Although the aftermath of an accident with injuries is stressful and often confusing, the way you respond both immediately and in the days to come can have an affect on whether you will be able to receive fair compensation for your losses. At Harrell & Harrell, P.A., our car accident attorneys too often see accident victims make a number of common errors after their accidents. Here are mistakes to avoid after you’ve been involved in a car accident.
1. Not Calling Law Enforcement
The lack of documentation prepared by a police officer may mean missing out on critical evidence. Law enforcement officers are trained to gather evidence as they prepare their reports and these reports can be central to proving your claim. The other driver may insist that the police not be called, but without an official report, that driver may later blame you for the accident when you were not at fault. Insurance companies evaluating your claim will also place a great deal of importance on whether the police were called.
2. Admitting Fault
We understand that you may have feelings of guilt if you believe that the accident was your fault, and may want to quickly take responsibility on the scene and apologize to others involved or even to a police officer.
You are not obligated in any way to admit guilt and should avoid making any comments that allude to responsibility one way or the other. Try not to say anything beyond recounting the facts of what happened when asked. Your auto accident attorney will advise you after the accident about making any statements that will be needed to file your claim.
3. Foregoing Medical Treatment
If you’ve had an accident, avoid the temptation to just “tough it out” and not seek medical treatment. The most important reason for this is that insurance companies will argue that your injuries could not have been serious if you did not need treatment right away. Another reason is that some types of injuries are not immediately apparent, so even if you feel like you don’t need medical attention right away, a physician’s examination may lead to a diagnosis of hidden injuries that should be documented.
If you are concerned about incurring medical expenses, keep in mind that in Florida, your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance will cover 80 percent of your medical bills up to $10,000 and insurance companies cannot increase your rate for having filed a PIP claim.
4. Not Keeping Doctor’s Appointments
For the same reason you should not deny medical treatment right after your accident, you should keep all of your follow-up medical appointments. Otherwise, an insurance company’s attorneys may present that as a sign that you were not seriously injured.
5. Not Documenting Evidence
Few of us can accurately recall all of the details of an accident as days and weeks go by. Don’t rely on your memory—gather as much evidence as you can at the scene. Take photos of injuries, property damage, and all areas of the scene, including traffic signals, intersections, road conditions and more. You should also get names and contact information of all witnesses.
6. Accepting The Insurance Company’s Initial Decision
An insurance adjuster will act quickly to resolve your claim. This often leads to accident victims accepting the first offer for a settlement, which is nearly always more advantageous to the insurance company than it is to a victim. Before you accept an offer in person, by phone, or via email, consult an experienced auto accident lawyer. At Harrell & Harrell, P.A., our attorneys are available to consult with you at no charge to help determine the strength of your case and assess the full extent of your losses.
7. Delaying Filing Your Claim
Florida law sets a limit on the length of time you have to file a civil lawsuit against the person or entity that may be legally at fault for your injuries. According to the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, victims have four years from the date the accident occurred to file. Failure to file within this time frame will likely result in the court not hearing the case.
Promptly filing a personal injury lawsuit can also help support a positive outcome—if you wait for a few years to file, it may be much more difficult to reconstruct the circumstances of your accident and prove your case.
8. Signing A Release Without Legal Advice
The other driver’s insurance company (or the representatives of any other persons or entities who may ultimately be held legally at fault for your injuries) may ask you to sign a release or waiver. This legal document is an agreement that says you release or give up some legal rights, including the right to file a lawsuit against those who may be at fault.
There are several things you should consider before you sign a release. AllLaw.com lists these five things to consider:
- You may need to obtain permission from your own auto insurance company before you sign. Once you sign, your insurance company will not be able to attempt to receive reimbursement for a payment made to you under your underinsured motorist coverage.
- If you do choose to sign a release, make sure you fully understand the terms it includes, particularly those related to a settlement amount and details of the settlement payment.
- To the extent that you can, make sure that the settlement defined in the release will be sufficient to cover all of the costs of your injuries and other damages you may have suffered. Once you have signed a release, you will not be able to get any additional settlement monies.
- Many accident victims overlook some losses to which they may have valid claims, such as pain and suffering or lost wages. Consult a car accident attorney before you agree to settle only for medical bills and property repairs.
- Make sure you identify all parties or entities that may have responsibility for your accident. In the case of an accident with a commercial vehicle, you may, for example, have a claim against not only the driver, but also the company that owns the driver’s vehicle. Again, a consultation with an auto accident attorney is the best way to ensure that every aspect of your case is considered before you sign any release.
9. Not Consulting A Car Accident Lawyer
Personal injury law is an increasingly complex practice area. Attempting to navigate the claim filing process on your own may result in receiving a settlement amount less than what you are legally entitled to, or no settlement at all. In many situations, injured victims are unsure if they need to hire a car accident lawyer. We always recommend consulting with an attorney as soon as possible after the accident to determine the strength of your claim.
With the car accident attorneys at Harrell & Harrell, P.A., on your side, you will have personal injury experts fighting to ensure that you get the full compensation you deserve. We gladly offer free, no-obligation initial consultations and will represent you on a contingency fee basis. Please contact us online or call us any time of day or night at 904-251-1111 or 800-251-1111.