What Happens if I Do Not Report a Car Accident in Florida?
Gregg Hollander | March 25, 2023 | Car Accidents
Hundreds of thousands of car accidents occur each year in Florida. Florida law imposes certain reporting obligations on you even if the accident was not your fault. Failing to report an accident could also result in adverse financial consequences in the event that a personal injury claim arises.
The legal consequences you face in a Florida car accident depend on the seriousness of the accident.
If the Police Fail To Arrive
The police might not bother to investigate, even if you call them and tell them about the accident. An example might be if you backed into a parked car in a mall parking lot. If the police decline to investigate, you must report your accident to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) within 10 days. Failure to do so could result in a $30 fine but no criminal charges.
A “major accident” is one that involves death, injury, or property damage of at least $500. Be careful because you might be surprised how little damage can occur and still exceed $500. Regardless of whose fault the accident was, you must park your car in a safe place (if you can), call the police, wait for them to arrive, and cooperate with them when they arrive. If you leave the scene of the accident before the police arrive, you have committed a crime.
Of course, the police might come regardless of whether you call them. If so, your verbal report of the accident to law enforcement is enough to satisfy your reporting obligation. Further, you have not failed to meet your reporting obligation if your injuries prevented you from talking to the police.
Most car accident claims are paid by insurance. This could apply to you whether the accident was your fault or the other driver’s fault, especially since Florida applies a “no-fault” system to most car accidents.
The problem is that insurance companies almost always ask for police reports before they agree to pay out a claim. If you didn’t report the accident, you might not have a police report to show them.
Failure to produce a police report doesn’t automatically doom your claim. It does reduce the likelihood that your claim will ever resolve to your satisfaction. Even if it doesn’t doom your claim, it can delay payment because the insurance company will have to take the time to investigate your claim yourself.
The “Pre-Existing Injury” Defense
People often seek to ignore car accidents because they don’t believe they were injured and don’t need the “hassle” of dealing with a claim. Unfortunately, however, certain injuries do not produce symptoms until hours or even days later. Whiplash and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are common examples.
It will be difficult for you to prove that your injuries arose from an accident that was never reported. The insurance company might claim that no accident ever occurred or that your injuries arose from some cause other than the accident. The pre-existing injury defense might completely defeat your claim.
If your case goes to trial, remember that courts generally do not accept police reports as evidence in court. They do, however, accept the testimony of the police officer who wrote the report. If the police didn’t come to the scene of the accident, you will be missing a key witness. This could affect not only a trial but also negotiations. After all, your only bargaining leverage with the insurance company is your ability to win at trial.
When in Doubt, Speak With a Boca Raton Car Accident Lawyer
If you are not sure what you should do after a car accident or if you fear the consequences of what you have already done or not done, speak with a Boca Raton personal injury lawyer. Most personal injury lawyers will be happy to grant you an initial consultation free of charge. If they take your case, they probably believe they will win because personal injury lawyers work for a contingency fee.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in South Florida
If you’ve been injured in an accident, please contact our experienced personal injury lawyers in Florida at Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation today. We have three convenient locations in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach.
Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – Boca Raton Law Office
7000 W Palmetto Park Rd #500
Boca Raton, FL 33433
Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – Fort Lauderdale Law Office
200 S.E. 6th Street #203
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – West Palm Beach Law Office
319 Clematis St #203
West Palm Beach, FL 33401