WHAT NOT TO DO AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT
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After a car accident, you may be feeling nervous and panicked. Knowing what not to do after a car accident can help save you from legal trouble in the future.
You may be wondering what you should do and who you should call first. While it may not be easy to compose yourself and think rationally after an accident, the choices you make immediately following a car accident can have a large impact later.
Be Careful Not to Make These Mistakes
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were over 36,000 fatal car crashes in 2019. As a result of decreased traffic during the COVID-19 lockdown, total traffic volume decreased by more than 16% in the first half of 2020. As drivers return to the roads in the next year, drivers should remember the following tips in the event of a car accident. Some examples of what not to do in a car accident include:
1. Do Not Flee the Scene
Car accidents can be frightening. We all have a fight or flight response and your first reaction may be to flee the scene. However, fleeing the scene can have major legal consequences, such as fines or jail time.
Not only is fleeing the scene irresponsible, but in some states, fleeing the scene after a car accident is a crime. Some states will require you by law to pull over after a car crash and assess any damages as well as speak with the other driver and exchange information.
2. Make Sure to Call the Police
No matter how minor the accident, it is important to report the car accident to the police. Allow the police to come to the scene and file a report. Having a police report on file will be useful in the future should you need to file a claim.
If there are any injuries at all to yourself, your passengers, or other drivers, call 911 immediately. Calling 911 will also dispatch police to the scene. Police can do more than just help you file a report. They will be able to help direct traffic out of the way so that no one else gets in an accident. Police can also assist you in gathering information from the other driver if tensions are high between the drivers.
3. Exchange Information with the Other Driver
After an accident, you may feel disoriented, scared, or confused. However, it is important not to forget to exchange information with the other driver. At a minimum, collect insurance information from them, including the name of the insurance company and policy numbers. If possible, gather the personal information of the driver, such as their name and phone number.
Insurance companies will handle the claim, so it is important to get this information at the scene of the accident. If the other driver is obeying the law, they will have insurance, as most states require a minimum level of insurance to drive.
4. Collect Evidence at the Scene
In addition to gathering information, it will be helpful to also collect any evidence to document the scene of the accident. This includes taking pictures of both vehicles, the area surrounding where the accident took place, and any injuries. Take note of the road conditions and any other information that may be important later. It will also be easier to record your version of the events immediately after the car crash instead of trying to remember later.
5. Do Not Admit Fault
Never admit fault at the scene or in a recorded statement to insurance or police. Admitting fault will put you at a disadvantage and you should always speak with an attorney first. It may be tempting to apologize after a car crash, even if you did nothing wrong. Remember that admitting fault will not benefit you and you should allow your attorney to handle the case and make statements on your behalf.
6. Seek Medical Treatment
You should always seek medical treatment after a car accident, even if you do not feel injured. Adrenaline or shock may mask an injury. Minor injuries could get worse over time. Some injuries, such as internal bleeding or concussions, may not be visible and will require a medical diagnosis.
It is important to seek medical treatment and have any injuries documented in case you need to bring a claim later. This will help ensure you receive full compensation for any injuries later and prevent any delay with claims.
7. Do Not Sign a Release Form or Waiver
Some insurance companies will get you to sign a release form shortly after a car accident. Do not sign anything without first speaking with an attorney. An insurance company will often try to get you to agree to a settlement offer that is much lower than what you could receive after you fully assess your damages.
You may feel tempted to accept a payment right away and they may even make you feel like you have to sign release forms. You do not have to sign the release forms and you should avoid agreeing to any settlement offer until you know the extent of your injuries or damages. An experienced lawyer can help assist you with this process.
8. Do Not Speak to an Insurance Adjuster
Whether it is your insurance adjuster or the other party’s insurance adjuster, do not give them a recorded statement until you have spoken to an attorney. You do not have to provide a recorded statement and you especially do not need to speak with the other party’s insurance company.
Insurance adjusters represent the insurance company and their job is to pay you as little as possible. They do not have your best interests in mind and will try to diminish your claim payout as little as possible. It is important to speak with an experienced car accident attorney first because they will represent you and serve your best interests.
9. Not Hiring an Attorney
Some people may think that hiring an attorney is expensive and not necessary. Personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means that you will not pay anything unless we win your case. Negotiating with insurance company adjusters will be difficult without an experienced attorney to guide you.
The sooner you hire an attorney, the better. Once you have an attorney, the insurance company for the other driver may not contact you, but they must speak directly to your attorney. An experienced attorney who understands personal injury will know how to navigate your case.
It is important to remember that your attorney is on your side and has your best interests in mind. Do not be dishonest with your attorney and be sure to tell them every aspect of the car accident. Once the attorney knows all of the facts, he or she will know how to proceed and defend your claim.
10. Do Not Delay in Filing a Claim
In most states, there is a time limit for filing a claim called the statute of limitations. After this time period has passed, you will no longer be able to bring a claim for damages. It is important to file a claim as soon as possible so that you have the best chance at recovering all of your damages in a timely manner.
Make Sure You Are Prepared in the Event of a Car Accident
No one plans for a car accident, but taking steps ahead of time in the event that a car accident occurs will help reduce stress and can help you avoid making the mistakes above. The Insurance Information Institute provides the following tips:
Keep Important Documents in the Car
Make sure to keep critical documents in your car. This includes your registration, proof of auto insurance, and any relevant medical information in case of emergency. You should also keep your driver’s license on you at all times when you are driving.
Stay Emergency Ready
Keep any emergency gear in the car to increase visibility after a car accident. This may include traffic cones or flares. It will be useful to also keep other items, such as a first aid kit for minor injuries.
Make sure to maintain the right amount of auto coverage as required by law and that fits your needs. Knowing that an insurance policy will cover some damages will give you peace of mind.
Zinda Law Group May Help You Seek Damages
At Zinda Law Group, our experienced personal injury lawyers have handled many cases involving car accident victims. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you determine what to do – and what not to do – after a car accident. We help our clients seek maximum compensation for their injuries.