What Not to Do After an Auto Accident
A serious auto accident is an overwhelming experience. You will likely be scared and injured and have many people trying to offer assistance or tell you where to go. You are also likely to be unsure about what to do. Even those who have been in accidents before can feel confused in the chaos of an auto accident scene. This uncertainty is why it is important to learn what to do and what not to do – before an accident occurs.
The injury attorneys at Arash Law are here to help accident victims protect their rights and obtain the compensation they deserve. We have prepared a list of common mistakes based upon our experience with real auto accident cases. Of course, it is important to get advice about your specific case, so be sure to contact our office to schedule your free consultation as well.
Here are some of the most common mistakes injury victims make after being involved in an auto accident:
Leaving the Scene of the Accident
An accident is a frightening experience. It is natural to be scared – and even to panic. But do not let yourself become so panicked that you make a serious mistake. Leaving the scene of an accident without exchanging information is a crime. This fact is true whenever property damage occurs, and the penalties are even stricter when someone is injured or killed in the accident. You don’t need these added legal complications. You also could lose your right to compensation if you leave the scene of the accident. It is important to stay and get the other driver’s contact information and insurance card. You will also want to document the incident with a police report, and possibly gather evidence at the scene of the accident yourself if it is safe to do so.
Choosing Not to Get the Police Involved
Law enforcement will respond to most traffic accidents, but sometimes you might not have an officer respond in person. Typically, this only occurs if the accident occurred on private property, no one has suffered injuries, and no criminal activity is suspected. That said, it is still important to call a 911 dispatcher to determine whether an officer needs to respond to an accident. A police report is usually the most important piece of evidence in any car accident claim.
Law enforcement agents are considered neutral third parties who will report what happened, without bias in favor of either driver. For this reason, insurance companies often rely heavily on police reports to determine who is at fault for causing an accident. Calling an officer to the scene of the accident allows you to get the evidence you may need to prove your claim – and protect your legal right to compensation for your injuries and losses.
It is also important to call the police to determine whether any criminal activity is occurring. Perhaps the other car is stolen or being driven without proper insurance coverage. Maybe the driver is impaired by drugs, alcohol, prescription medications, or other substances. Only a law enforcement official can identify and investigate criminal activity. If a crime has occurred, you may have additional legal rights as the victim of a crime.
Not Getting Medical Attention
Many people fail to get the medical attention they need after an auto accident. Even if you do not need to leave in an ambulance, it is still important to get checked out by a medical professional. Some injuries are latent, which means their symptoms will not appear for hours – or even days – after an accident. Other injuries may not be felt right away, but can quickly devolve into a life-threatening condition. A common example is internal bleeding. You might not feel injured at the scene of the accident, but as the bleeding continues, your blood pressure will continue to drop dangerously levels. Only a doctor can identify internal bleeding by monitoring your blood pressure and vital signs or using diagnostic imaging. Internal bleeding can be fatal without proper treatment.
Even if you could walk away from your accident, you should still get examined at an emergency department or urgent care facility. You might also schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. You should not, however, wait too long to get some sort of medical advice. If your doctor cannot see you in the office within a day or two, you should undergo an evaluation at an ER or urgent care center instead. Time is critical. The sooner you seek medical attention, the better options your healthcare team will have for treating them. Quickly identifying your injuries is also an important step to getting fair compensation for them. Thus, medical treatment protects your legal rights as well as your health.
Accidentally Admitting Fault for the Accident
Anything you say or do at the scene of the accident can be used against you by the other driver’s insurance company. As a result, it is important to know exactly what to say and what not to say after an accident occurs. It is also important to hire a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. As soon as the insurance company receives notice that you have counsel, they can no longer contact you about the accident. All their communications must go through your attorney’s office.
So what should you avoid saying at the scene of an accident?
- First, do not hesitate to get any kind of medical attention for anyone on the scene. You can ask if other people are injured, and help work to get vehicles out of the way so that everyone involved will be safely out of the way of traffic.
- You should also feel free to tell anyone on the scene that you need help. Emergency services are a priority on any accident scene. What you should not do is admit fault for the accident. Even simple statements like “I didn’t see you!” or “I’m so sorry!” could be used against you.
- Do not discuss what caused the accident. Only address immediate needs to keep everyone safe on the accident scene. If the police do not facilitate, you should interact only to get the other driver’s contact information. You should also take a photo of their insurance card and license plate.
Giving The Insurance Company Too Much Information
When the other driver’s insurance company calls to ask you about the accident, you might feel tempted to tell them everything that comes to mind. Doing so is almost always a mistake. Insurance companies are actively trying to minimize payouts, and they will use anything they can against you. If, for example, you say that you might not have seen the other car in time, they might try to claim that you were partly at fault for the accident. Or if they ask how you are doing, and you say you are “feeling all right,” they might later question any injuries you have.
Insurance companies have many, many tactics they use to deny claims and reduce compensation. They train their claims adjusters to pay as little on as few claims as possible. Then they hire an army of defense lawyers to defend the low compensation. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to identify and prevent these attacks and protect your legal right to compensation. Once you have an attorney, you will not have to speak with the other driver’s insurance company at all. Having an intermediary will protect you from accidentally saying something you shouldn’t.
Not Following Through on Your Doctor’s Advice
You might feel tempted to stop getting treatment once you feel better, but doing so can hurt your claim. If you stop treatment too soon, the insurance company could claim that you made your pain and suffering worse and deny payment. You could also exacerbate your injuries and set yourself up for a longer, more painful recovery that also costs more in medical expenses. Both your health and your legal rights will be better protected by following through on all treatment recommendations from your medical providers.
Posting Information About the Accident on Social Media
It is tempting to share the important events in your life on your social media accounts. Doing so can reduce your compensation in a personal injury case. If, for example, you report that you are in pain but later post a gym selfie, the insurance company might say that you couldn’t be hurting if you can work out. If you post any statements or photos of the accident, the insurance company may try to use them to prove that you were partially – or even entirely – at fault for causing the accident.
Insurance companies hire investigators to comb through injury victims’ social media accounts. They know how to find anything you may have posted about the accident. You should check your privacy setting and reject any connection requests from someone you do not know. Even with these steps, information can still get out, so it is better not to post anything related to the accident until your case is resolved.
Settling Your Case Too Quickly
An insurance company may pressure you to settle your case quickly. Many injury victims like the sound of that: after all, the sooner you can get your compensation, the better off you will be. Settling your case too quickly can be a big mistake, however. You do not always know how serious your injuries are or how long you will need treatment for them. Suppose your neck is a little sore after an auto accident. You assume that it is whiplash that will go away, so you settle your case for a low offer. Later, your neck continues to hurt, and you must go to physical therapy to improve your pain and movement.
It is too late to go back to the insurance company to get compensation for your medical bills – or the added pain and suffering of the difficult therapy process. You must be sure that you have a clean bill of health from your medical providers before you agree to settle your case. Once you have settled the case, it is almost impossible to get more compensation for expenses that come up later.
Not Getting Legal Advice About Your Case
Some injury victims think they can settle their cases without the advice of an attorney. You have the right to do this, and many victims do. Studies have repeatedly shown that victims who settle their personal injury claims without a lawyer receive lower settlements and jury awards than those who have the help of an attorney. There are many reasons for this. A personal injury lawyer understands all the losses for which you are entitled to compensation – and, more importantly, what the fair value of these losses is.
An experienced lawyer also knows how to stop the insurance company from trying tactics like making a lowball settlement offer or pushing for a quick settlement before you can evaluate all of your losses. Finally, a lawyer will help resolve complex legal issues, like who is really at fault for causing the accident. Without these steps, you will not be able to get the compensation you fairly deserve.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Consultation with a California Car Accident Lawyer
If you’ve suffered injuries in an auto accident in California, the experienced injury lawyers at Arash Law are here to fight for your legal rights. We serve clients in San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks, and throughout California. We have collected over 150 million dollars for clients across the state. Our California auto accident lawyers have decades of experience and know-how to negotiate fair settlement offers with insurance companies. We also know when to reject a bad settlement offer and take your case to trial. Call (888) 488-1391 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.