Florida experienced over 400,000 traffic accidents in 2019, at an average rate of 1,101 a day. More than half of these crashes resulted in injuries — a total of 254,816 — along with 3,185 fatalities.
According to a report released by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in 2019, the three most frequent contributing factors that cause injuries were:
Careless or Negligent Driving
Failing To Yield The Right of Way
Failing To Stay In The Proper Lane.
Once you’re involved in an accident — injury or no injury — you’re going to have to report the event to your insurance provider. Once your insurance company is notified, they will have an insurance adjuster call you to get the details. If you have been injured in the accident, it’s likely that the adjuster will badger you with questions in an attempt to minimize or deny your claim.
Which begs the question: Should you even speak to the adjuster, let alone let them record your conversation?
If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident in Altamonte Springs, Florida, or in the nearby Central Florida communities of Orange, Osceola, Seminole, or Volusia, call my firm, the Law Office of Mark A. Cornelius, P.A. Since 1994, I have been helping clients deal with insurance companies and their adjusters to help accident victims recover the compensation they deserve — and I’d be proud to help you with your case.
Florida requires each driver to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and at least $10,000 in Property Damage Liability. (note: as of May 2021 a bill is on the way to the governor's desk that will change this and take away this requirement and replace it with a requirement to carry $25,000 in Bodily Injury coverage)
Being a no-fault state means that when you are injured in an accident, you must first turn to your own PIP insurance. The problem with this is that your insurance company will generally cover only 80 percent of your medical expenses and lost wages. If you can show that the other driver was at fault for the accident, you can attempt to recover the remaining damages from that person’s insurance company. This, of course, means you will likely be contacted by an insurance adjuster from their insurance company after dealing with your own.
Florida law allows you to collect pain and suffering damages for compensation following a personal injury only when you’ve suffered what is called a “serious injury.” Serious injuries are those that result in:
Permanent limited use of a major body function or system
Substantially full disability for at least 90 days
A personal injury lawsuit, if successful, can allow you to recover compensation for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages in addition to medical expenses and lost wages. However, Florida also uses a pure comparative negligence standard, meaning that a jury will assign a percentage of fault to each driver involved in the accident. This means that if you are found, for example, to be 25 percent at fault for the accident, and you are awarded $100,000 in compensation, you will only be eligible to receive 75% of that settlement, or $75,000, to account for your level of fault.
Remember, an insurance adjuster works for the insurance company he or she represents. As such, the adjuster’s goal is to minimize or deny liability to preserve healthy profits for the parent company. The insurance adjuster is trained extensively by the head company in ways to trip claimants into making statements that can be used against them during the claims process.
If you’re claiming compensation for injuries, they may start the conversation by asking, “How are you today?” If you respond with “good” or “fine,” they may try to use that to show that your injuries are not as serious as you claim — or argue that you were never even injured in the first place.
If you do submit to the interview, be careful. Don’t volunteer information they don’t ask for, and be brief in all your answers. Never admit guilt of any sort. They’ll use any admission of fault to reduce their liability and low ball or deny your claim. They’ll also try to get you to make contradictory statements, which they can use against you and your claim.
If they ask to record the conversation, politely decline and seek a non-recorded option. You can always tell them you’re in no condition to speak at the moment, so ask them to call back in a few days. In the meantime, you can meet with an attorney who has experience dealing with insurance adjusters. Better yet, turn negotiations over to your attorney entirely before the adjusters get you to say something they might use against you.
Adjusters will also typically try to send you a medical release form that they will attempt to use to dive through your entire medical history. Their goal is to find a pre-existing condition that may have contributed to your injury. Don’t sign the form until and unless an attorney reviews and approves it.
This is also true with any settlement offer they make: Their first offer is invariably going to be some form of “how low are you willing to go?” Remember, any settlement that you accept will be final. If your injury worsens or reappears after signing a settlement, you cannot go back and ask for more compensation. Make sure you have an attorney review any offers that are submitted.
Bottom line: If you’re suffering more than minor scratches, you’re better off relying on the experience and expertise of a skilled auto accident attorney. When the adjusters call, refer them to your attorney, and let them deal with the insurance adjuster’s trickery and tactics. Remember, if you do make a statement, recorded or not, treat it like you have just been read your Miranda Rights — anything you say can and will be used against you.
Trying to go it alone against an insurance adjuster could very well cost you in terms of reaching a fair settlement. That’s why you should rely on me, personal injury attorney Mark A. Cornelius, to handle negotiating with the adjusters and insurance companies. I have over 25 years of experience dealing with their tactics and representing clients like you who have been injured by the negligent actions of another driver.
I also will be able to advise you whether or not a personal injury lawsuit is your best option. Sometimes just putting that option on the table will force insurance companies to negotiate more seriously. At other times, it may be the only route available to pursue the fair level of compensation you deserve for your injuries.
If you or someone you know has suffered an auto accident injury in Altamonte Springs, or in the nearby Central Florida communities of Orange, Osceola, Seminole, or Volusia, call me at the Law Office of Mark A. Cornelius, P.A., today to receive the reliable legal guidance and representation you deserve.