It’s normal to be overwhelmed and frazzled after experiencing a car accident. Emotions and adrenaline run high, but there are steps you can take to help lessen the physical and psychological impact caused by this event. It’s very easy to make mistakes when you might be in panic mode and not thinking straight, so KL has put together this guide of common mistakes made in an accident so you can avoid them and make the best of a bad situation.
Failing to call the police
Calling the police, 911, should be priority #1 (after ensuring everyone is okay, of course). Don’t let the other motorist involved in the accident or anyone else at the scene talk you out of doing this. When the police arrive, they will assess the situation, gather evidence, and often will be able to determine who was at fault and if they broke any laws. They can then issue a citation or, in some cases, make an arrest, and file an official report. The police can also help track down witnesses, take photos of the scene and help determine what happened during the accident. If you or the other motorist involved fail to call the police (or if they don’t show up), the insurance companies involved will wonder why you didn’t think the accident was serious enough to necessitate calling the police to investigate—and you don’t want that. So, call the police; their report will be valuable when you seek compensation for your injuries and damages.
Failing to take photos or get other evidence at the scene
It’s tough to get your bearings after being involved in a crash but taking photos of the accident scene, and the vehicles involved from multiple angles will help your case later. Please don’t rely on the police to do it because sometimes they don’t. Don’t be shy; get out your cell phone and start clicking away—and take pictures of your injuries, if you’re able to, anything that might help someone else who didn’t see the accident in person understand exactly what happened. Also, look for witnesses who saw the accident first-hand—not people in your vehicle—but people who are objective and have nothing to gain financially. They could be in a local business, another driver driving by, a pedestrian, etc. get their contact info as it will help your attorney later in the investigation.
Not seeing a doctor
Even if you don’t feel sore or stiff after a car crash, you might later, so get checked out by a doctor. Don’t underestimate the extent of your injuries, as a mild ache could worsen as days, months, or even years go by. Or, you could have a knee in a lot of pain, distracting you from dull back pain that could signify something more serious. Get it checked out! Seeing a doctor who will document your injuries tells an insurance company or jury that you felt your pain was serious enough for immediate medical treatment. Your eventual claim will come from verified injuries; it’s more than you just saying you got hurt. If your injuries are well-documented, it’s more likely that the other side will agree to pay you a fair settlement without going to trial.
Taking the insurance company’s word
Believe it or not (believe it), insurance companies don’t always have your best interests at heart. Yes, even your own insurance company. Insurance company adjusters have one goal—saving the insurance company money—even if it means doing so at your expense. They’ll do whatever they can to pay the least amount of money possible after an accident and probably will try to convince you that you’re getting the best settlement possible when in reality, they’re most likely giving you next to nothing. When you file a claim with your insurance company, only discuss the facts, not conjecture, feelings, or your opinion. At this juncture, it’s worth your time to speak with a personal injury attorney who can evaluate your claim and advise you whether you’re getting fair compensation.
Filing a claim too late
Certain states have a time limit for filing a claim, and an insurance company may try to stall your claim. Don’t miss the deadline to file because if you do, you’ll also miss the chance to recover compensation—and you don’t want that to happen. File your claim as soon as you possibly can.
Agreeing to a settlement too soon
This is probably the most common of all the mistakes on this list. Usually, the first settlement offer isn’t the best. It’s tempting, of course, to want to resolve your case as soon as possible—especially if bills are starting to roll in—but you’re most likely to get the best and fairest settlement if the opposing side thinks you’re willing to pursue the case to the fullest extent of the law. In addition, symptoms of injuries may take weeks or months to show up, be felt, or make themselves known. Suppose you DO decide to settle with an insurance company early. In that case, you probably won’t get adequate compensation for the ongoing care or surgeries required to alleviate potential long-term pain. And once you’ve agreed to a settlement, that’s it, case closed. Even if you discover that you have ongoing medical problems related to the accident later, that’s on you. Too bad, so sad. Therefore, you probably want to speak to a personal injury attorney before going it alone with an insurance company—which brings us to number 8.
Not hiring an accident attorney
Most people assume that you must pay a lawyer first to have them take your case—not so. Personal injury attorneys get their compensation when you get your compensation—you don’t pay them a penny upfront. An experienced attorney will know how to gather evidence, position your case, and create a strategy for winning and getting you the fairest and best settlement possible. The sooner you get an attorney involved, the better because they can keep you from making the mistakes mentioned in this list and get you back on the road and the road to recovery as soon as possible.