When car accidents happen, adrenaline, stress, and shock can keep you from thinking clearly in the immediate aftermath. That’s why accepting cash from an at-fault drive might seem like a good idea at that moment. After all, you need your car, you’ll need to pay for repairs as quickly as possible to get it back on the road, and insurance claims and settlements can take forever and feel like a giant hassle.
However, if you’re ever faced with this - a driver who hits you and offers you cash on the spot to pay for damages instead of filing a claim with insurance - it’s best to go through the red tape to make sure you are getting all the compensation you are entitled to.
Car Accidents in the State of Florida
First of all, you should know that Florida is a “no fault” state when it comes to car accidents. That simply means that if you are in a car accident in Florida, both parties immediately turn to their insurance companies to file claims and get the wheels to compensation moving. Even if there is a clearly responsible party for the accident, both parties still have to go through their insurance companies.
An at-fault driver may decide they don’t want to go through their insurance company, and they may offer you compensation on the spot to avoid that. Offering cash to an accident victim is not illegal. Therefore, the reason you shouldn’t accept the cash has nothing to do with legality. Instead, it has everything to do with protecting yourself.
Why You Shouldn't Accept Cash
The reason for not accepting cash is pretty simple: the situation needs to be assessed by professionals before you know exactly what kind of compensation you will need to get back on the road. When you accept that cash payment, it becomes a lot more difficult to go back to the at-fault party for additional compensation, even though you did not sign a release at the scene.
When it comes to compensation, you need to keep in mind three things:
You may be injured.
Right after an accident, you may not realize that you’ve been injured in that accident. When adrenaline and shock take over, it can mask any pain that you should be feeling. It may take hours or even days to feel the resulting stiffness or soreness that you may experience in your neck or back. When working through insurance, you could be compensated for doctor visits, treatments and time missed from work. A cash offer usually doesn’t take these kinds of things into consideration.
2. You can’t be sure how much repairs will cost.
At first glance, the damage to your vehicle may not seem so bad. It might seem quick and easy to just take a cash payment and avoid the hassle of estimates and insurance companies. As any auto body professional can tell you, though, surface damage is often not the only damage to a car after an accident. The dented fender and broken light might be covered by the cash offered to you, but there is a good chance there is $1,000s of damage that you can’t see whether to your exhaust system, suspension, or frame. Those damages are now your responsibility.
3. You will need something to drive in the meantime.
While your car is being repaired, you will most likely need a rental car to make sure you are still able to get to work, the kids to school, or whatever else your obligations involve. Chances are that a quick acceptance of cash at the scene won’t take these additional expenses into consideration either.
In short, there are more expenses involved with a car accident than just car damage. While it isn’t illegal to accept money at the scene, the chances are high that you are setting yourself up to paying a lot out of pocket to cover the rest. So, if you’re in an accident and you’re asked to settle it then and there, remember that calling the police to fill out an accident report, and then going through insurance should be your first step.
If you’re still unsure what to do after an accident, contact Steven Bagen & Associates to help you get the compensation you’re entitled to. With decades of experience under our belts in personal injury law, we will work with you to get you the money and peace of mind you need to move forward with your life.