An auto accident is not an everyday occurrence for you — thankfully — so you understandably may not know what to do next. But, the steps you take during the minutes and days following your car wreck can make a big difference in the amount of your damages recovery.
Based upon my 35 years of representing accident victims, I recommend avoiding these common mistakes:
1. Not calling police immediately after the crash
“The accident didn’t seem that bad.”
“I didn’t know I was injured until hours later.”
“We exchanged insurance information, so I thought that was enough.”
These are some of the reasons clients have told me.
You should always call police. Even a collision that appears to be minor might still cost thousands of dollars in car repair, not to mention medical bills and lost wages. Injury symptoms might not appear until hours or days later, often the case with brain damage and spinal disk injuries. And that apologetic other driver is likely to deny fault once she finds out how much the accident will cost him or her.
A police officer makes an objective assessment as to what happened and who is at fault. A police report provides an important piece of evidence that you need to recover the money owed to you. He can testify at trial on your behalf.
2. Believe your insurance company has your best interest at heart
Despite the insurance company’s friendly ads and the adjuster’s sympathetic responses to your situation, insurance companies are in the business to make money, not to be your friend. The less money they pay in accident compensation, the more profit they earn. They often employ tactics designed to reduce payments to policyholders. Although perfectly legal, these tactics can cost you the compensation you deserve:
- Arranging an interview while you are in the hospital and your mind is muddled with painkillers and pain
- Ask you leading questions focused that guide you into admitting to violating your policy terms
- Offering you a lowball settlement, often playing on your fears of being out of work to pressure you into accepting
3. Not seeking prompt medical attention
Even if you don’t feel injured, you should seek prompt medical attention. First, you may be hurt worse than you think. Second, these medical records are vital to proving your injury claim. Delay in medical assessment opens the door for the other insurance company to claim your injuries never happened or were not related to your auto accident.
4. Not retaining a qualified personal injury attorney
Your attorney can improve your chances of recovering the maximum possible compensation from your insurance company and advise you on whether you have a cause of action against the other driver or a third party.
Your injury attorney can perform these important functions:
- Investigate your accident thoroughly
- Negotiate with your insurance company for an equitable settlement
- File a lawsuit against a negligent person or corporation
- Uphold your rights under insurance and personal injury laws