By: Chris Reynolds
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When Do I Hire an Attorney? Florida Car Accident Initial Investigation
Florida accident victims who suffer injury due to a negligent driver often wonder whether they need an attorney, and if so, when should they hire an attorney? One of the first things a car accident victim should know is the victim has the burden of proof. Specifically, this means that the injured person must prove a number of things, including who was at fault, whether or not the person was injured, and whether the car accident caused the injury.
Insurance companies begin their investigation immediately. They will speak with their at-fault driver about the accident and attempt to unearth any facts that might put a portion of fault on the injured victim. Florida is called a “comparative negligence” state, which means that a jury has the option to place a percentage of fault of both parties that adds up to 100%. Though many of our clients over the years are confident initially that the accident was 100% the other driver’s fault, there are many sneaky ways that insurance companies can try to put a percentage of the fault on the injured victim. For example, if the injured party is going through a green light and the at-fault driver runs a red light and causes a collision, if there are no witnesses and no cameras at the intersection, it can quickly become a “he said, she said” situation that could result in 50% of the fault being placed on each party. Or, if the at-fault driver claims that the injured victim was speeding, stopped suddenly, changed lanes quickly, etc., the issue of fault becomes muddled. Having an attorney begin an investigation on behalf of the injured victim quickly can help by identifying and interviewing witnesses, finding and analyzing video footage, and examining the physical evidence at the scene such as debris on the roadway and skid marks, can often allow the attorney to definitively establish the truth that the injured victim was not at fault. Waiting too long, however, can lead to the loss of witness testimony (or their memory of the accident), loss of video footage of the accident, and loss of the ability to examine the physical evidence at the scene.
If the injured party has not hired an attorney, the insurance company may speak with them, and will ask all manner of questions that are aimed at putting fault on the injured party, as well as attempting to minimize the injuries and possibly find other reasons for the cause of the injury that are not related to the car accident. For example, an insurance adjuster might ask how fast the injured party was going at the time of the accident, and the injured person might accidentally state an incorrect speed they thought they were going that was within the speed limit, but in reality was a speed above the speed limit. Here, the insurance company might argue that the injured person was partially at fault for the accident for speeding, even if the person only gave the statement regarding speed as a guess and in reality they were not speeding. Or the insurance company might ask the injured party to list all of the body parts that were hurt, but a few days later a different body part might experience pain. Here, the insurance company might use that first statement to limit the injuries only to that initial statement and refuse to pay for the injury that was not felt until a few days later.
The best way to handle the situation is to hire an attorney as soon as possible so that the attorney can start the investigation immediately, and can prevent the insurance company from getting information on the injuries until medical doctors have a complete picture of all of the injuries the person sustained.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, immediately contact an attorney. Call experienced trial attorney Chris Reynolds for a free consultation and start the investigation of your case as soon as possible.