After handling thousands of automobile accident cases, I notice the same issues continue to plague my clients. Some are controllable. Some aren’t. Here are my top issues!
1. Was the injured person wearing a seat belt?
No juror likes when the injured victim doesn’t wear a seat belt. If you aren’t wearing it I can guarantee that in the vast majority of cases the monetary value of your injuries will be reduced. Florida law requires that seat belts be used. Don’t mess around! Make everyone in the car buckle up. You will be glad you did.
2. Was there property damage? Did either or both vehicles get towed? Did the airbags go off?
I know a defense attorney who brags that when there is no property damage he will hold up the photographs of the vehicle and let the jury regard the plaintiff with suspicion. If your car is damaged you need it well documented. Property Damage is one of the “sexy” elements of the case. Juries like to look at crushed vehicles and say “ouch” that must have hurt. Airbags that go off help stop injury but that only happens when the crash is significant! If one or both cars were towed it makes the jury realize that people were likely to be hurt in this crash. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a case without it. But it is a harder case. Getting great evidence early in the case, like undercarriage photos and body shop worker testimony, is crucial. Call an attorney whose investigators will go out quickly and take photos to preserve your rights in the accident case.
3. Was the plaintiff taken to the hospital by ambulance?
Getting taken to the hospital is a sure-fire way to prove you were hurt at the scene. Getting a photo of yourself being wheeled into the ambulance is even better, but that is a rare bit of evidence treasure in a vehicle accident case. When news crews show up at the accident scene we use their footage. If you don’t go by ambulance then getting to the hospital immediately afterward helps, but not as much. If you don’t go to the hospital then go to an Urgent Care Center to report your injuries. If you aren’t hurt then you are not required to go to the doctor. But if you are hurt and you try to “tough it out” you will be punished for your bravery. The defendant’s insurance company will say you are a liar and are faking the injury if you wait to go to the doctor for a week or two and then complain that you were hurt in the accident. So, do not wait. Get treated fast and then call an accident attorney to help you get your doctor bills paid.
4. Was anyone cited?
In Florida, the police officers are somewhat constrained about the ticket and who is at fault. We have seen our clients cited and then still collect on an injury case. However, it is a lot harder than when the defendant is cited and the plaintiff is obviously in the right. Juries never hear about who got the ticket but the adjuster does, as does the attorney and the person cited. So when the defendant driver is set for deposition it is a lot harder to manipulate the truth to avoid responsibility. Keep in mind, that even when the police don’t cite anyone, the crash report will provide not only the demographic information of the parties but will also mention statements made by the parties, list witness and their statements. The report even contains a level of responsibility for the crash by listing the responsible party first and the victim later. Make sure the police always investigate and document every crash you are in. Don’t trust the defendant to do the right thing and admit fault later on. That doesn’t happen too often.
5. What does the Computer Say? (e.g. Black Boxes and OnStar)
Today’s new cars have black boxes like airplanes. They have built-in navigation systems. They have cloud-based tracking devices with automatic emergency calling capacity. They also track and document speed, braking, maneuvering, etc. If you are in an accident and your car has any of these capacities you should make a request to get those reports. Timing and preservation of evidence are important. We can help gather those vital pieces of evidence early in the process to win that case later on.
6. Video is a hit in court!
Nearly everyone carries a mini video camera around with them. When they hear a crash they start videotaping. Look around after an accident. If anyone is taking a video get their name and number. Ask them for a copy. Ask if they will preserve that evidence for you to assist you. Further, look at all intersections. There are numerous new red light cameras recording all the motorists going through that intersection. Those cameras will be able to tell if the light was red, yellow or green at the time of the accident. We handle hundreds of intersection crashes every year. Each one is a little different but most of them have a common element – one person says their light was green, and the other person says their light was also green! Who is telling the truth? Witnesses help – but not as much as an intersection camera with video! So make sure you investigate this important aspect of the case!
7. What type of crash was it? A rear-ender, Head On, T-Bone or Sideswipe? Were there right of way issues? Was it at an intersection?
The place where an accident happens and the mechanics of the accident both affect liability and damages. Rear-end accidents often have clear liability. Intersection accidents, which are often T-bone crashes or even head-on collisions, frequently have disputed liability claims, so their values vary greatly depending on the physical damages to the injured victim. The way cars collide can also have a direct impact on what type of human damages occur. Rear-end collisions often cause neck and back injuries. Sideswipes often are related to shoulder, elbow, wrist, foot, knee and other injuries. This is not to say rear-end crashes can’t cause knee injuries. But knowing the physics of how an accident occurred will help explain the biomechanics of how the body was hurt. Using a lawyer with trained medical professionals on staff, like our Registered Nurse, will help your lawyer better understand and maximize value in your injury case.
8. Intoxication, Impairment, Texting & Driving, Drag Racing are all factors to greatly enhance your case
Illegal driving will create huge monetary damages. Anything the defendant does to move the negligence from regular accident to reckless or illegal conduct will add tremendous value to your accident case. Illegal activities such as drinking and driving, using drugs or huffing and driving, and even texting and driving (now illegal in Florida) will allow you to ask the jury for punitive damages. The mere threat of punitive damages will force the insurance carrier into settling the case for more than they ever wanted to offer. In one case we settled a DUI accident case for $1,100,000. That case, with identical injuries, would have settled for $150,000 if not for the DUI!
9. Lying about prior injuries and accidents
There is no quicker way to ruin your case than to lie about a prior injury from a prior accident. The insurance industry has a special computer called “the index” that registers every accident claim for the last 50 years. A lie will ruin your credibility. That alone is the single easiest way to devalue your case. However, by admitting and facing all of your prior problems and history you can use it to your advantage and increase the value of your case. Everyone has a history and trying to hide it will ruin your case. Admitting it and fixing it will help!
If you have a question or need to maximize the value of your injury case please call us now at (561) 623-3681 for a free no-obligation evaluation of your case. We charge no fees or costs unless we get you money. Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. We speak Spanish, English and Creole.