The following post is from FMF contributor Eric Olesen.
Car accidents are unnerving — to say the least. It’s normal to feel scared or anxious after a wreck, but it’s also extremely important to regain your wits quickly. After all, the actions you take immediately after a car wreck could impact your future. If you've been involved in a wreck, avoid these common mistakes.
Mistake #1: Failing to Report the Accident
If you were involved in a minor accident, you might assume it’s okay to exchange information with the other driver and leave, but you’d be wrong. It’s important to file a police report immediately for two reasons:
Your insurance company might require a copy of a police report before paying out any claims.
Not all automobile accident injuries show up immediately. Because of this, you might need to file a personal injury claim in the future, and not having a police report might affect your claim. For example, if your New York personal injury lawyer is forced to file a claim without a police report, it could result in a lower settlement or claim denial regardless of their legal expertise.
Mistake #2: Inadvertently Admitting Fault
Immediately after a car accident, what do you do? Unless you’re badly injured, chances are, you step out of your car and check on anyone else involved in the wreck. While it’s important to access the injury status of everyone involved, you need to choose your words wisely when you speak so you don’t accidentally admit fault — even if it was your fault. For example, it’s natural to apologize for the accident even if the wreck wasn’t your fault, but any apology given might be misinterpreted as an admission of guilt.
To stay on the safe side, verify everyone involved in the accident is okay, and then, remain silent. Don’t speak to the other party involved or any bystanders before the police arrive at the scene. When you give your statement, explain what happened as clearly as possible in as few words as possible. Keep it short and sweet. This way, if you need to hire a personal injury lawyer in the future, the documentation includes the facts, not opinions.
Also, don’t immediately hand over your auto insurance information. While it’s important to exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver, immediately offering it up may look as if you feel guilty. Instead, wait for the police to arrive on the scene and give the information to the officer taking the report. If the police don’t come to the accident scene, suggest to the other driver that you exchange information “just in case.”
Mistake #3: Refusing Medical Attention
Even if you feel fine after the accident it’s important to seek medical attention. Car accidents increase your adrenaline, so you might not feel pain right away. Also, you might not experience symptoms from auto accident injuries, such as whiplash, concussion, and soft tissue injuries, right away.
If emergency personnel doesn’t arrive at the scene of the accident, take the time to go to your doctor or visit the nearest emergency room to get checked out. This way, if you need to hire a personal injury lawyer to file a claim for you a few days later, there’s already a record of your medical treatment. Also, personal injury settlements often cover any pay you missed because the accident caused you to miss work and sometimes additional money for pain and suffering.
The fact is, you don’t know how you’ll react after a car accident until it happens. It’s okay if you’re a bit flustered after a wreck, but don’t let your fear, confusion, or anxiety control how you react. It’s important to keep your cool because if you receive a low settlement offer from your insurance claim or a portion of the claim is denied, you might need to hire a personal injury lawyer to receive a fair settlement. If that’s the case, you want to have all of the facts documented clearly.
And finally, be sure to take the proper steps to make the most of any auto insurance settlement due you.