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Minor Car Accidents in Florida: When to File a Personal Injury Claim?

Minor Car Accidents in Florida: When to File a Personal Injury Claim?

Personal injury claims from car accidents are often associated with severe incapacitating injuries and fatalities. Insights into alarming auto accident figures in St. Petersburg, Florida, will show you that out of 16,462 crashes in 2021, 6,546 resulted in injuries, while 146 resulted in fatalities. All the others only had property damages.

Many overlook car accidents that result only in property damage. This is because most of them have automatic insurance policy coverage. However, it’s not always that simple. A seemingly minor car accident may still have significant consequences for the individuals. Hence, it is important to know when it is best to file a personal injury claim for property damages arising from car accidents.

What Qualifies as a Minor Car Accident in Florida?

As of 2021, data from the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) shows that the Sunshine State records an average of 1,100 crashes a day. That’s a total of 401,500 for the year.

Out of that number, a total of 234,130 involve property damage only. That means around 58% of total car crashes in Florida don’t involve incapacitating injuries and fatalities. However, not all of these incidents are minor car accidents.

To be categorized as a minor car accident, all the following elements must be present:

  • Property damage involved must not be more than $500.
  • The accident must not result in physical injuries.
  • The accident must not involve commercial vehicles.

While it is fortunate that a majority of car accidents in Florida do not result in severe injuries and loss of life, property damages may still result in financial losses and inconveniences for those involved.

Why It Is Important to Know What a Minor Car Accident Is

Knowing what qualifies as a minor car accident in Florida is important. After all, it determines the legal requirements for reporting the accident and seeking compensation.

  • Reporting Requirements

Florida statutes don’t require drivers to report a minor car accident to the police. For example, if your car sustains minor dents or scratches, and such damage does not exceed $500 to repair, you will not need to file a police report. However, you must file a Driver Report of Traffic Crash (Self Report) or Driver Exchange of Information with the FLHSMV.

  • Insurance Coverage

Since the state of Florida requires drivers to have a minimum coverage of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) and property damage liability (PDL), your insurance can easily cover damages in the event of a minor car accident.

You must also remember that Florida is a no-fault car insurance state. As such, you can file a claim even though the damage to your vehicle is due to your negligence or mistake.

What If the Property Damage Is Worth More Than $500?

If the damage to your car is worth more than $500 and you suffered some injuries like bruises, cuts, and lacerations, then you may have grounds to file a personal injury claim against the negligent party.

When this happens, you must be more proactive to ensure you have sufficient evidence to back up your claim. Here’s a short guide on what to do:

  • Call the Police

In Florida, car accidents that result in serious damage, injuries, and death must be reported to the police. Otherwise, you could be sued for committing a hit-and-run. Hence, you need to call the police at the scene of the accident.

Calling the police not only ensures that the incident is properly documented but also helps in determining fault and obtaining an accurate report for insurance purposes. Additionally, having a police report can strengthen your case if you need to file a claim or seek legal action against the other driver.

  • Take Photographs of the Damage

If you’re capable of doing so, take photographs of the damage that your vehicle has sustained. These photographs can serve as valuable evidence when dealing with insurance companies, especially when the cost of the damage is quite substantial. It is important to capture multiple angles and close-ups of the damage, as well as any skid marks or debris left at the scene.

  • Gather Witnesses and Record Their Statements

Witnesses on the scene can help establish or substantiate the negligence of the other party. Their testimonies can provide crucial information about the events leading up to the accident and help determine who is at fault. Don’t forget to gather their contact information in case their statements are required for further investigation and legal action.

  • Keep Medical Records and Receipts

Whether you suffered minor or major injuries after the accident, keeping your medical records and receipts is crucial. After all, both insurance and legal representation may need them. These records form part of the basis for insurance companies and courts to determine how much your medical reimbursement should be.

  • Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer

Consulting with a personal injury attorney can help you navigate the legal process. Thus, ensure you receive fair compensation for your damages and injuries. Additionally, a lawyer can give their professional opinion on whether or not your personal injury claim has a strong chance of success.

They can assess the strength of your case, help gather more evidence, and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf. With their expertise and experience, they can guide you through the complexities of the legal system. Thus, helping you make informed decisions about your claim.

Always Err on the Side of Caution

If you are involved in a car accident and you’re unsure if the damages to your property are worth more or less than $500, it is best to err on the side of caution. You must still be proactive in recording any evidence and calling the police to report the accident.

Even if the damages seem minor, it is important to document everything. This is because insurance companies may require thorough documentation for processing claims. While minor car accidents are not required to be reported to the police, you always have the option to do so if you believe it is necessary.

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