When people learn that I’m a car accident attorney, they always have lots of questions. One of the most common questions is, “What should I do after a car accident?” While most people know the basics, some drivers make serious mistakes in the days and weeks after an accident. The mistakes drivers make after car accidents can reduce their damages or completely prevent recovery.
This post will discuss the 10 biggest mistakes drivers make after car accidents. Read on to learn about these mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.
Mistake #1 – Not Calling 911 Immediately After the Accident
If you are in a car crash, the first thing you must do is call 911. Even if there are no visible injuries, you still need to call the police for three reasons.
First, a police report can help prove who caused the accident. Without it, it’s your word versus the other driver’s. Second, failure to call 911 can cast suspicion on your actions before and during the accident. Finally, Alabama law requires drivers to call the police immediately after a crash. (Alabama law also requires drivers to file a written report within 30 days if a car crash causes fatality, injury, or property damage in excess of $250. Talking to the police immediately can help you with that process as well.)
Avoid this mistake by calling 911 as soon as you are able to do so.
Mistake #2 – Not Collecting Information at the Scene
If you aren’t seriously injured, the first thing you should do after calling 911 is collecting evidence about the accident. You should take pictures of injuries, property damage, and the general area of the car accident. You should also get the names of other drivers and witnesses. Though you may think that you’ll never forget the details of the crash, memories fade over time. Avoid this issue by gathering as much information as you can as soon as you are able to do so.
Mistake #3 – Admitting Fault at the Scene
Of all the mistakes drivers make after car accidents, this might be the most serious.
Never admit fault. Even seemingly innocent comments like, “I’m so sorry!” or “I tried to slow down!” can be used by lawyers or insurance companies to prove that you helped to cause the accident. While this is true for all drivers, it is particularly important for Alabama drivers. Alabama follows a rule called contributory negligence. This rule limits recovery to those who did not contribute to their own injuries. In other words, if you admit any level of fault, it may be extremely difficult for you to recover damages.
Avoid this mistake by keeping quiet at the scene.
Mistake #4 – Failing to Seek Medical Attention
If you file an insurance claim or lawsuit, you’ll need proof of your injuries. Seeing a doctor is the first step in getting this crucial information. If you delay treatment because you assume that you are fine, you may not be able to recover if an injury appears later – as they often do. You can prevent this issue if you seek medical help as soon as possible after an accident. You should also seek medical advice after any change in your condition.
(Sidenote: If your doctor prescribes a treatment or therapy, make sure that you follow through with it even if you’re feeling a bit better. Insurance companies will argue that stopping the treatment proves that your injuries were not that serious.)
Mistake #5 – Discussing Your Injuries Publicly
An accident is a major life event. While you’ll likely want to share stories about your injuries and recovery with others, resist this urge. In fact, you should avoid discussing too much about your accident – or life in general – on social media. This is a common mistake- but a serious one. Insurance companies have been known to use seemingly innocent conversations and pictures to prove that the accident didn’t cause severe physical or emotional harm.
You can avoid that issue by saving the selfies until you’ve received an adequate settlement or jury award.
Mistake #6 – Talking to the Insurance Company without an Attorney
As I wrote in an earlier post, the insurance company is not your friend. Your goal is to get the compensation you need; their job is to find a way to reduce your payment – or avoid it altogether. Even an innocent statement to the insurance company can be used for this purpose. Never talk to an insurance company adjuster or attorney without legal help. An experienced car accident attorney can help you figure out how to honestly answer the insurance company’s questions without compromising your case.
Mistake #7 – Not Being 100% Honest with Your Team
One of the biggest mistakes drivers make after car accidents is withholding information. Your doctor needs to know about every ache and pain. Your accident attorney needs to know everything – even the facts that might seem upsetting or embarrassing. If they don’t have the complete picture, your case will suffer. In the best-case scenario, you will reduce your damages. In the worst case, the other side will use this gap in your story as a way to completely deny your recovery.
Tell your doctor everything about your injuries and tell your accident lawyer about everything concerning the wreck. The law demands that both doctors and lawyers keep all information confidential. So, don’t be afraid to tell the whole truth.
Mistake #8 – Accepting the First Settlement Offer
Insurance claims and lawsuits are stressful. No one wants them to drag on for what seems like forever. But resist the urge to end things by accepting the very first settlement offer. Experts note that the first settlement offer is usually low – very, very low. If you accept this offer, you are likely accepting far less than the actual cost of your injuries.
Never accept the first offer. Even better, let an experienced car accident attorney negotiate for you. Settlement offers increase when personal injury attorneys get involved.
Mistake #9 – Failing to Keep Records
To get the compensation you deserve, you need proof. This proof could be anything from pay stubs, to medical records, to diaries that show your emotional state. But it’s a common mistake for people to lose or misplace these important documents. Keep all evidence related to your accident in a secure, organized place. This will make it easy for you to find it when your attorney asks for it. If you aren’t sure what to keep, ask your personal injury attorney at the first meeting.
Mistake #10 – Waiting Too Long to Seek Legal Help
Healing should be your primary focus after the accident. No one expects you to call an attorney from your hospital bed. But waiting too long to call an attorney can have terrible consequences. Alabama – like other states – limits the time you have to file a lawsuit. However, some claims use special rules. (For instance, to file a wrongful death claim, you must first become a personal representative.) Once a time limit passes, it is nearly impossible for your claim to proceed.
Have You Made One of the Mistakes Drivers Make After Car Accidents?
Hopefully, learning about the mistakes drivers make after car accidents will help you to avoid these pitfalls. If you’ve made one of these mistakes, don’t fear. An experienced accident lawyer may be able to help.
If you have questions about these issues or anything else relating to car accidents, trucking accidents, or personal injury, contact Collins Law, LLC. Our firm works hard to provide every client with the quality legal representation. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car crash or other accident, call Collins Law, LLC at (205) 881-0403 or click here to schedule a free consultation.