Should I File a Lawsuit or Insurance Claim After a Car Accident?
A car crash can have a monumental impact on your life. It doesn't matter if the auto accident was big or small. You may be at a loss for what to do following an accident. One of the questions that may arise is if you should file a lawsuit or insurance claim after the crash.
At Chanfrau & Chanfrau, we can help break the process down into manageable steps that help eliminate any confusion about what to do next. We've offered guidance to clients in Flagler Beach, Daytona Beach, Palm Coast, and other east-central Florida communities. Let's go over some initial considerations after a crash, then pivot to a comparison of insurance claims and filing civil litigation over a car accident.
The Initial Steps You Should Take After a Car Accident
The steps you should take after a crash depend on the nature of the collision.
Injuries, Fatalities, and Damage of $500 or More
Per Florida law, motorists must notify local law enforcement if they were involved in a collision that caused injuries, fatalities, or at least $500 in property damage. It’s important to file a police report as the first step in the post-accident process.
Within 10 days after a crash investigation by law enforcement, the authorities will create a long-form or short-form crash report. This must be submitted to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Minor Collisions Resulting in Less Than $500 in Damage
However, if the accident was less significant, you can complete a “Driver Report of Traffic Crash (Self Report)” or “Driver Exchange of Information” online.
Our Law Firm Can Help You After Your Accident
Regardless what kind of crash you were in, the team at our Daytona Beach law office or Palm Coast law office can help you complete all these steps. We'll guide you through the process and ensure everything is completed in a timely manner.
Understanding Car Accident Insurance Claims
Since Florida is a no-fault state, all parties have to file a claim with their own insurance company.
Insurance Requirements in Florida
Florida requires drivers to have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. No matter who was at fault, PIP coverage amounts to 80% of all reasonable medical costs up $10,000.
Florida also requires drivers to have Property Damage Liability (PDL) coverage. PDL automobile insurance covers damage to another person’s property.
Where to Start with Insurance Claims
Even if you weren’t at fault for the accident, a good place to start is filing an insurance claim with your provider to reap the benefits that come with PIP and PDL coverage.
When it’s possible to file an insurance claim and get everything you need out of the coverage available, this is typically a quicker process than to going through the courts. Lawsuits can take years to complete.
Getting the Other Motorist's Insurance Information
Since Florida is a no-fault state, you may not need to exchange insurance information. If you do need the other person's insurance info, there’s an easy way to request it.
You or our lawyer can request the other party’s insurance by completing an insurance request form. You’ll also need to get a copy of your crash report to include with the insurance request form. This can be a good first step to take to get the coverage you need after an accident.
Remember: Insurance Coverage Isn't Always Enough
Our legal team knows that for catastrophic auto accidents, the coverage afforded by insurance doesn’t always take care of all damages. In this case, our team may recommend you consider filing a lawsuit. We can give you that guidance during a case review.
When to Consider Filing a Lawsuit
There are many instances when insurance coverage alone isn’t enough. The medical bills can mount up, particularly if physical rehabilitation and long-term medical care is necessary.
Attorneys Will Evaluate Your Case's Value and Potential
Before filing a lawsuit, we encourage you to meet with use here at Chanfrau & Chanfrau. We can offer guidance on the strength of your case, the potential outcomes you may see, and whether pursuing a lawsuit is the best course of action.
We consider the following when determining if a lawsuit is the right course of action for you:
- Severity of the Accident - Can your injuries, medical costs, property damage, and other costs be covered through insurance? If so, this can be a quicker and easier process, which we can guide you along. However, if you’ve sustained serious injuries and expenses, these damages may be beyond what insurance can provide.
- Insurance Disputes - If your insurance is unwilling to provide a fair settlement, you may want to consider filing a lawsuit. Our team can communicate with your insurance to try to negotiate a fair deal. Sometimes issues cannot be settled out of court.
Pay Attention to the Statute of Limitations
If you do decide that a lawsuit is the best course of action, note that the statute of limitations in Florida is two years. The timeframe used to be four years until new tort reform laws went into effect earlier in 2023.
You must file your lawsuit within two years of the date of the auto accident.
Our law firm can ensure you meet this and other deadlines that may arise during the lawsuit process. Hiring a lawyer allows you to gain peace of mind that everything is on track and running smoothly.
We Help You Weigh the Pros and Cons
That was a lot of information to take in, so let's boil this down to some key takeaways:
- When considering if you should file a lawsuit or an insurance claim, consider the financial and time-related implications that come with filing a lawsuit.
- If you can get what you need out of an insurance claim, this may be the better choice to save you time, money, and effort.
- Sometimes a lawsuit is necessary to secure the amount of compensation you need to cover all damages.
- If you are going to file a lawsuit, you have just two years from the date of the crash to pursue legal action.
Get Guidance After a Crash
Contact Our Law Firm Today
The team at Chanfrau & Chanfrau are here to help you determine which path is right for you and offer support based on your need. Start exploring your options for compensation with us. Contact our law offices today to set up a free consultation.
About William Chanfrau, Jr.
William M. Chanfrau, Jr. began his legal career in 1997 working for the State Attorney's office. He joined his father's practice in 2001 and became a managing partner at the firm in 2007. Mr. Chanfrau is a member of the Florida Bar, the Southern Trial Lawyers Association, the Volusia Civil Trial Lawyers Association, and other legal organizations.