The aftermath of a car crash can be devastating. You may be dealing with serious, long-term injuries or the loss of a loved one. You have a lot of questions and not many answers. Here are 5 common mistakes to avoid immediately following a car accident:
Mistake #1. Not calling the police.
You should always contact law enforcement immediately after a car accident. In most cases, the police will come to the scene and write an accident report. After the police survey the scene, they may come to a conclusion about the cause or causes of the accident, and they will include that information in the report.
Although the police do not determine fault for civil liability purposes, their professional judgment is valuable in determining how the accident occurred. An accurate police report may help settle a case without having to go to trial.
The police should also get names, insurance information and contact information from everyone involved in the crash. If there were witnesses at the scene, the police may talk to them, as well and get their contact information. The witnesses, like the police, can back up your account of what happened. Even if police get the names and contact information of witnesses, you may also want to get that information if you are physically able to do so.
Mistake #2. Not reporting the accident to your insurance company.
Sometimes, people involved in a crash will decide to try to settle things themselves without involving insurance companies. For example, the other driver may say that he or she will just write you a check to cover your losses.
This is a bad idea. You don’t know if the other driver will follow through, or if he or she even has the money to cover your losses. Not only that, but what might initially seem to be minor property damage or minor injuries could quickly escalate into major problems that are extremely expensive to resolve.
Failing to report an accident could jeopardize your right to have your insurance company pay your claim or to help you to obtain compensation from the at-fault driver. It is best to know that you have followed the rules and have not given your insurer any ammunition to use to deny your claim or refuse to help you collect car accident damages.
Mistake #3. Failing to get checked out by a doctor.
When you get into a crash, you might believe that you are okay and that you didn’t suffer any injuries. However, some injuries do not show up right away. Whiplash, for example, is very common in an accident and can take 24-48 hours to start causing symptoms. Brain injuries, internal bleeding and internal organ damage may also not have any immediate symptoms, but could be life-threatening if you do not seek medical help.
Getting checked out by a doctor allows you to protect your health because your doctor can determine whether you have suffered any serious injuries that were not immediately obvious. When you are examined by a doctor, you also help to preserve your right to make a claim for damages.
Mistake #4. Accepting a settlement too soon or accepting an unfair settlement.
The goal of the insurance company is to try to pay you as little as it possibly can to protect its bottom line. Insurance companies may try to get you to settle right away or may try to pressure you into quickly accepting the money they offer you. This amount is probably too little to fully compensate you. Furthermore, if more serious injuries develop later or if you don’t heal as expected, the money may not be nearly enough to pay for the lasting damage you suffer.
Once you have settled with an insurance company, you are legally bound by the settlement agreement, and there is usually nothing you can do if it turns out that the settlement was too low or that you were hurt worse than you thought. You do not want to give up your rights and walk away with less compensation than you deserve because of insurance company pressure.
Accepting a first offer from an insurance company is usually a mistake. Insurers typically expect some settlement negotiations and may make a low offer to try to get those negotiations started in their favor.
You should not provide a written or recorded statement about the accident to insurance representatives without having an attorney, and you should not sign anything without the advice of a car accident lawyer.
Mistake #5. Not getting help from a qualified car accident lawyer.
There are many legal minefields that must be navigated to obtain fair compensation after a car accident. You’ll need to understand your insurance policy and the laws. You’ll need to be sure you include all possible defendants or responsible parties in making a claim (for example, in a truck accident, the trucking company may be a better defendant than the driver). You’ll need to be careful not to say anything you shouldn’t to an insurer. You’ll need to start gathering the proper types of evidence to build your case. You’ll need to make your claim for damages the right way, within the legal deadlines.
These are just a few of the many, many things that you need to do after a car accident. Most people do not understand how to navigate the world of insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits because it is not something they do on a frequent basis.
When you have a lawyer, you level the playing field, and the insurance company cannot take advantage of your inexperience.