answers are intended as general information, not legal advice on your individual case. That's why we strongly encourage you to contact our law firm as soon as possible and schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We can help you understand your legal rights and start the process of moving forward.

What should I do at the scene of a car accident?

First, unless you need to leave to seek emergency medical care, remain at the scene. Leaving the scene of an accident before you've exchanged insurance information with the other driver is a serious crime in Florida. It could also affect your ability to recover compensation for your injuries.

Your top priority is to make sure the scene is safe. Call emergency services and assist if you are able and trained to do so. Once the scene is safe, you need to exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. In addition, get names and contact information for any witnesses and the badge number of the investigating police officer.

Keep your comments at the scene brief and don't say anything that could be seen as admitting fault for the accident. Remember, determining fault is a complex process and at the scene, you aren't in a position to judge.

Take pictures of the accident scene, including skid marks, damage to your vehicle and any other property, and any visible injuries. That evidence will play a critical role if you need to file an insurance claim following the accident.

Finally, contact Pajcic & Pajcic as soon as possible, before you speak to an insurance company. The sooner you have an experienced attorney on your side, the easier it will be to protect your legal rights and recover fair compensation for your injuries.

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If I believe the driver who hit me was texting, do I have a case? 

Very likely, but we will need to prove it. Civil cases based on texting and driving can be surprisingly difficult because the carrier may not produce cell phone records without a subpoena. Our attorneys are adept at finding other means of proving that the driver who hit you was distracted, such as eyewitness accounts, traffic light camera video or even that defendant driver's own statements.

In addition to proving that the at-fault driver was texting, we need to prove the extent of your losses due to his or her negligence. This can be a challenge because texting drivers often cause rear-end collisions at low speeds. However, even a low-speed collision can cause serious injuries, and our attorneys know how to prove just that.

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How much is my claim worth after a car accident? 

Every claim is unique, and there is no single answer to this question. However, damages (financial compensation) in car accident cases are divided into two categories. Most are compensatory damages, which are intended to make you whole again by compensating you for the losses you sustained in the accident.

Compensatory damages are further divided into two categories. Economic damages are compensation for objectively verifiable losses that can be tied to a specific dollar amount, such as:

  • Medical expenses for injuries sustained in the accident.
  • Lost wages if you were not able to work while recovering from your injuries.
  • Replacement services, such as yard work, home maintenance and childcare, that you needed to hire someone to provide while you were recovering.
  • Lost earning potential if you now need to work a "light duty" job or work fewer hours.
  • Modifications to your home or vehicle to accommodate an injury.
  • Repair or replacement of your vehicle or other property was damaged in the accident.

Other types of compensatory damages are known as non-economic damages. These damages compensate you for losses that are not tied to a specific dollar amount, such as pain and suffering or emotional distress. Although these losses are somewhat subjective, they still have a real impact on your life, and our attorneys will include that impact as we build your case for compensation.

Some injury cases also result in punitive damages. These are additional financial payments designed to punish the at-fault party for particularly reckless or intentional actions. We can often seek punitive damages following accidents caused by a drunk driver, for instance.

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Who can I hold responsible for my accident?

The general rule is that if you were hurt in an accident, any person or company whose negligence contributed to your injuries can be held liable for the losses you have sustained. The most obvious example is the at-fault driver. However, the other driver is not always the only responsible party.

Pajcic & Pajcic has handled many cases that involved pursuing defendants other than the motorist who caused the accident. For instance, we have pursued "crashworthiness" claims against manufacturers of defective vehicles and "dram shop" cases against bars and restaurants that served alcohol to drunk drivers. We've even handled cases against utility companies, civil engineering contractors and others who were responsible for the maintenance and lighting of our roads.

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How can I get my medical bills paid? 

Because Florida is a "no-fault" insurance state, your first option to get your medical bills paid is called personal injury protection (PIP). This is a type of coverage on your own policy that pays for your medical expenses and income loss up to the policy limit. PIP also covers your children and other members of your household, as well as any passenger in your vehicle who does not own a car and does not have his or her own PIP insurance. Your PIP insurance covers you if you are injured in any car accident, even if you are walking, on a bicycle or a passenger in someone else's car.

However, if you have medical expenses in excess of your PIP coverage - which is quite common, as PIP is very limited in terms of what it actually covers - getting those bills paid can be difficult. Your employer-provided health insurance may cover some of the costs, but health insurance companies are often reluctant to pay medical expenses for injuries sustained in car accidents. We can help you take legal action against the at-fault party or parties, but they normally won't settle until after you have completed your treatment, and your medical providers will want to be paid before then.

The bottom line is that you need to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Florida law gives you an extremely short window of time in which to seek medical treatment. Getting an attorney from our firm on your side is the best option to protect your legal rights.

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    Can I still recover if I was partly to blame for the accident?

    You can. Florida is a modified comparative negligence state, which means that each party at fault for an injury is responsible for damages in proportion for their percentage of fault. Practically speaking, that means that if you are 40 percent at fault for your injuries and the other driver is 60 percent at fault, you can still take legal action, although the damages you recover would be reduced by 40 percent. However, if you are more than 50 percent at fault, you cannot recover.

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    What if the other driver doesn't have insurance?

    In Florida, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is available as an optional coverage type on your own policy. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim with your own insurance company to stand in for the other motorist's liability coverage. You can also claim your no-fault benefits through your personal injury protection (PIP) regardless of whether the other driver has insurance.

    Uninsured and underinsured motorist protection will also cover you if the other driver has some insurance, but not enough to pay for the full cost of your injuries. Likewise, if you are involved in an accident with a hit-and-run driver and that driver is never found you can claim your uninsured motorist benefits - a driver who cannot be found is considered uninsured by default.

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    Do I need to talk to the insurance company? 

    You do need to promptly notify your insurance company that you were involved in an accident. Every insurance carrier has a slightly different policy, but the general rule is that without prompt notification, they may deny your claim. However, you don't need to speak with an insurance company representing another driver at all. Always be skeptical of any inquiries made by an insurance company, as anything you say may be used to reduce or deny your claim.

    What you need to do is contact an experienced attorney at Pajcic & Pajcic immediately, before you talk to the insurance company. If you retain our firm to represent you, we'll reach out to the insurance and let them know that you have hired an attorney. From that point forward, they can direct all of their inquiries to us, not to you.

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    How do I get a copy of the police report?

    If police were called to the scene of your accident, officers from the Florida Highway Patrol or a local law enforcement agency will respond. They will conduct an initial investigation of the crash and complete an accident report, known as the Florida Traffic Crash Report. It will contain a lot of information about your crash that can help your claim for compensation.

    There are different ways to get a copy of this report, which should be available within 10 days. You can contact the law enforcement agency that responded to your crash to pick up a copy. Or you can order one online from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV). You will be charged a fee. Our firm can also help you get a copy.

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    Should I see a doctor after an accident?

    Yes. After a crash, you may feel shaken up but otherwise seem OK. Maybe you are just a little bit sore. You may just want to get home as soon as possible and getting medical attention doesn’t seem necessary. But you could have an injury that had delayed symptoms, such as concussion or internal bleeding.

    It’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible following your accident. You could be examined by EMTs at the scene or be seen at the emergency room of a local hospital. Or see your own doctor within a day or two. A doctor will also document your injuries. This documentation can help your case if you are seeking financial compensation.

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    Do I need a lawyer for a minor car accident?

    You may not, but it’s still a good idea to at least get legal advice. Accidents happen all the time that may seem relatively minor. There may have been slight damage to the vehicles and nobody seems injured. You exchange information with the other driver and let the insurance companies handle it. It may not seem necessary to get a lawyer involved. Then, you realize you have a hidden injury with delayed symptoms, and you’re going to need a lawyer – but you’re already behind.

    An experienced car accident attorney can review the details of your accident, explain your legal options, and give you an idea of what to expect during a free consultation.

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    Can you help me if I was hit by an out-of-state driver? 

    Absolutely. Between the number of tourists visiting the Jacksonville area and the amount of truck traffic that comes down from Georgia, we handle accidents involving out-of-state drivers frequently. We also represent out-of-state drivers who were themselves injured in accidents in Florida and need to be fairly compensated. Pajcic & Pajcic has handled cases nationwide, and we have the resources and connections in the legal community needed to help victims whose accidents cross state lines.

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    How long will my case take to resolve? 

    That depends on the facts of your case. A typical car accident claim will settle between three and nine months after you complete your medical treatment. If your case goes to trial, it may take one to two years before the actual trial date, although we can still negotiate a settlement at any point prior to the verdict. Some cases can take significantly longer to resolve, especially when there are multiple defendants involved.

    We know that you'd like to resolve your case as soon as possible so that you can get on with your life, and we try to do just that whenever possible. However, remember that the insurance companies also know that most victims want a quick settlement. They take advantage of that desire to settle cases for less than they are worth. When you hire Pajcic & Pajcic to handle your case, you can rest assured that we will stand by you every step of the way, no matter how long that takes.

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    Pajcic & Pajcic
    1 Independent Dr Suite 1900
    Jacksonville, FL 32202

    Local: 904-358-8881

    Fax: 904-354-1180