What To Do When Involved in a Car Accident

Everyday people are involved in car accidents. Hopefully it is not you! But if it was, would you know what to do immediately following the accident? My guess is that most people do not because the law is boring to read and no one really has the time to do all the research over something they hope never occurs. So below I try to explain what the law requires if you are in an accident and hopefully in a way that is not as boring as the statutory language… just remember “report the accident.”

Previously published on Eric J Dirga, PA blogger account on April 16, 2014.

Did I just hit that car?

I will skip over the obvious – if an accident occurs and there has been a death or serious bodily injury you have to remain at the scene, render aid, and call the police and emergency response personnel (911). If you don’t bad things will happen.

Let’s say you are in the typical accident, there is damage to property, and it is too early to tell if anyone is injured because you are all walking around filled with adrenaline. If neither car is operable you will be staying around. You could run but an easy check of the Vehicle Identification Number is going to be the path law enforcement takes to track you down and charge you with Leaving The Scene – you don’t want that.

I damaged someone’s property!

So you have damaged someone’s property, in this case their car but it could be a mailbox or some other property. The law (section 316.061, Fla. Stat.) requires that you stop and remain at the scene. If the vehicles are obstructing traffic you have to do you best to SAFELY move the vehicles out of the path of traffic (section 316.071, Fla. Stat.). If you alone cannot move the vehicle then you must try and solicit help from others. Only do this if it is safe. I would suggest taking pictures first but don’t wait too long – those people you are blocking want to get to where they are going now and you are inconveniencing them.

Vehicles are moved – Can I go now?

Okay, you have moved the vehicles and traffic is moving smoothly. No rubbernecking or anything! Okay, there are a bunch of rubberneckers that just don’t care about the people behind them – THEY have to see what happened before they drive on and forget it. What do you have to do now?
According to the law (section 316.062, Fla. Stat. if your checking) you have to exchange information with the other driver or property owner (in case you ran over his mailbox). The information consists of the following:

  • Your legal name, not one made-up. (Section 316.067, Fla. Stat. makes it a crime to deliberately lie to the police in this situation.)
  • Your correct address.
  • The registration number of the vehicle you were driving.
  • And, if requested, present your driver’s license or permit to drive.

That is all to the other person(s) involved in the crash. When law enforcement arrives you will also have to give all that information to the police (and they will request your driver’s license). Additionally, the police will require that you share your insurance information (section 316.070, Fla. Stat.) with the other parties and with him.

Hey, no police arrived? What now?

This would be a rare situation. But, let’s say it happens. If you have shared all the above information with the other people involved in the accident you should be okay to leave unless there has been a death or injury or the property damage is $500 or more (section 316.065, Fla. Stat.). If there was a death, injury, $500 or more in property damage, or you cannot share the information with those others involved in the accident (for whatever reason) then you must immediately go to the nearest police agency and report the crash (or call using your cell phone – some of these statutes are old school).

I don’t want to talk to the police ’cause they may arrest me!

Well, that may seem like a valid reason to stay quiet however, during an accident investigation, you are required to cooperate fully with law enforcement and report the accident. They have a lot to put in their report (section 316.066, Fla. Stat.). Nothing said during that accident investigation can be used against you in a criminal case (or traffic hearing for that matter).

If, however, the police say something like “I’m concluding my accident investigation and now I am starting my criminal investigation…” and then they read you your rights – that’s the signal to be quiet. You probably won’t but that is the time to invoke your right to remain silent. I suggest saying “Okay, I will invoke my right to remain silent and want an attorney present on my behalf during any further questioning of me.”

Hey, I damaged some property but no one is around to give my information to!

Yikes! You hit a parked car and no one is around to exchange information with. Can you just leave? No, they have thought of that possibility too (section 316.063, Fla. Stat.). In a case where the property is unattended you have to  do the following to report the accident:

  • Immediately stop – suppress that urge to drive away!
  • Try to locate the owner of the property (and if located exchange the information noted above).
  • If not located, securely and conspicuously place on the damaged property the information required above.
  • Finally, you have to call the police and report the accident. If you don’t they will hunt you down and arrest you for leaving.

Hey, I was knocked out and taken to the hospital. I can’t report this or exchange information!

Yes, they have thought of that too. And you are right – you do not have to report the accident or exchange information in that scenario. Odds are the police will find you and get the information at that time. If there were other people in your car during the accident that are not injured they will be required to exchange the information and cooperate with the accident investigation.

If there were no others in the car, the police did not find you, then within 10-days of the accident the owner of the vehicle (that could be you) has to report the accident. If you are the owner and due to the accident still cannot report the accident within 10-days you will have to report it at your earliest ability.

Today, that rarely happens. The police will find you at the hospital and take care of that requirement.

Please note the date this article was published. The information listed above is subject to change as changes are made to the laws. The information written above is meant only to be for Informational Purposes Only and is not legal advice.

If any corrections or errors are found please notify me as soon as possible.

has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1995. His office is Eric J. Dirga, PA, located online in Orlando, FL. He provides legal representation for traffic issues throughout the state of Florida.

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