Last Update: 5/19/18
Can You Still Receive Compensation For Your Injuries?
Here in South Florida, people get hurt in all sorts of ways – car accidents, slip and falls, sporting accidents, injuries at the water-park, maybe even falling down the stairs at a shopping mall.
When these events occur, sometimes it may seem logical to just go home and take care of your injuries yourself. Maybe, you do not feel hurt at the time of the accident or you are not bleeding.
No matter what the circumstances are, you should always seek immediate medical attention when you are injured in a car accident or when you have a slip and fall in Florida or other personal injury. This is true even if you do not have automobile insurance or health insurance (there are plenty of doctors that will treat you even if you have no insurance, especially if you have a personal injury claim).
One reason for this recommendation is because waiting to see a doctor can negatively impact any benefits that you may be entitled to (see below) and impact the value of any injury claim you may have. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t recover compensation for your injuries, including your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, etc.; it just makes things more difficult to get fair compensation.
Protecting Your Legal Rights After A Car Accident Or Other Personal Injury
One thing is clear: it is important at the time of your injury to immediately report the incident to the property owner, store manager or to the police, as well as filing a police report (especially in a car crash), so as to document what happened to you.
Also, if you are hurt in a car accident, in order to preserve your rights under your PIP coverage, it is equally important to notify your insurance company about your accident and to go see a doctor within two weeks (14 days) of the accident (see below).
What Happens When You Are Hurt And You Don’t Make a Report Immediately After a Car Accident, Slip and Fall Or Other Personal Injury?
Having a record of what happened, a record that is close in time to the date the accident or injury occurs, is essential in building and proving your case. This is true especially when you may need to prove months later, or years later, that you were not responsible for the accident.
Incident reports filed with mall management or with a grocery store manager after a slip and fall on their premises or a police report after a car accident are often the key pieces of evidence to prove a case at a later date (they document the time of the incident, descriptions of conditions, locations, names of potential witnesses, and other important information).
However, failing to get this documentation timely does not mean that you don’t have a case; all it means is that you have made it much harder to prove your case.
Is There A Deadline to See a Doctor After You Are Injured In A Car Accident?
Florida is one of the minority states in this country that has mandatory $10,000.00 Personal Injury Protection (PIP or No-Fault) coverage requirements for all cars registered in Florida. This is injury coverage contained within your own car insurance policy. It covers lost wages, and provides you with up to $10,000 no fault coverage after an auto accident.
However, as of 2015, if you do not go see a doctor and get medical care for your injuries within 14 days of the event, then under Florida law your car insurance policy will not provide PIP coverage and you will not receive any of the $10,000.00 PIP benefit for medical care.
That’s the law right now. If you wait, you lose your rights.
PIP/no-fault insurance is first party insurance that protects you to a limited extent for your medical bills and lost wages resulting from an automobile accident.
Bottom line, if you fail to get medical treatment within two weeks of your Florida car accident, then you you will have waived your PIP claim; but this does not mean you cannot recover compensation from the defendant for pain and suffering, lost wages and other economic and non-economic losses.
How Will An Insurance Company React If You Wait to See a Doctor After A Car Accident Or Other Personal Injury?
By waiting to see a doctor a victim is providing the negligent party, via their insurance company, with a defense to use against the victim. As a result, the insurance company will likely deny the claim or make a low ball offer based upon their assertion that the victim’s injuries are not related to the accident.
Why Do People Wait To File A Claim? Post-Traumatic Stress?
The thought of filing a lawsuit can be overwhelming after a car accident or other personal injury. Also, a victim may be dealing with the symptoms of post traumatic stress, which includes sleeplessness, fatigue, flashbacks and other issues.
An experienced personal injury lawyer should help alleviate this stress by spending time with the victim and explain how the law works, what their options are in terms of recovering compensation and the steps involved in a lawsuit. Most victims do not want to be re-victimized by an insurance adjuster or defense attorney. Your personal injury attorney should make sure that doesn’t happen!
How Do You Overcome The Insurance Company’s Claim Your Injury Isn’t Related Because You Delayed Treatment?
If you are hurt in some type of accident caused by another person’s negligence, the decision to seek medical attention is not always an easy one to make when you have no insurance or your insurance is subject to a large deductible.
For these reasons, many victims will not seek medical attention for days or even weeks after a trauma. When this happens, it is critical that a victim visit a doctor and provide the doctor with the following information:
- an accurate account of the car accident or slip and fall;
- an accurate history of when they felt injured; and
- an accurate account of which areas of their body are now being affected by the fall or car accident.
In those circumstances where a victim waits to seek treatment, often times you will see in a doctor’s initial entry in the victim’s medical chart something to the effect: “Patient is a ___ year old man who was involved in a slip and fall at a grocery store two weeks ago. At the time, he felt that he twisted his ankle and he was also in discomfort. He decided to go home and ice his ankle. He had considerable problems ambulating. After three days, he did not feel improvement and he was still swollen. Additionally, about three days after the accident he felt pain in his low back. He then decided that he needed medical assessment and has come to this office.”
Furthermore, accident victims sometimes do not seek immediate medical help either on account of believing the injury will go away on its own or that the injuries did not produce pain symptoms until days after the incident. That is a fairly common occurrence, especially in strain and sprain soft tissue injuries and other delayed injuries (back, shoulder or neck pain, nausea, or symptoms like a headache or dizziness from a concussion, which may never go away – often times, these injuries don’t show up for weeks or even months after a car accident).
Overcoming the insurance company’s contention that the victim’s injury is either unrelated to the accident due to a delay in treatment or that an injury could not have been bad as there were no symptoms at the scene of the accident is difficult to do.
In these situations, it is necessary to educate the insurance adjuster or a jury that severe injuries can occur even though there were few, if any, symptoms immediately after the slip and fall or car accident.
An experienced Florida personal injury lawyer will know how to minimize the risk of these “delayed treatment” arguments by preparing the client and the doctors to testify in a logical fashion that will make sense to an ordinary juror who might very well have done the same thing in the same situation.
Why Type of Damages Can a Victim Recover?
In Florida, if a victim is able to prove negligence and prove the negligence was the cause of the accident, the victim can potentially recover economic (monetary) damages, and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are monetary losses a victim may have incurred, such as:
- Medical bills,
- EMS bills,
- Out of pocket expenses,
- Lost wages
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and Suffering,
- Loss of consortium,
- Emotional distress
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
For a sample list of car accident and slip and fall cases successfully settled or won by Alan Sackrin, see: Sample Case Verdicts and Settlements
What Should You Do?
A good piece of advice if you waited to see a doctor after a personal injury or did not immediately file a report with the appropriate authorities is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn what you should tell your doctor and to get an idea of how your delay in seeking medical treatment may impact your personal injury claim. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
How does waiting to see a doctor impact your Florida car accident claim?
- Settling A Florida Personal Injury Claim Without A Lawyer
- Did You Delay Seeing a Doctor Because it Didn’t Hurt That Bad At First?: The Case of the 5 Month Back Surgery Delay
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.
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