There’s no headache quite like a car accident. Studies show most of us will file a claim for a collision once every 17.9 years, but that doesn’t mean it gets any easier with time.
Negotiating a settlement, dealing with the other driver, gathering evidence, talking to your insurance company, and tracking car repair bills can be tricky. Worse, you may have to juggle all of this while suffering from an injury!
Given how much you have to worry about, it can be tough to avoid errors in auto accident lawsuits. Without legal experience, navigating the complex world of insurance and legal claims may feel impossible.
Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to steer clear of common pitfalls, as long as you know where they are. Let’s take a look at some of the most common errors people make when dealing with an auto accident and how to avoid them.
1. Running From an Accident
Running from an accident is never a good idea. The impulse is a common one, especially when a driver is in a state of panic after a collision. Sometimes, adrenaline even causes people who weren’t at fault to drive away from an accident.
Unfortunately, fleeing the scene can lead to a misdemeanor or felony charge. If witnesses come forward or if someone finds video evidence that you fled, the authorities may take your flight as a sign of guilt. Needless to say, all of this can hurt your case if you file one later.
2. Not Calling the Police
In most states, the law requires you to call the police if anyone has been injured or if there’s been property damage over a certain amount of money. Even without these laws, it’s always a good idea to call the police. This is true even if you believe the accident to be a minor fender-bender.
The police officer who reports to the scene acts as an objective observer of the aftermath of the accident. They record the statements of both parties, the road conditions, and any traffic signs. This neutral information can work in your favor if you aren’t at fault.
If the reporting officer decides that the other driver caused the accident, this evidence can become crucial in a court case. It’s even better if they issue a traffic ticket.
Failing to call the police may make your insurance company and the court wonder if you’re hiding something. In some cases, it may make you look guilty even if you weren’t at fault.
In the aftermath of a car collision, you should never admit to making a mistake. With your emotions running high, you may want to soothe yourself and the other driver with an apology, especially if you sympathize with them over the situation.
Avoid the urge! Apologizing or admitting to a mistake makes you look guilty, even if the authorities later find that the other driver was at fault. Instead, keep your mouth shut except when you’re discussing vital information like the details we’ll discuss below.
Though it’s crucial to avoid apologizing at the scene of the accident, you’ll also need to do it throughout your case. At no point should you apologize to the other party, your or their insurance company, or anyone involved in the case.
4. Failing to Gather Evidence
Though an accident can leave you shaken, it’s crucial to steady yourself for long enough to gather evidence. The details you record at the scene of an accident will become the backbone of your case. There are a few key types of evidence to gather:
The Other Driver’s Information
At a minimum, you should ask the other driver for their driver’s license, contact details, and insurance information. Jot down the details or take photos of their documents.
In addition, it’s a good idea to record the make, model, and license plate number of the other driver’s car. You can also get the contact information of any passengers who were in the car at the time of the accident.
Photos and Videos of the Scene
Photos and videos are essential, so take as many as possible. If it’s safe to do so, take some photos and videos of your vehicles before you move them to the side of the road. This helps experts see where your cars ended up after the crash.
In addition, take photos of any road signs, skid marks, and traffic conditions.
If there were any witnesses to the crime, make sure to take down their information as well. The police may do this on their own, but it’s a good idea to have your own records in case you need to reach out to a witness.
5. Not Writing Down What Happened
Study after study shows us that our memories are imperfect.
When multiple people see the same event, they may have different memories of it. After a traumatic experience, it’s common to suffer from forgetfulness or mental fog. This is even more common for people who have suffered a head injury.
After a car accident, it’s crucial to write down everything you remember. This can help to preserve your memory even if you don’t consider the experience traumatic. Regardless of your injuries or lack thereof, small details may start to escape you if your case drags on for several months.
At the scene of the crash or once you get home, write down your perspective on the crash. Everything from the weather conditions to the other driver’s appearance may become useful later.
6. Not Seeking Immediate Medical Care
Whether or not you believe yourself to be injured, go to the doctor. Some car crash injuries, like concussions, internal bleeding, and spine injuries, may have delayed symptoms. However, a medical professional may spot them before you do.
Your doctor will create a medical record proving the extent of your injuries. Any delays to your visit might suggest that your injuries weren’t as severe as you claim. It may also give other parties the chance to argue that you got the injuries elsewhere and blamed it on the accident after the fact.
It’s also crucial to follow through with any medical treatments your doctor advises. Again, you want to show that your injuries are as damaging as you claim, and failing to follow through with your treatments can suggest that you’re exaggerating your injuries for show.
7. Not Tracking Expenses
Proving how much compensation you deserve can be tricky. The amount you deserve for certain injuries, car damages, or your pain and suffering is subjective without evidence, and it’s hard to prove the validity of that subjective opinion in court. No court or insurer will take your word at face value.
That’s why it’s important to keep track of your bills and expenses. These documents act as vital proof that your injuries have cost you, and they make it easy for a court or insurance agent to understand why you’re asking for a specific compensation amount.
Keep any bills you get from your doctor and receipts from your mechanic. Accurate records can make or break your case!
8. Trusting Your Insurance Company
Your insurance company is not on your side. Their goal is to pay you as little as possible, keeping their profits to themselves. This gives them the incentive to deny your claim, even if it’s a valid claim and you weren’t at fault.
That’s why having an auto accident injury lawyer on your side, as we’ll discuss below, is crucial. A lawyer has the expertise to evaluate your claim and decide whether you should continue fighting for compensation.
In addition, there’s one more trick your insurance company might try: asking for a recorded statement. This is usually a phone call in which they ask you to describe your memory of the accident. However, anything you say, or fail to say, may be used against you later.
You have no obligation to agree to a recorded statement. Your insurance agent may try to pressure you into giving one. However, you should only do so if your lawyer suggests it.
9. Accepting a Lowball Settlement
Again, your insurance company is not your friend. Even if they don’t deny your claim, they may present you with a lowball offer. This is especially common when they know you don’t have experience with claims or if they’re aware you have no lawyer to advise you.
If the settlement amount isn’t enough to cover all of your expenses from the collision, you’ll need to fight for further compensation. Don’t agree to accept the settlement, and never cash the check.
10. Waiting to File a Claim
If you wait too long to file a claim, you may no longer have the right to compensation by the time you get around to it.
Every state has a different statute of limitations around auto accident cases. In general, you can expect to have around two or three years to file a claim, depending on whether or not you were injured. If you miss the lawsuit filing deadline, you’re out of luck!
The only way you can get around this deadline, at least in some states, is if the other driver ends up in jail or if you’re unable to find them. Hiring an attorney to help with the lawsuit filing process can help you navigate these tricky cases.
In general, it’s always better to file a claim sooner rather than later. The earlier you file, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to gather evidence, documents, witness statements, and other details you need.
11. Not Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
One of the biggest mistakes people make after a car accident is failing to hire a lawyer.
It’s tempting to think you can process a claim on your own, especially if your case seems straightforward. However, even simple car accident claims and lawsuits can grow complicated fast.
That’s where an experienced personal injury attorney comes in.
Benefits of a Lawyer
From the beginning, a lawyer can help you file a claim, explain the process, and answer questions. If you’re fighting a battle in court, they’ll help you gather the right auto accident lawsuit documents and file the right paperwork.
In addition, a lawyer can act as an invaluable point of contact during discussions about your claim. Instead of arguing with your insurance company or the other driver, you can let your lawyer handle these communications on your behalf.
Finding the Right Lawyer
It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll need to choose the right lawyer to take advantage of the benefits above.
Seek an attorney who specializes in personal injury cases. It’s even better to find an expert in auto accidents or pedestrian accidents specifically, depending on your needs. For the latter, read more here.
In addition, be sure you’re working with a lawyer who has a history of success. Check their website for their success rates, look through client testimonials, or follow the glowing recommendations of friends or colleagues.
12. Talking About the Accident
The less you say about your car accident, the better. As we’ve mentioned above, it’s important to be careful about what you say around the police, the other driver, and your insurer.
However, you’ll also want to avoid talking about your accident with anyone, as this information can get into the hands of the opposing lawyer or the other driver’s insurance company.
This is especially true if you’re posting on social media. Never post sensitive details about your accident online. Don’t publicize your opinions or photos.
If someone takes the wrong detail out of context, especially if it makes you look guilty, it could unravel your case. Keep your mouth shut about the accident until the claim or case is resolved.
Avoid These Errors in Auto Accident Lawsuits
Filing an auto accident claim that turns into a lawsuit can become a grueling process for anyone. Avoiding these common errors in auto accident lawsuits is crucial if you hope to simplify your experience. If nothing else, consider hiring a reputable attorney to ensure that you don’t stumble into any of the pitfalls we’ve listed above!
Looking for more guides to help you better protect yourself? Be sure to take a look at the other articles on our site.
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