Car accidents mean an entire series of complicated steps begin: police, insurance, claims, payments, court, etc. These steps are such a hassle and a financial drain that it’s tempting to take shortcuts. But shortcuts will hurt you in the long run, possibly get you in more legal trouble, and—most importantly—limit or cut off the amount of payments related to personal injuries and damage to your vehicle.
So, you have just been in a car accident.
You’re okay enough to get out of your car and assess both your injuries and vehicle damage. At this point, here’s what you should never do
- Leave the scene of the accident. This may sound obvious, but we hear about hit and runs every day. It’s a crime to leave the scene an accident. Sure, it’s tempting to think that leaving will make any problems go away. However, your problems just get worse, especially if the police find you. Never leave the scene of an accident until the police arrive and then say it’s okay for you to leave.
- Admit fault to the other driver, the police officer, or your insurance company. If you’re an overly polite person (and we’re especially brought up to be polite in the South!), it may feel natural to you to apologize for the accident and start chatting about how you had a bad day or how you weren’t paying attention. At the risk of sounding impolite, shut your mouth. Do not admit fault. Simply wait for the police, relate only facts to the police, answer questions factually, and allow the police and insurance companies to sort out fault.
- Brush the accident off. It’s also tempting to chat with the other driver, ask each other if you’re okay, and then laugh the whole thing off. Hey, if the car isn’t damaged too badly and you’re both not too badly hurt, you might as well just avoid legal hassles and go on your merry way. Don’t! If you don’t call the police and file a police report, then you cut off any chance of making a claim based on your injury or damage to your vehicle. Some injuries become more apparent later, and so you’re placing yourself at medical risk. Plus, in a few cases bad people have called the police after the other person drove away and accused that person of a hit and run.
- Negatively talk about the accident in anger or falsehood. If you’ve got a temper, you may unleash your anger on the other driver or the police officer. Mistake. Witnesses (including the other driver) will talk about your anger, and the police officer will not present you in a favorable light in the police report. You also don’t want to let your anger lead you to lying or exaggeration because you feel the other driver “deserves” punishment. If your story is contradicted by facts and witness reports, you will be more at fault and have less of a case when pursuing payments for injuries and vehicle damage. Always tell the truth.
- Contact your insurance company before your personal injury attorney. If you contact your insurance company yourself, you’re more likely to make a mistake. Like what? Insurance companies will grill you with questions that are meant to lessen the amount of money they pay you. If they can prove that you were at fault or get you to admit certain details that lessen the strength of your claim, then they will do it. Your personal injury attorney will know how to present your case in the best light and instruct you on how to talk to your insurance company.
Remember, doing all of the right things at the scene of an accident helps you.
It helps build your case and increases the likelihood that you will receive higher payments for your injuries and vehicle damage. Seek medical care and call the police first, and then reach out to your personal injury attorney.
Questions about your last car accident? Not sure if you did the right thing? Call us today for a free consultation.