If you are involved in a car accident, it is important to know ways to “wreck your claim.” Avoiding these mistakes can help you avoid compromising your settlement, and hopefully maximize the settlement or verdict you obtain.
Here are the most common mistakes we see people make after car wrecks:
1. Not reporting the accident.
Failing to call the police to report the accident or leaving the accident scene before the police arrive. Even in minor accidents, the accident report can help the insurance company evaluate the claim. Without the report, the insurance company is relying on what their driver said what happened vs what you claim happened.
2. Saying “I’m Sorry” at the accident scene.
Even if this statement is completely unrelated to what caused the wreck, an insurance company or the defense lawyer will likely claim that you are somehow admitting fault.
3. Failing to get all of the information at the accident scene.
This includes the name, address, phone number, and insurance and license information of the other driver, and the information for any of the witnesses. This information can help speed up the claim, but can make a difference later on if the case goes to trial.
4. Not taking pictures of the accident scene and damage to both vehicles.
This information can be helpful in negotiating a settlement or in preparing a car accident lawsuit.
5. Waiting to go to your doctor and failing to get needed medical treatment.
What might feel like a relatively minor injury, such as a pulled muscle, could be the warning signs of a bulging disc or serious back injury. Most people delay getting medical treatment because they hope they’ll quickly get better on their own. Early treatment may allow for a better medical outcome. If you wait too long to see a doctor, the insurance company will claim that your injuries are not related to the accident. When the adjuster is reviewing a claim, they will look at was has been documented by a medical professional – not just what the claimant states.
6. Being overly confrontational.
Nobody likes to deal with someone that is overly argumentative. The police officer at the scene is less likely to be helpful if the accident victim is uncooperative. Likewise, the insurance adjuster won’t go out of their way to fully evaluate a claim if the person is being difficult to deal with.
7. Failing to keep all receipts and documents related to the accident.
This includes receipts for any repairs made to the car, medical bills, and the tow truck bill. If you have video or pictures of the accident, make sure to save them. It’s surprisingly common for people to take photos on their cell phone, only to lose the photos, or the phone, before they make their claim. Emailing yourself copies of the photos is an easy way to keep a back up copy.
8. Not following the doctor’s orders.
If your doctor prescribes you medication, physical therapy, or tells you to stay home from work to rest, it is important to follow their orders. If you do not, the insurance company will claim that your injuries are not as serious as you say they are. If your symptoms have improved, tell your doctor so they can update your treatment plan.
9. Settling the claim too early.
Insurance companies will sometimes try to settle a claim when the accident victim is still treating. This leaves unpaid medical bills and a settlement that is less than what it should have been.
10. Overstating your case.
If the case goes to trial, you can expect your credibility to be put on the stand by the insurance company.
11. Signing whatever documents the insurance company sends you, without reading them.
Best approach, consult with a lawyer to find out what you’re signing and if you are giving up any of your rights. These documents may release the other driver from liability, and you will not be able to seek future compensation from them.
12. Failing to keeping track of everything the accident has put you through.
Don’t go from memory on what happened. Writing a letter to your attorney, throughout your medical treatment, can help you document everything that has happened.
13. Failing to speak to a car accident attorney as soon as possible.
An attorney can help you understand your rights and navigate the legal system in order to obtain the best possible outcome. Don’t make any rash decisions after a car accident. Take the time to gather all of the information you can and speak to an experienced car accident attorney. They will be able to help you understand your rights and options, and ensure that you are taking the best possible course of action.
14. Taking how the insurance company is handling your claim personal.
Insurance companies are big business and your case is simply a claim number to them. It’s likely the adjuster has too many active claims, and isn’t likely trying to be short with you. Don’t try to argue your case with the adjuster. Your personal injury case is about the facts. The adjuster’s goal is to minimize your settlement amount, so don’t let emotions get in the way. If you disagree with the adjuster’s assessment, make sure they haven’t left anything out regarding your claim.
15. Failing to be patient, but waiting too long.
The process of filing a personal injury claim can be long and frustrating. It is important to be patient and understand that the insurance company is not required to give you a fair settlement.
16. Giving up on the claim.
If you are not offered a fair settlement, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit.
17. Waiting too long to pursue the car accident claim.
If the statute of limitations has lapsed before the lawsuit is filed, the defendant and their insurance company are off the hook.
If you have any questions or would like more information, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney. Most car accident lawyers don’t charge for a consultation. Even if you plan on handling the case yourself, it shouldn’t cost you anything to talk with an attorney.