Motor vehicle accidents can be traumatizing and overwhelming, especially if you or someone else was injured. Aside from dealing with the initial shock of what just happened, you might encounter days, weeks or even months of difficulties as you deal with the aftermath of the accident. It's important to understand that if you're involved in a car accident, the actions you take immediately following the accident can significantly affect your ability to recover the compensation you're entitled to. Knowing what steps to take will help to reduce stress, speed up the auto insurance claims process, and lower how much you'll pay for repairs and medical treatment.
Here are the six most common mistakes to avoid after a car accident:
- Not calling the police: You should always call the police immediately following an accident. In most cases, the police will come to the scene and write up an accident report. The police will also get the names, insurance information, and contact information of everyone involved in the accident. The police will interview each and every witness and ask them to give a detailed report of what they saw. Even if the police have the names and contact information of witnesses, you may also want to get this information for yourself.
- Forgetting to exchange information: It's incredibly important to exchange information with all drivers involved in the accident and anyone that witnessed it. Regardless of how minor the accident appears to be, it's important that you always collect all contact and insurance information because you may need it in the future. Here's what information you should collect: contact information for all drivers and witnesses, driver's license information, license plate numbers, insurance company name, insurance policy numbers, and the make and model of all vehicles involved.
- Admitting fault: Even if you feel as if you're to blame for the accident, you should never admit fault. There are many factors involved in causing a crash, and all of those factors may not be apparent to you immediately after an accident. Instead of taking the blame, provide simple, factual answers to all of the questions that the police ask you. Although the person who is at fault should be held responsible, you should never admit fault at the scene of the accident.
- Refusing medical treatment: It's normal to feel completely fine immediately following an accident. However, it's important to understand that some injuries don't show up right away. Whiplash, for example, is a common car accident injury, but it often takes a day or even a few days for you to start noticing any symptoms. Seeing a doctor following an accident could potentially save your life if you suffered from serious injuries that didn't show symptoms, but it can also help preserve your right to make a personal injury claim in the future. A doctor will be able to provide a full medical examination, document any existing injuries, and give you a list of symptoms to watch out for in case of injuries show up in the future.
- Not reporting the accident to your insurance company: Sometimes, people involved in a car accident try to settle things themselves without involving insurance companies. This is a bad idea. You have an obligation to notify your insurance company after an accident, and the failure to notify them could void your coverage. Plus, you don't know whether the other driver will follow through on their promises or if they have the money to cover your damage, injuries, and other losses. Additionally, what might initially seem like minor damage could quickly become a major problem that's difficult to resolve.
- Not taking pictures: Sometimes, a car accident can cause more damage than initially meets the eye. It's important that you take pictures of everything at the scene of the accident including damage to all cars, skid marks, the position of the cars, damage to street signs or other property, the airbag, the odometer, and more. You can share these photos with the claims adjuster and your attorney, as they help paint a better picture of what happened during and after the accident.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you can improve your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve. If you've been in a car accident and are looking to file a personal injury claim, it's important that you meet with an experienced personal injury attorney who can look over your case and guide you through the claims process.