There are many things you should do after a car accident. Doing as many of these things as possible to the best of your abilities is essential to protecting your legal right to recovery; however, they aren’t the only things that are important. It is just as important to avoid making a serious mistake that could keep you from getting the fair and just recovery you deserve for your accident injuries.
The Five Things You Should NOT Do Following an Accident
It can be challenging to think clearly at the chaotic scene of a car crash and in the days following the crash when you are in pain. However, in the aftermath of an auto accident, it is important that you:
Do NOT Admit Fault
In some cases, it takes an investigation of the physical evidence at the scene and witness statements to determine fault. It may even be necessary to hire an accident reconstruction expert to determine fault. An accident reconstruction investigation involves gathering photographs of the vehicles, measurements of the scene, witness accounts, and examining any physical evidence such as tire tread marks and vehicle debris. Thus, you should not admit fault—or even apologize—at the scene of the crash.
Do NOT Agree to Handle the Accident Without Police Involvement
Even if there is little damage to the vehicles following an accident, you should call the police. Some drivers agree “to handle it on their own” and exchange insurance information. However, it is important for an accident report to be generated by a law enforcement officer so that fault can be determined and documented. Failure to contact the police may give an insurance company a way to deny fault for the accident and deny liability. Additionally, there may be a reason the other driver does not want to have police involvement. For example, he or she may be driving without a license or even worse, could be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Do NOT Ignore Injuries, Even If You Believe They Are “Minor”
If you feel any signs of injury, make sure you tell the police officer at the scene and have your injuries documented by a medical provider immediately. Sometimes people ignore stiffness and soreness at first, only to find after a few days that they have a serious injury. It is hard for an insurance company to deny responsibility for an injury if you report it immediately. On the other hand, the insurance company will attempt to discount your claim if you delay your complaints of injury.
Do NOT Give a Recorded Statement to an Insurance Adjuster
The ONLY purpose of a recorded statement is so that a savvy insurance adjuster can use what you say against you later to discount your claim. For example, you are involved in an accident and give a recorded statement that evening. The adjuster asks, “Were you injured?” You respond, “Yes, my neck hurts.” However, the following day you wake up and your neck pain has begun to radiate down to your middle back. When you finish treatment and submit your claim for back pain, the insurance adjuster will attempt to avoid paying for any treatment to your back by reminding you, “You stated that it was your neck that was injured. You didn’t mention your back!”
Do NOT Sign Anything
Insurance companies like to close automobile accident claims as quickly as possible. Some insurance adjusters will come to you immediately following any accident and attempt to settle with you, with promises such as “sign here and take this $2000.00 for your pain and suffering and we will pay your medical bills.” You may even be asked to sign a release that allows the insurance company to have complete access to your entire life history of medical records. Always make sure you seek the advice of our law firm before signing anything.
Any one of these actions can affect the amount of damages you are able to recover for your injuries and may result in you recovering less than you deserve.
You Can Take Action to Protect Your Fair Recovery
You don’t have to know everything at the moment of impact, but if you can avoid the mistakes described above, get appropriate medical care, and consult with an attorney with experience handling car accident cases, you may be able to recover fair damages for the harm that a negligent driver caused you.
Fair damages after a South Carolina or Georgia car wreck may include compensation for your past, current and future:
- Medical expenses. Medical expenses include things such as hospital stays, surgeries, doctors’ appointments, medications, rehabilitation therapies, assistive medical devices, and anything else related to your physical recovery and care.
- Lost income. Lost income includes wages, benefits, and other income that you are unable to earn because of your accident injuries.
- Out-of-pocket costs. This may include things such as transportation costs and household help.
- Physical pain and emotional suffering. You may be able to recover damages for the physical pain you experience, for permanent scarring or disfigurement, for permanent disabilities, for fear anxiety or depression, for loss of enjoyment of life, and for other ways the accident has impacted your life.
In Some Cases, Other Damages Such as Punitive Damages May Also Be Possible
As the injured party, it is up to you to take steps to protect your fair recovery, but you don’t have to do it alone and you don’t need to know all of the potential pitfalls along the road to recovery. Instead, you have the right to hire an experienced car accident lawyer to represent you, to advise you of your rights, to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, to represent your rights in court, and to zealously advocate for your full and fair recovery.
To learn more about what you can do to protect your rights, please read our FREE book, Understanding Georgia Automobile Accident Claims: A Claimant’s Guide, and call us directly at 706-863-6600 or toll-free at 888-795-6261. We would be pleased to provide you with a free consultation so that you can be confident in the steps you are taking to protect your rights and recovery.