The average person will suffer a car accident just once every eighteen years. Because of the infrequency of those accidents, even a minor collision can leave many people shaken and uncertain. Unfortunately, injury victims may make a number of serious mistakes at the scene of the car accident–many of which can limit your right to compensation or even leave you facing legal complications.
Mistake #1: Leaving the scene of the accident.
Legally, you should never leave the scene of a car accident, especially one involving serious property damage or substantial injury, until the police arrive. If you do, you could find yourself charged with a hit and run–and chances are, you won’t have the information you need to seek compensation through a personal injury claim if you did not remain at the scene of the accident and exchange information with the liable party.
You can legally leave the scene of an accident only if:
- You need to seek emergency medical care
- Your safety is threatened at the scene of the accident, including the other driver threatening you
- You need to leave the scene of the accident in order to contact the police (which has become increasingly rare, since today, almost everyone carries a cell phone, and they reach in most locations!)
If you do need to leave the scene of the accident, make sure you contact police dispatch and let them know where you are, why you need to leave, and how they can contact you.
Mistake #2: Failing to report the accident to the police.
Most of the time, you need to have a police officer actively respond to the scene of a car accident. A police officer can collect evidence and write a report about the accident, which may make it much easier for you to later pursue compensation for your injuries. Unfortunately, in many cases, accident victims convince themselves that they don’t really need to get the police involved. The liable driver might even issue an argument for why you should “just keep it between you.” He will certainly pay for the damage. She doesn’t want to have to tell her parents. He can’t afford to have the points on his license. People who cause serious accidents may offer a variety of sob stories, but at the end of the day, you need to report the accident to the police in order to better establish liability and help you pursue the compensation you deserve.
Mistake #3: Ignoring your medical needs.
After a minor fender bender, you may not think that you need to pursue medical attention. After all, you do not seem to have serious injuries. However, any time you have a serious car accident, you should always visit a hospital or urgent care center to have your injuries fully evaluated. Sometimes, a doctor may identify injuries that you did not recognize at the time of the accident, including injuries that may require substantial treatment. Furthermore, visiting a medical care facility will give you evidence of when your injuries occurred, which can later make it easier for you to file a personal injury claim.
Mistake #4: Ignoring your doctor’s instructions.
Once you seek medical attention from a professional, follow through on those vital instructions. You may have considerable limitations, or instructions regarding the treatment you need to pursue. Failure to follow those instructions could not only limit your recovery, it could prevent you from acquiring the compensation you really deserve for your car accident injuries.
Mistake #5: Mistakenly accepting responsibility for the accident.
It can be difficult to know what you can safely see at the scene of a car accident. One top priority: avoid accepting responsibility in any way. You may want to avoid apologizing for the accident or making a statement like, “I didn’t see you!” which could indicate that you bear liability for the accident. Furthermore, you should carefully consider any statements about what caused the accident. While you should offer accurate information to the police, you should not over-share information about the accident.
Mistake #6: Over-sharing on social media.
Most people do not realize that their social media posts can be used against them in a personal injury claim following a car accident. You should avoid posting on social media about the accident itself or about your recovery. Posts to avoid might include:
- Information about your activities, including fun with family and friends, following the accident.
- Any information about your injuries and your recovery.
- A description about the cause of the accident.
In today’s virtually-connected society, many people do not think about just how much information they’re sharing on social media–or just how many people that information is available to. Talk to your lawyer about your social media habits and what you should avoid until your claim resolves.
Mistake #7: Trying to handle your claim alone.
Too often, people try to handle car accident claims on their own. You may assume that the insurance company will deal fairly with you, or that you will get the compensation you deserve based on your medical costs. Unfortunately, the insurance company may use a wide range of strategies to limit the compensation you can recover after your accident–and those strategies could mean that you ultimately do not get the compensation you deserve. The insurance company may:
- Try to prove that you, rather than the other driver, caused the accident.
- Try to establish that you did not suffer the injuries you claimed in the car accident.
- Try to convince you to accept a low settlement offer, especially if they can pressure you to accept it quickly after the accident.
Instead of trying to handle your claim alone, contact an experienced car accident attorney who can help manage your claim. A car accident attorney can give you more information about the compensation you really deserve, help you deal with the insurance company, and prevent you from inadvertently limiting the compensation you can recover.