Ten Biggest Mistakes After an Accident
Making the wrong moves after an accident can ruin your chances of getting what you deserve – or even getting better. Here’s what not to do when you’ve been hurt.
Despite the stress of the moments after an accident, there are very important tasks you must complete right now. There are also actions that you should not take. But unless you’re familiar with what happens after an auto accident, you probably don’t know what these actions are.
The stakes are high. Read on for the 10 biggest mistakes made after an accident – so you can avoid these costly errors.
Mistake #1: Underestimating Your Injuries
Misjudging how severe your injuries are is a common mistake people make after an accident. It’s also a very serious one. Underestimating your injuries after an accident can hurt you in two ways:
- Making it seem like you’re not really hurt.
- Making rehabilitation more difficult.
Don’t Say You’re “Okay”
If you’re tempted to say, “I’m fine” after an injury, don’t do it.
Even if your injuries aren’t life-threatening and you don’t need an ambulance, don’t say, “I’m okay.” Instead, say precisely what you mean – you don’t need an ambulance at this time.
Always let first responders know about whatever symptoms you may be feeling – no matter how minor. A lot of injuries don’t seem severe at first, especially when you’re in shock. But that initial pain can turn out to be something serious – and it can get worse.
To be on the safe side, our accident injury attorneys always encourage victims to avoid making the mistake of saying they’re “okay.” If you’re not feeling symptoms right now, just don’t say anything.
Don’t Neglect to Seek Medical Care
Failing to seek medical care after an accident can be disastrous to your health. How can your injuries get better if you never get treatment?
If you have apparent injuries, go to the ER now.
If not, see a doctor immediately upon leaving the accident scene.
When you underestimate your injuries and fail to get treatment, you’re making a big mistake. You may think your injuries are minor enough to resolve on their own, but it’s always best to leave that assessment – and documentation – to a doctor. Your health is just too important to risk.
Mistake #2: Waiting Too Long to Act
You don’t have all the time in the world to take action after you suffer a personal injury. In fact, the deadlines on your legal rights – called statutes of limitations – are just one of the reasons you need to act fast.
What exactly does it mean to “take action” after an accident? Filing a personal injury lawsuit may seem a long way off. But the success of your cases hinges on the steps you take right now.
- If you wait to get medical care, you’re not documenting the full extent of your injuries – and you’re putting your health at an even greater risk.
- If you wait to start investigating the accident, crucial pieces of evidence might have vanished. Video surveillance footage gets taped over. Witnesses forget details.
- If you wait to reach out to a lawyer, you may have a hard time finding one willing to take on your case. An experienced attorney doesn’t want to handle a case if there’s not enough time to prepare it successfully.
- And if you wait too long to file a lawsuit – typically, two years from the date of the accident – you’ll miss the statute of limitations completely. You’ll have no chance of ever getting compensation for your claim.
Mistake #3: Giving Too Much Information to the Insurance Company
Trusting the insurance company too much is another of the 10 mistakes that can ruin your accident claim. Insurance adjusters aren’t on your side. Their job is to save the insurance company money – and that means paying you less.
If you have an insurance company that’s involved in the claim – which basically would be the case only in a motor vehicle accident – you have a legal obligation to that insurer. Give your insurance company the basic information about the accident that’s required by law – and only this basic information.
But don’t give any insurance company details they’re not entitled to. Don’t talk about fault or about your injuries right now. Don’t agree to give a recorded statement. None of these actions will ever help you. They can only help the insurance company.
Mistake #4: Failing to Call the Police
Don’t let the other driver talk you out of calling 911. No matter how minor the damage may seem, no matter how sorry the other driver claims to be, you need to report the accident.
Why does a police accident report matter? Without getting your body and your car checked out by the right professionals, you really don’t know for sure if the accident will have any serious consequences.
So you need to document it.
Mistake #5: Admitting Fault
Whether you’re talking to the police, the other driver, a witness, or an insurance company, you should not take the blame for an accident. Saying that you’re at fault is one of the 10 biggest mistakes you can make after an accident – and it might not even be true.
The thing is, it’s sometimes difficult in the immediate aftermath of an accident to determine what happened. People have accepted blame for accidents they didn’t even cause – and ultimately, the statements hurt their cases.
Drivers who have been rear-ended blamed themselves for stopping too quickly, even though the law says the other motorist was at fault for following too closely. Victims of slip and falls have volunteered that they “should’ve watched where they were going” even when the property owner was clearly negligent.
Never apologize for an accident that isn’t your fault. Even if you think you did cause the accident, never admit fault before talking to an attorney.
Have you already made any of these mistakes? It might not be too late yet. Here’s how to fix the biggest mistakes made after an accident.
Mistake #6: Failing to Gather Evidence
Remember how failing to act quickly is one of the main mistakes people make after an accident? Not collecting evidence right away is a key part of taking action early. You should start gathering evidence even while you’re waiting for the police to arrive.
Here are some early steps you can take:
- Get the names and contact information of any witnesses and ask for their statements now. Don’t wait – you want their accounts while the accident is still fresh in their minds.
- Use the camera feature on your mobile phone to take pictures of the accident scene.
Mistake #7: Accepting a Quick Settlement
A fast settlement isn’t a full settlement. Don’t make the mistake of agreeing to accept less money than you deserve.
This happens all the time. An adjuster might say to you that the insurer wants to settle quickly to “help you.” So you can “put everything behind you.”
Don’t do it.
Once you settle‚ you can’t reopen your case, even if your recovery takes longer than expected. So, while the offer may seem fair now, it might not be enough to cover the full cost of your recovery later.
Say a year and a half after the injury, it turns out that you need surgery and will be out of work for weeks. Will the money the insurer is offering cover those damages? What if you’re never able to return to your old job in the same capacity – will what the insurer’s offering be enough?
Our injury lawyers know how an accident can cause a financial hardship. But there are other ways of dealing with these economic demands – ways that an attorney can help you with – besides agreeing to a lowball settlement just so you can get the money sooner rather than later.
Mistake 8: Signing Anything from the Insurance Company
Remember, even your own insurance company isn’t on your side. You need to be careful agreeing to anything, especially in writing.
That’s why our accident lawyers recommend always talking to an attorney before you sign any forms from any insurance company. Otherwise, you could end up accidentally signing away your legal rights.
When you accept a settlement for any portion of a claim, you’ll have to sign a form releasing that party from further financial responsibility. Basically, you agree that you won’t try to sue again for a claim when you’ve already gotten money for those damages.
But some releases contain language that strips you of further legal rights. If you sign these documents, you might lose your opportunity to pursue a claim against any defendant – not just the one already sending you a check – for this accident.
This isn’t fair, but it happens – which is why you need to be careful when signing a release.
We also discourage accident victims from signing a medical authorization form. When you sign this form, you allow the insurance company to review parts of your medical history that have nothing to do with the accident. That’s private health information, not something the insurer is entitled to.
You might wonder what the big deal is. Because these medical records aren’t related to your accident, they won’t do anything to help your case. But an insurer who has access to that information could twist it to reduce or deny your claim.
It doesn’t matter if a condition unrelated to your accident resolved years before your current injury.The insurer may still try to use your medical records to say that the injuries you claimed to sustain in the accident are actually pre-existing. And this can hurt your claim, even if it isn’t true.
Mistake #9: Using Facebook and Other Social Media Sites
Using social media after an accident can be risky. When you share updates about your accident or medical condition – or even seemingly simple updates about your life – you’re helping the other side build a case against you.
Insurance adjusters commonly use social media to spy on claimants. They look for posts and photographs that contradict your claim. They seize on innocent statements and pictures that they can twist to weaken your credibility.
If you say that you’re feeling better, the insurer can argue that your injuries aren’t serious or that they’re not permanent. A photograph of a hobby, a trip, or a special occasion can be used to make it look like the accident hasn’t really affected your life – even if it clearly has.
What’s best is to communicate with loved ones privately rather than broadcasting personal information across the Internet. To protect yourself, we suggest that you disable your social media profiles until your case settles.
Mistake #10: Failing to Call an Attorney
Your insurance adjuster may tell you that you don’t need a lawyer. But that’s only because the insurance company doesn’t want you to have one.
Why? It’s bad for their business. Studies show that accident victims who hire lawyers recover 3.5 times more compensation than those who don’t.
Paying out more money in claims may be bad news for the insurance company – but it’s good news for you. After all, you naturally want to get the full amount of money you deserve. Without a lawyer, you won’t be able to do that.