You’ve just been in a car crash. Do you know the important actions you need to take right now? What about the things you should never do? Most people don’t – yet the stakes are high.
Making the wrong moves after an auto accident can ruin your chances of getting what you deserve – or even getting better.
Avoid making these 10 biggest mistakes after your accident, and get help for your auto injury claim today.
If you’re in a car crash, here is a list of things you should never do. Click on each warning to find out more.
Think your injuries from a car crash aren’t that bad? A lot of accident victims do – and by the time they realize that they really are hurt, it’s too late.
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:
It’s natural to want to downplay your injuries, either because you’re in shock and aren’t sure of the extent of your injuries or because you’re too overwhelmed and don’t want to deal with it. 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 that you’re okay. Instead, declare precisely what you mean, that you don’t need an ambulance.
What if you really do think you’re fine? It’s still not a good idea to say so. Sometimes it takes hours or even days for symptoms to present themselves. You might feel nothing out of the ordinary right now but could develop problems later, and these problems could be severe.
To be on the safe side, our car accident attorneys always discourage victims from saying they’re “okay.” If you’re not feeling symptoms right now, just don’t say anything. Otherwise, you could wind up unintentionally sabotaging your claim. The insurance company can use these early statements in which you said that you were fine to downplay the severity of your injuries and get out of paying you what you deserve.
Always let first responders know about whatever symptoms you may be feeling, regardless of how minor these symptoms may seem. 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.
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? How can you move forward with a claim against the person responsible for your injuries if there are no medical records to document those injuries?
If you have obviously serious injuries, you should consider going to the ER now.
If not, you should still see a doctor as soon as possible upon leaving the accident scene.
When you underestimate your injuries and fail to get treatment, you’re making a big mistake. Sure, 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 too important to risk.
You don’t have all the time in the world to take action after you suffer a personal injury. There are deadlines, called statutes of limitations, on your legal rights. The statute of limitations is only 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 case hinges on the steps you take right now.
Typically, car crash victims have only two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. In some cases, the deadline is even earlier.
We’re not saying this to overwhelm you. But the damage you can do just by waiting too long is significant, and, unfortunately, it’s an easy mistake to make. You always want to take any action to do with starting your claim sooner rather than later.
Once the statute of limitations passes, you lose the chance to file a claim.
Trusting the insurance company is another mistake that can ruin your accident claim. Insurance adjusters aren’t on your side. It doesn’t matter how friendly they seem. Their job is to save the insurance company money. The best way they can do this is by figuring out how to pay you less.
Don’t give any insurance company details they’re not entitled to. Don’t talk about fault or your injuries right now. Definitely don’t agree to give a recorded statement.
Providing this information will not help you. It only helps the insurance company.
When it comes to your auto insurance policy, you do have a contract to honor. That means you have a legal obligation to your insurer. Promptly alert your insurance company about the accident and nothing else. The law only requires you to provide the necessary information. Once you have done that, you’ve met your responsibility.
You don’t have this same obligation to the other driver’s auto insurer. Don’t let this insurance company pressure you into anything. You won’t benefit from giving the insurer a statement or signing their paperwork. Ask the driver who hit you for their insurance information and leave it at that, for now.
There’s only one way to deal with an insurance company without risking making mistakes that could endanger the success of your claim. Hire a lawyer to communicate with the insurance companies on your behalf.
Don’t let insurance companies put their profits ahead of your well-being. Call for your free consultation today!
Don’t let the other driver talk you out of calling 911.
It doesn’t matter how minor the damage may seem. It doesn’t matter how sorry the other driver claims to be. You need to report the accident.
In states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, reporting a crash isn’t only a smart decision. It’s something you’re legally required to do.
Why does a police report matter? Without getting your body and your car examined by the right professionals, from the police officer to emergency responders to medical staff, you don’t know if the accident will have serious consequences.
If you try to pursue a claim later and you don’t have this information, you might not be able to move forward with a case.
After a car crash, you’ll talk to a lot of people: the police, the other driver, witnesses, and your insurance company.
No matter who you’re talking to, do not take the blame for the accident. Admitting fault for a car accident is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
It might not even be true.
The thing is, it can be difficult, right after an accident, to figure out what happened. In the aftermath, people accept blame for accidents they didn’t even cause. For example, drivers who are rear-ended may blame themselves for stopping too quickly. The law says it’s the other motorist at fault for not giving the car in front enough distance.
Ultimately, the statements in which accident victims are – or even just seem to be – admitting fault for the car accident can end up hurting their claim. Under New Jersey law, comparative negligence applies to car accident claims in the Garden State. That means that you can pursue a claim even if you are partly at fault, as long as you are less at fault, percentage-wise, than the other driver or any other defendant.
If you rush to apologize for the accident because you think you may have made a minor error that contributed to the crash, and an investigation later reveals a much bigger error on the part of the other driver, your admission of fault can make it harder to get the money that you would otherwise be entitled to.
You could also face traffic violation citations and insurance rate hikes that you don’t really deserve. It’s admirable that you feel empathy for the other motorist, but the reality is that both of you (and any other victims) are now facing this unfortunate situation of a car accident to deal with.
Never apologize for an accident that isn’t your fault, and never rush into admitting fault for a car accident unless you are 100 percent sure that you are the only person to blame.
Even if you think you did cause the crash, admitting fault for a car accident isn’t a good idea – at least, not without first talking to an attorney.
Admitting fault for a car accident isn’t a wise move, even if it seems obvious that you caused the crash. Even if the other driver blames you and the police ticket you for a violation, you are better off keeping your mouth shut – and your answers to officers’ questions cooperative but short and to-the-point – than outright admitting fault.
An investigation will shed more light on exactly what happened. At that point, you can look at the evidence and see who is really at fault, and to what degree, for causing the crash.
After a car crash, you’ll talk to a lot of people: the police, the other driver, witnesses, and your insurance company.
Remember how failing to act quickly is one of the main mistakes people make after an accident? Failing to collect evidence or gather important information right away is a key part of taking action early.
While you’re waiting for the police to arrive at the scene of your accident, take the time to compile as much information as you possibly can.
Here are some early steps you can take:
If you file a lawsuit, all of this information is important to your case and helps your attorneys properly communicate with the insurance company about your auto insurance claim.
A quick settlement sounds like a good thing, right? After all, you get a check that can help cover some of those first medical bills, and you don’t even have to worry about going to court.
But settling your case too early is only good for your insurance company.
The insurance company wants to spend as little as possible settling your claim. They hope that, if they give you a quick offer, you’ll accept, and they can keep their profits.
This happens all the time. An adjuster might tell you that the insurer wants to settle quickly to “help you” so you can “put everything behind you.”
A fast settlement isn’t a full settlement. Don’t make the mistake of accepting less money than you deserve.
Once you settle‚ you can’t reopen your case. Not if your injuries are more serious than you realized. Not if your recovery takes longer than expected. When your case is closed, it’s closed for good.
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 accident, it turns out that you need surgery. You’ll be out of work for weeks. Will the money the insurer is offering cover those damages? And what if you’re never able to return to your old job in the same capacity? Will that quick settlement be enough?
Our injury lawyers know how an accident can cause a financial hardship, but there are other ways to deal with these struggles besides agreeing to a low settlement just so you can get the money sooner. You might be surprised at all the ways an attorney can help you with that.
Working with an attorney can also increase the size of your settlement. In fact, clients who let attorneys handle their car accident claims receive 3.5x MORE than people who try to file claims on their own. When you let us file your claim, we fight to get you the compensation you deserve and not a penny less.
You should always talk to an attorney before you sign any forms from any insurance company. Otherwise, you could end up signing away your legal rights.
When you accept a settlement for any part of a claim, you’ll have to sign a release form. This form releases 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 forms, you might lose your chance to pursue a claim against any defendant, not only the one already sending you a check.
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 your medical history.
What you may not know is that signing this form allows your insurer to see all of your medical histories. That includes parts of your medical records that have nothing to do with the accident. That’s private health information, something the insurer is not entitled to.
You might wonder what the big deal is. Since these medical records aren’t related to your accident, there’s no reason the insurer would need them, right? When you give an insurer access to these records anyway, the insurance adjuster could twist that information to reduce or deny your claim.
Suppose you had a previous injury that resolved years before your accident. The old injury is unrelated to your current injuries. However, an insurer might still try to use your medical records to say that the injuries you claimed to sustain in the accident are pre-existing. This can hurt your claim, even if it isn’t true.
Remember, even your own insurance company isn’t on your side. You need to be carefully agreeing to anything, especially in writing.
Using social media after an accident can be risky. Any information you choose to share could help insurance companies build a case against you.
Insurance adjusters use social media to spy on claimants. They look for updates and photographs that contradict your claim. They even seize on innocent posts and pictures they think they can twist to weaken your credibility.
Be wary of sharing updates about your accident or medical condition on social media. Even seemingly simple updates about your life could cause problems with your claim.
Suppose a Facebook friend comments on a status you post and asks how you are feeling. If you say you’re feeling better, an insurer who finds that post may argue that your injuries aren’t that serious.
The insurance company might even twist normal, seemingly unrelated posts. A photo of a hobby, trip, or special occasion after the accident can be used to make it look like the injury hasn’t affected your life, even if it clearly has.
How can you protect yourself? Our attorneys suggest disabling your social media profiles until your case settles. At the very least, avoid broadcasting sensitive personal information across the Internet. If a loved one asks you how you’re doing, reach out and respond to them privately.
Failing to call an attorney may be the single biggest mistake a car accident victim can make.
Your insurance adjuster might 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 get 3.5 times more money 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 want to get the full amount of money you deserve. Your recovery depends on it. Without a lawyer, you won’t be able to do that. Without a lawyer, you’re looking at a huge personal hassle that ends in a lower payout.
Take care of yourself by making the best choices for your claim. Avoid these 10 mistakes and put your claim in the hands of experienced car accident lawyers.
This article was professionally reviewed by Richard P Console Jr., an attorney licensed to practice in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Mr. Console has more than twenty-five years of experience practicing personal injury law and successfully resolving vehicle accident claims on behalf of his clients.
While this information was reviewed for accuracy, it should not be considered legal advice. Every claim is different. If you are thinking of pursuing a personal injury claim and have a question, contact us directly.