No one expects to be in a car accident, so few people know where to turn when it happens. In an instant, you could be faced with serious injuries, badly damaged property, badgering from insurance company representatives, and many other challenges. At a time such as this, it’s critical to have experienced Sarasota auto accident attorneys such as Dennis Hernandez & Associates, P.A., at your side who will fight for the compensation you deserve to get your life back on track.
Why You Need A Sarasota Auto Accident Attorney
We know how to deal with insurance companies. Every day, the car accident lawyers at Dennis Hernandez & Associates, P.A., negotiate with adjusters and attorneys from all types of insurance companies. We know from experience that even when our clients have followed all the rules, an insurance company’s first priority is to save its money, whether that company covers you or the other driver. Our attorneys understand how insurance companies process claims and whose interests they have in mind. Remember: The insurance companies always have attorneys, and so should you.
Car accident claims and cases can be very complex. No two accidents are the same. Some are minor fender benders, while others result in serious injuries and damage, involve several parties, and are surrounded by circumstances that are anything but clear-cut. Complex cases must be carefully and thoroughly investigated, and damages—both current and future—must be accurately calculated. Our attorneys have successfully represented clients in the most difficult auto accident cases, and we can do the same for you.
Our experts understand the true costs to accident victims. Who can put a price on what your accident has cost you? We can. Our team of Sarasota car accident lawyers includes experts who take into consideration all of the ways you and your loved one’s lives are affected in the immediate aftermath and how they will be affected months or even years from now. When we seek compensation on your behalf, we consider all of your losses, including non-economic damages.
Types of Vehicular Accident Cases We Handle
Since Dennis Hernandez founded our firm in 1996, he and his team of personal injury lawyers have represented clients in a wide range of accidents involving vehicles, including:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Rear-end collisions
- Rollover accidents
- DUI accidents
- Accidents involving commercial trucks or public transportation
5 Myths About Auto Accidents
#1 It’s okay to leave the scene of a minor accident
Even if there are no injuries apparent at first, think twice before driving away without taking any action. Make sure to exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver in case one of you may have suffered an injury that won’t become apparent right away. Even the simplest auto accidents can have unexpected repercussions.
#2 Only law enforcement can determine who is at fault
The role of a police officer at an accident scene (after ensuring everyone at the scene is safe) is to write an accurate accident report. Responsibility for an accident isn’t always easily or quickly determined at the scene, but in any case, law enforcement does not make the final determination of who is at fault. The official accident report does play a central role for insurance companies, and will influence the outcome, but additional evidence may be obtained later by investigators or auto accident attorneys that shed new light on the circumstances.
#3 I have to give a statement to the insurance company to get a settlement
At no point are you obligated to give a recorded statement. Before giving any statement to your or the other driver’s insurance company, consult with an auto accident attorney.
#4 I can determine a settlement amount on my own
Many accident victims only consider the immediate financial effects of the accident, such as medical expenses or car repairs. Some even look for online calculators to find what seems like an appropriate figure. The truth is that there are often non-economic factors involved, and even economic factors that aren’t taken into consideration. To ensure that you get the full compensation you deserve by law, work with a car accident lawyer who can investigate your case and determine an accurate settlement amount.
#5 I can file a claim at any time
Florida laws limit how much time you have to file a claim. Depending upon the circumstances, it could be as little as 24 months. In addition to the statute of limitations, there is another important reason to take prompt action: Over time, critical evidence can be lost and witnesses may not clearly remember the event. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact us as soon as possible.
What Kind of Car Accident Compensation Can You Get?
The team of personal injury lawyers at Dennis Hernandez & Associates, P.A., includes auto accident experts who have helped clients recover millions of dollars in settlements. The compensation we seek on your behalf may include the following types of damages:
Current and future medical expenses: These may include costs for visits to doctors and hospitals, hospitalization, emergency room treatments, and other services received as a result of your injuries. It also can include the costs of medical care you will need in the future due to your accident.
Lost wages: When your accident causes you to miss out on wages you would have earned from the time of your injury, you may be able to receive compensation.
Loss of the capacity to earn an income: Should your injuries affect your ability to earn money in the future, you may be compensated.
Pain and suffering: An injury sustained in an accident can result in pain and suffering due to mental anguish, loss of your capacity to enjoy life, and physical impairments or disability. While there is no set standard for calculating damages from pain and suffering, but most insurance companies acknowledge that injured accident victims are entitled to some compensation for their pain. Each case is unique, and the services of an experienced personal injury attorney are essential for arriving at a fair figure.
Loss of consortium: Should your accident result in a wrongful death suit, compensation may be recovered for a child’s or spouse’s loss of companionship and services.
Checklist: What To Do If You’ve Been in an Auto Accident
It may be difficult to think clearly in the aftermath of a car accident, particularly if anyone has been injured, but it’s important to know what to do if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation. Here are steps you can take at the accident scene and in subsequent days:
Remain at the scene.
Even when the accident seems to be minor, you should stay at the scene and make sure there are no injuries.
Take safety measures.
Turn on your hazard lights and, if you have them, set up flares or triangles around the vehicles.
Move your car if it’s blocking traffic flow or creating a hazard.
Call law enforcement.
Even if no one has been injured, call the police. Having an official accident report may prove invaluable if your accident results in a claim or lawsuit. When speaking with officers (or anyone) at the scene, limit your account of the accident to the facts—avoid speculating about accident details and do not take responsibility for causing the accident. A definitive assignment of fault may not be made until a thorough investigation is done by your auto accident attorney.
Although the responding police officer should collect pertinent information from all parties that were involved in or witness to the accident, you should also get names, contact information, insurance card numbers, and license plate numbers.
Make a visual record of the scene.
If you have a mobile device or camera handy, take photos of:
- Damage to vehicles
- Damage to any other property
- Traffic lights, signs, road markings and other indicators of driving rules at and around the scene
- Road conditions and intersections
Get medical attention.
If you did not already receive medical attention at the scene or immediately following the accident, see a doctor. You should do this even if you don’t believe you have any injuries from the accident, because some types of injuries—such as spinal cord injuries or concussions—may not be evident at first. Later, if you pursue a claim, proof of a prompt doctor visit can help substantiate your personal injury claim. Make sure you seek medical attention promptly: A delay in getting treatment may cause an insurance company to deny your claim.
An important note: If your doctor recommends repeated visits to administer additional treatments or check on your progress, try not to miss any of these appointments. Gaps in treatment can adversely affect the outcome of your personal injury case (including the amount of compensation you recover) because they can be used by insurance adjusters as evidence that your injuries are not at the level of severity you initially claim.
Call Dennis Hernandez & Associates, P.A.
Before you speak with insurance companies, speak with us. Our experienced Sarasota auto accident attorneys offer free initial consultations to help determine the strength of your case. Call us at (941) 210-0000 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation now.
What to Know About Florida PIP
Florida Personal Injury Protection (PIP) statutes set out the requirements for PIP insurance and claims. PIP insurance coverage is intended to pay for lost wages and medical costs incurred as the result of an accident. It’s a type of “no-fault” insurance, which is required in Florida to register your car or get license plates.
The term “no-fault” is confusing for many drivers. In essence, it means that you have the right to get personal injury compensation from the insurance company that covers your vehicle, even if you are the party at fault for your accident.
One of the most important things to know about PIP insurance is that it limits your right to file a suit for compensation. You may, however, still be able to seek compensation under certain conditions, such as if your car accident resulted in death or a severe injury. The accident attorneys at Dennis Hernandez & Associates, P.A., can advise you further on personal injury law as it applies to PIP.
Sarasota, FL Car Accident Statistics
In 2017, there were nearly 400,000 crashes in Florida, with almost 250,000 injuries reported. In Pinellas County, where Sarasota is located, there were close to 18,000 total crashes, 11,000 total injuries, and 114 fatalities according to Florida’s Integrated Report Exchange System. A 2016 report on Pinellas County Traffic Crash Trends and Conditions shows a range of factors that contributed to traffic fatalities, such as aggressive driving, roadway lane departure, and distracted driving. All of these, however, were surpassed by operating a motor vehicle in a careless or negligent manner, the most common cause of traffic fatalities. If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s recklessness on the road, our team of auto accident lawyers has the expertise and successful track record you need to pursue the compensation you deserve.
Auto Accident FAQ
These are some of the questions we hear most frequently when consulting with new clients. If you don’t find the answer to your question below, please don’t hesitate to contact our Sarasota auto accident attorneys.
Q: Can I settle my car accident claim without an attorney?
A: The short answer is yes, but that’s rarely the correct answer. We understand how anxious our auto accident clients are to reach a settlement and resolve the matter, but doing so may mean that you will not receive the full amount of compensation to which you have a legal right. While most car accident cases will settle outside of court, we are prepared to take your case to trial to obtain fair compensation.
Keep in mind that insurance companies and their lawyers hope to settle for as little as possible. Without legal counsel on your side, you may be taken advantage of. With experienced representation, however, opposing attorneys will know that you are prepared to fight to recover all of the damages you are due, including economic and, if applicable, non-economic.
Q: Do I have a claim?
A: Anyone who has been injured in an auto accident is likely to wonder if they have any legal recourse. The truth is, this question doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer; that depends on a wide range of factors that are unique to each person’s case.
Sometimes, intentional negligence on someone else’s part is easily apparent. In other cases, negligent misconduct is not as obvious, but that doesn’t mean it does not exist. In some car accident cases, a driver may be negligent when failing to yield, running a stop sign or red light, or speeding, while in other cases a third party may have acted in a negligent way that contributed to an accident. So each situation is different, and an injured accident victim may have any number of legal avenues to pursue. Because personal injury law can be very complex, we gladly provide free, no-obligation consultations to hear the facts of your case and help you determine whether you have a claim.
Q: What's my claim worth?
A: As with determining the strength of your case, arriving at a reasonable dollar amount for your claim depends upon the specifics of your auto accident and your injuries. This is one of the most important reasons to retain a highly experienced Sarasota auto accident attorney—he or she will be well-versed in every aspect of personal injury law, from local and state laws, to aggressively negotiating with insurance companies and accurately calculating the economic damage and non-economic damages that you may be able to recover. The car accident attorneys at Dennis Hernandez & Associates, P.A., will thoroughly investigate your claim and detail all of your losses due to the accident, including those already incurred and potential losses in the future.
Q: Insurance adjusters are calling me. What should I do?
A: First, it’s important to understand what insurance adjusters do. Their job is to investigate insurance claims and arrive at a number that determines what your claim is worth. While they may appear to be friendly and helpful, they work for the insurance company and want to protect that company’s profits. It’s in their (and the company’s) best interests to keep payouts as low as they can.
Knowing that an adjuster’s goal is to limit the insurance company’s liability, he or she is very likely to attempt to get you to make a recorded statement as soon after the accident as possible. While this may seem like a normal part of the insurance claim process, any recorded statements you make may be used against you should you decide to pursue litigation.
Our advice is simple: Before you make any kind of statement or have any conversations with insurance company representatives, contact us to schedule a free initial consultation, during which we can advise you on how to handle communications with an insurance adjuster.
What to Know About Florida Police Accident Reports
If you’ve been in a car accident in Sarasota, having an official police report is an essential part of your insurance claim. Even if your accident does not appear to be serious, you should call law enforcement to the scene.
According to Florida Statute 316.066, which governs written reports of crashes, a Florida Traffic Crash Report, Long Form, “must be completed and submitted to the department within 10 days after an investigation is completed by the law enforcement officer who in the regular course of duty investigates a motor vehicle crash that resulted in the death of, personal injury to, or any indication of complaints of pain or discomfort by any of the parties or passengers involved in the crash.”
Here’s what you should know about these important reports:
What accident reports must include
The Florida Crash Report, Long Form must include these details:
- The location, date and time the crash occurred
- A description of the vehicles that were involved
- The names and addresses of all drivers and passengers involved, and of witnesses
- The name, badge number and law enforcement agency of the officer who investigated the accident
- The names of the insurance companies for the parties who were involved in the accident
Obtaining a copy of the police accident report
State law provides that those involved in an auto accident can get a physical copy of the accident report (or access it online if the investigating law enforcement agency has that capability) before the 60-day waiting period that parties not involved must adhere to.
What to do if the report has errors
Some reports may have errors that are easily corrected, such as mistakes in the make or model of the vehicles that were involved or a street name. If you find such an error, simply provide evidence to the contrary.
An example of an error that may not be quickly or easily resolved is the report writer’s opinion of who is at fault. If this happens, take the time to write and submit your own statement and ask that it be attached to your accident report.
Our Sarasota Auto Injury Lawyers Fight For You
Don’t try to deal with insurance companies without our skilled car accident lawyers on your side: We have decades of experience handling every aspect of our clients’ accident injury cases, including thoroughly investigating your case, promptly filing your claim, proving the extent of all of your losses, negotiating a proper settlement, and, if needed, litigating your claim in court.
At Dennis Hernandez & Associates, P.A., we use all of our experience and resources to obtain every dollar you deserve for your injuries. Call us today to learn more.