The Top Mistakes People Make After a Car Accident and How to Avoid Them
Being in a car accident can be overwhelming. The force of the impact and the stress of the incident can leave those involved in a state of shock, causing people to make major mistakes — especially if they’ve never been in a car accident before. If you are in a car accident, here are some of the most commonly made mistakes — and how to avoid making them.
1. Not Calling the Police at the Scene of the Accident
If you’ve been in a car accident that was not your fault, the other driver may try to dissuade you from calling the police. Some people may think that calling the police is too drastic if neither person involved is suffering serious injuries. However, not calling the police at the scene of the car accident is one of the most commonly made mistakes. It’s important to call the police so that a police report can be made of the incident.
Upon arriving to the scene, the police officer will conduct an investigation and create a police report. In the report, the officer will make note of the circumstances of the accident and may even assign fault. They will also take down the names and insurance information of the parties involved, and report on the severity of damage to each vehicle. In addition, they may issue a citation if the other driver violated the law.
In some states, reporting the accident is mandatory. Even if that is not the case in your state, calling to report the accident is important because it will allow for an officer to document and record circumstances of the incident. If you don’t get a police report, the other driver may later deny fault, making it more difficult for the insurance companies involved to determine liability. This can delay your claim, and may even cause your insurance rates to go up.
2. Underestimating Your Injuries
A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that the injuries they sustained in a car accident are “minor.” The shock of the collision and resulting adrenaline rush can also make the victim underestimate the severity of their injuries at the scene of the accident. In addition, some people believe that feeling sore and disoriented after a car accident is “normal,” causing them to disregard or downplay their injuries.
However, even seemingly minor soreness and restricted movement may be signs of a more serious injury. Furthermore, if you’re unaware of the severity of your injuries, you may further aggravate them by attempting to prematurely return to everyday activities. If you’ve been in a car accident, it’s important to get checked out by a medical professional to get your injuries evaluated.
In addition to making the recovery process more difficult, downplaying your injuries at the scene of the car accident or to the insurance companies can hurt your case. If you say that you’re not injured in a statement, the insurance company may later question the validity of your case and severity of your injuries further down the road. If you delay getting checked up for a few days after the accident, they may also claim that you sustained the injuries in between the accident and the doctor’s visit doing something else.
At the scene of a wreck, if you don’t feel the need for immediate medical attention, don’t say “I’m okay,” instead tell first responders that you will follow up with your own doctors. Then, be sure to seek medical assistance as soon as possible after being involved in a car accident to ensure you don’t jeopardize your physical health.
3. Waiting Too Long To Act
Another one of the most commonly made mistakes is waiting too long to act after a car accident. Car accidents can be overwhelming, especially if you sustain injuries. However, it is important for people who have been in a car accident to act right away. Waiting to take action after a car accident can hurt your case.
If you wait to get medically evaluated or seek medical care, you could be putting your health at risk, as well as jeopardizing your case. In addition, important evidence may disappear or be forgotten if you wait too long to investigate the circumstances of your accident. And if you wait to speak with an attorney, you may struggle to find one who will take on your case. Finally, each state has a statute of limitations, or a deadline for which a car accident victim can file a lawsuit. Waiting to pursue your claim could be detrimental towards your case, and you could even lose your chance to file a claim at all.
4. Giving Too Much Information to the Insurance Company
When an accident happens, you may be tempted to get the claims process right away. While doing so can help your case, be sure you don’t trust the other driver’s insurance company with too much information. Insurance adjusters’ jobs are to save their company money, and they will try to twist your statement or call your claim into question.
Do not give the at-fault driver’s insurance company more information than they need. Do not discuss fault, or your injuries, and don’t give them a recorded statement. Let your insurance company know about the accident, but only give them necessary information as well.
If you hire a car accident lawyer, refer the insurance company to them so they can handle the adjusters for you and communicate on your behalf to ensure that you don’t say anything to hurt your claim.
5. Admitting Fault
It’s human nature to apologize after an accident, even if it’s not your fault. For example, rear-ended drivers may apologize to the driver that hit them for stopping too quickly, when in reality it was the other driver’s fault for driving too closely behind them and not paying enough attention.
But apologizing for a car accident that you did not cause is one of the most commonly made mistakes, and it could potentially hurt your case. Apologies can be considered admissions of fault, which could cause the officer to issue you a traffic citation or put your statement of fault in the police report. This could make it seem like you were at fault for the collision, which could make it harder to make a claim in your case and even cause your insurance rates to increase.
Avoid making statements such as “I’m sorry,” “I didn’t even see them,” or “I tried to slow down.” Even seemingly harmless statements such as these could be weaponized against you in the claims process. Even if you are at-fault for the accident, it’s better to avoid admitting fault when speaking with the other driver, the investigating officer, and the insurance companies.
6. Not Gathering Critical Evidence at the Scene
The aftermath of a car accident can be a chaotic time. But despite the chaos of the aftermath, it’s imperative that you are diligent in gathering and collecting evidence at the scene. Once the accident is cleared, you may lose the chance to compile evidence and information.
While waiting for the police to come to the scene, and after you have made sure no one requires immediate emergency medical attention be sure to compile as much information as you can. This includes:
- Getting the names and contact information of any nearby witnesses: If both parties are claiming the other caused the accident and fault is not clear, having third-party witnesses to vouch for you can be priceless. Ask if they would be willing to make a statement to the officer, and get their contact information in case another statement is needed later. Be sure to collect this information as soon as possible so that they still remember details of the collision. If they are still there when the police arrive, have them tell the officer what they saw so that it can be included in the police report.
- Collecting the other driver’s information: Jot down the other driver’s license number, their license plate number, and insurance policy information. You can also take photographs of their license, plate, and insurance information to keep on file. The police report will include this information, but that can take several weeks to be filed, so be sure to get their information yourself so that you can begin the claims process right away. Get the other driver’s phone number, and call it at the scene to make sure they have yours as well.
- Taking photos of the scene: Be sure to photograph the scene of the accident. Take pictures of the damage done to all of the vehicles involved, as well as the position of the vehicles, the surrounding roadways, and the weather conditions. If you’re able, take a video of the scene of the accident, and describe what happened.
- Asking the officer for your accident report information: Get a copy of the accident report if possible, or the accident report number. If possible, photograph the badge information of the officer who completed the report as well.
7. Agreeing to a Quick Settlement
The at-fault driver’s insurance company may offer a quick settlement. While this may seem like a good idea at first, settling your case too quickly is another one of the top mistakes a car accident victim can make, as it can hurt you in the end. The insurance company’s goal is to pay as little as possible. They often try to give car accident victims a quick low settlement offer in hopes of saving money.
However, it is important to ensure you are not accepting less money than you deserve for your injuries and damages. While the offer might seem fair at first, you may find out down the road that the “minor” injuries you sustained in the collision have worsened, and that surgery is required. If you accept a lowball settlement too early on, you may end up having to pay for future medical treatment out of pocket.
In addition, it’s important to consider more than your current medical bills. Accident victims should also take future medical expenses, lost income from missed work, future lost earnings if the injuries cause them to have to leave their job, physical pain and suffering, and other losses into account when deciding whether or not to accept a settlement offer.
8. Not Speaking to a Car Accident Attorney
The other driver and their insurance company may try to dissuade you from hiring a car accident lawyer, because statistically, accident victims who hire an attorney get more than three times as much money as those who don’t.
Even if you believe your accident and injuries were minor, it’s important to speak to an attorney to get an understanding of your rights. Most car accident attorneys offer free case consultations, and if you decide to work with them, you won’t have to pay unless you win.
Some of the ways a car accident attorney can help you include:
- Handling all Communication with the Insurance Companies: The at-fault driver’s insurance company will try to twist your statements to help their claim. Letting a legal professional serve as the liaison between you and the at-fault driver’s insurance company can keep you from saying something that hurts your claim. A lawyer can handle the insurance companies and take care of your property damage, so that you can focus on recovering from your injuries.
- Investigating the Circumstances of your Accident: An experienced attorney can help gather evidence including witness statements, nearby surveillance camera footage, and other important evidence to support your claim. They may also hire an accident reconstructionist to determine the circumstances of the accident.
- Reviewing all documentation: The insurance company may try to manipulate you into signing release forms that strip you of furthering your claim once you receive a settlement offer. They may also try to get you to sign a medical authorization form that allows them to review your medical history, including diagnoses received related to the accident. An experienced attorney can review the documents, help you understand the terms of the agreements, and keep you from singing away your rights.
If you’ve been in a car accident, don’t make these mistakes. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, our experienced car accident attorneys may be able to help. We have been successfully representing injured people and their families for over 25 years, and we can fight for you too. Give us a call at 713-224-9000, or fill out our contact form and we will get back to you shortly.
Michael S Callahan is an attorney and founder of The Callahan Law Firm. He focuses his practice on representing individuals and families in personal injury cases involving motor vehicle and truck accidents, workplace accidents and defective products. With over 25 years of experience, he is dedicated to fighting on behalf of people whose lives have been forever altered by the negligence and carelessness of corporations and individuals. Originally trained as a mechanical engineer, Michael has been practicing law and fighting for justice for those who need it most since 1994. He is board-certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and a member of various esteemed legal associations. Outside of work, Michael enjoys spending quality time with his family, outdoor activities, and continually striving to improve as a trial lawyer and human being.