The steps you take after a car accident will determine how the case will pan out. They affect your chances of proving your case and recovering compensation for the damages you suffered. They are also crucial to how you’ll defend yourself if you are wrongly blamed for causing the accident. More than that, there are things the law expects you to do after you’ve been in a car accident. Failing to do them might make you criminally liable.
While nobody plans to be in a car accident, you should know what not to do after a car accident. Car accident cases can be complex, and avoiding these mistakes will lead to a better outcome.
8 Things You Should Not Do After a Car Accident
After you’re involved in a car accident, don't do any of the following things:
Flee the Scene
In every state in the United States, it is a criminal offense to leave the scene of an accident you were in without stopping. This is commonly known as a “hit and run.”
The law mandates you to stop, help those who need aid, and exchange contact information with the other driver. If there is no other driver, for instance, if you hit an object, you must stop and leave your contact information.
Fleeing the scene of an accident can lead to misdemeanor or felony charges. The punishment varies state by state. As a misdemeanor, you can face up to 6 months in jail or up to a $500 fine. If the accident caused injury or death, it's a severe offense, and it’s treated as a felony. In hit and run cases, most states impose a fine of between $5,000 and $20,000 and, possibly, years of incarceration.
In addition, if you're convicted for a hit and run, the state will revoke your driver's license. The duration of this suspension varies state by state, and ranges from months to a lifetime, based on the circumstances of the accident.
Fail To Call 911
You may wonder if it’s important to call the police after an accident, especially if nobody was seriously hurt. The other driver may even beg you not to call 911. But there are various reasons you must not fail to call 911 and report the crash, even if the accident appears minor.
In many states, you have a legal obligation to report an accident you were in, even if you didn't cause it. In Louisiana and Texas, you have an obligation to report an accident that causes injury or death, or property or car damage over $500 and $1,000, respectively.
The police may also help to determine who was at fault. That report can help you in proving your case later. For example, a police report showing that the other driver was drunk driving may be all you need to prove your case. A police report is also proof that the accident happened, and most insurance companies ask for it when you file your claim.
Neglect Proper Documentation
Another thing you must not do after a car accident is fail to document the accident and gather evidence. Don't just rely on the police report. You can capture lots of details the police may miss that will help your case. Write the name and badge number of the police officer in charge, and get a copy of the police report.
Don't neglect to go to the hospital and get yourself checked out, even if you sustained little or no injury. Ensure you get a medical report of your injury immediately after you are in an accident. Insurance companies may use any failure or delay to do so as proof that you didn’t sustain any injury, or that your injury was minor. Ensure the medical report includes every test, diagnosis, and treatment you received.
Other details you should not fail to gather after an accident are:
- The other driver's full name and contact information
- Plate numbers of the vehicles involved
- The model, make, and color of the vehicles involved
- Auto insurance information of all the drivers involved
- Name and contact information of eyewitnesses
- Eyewitness accounts of the accident
- A written narrative of the accident as you understand it
- Picture of the accident scene and vehicle damage
- Pictures of any physical injury you sustained
- Picture of the road and weather condition
Underestimate Your Injuries
Car accidents often cause internal injuries or soft tissue damage, which may take days, weeks, or even months to manifest. What you think is just a minor bruise may be serious.
After an accident, you may feel shocked, overwhelmed, and uncomfortable with all the attention you are getting. But you should not downplay any pain or unusual feeling you may have. Always let medical personnel know exactly how you feel. A slight pain you feel in your back may indicate a spinal cord injury.
Underestimating your injuries may cause you to delay a proper medical evaluation of your injuries, which may worsen your injuries or affect your ability to receive proper compensation. Never say you are fine if asked how you feel, even if you think you are. Insurance companies may use that admission to claim that you weren’t injured in the accident or that the injury wasn’t serious.
When you underestimate your injuries, it can also make you neglect the long-term impact of your injuries, and you may accept a settlement that doesn’t cater for injuries that surface later.
Admitting fault is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in a car accident case. Even if you think you are partly or fully responsible for an accident, never admit fault. You don’t have enough facts to do so. You may wrongly assume that you are the one responsible when you are not.
No matter how empathetic you feel towards the other driver, never say things like “I’m sorry” or “I tried to slow down,” or any statement that implies you are admitting responsibility.
It’s the duty of the police and insurance adjusters to investigate the case and assign blame. Most states, including Louisiana and Texas, apply comparative negligence in accident cases, which means you can still recover damages even if you were partly at fault, as long as you are less at fault than the other parties involved in the accident.
If you admitted fault, and the investigation reveals that you played a minor role in the crash, that admission may make it harder to receive the compensation you deserve. Admitting fault can also make you liable for traffic violation citations, even when you are not at fault.
Talk to an Insurance Adjuster
Insurance adjusters may appear friendly and helpful, but never forget that your interests conflict with theirs. Any car accident advice they give you will only benefit them. Their job is to find what they can use to deny or reduce your compensation.
Insurance adjusters know that accidents victims are at a vulnerable point. They may try to win your trust and get you to open up. It might be tempting to talk. You may even feel like talking will help your case. It won’t.
The only thing you should divulge to insurance adjusters is your contact information or your lawyer's contact information. Anything else could be used against you.
Sign a “Quick Hit” Release
After you have been in a car accident, insurance companies may be quick to offer you a settlement and get you to sign a release or waiver. Don't sign it without talking to a personal injury lawyer. Accepting the first offer an insurance company gives you is hardly the right thing to do. Most times, they are offering you a lot less than you deserve.
It’s often tempting to accept their offer because you need the money to settle your medical bills, and you want to get your life back to normal. Insurance adjusters know this, and they will try to exploit it. They will use lots of tactics to get you to sign a release, including victim-blaming.
Signing any release will bar you from pursuing any claim or lawsuit against them later on if you realize that what they offered is not enough to take care of your medical bills.
Moreover, medical expenses are only a fraction of what you might recover. You can also claim compensation for:
- Future medical bills
- Lost income
- Future lost earnings
- Cost of renovating your home to accommodate any disability
- Pain, suffering, and mental trauma
Not Talk to a Lawyer
Insurance adjusters will discourage you from hiring a personal injury lawyer, and there are reasons they do that. A report by Nolo shows that when you hire a personal injury attorney, you have a 91 percent chance of receiving a settlement, compared to a 51 percent chance when you don’t. Also, people who hire a personal injury lawyer receive, on average, three times the compensation of people who don’t.
Insurance companies want to pay you a lot less than you deserve, but a car accident attorney will fight to get you the maximum compensation possible.
If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident because of other people’s negligence, contact a car accident lawyer immediately. The experienced car accident attorneys at Morriss & Dewett Injury Lawyers have represented many car accident victims in Louisiana and Texas. Contact us today to see if you have a case.