Not only are car accidents overwhelming, they’re also expensive. Even property-damage-only crashes account for 30 percent of car crash costs in the U.S, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports—and injuries only add to the expense. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, it’s important to understand how avoiding common mistakes can help you maximize your recovery and reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
Don’t Make These 10 Common Mistakes
Immediately after your car accident, it’s important to take every step possible to protect your injury claim and the compensation you’ll need for your injuries, those of your passengers, and any damages to your property. To do this, you need to avoid the following mistakes:
- Failing to document the accident. If you are physically able, it’s important to document the scene of the accident. Start with taking photos and videos of damages to your car, the other driver’s car, and any injuries you or others sustained. Then, record videos of the whole scene. Also, take written notes on what you remember happening while the memories are still fresh in your mind. Finally, speak with any witnesses who may be able to give you information.
- Failing to exchange information. Make sure you get the full names, phone numbers, email addresses, home addresses, driver’s license number, and insurance information of the other driver and his passengers. Additionally, do your best to get contact information from the witnesses you spoke with, in case your attorney or police wish to speak with them.
- Apologizing at the scene of the accident. In the chaos after a car accident, an “I’m sorry” may slip out as a polite habit. However, it’s important to think carefully about your words. You don’t know all the factors of how the accident happened, so avoid saying anything that may be misconstrued as admitting fault—not to the other driver, a witness, a police officer, and certainly not to an insurance adjuster.
- Choosing not to call law enforcement. Because police officers are an objective third party, all those involved can confidently give individual statements. These reports are immensely helpful when attempting to obtain compensation for injuries and damages. Additionally, police can make reports about the scene of the accident and identify factors that may help place liability on the at-fault driver.
- Exaggerating to the police. When you give your statement to the police, it’s important to give the facts exactly as you remember them. Do not attempt to play up the other driver’s role in the accident or factors like speed or weather conditions. Simply relay what you know happened.
- Declining medical attention. When you call law enforcement, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) may also arrive. Make sure they check—and, if necessary—treat your injuries. If the EMTs suggest you seek further medical treatment or say you need to be taken to the hospital, do not refuse. You can worry about finances later during your injury claim, but it’s important to prioritize your health.
- Exaggerating to your doctor. Just as when you speak to police, communicate to your doctor the events of the accident and nothing more. Trying to exaggerate your injuries or pain levels can get you in trouble and your doctor, too, if he is called to testify about you.
- Failing to follow your doctor’s orders. Recovering from your injuries should be your first priority after the accident. Not only does it show insurance companies that you take your injuries seriously, it also ensures that you get the medical attention you need. So, take all prescriptions, be on time to all doctor appointments, and follow all instructions for rest.
- Speaking with insurance companies. Shortly after the accident, it’s likely you’ll receive calls from the other driver’s insurance company. They will ask to take your recorded statement. Although this representative will be kind to you, it’s important you politely decline the request and refer him to your attorney. It’s common that insurance companies use tricky tactics, attempting to use victims’ words against them. Let your attorney handle all communication.
- Trying to handle your case on your own. Although you may be worried about finances, you should not attempt to navigate communication with insurance companies, file court documents, and negotiate a settlement alone. While you focus on your health, an attorney can handle everything else—including the financial aspects.
Get the Help of a Trusted Attorney
If you’ve been involved in an accident and aren’t sure what your next steps should be, we are here to help. The team at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi has achieved positive results in difficult legal cases for over 30 years, and we want to hear from you. Give us a call at 877-652-1553 to get started.