No one sets about their day intending to be involved in a car accident – which is why those involved often appear shell-shocked at the scene. Unfortunately when you’re not thinking clearly, it can lead to mistakes that have larger consequences. One such possibility in Broward car accident cases is accepting money on-the-spot from the at-fault driver.
There are many reasons why this is bad idea.
Our South Florida personal injury lawyers understand it can be tempting, especially if you don’t think you’re hurt badly and your car seems mostly fine. But it’s important to think about why someone would offer you cash or try to arrange for private payment on-the-spot. There are several possibilities – none of them beneficial to the injured or wronged party.
Why Would a Driver At-Fault Offer Cash at a Broward Car Accident Scene?
If someone offers you cash at a crash scene, that should immediately raise some red flags. To be fair, there is nothing illegal about a driver offering you a cash settlement right away, but it’s highly suspicious.
Among the reasons a negligent driver might be eager to settle matters immediately:
- They don’t want their insurance premiums to spike. This is understandable, and all of us can empathize. After all, even the driver who’s not at-fault may see a slight uptick in their premiums after a claim. But the main problem with this is that you simply do not know the full scope of your property damages and/or injuries in the middle of that moment. If you accept a cash offer in exchange for not reporting the incident or exchanging information, you could be effectively foregoing whatever chance you may have had to be fully compensated.
- They are uninsured or underinsured. In these situations, the at-fault driver may be concerned about statutory penalties, as Florida imposes a fine of between $150 to $500 for driving uninsured. Or they may be concerned that legal action could result in direct legal action against them that could lead to wage garnishment, etc.
- They want to avoid the accident becoming part of their driving record. This may be understandable, but consider that if their existing driving record has them so concerned about a few more points, it may be in the best interests of all road users if they’re held to account.
- They have a suspended license. In Florida, per F.S. 322.34, driving with a suspended license – or one that is revoked, canceled, or disqualified – is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Penalties can be even more serious if it’s a repeat offense. Not only that, but if their license is suspended, they also are likely not insured.
- They are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Driving under the influence (DUI) is a crime on its own, but the punishment increases if they’re impaired and cause an accident – especially if someone is injured. They may make a compelling case in the moment about what they have to lose if you summon authorities, etc. But consider that statistically speaking, the average drunk driver has driven impaired 80 times before their first arrest, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. They are a danger not only to themselves but to others with whom they share the road, and even if you’re physically Ok, the next person who encounters them may not be so fortunate.
- They want to avoid paying more in a legal claim. As mentioned before, it’s almost impossible for crash victims at the scene to accurately tally the full scope of damages. But there is a good chance that whatever they are offering upfront in cash is less than what you’d likely receive if you’re filing a claim.
Risks You Run Accepting Cash at a Florida Crash Scene
There are numerous reasons why it’s unwise to accept cash from the other driver at the crash scene – particularly if you’re doing so in exchange for not involving police or insurers.
Let’s start with the fact that per F.S. 316.065, if you’re involved in a Florida car accident, you’re required to immediately contact police to report any crash that involves:
- Injury to a person.
- Death of a person.
- $500 or more in property damage.
If you do not report a crash that meets these criteria, it’s penalized as a non-criminal infraction. But the bigger concern is what it could mean for you financially.
Florida is a no-fault state for car accidents. This means that basically every driver (motorcyclists excluded) must have personal injury protection coverage that provides up to $10,000 in damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) to their own insureds – regardless of who is at-fault for the collision. It’s only when someone is seriously injured per F.S. 627.737 that they’re allowed to step outside that no-fault system and pursue legal action against the at-fault driver. But if you don’t properly report the crash or obtain the other driver’s information, your own PIP insurer is likely to give you a tough time. Reporting the crash and filing an insurance claim is about punishing the at-fault driver than it is ensuring you are fairly compensated.
Beyond this, you may be more seriously hurt than you realize. Neck injuries, internal injuries, spinal injuries, back injuries, head injuries – they aren’t always immediately apparent. You may feel fine, only to discover hours or days later that in fact, your crash-related injuries are more serious than they seemed initially. Crash-related head and neck injuries in particular are notorious for not fully revealing themselves immediately.
This same principle is true for vehicle damage. Crash-related damages aren’t always immediately visible, and you won’t know for sure until you’ve had a mechanic conduct a thorough check. Even if you notice damage and conclude it’s not that bad, it may end up being more expensive than you realize. If you accept a few hundred bucks from the other driver in exchange for not reporting the crash – only to find out later the cost is going to be well over $1,000 – guess who is stuck holding the bill for that?
The bottom line is that even if the crash is relatively minor, going about properly reporting it and filing a claim protects your best interests.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
Involved in a Crash? Florida Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles
More Blog Entries:
Distracted Rideshare Drivers Can Cause Deadly Florida Car Accidents, Oct. 20, 2022, Broward Car Accident Lawyer Blog