There are few times in life when you feel more vulnerable than after a car accident. You may feel frightened, confused, relieved, embarrassed, angry, or a combination of all at once. Unfortunately, what you do or say immediately following an accident can have legal ramifications that can affect you for years. The police and insurance agencies will be watching your behavior closely in an attempt to prove that you were at least partially responsible for the incident. That’s why it’s so important to avoid common mistakes that can be misinterpreted and used against you later.
Not Calling The Police
Many people who are in an accident will avoid filing a police report. They assume the damage to their vehicle is not significant enough. This is always a mistake. Washington State law requires a police report to be filed whenever a car accident causes $500 in property damage or if someone is injured. Alerting police to your scene also serves to prove to the insurance company that the accident actually occurred. Furthermore, with no official report, the specifics of the accident become a matter of “he said, she said.” So if the other driver attempts to deny liability later, you may have a difficult time proving the facts.
Not Seeking Medical Attention
When you’re in a high-stress situation, the adrenaline spike may mask your injuries. You may not know immediately if your neck, back, brain, or soft tissue has sustained damage. If you feel OK after an accident, it is still highly recommended that you seek a medical examination. You don’t have to take an ambulance immediately, but you should see a doctor within a day or two. If you have sustained a significant injury, you will want an official report to submit to the insurance company. Otherwise, you could end up paying for costly treatments yourself.
Fleeing The Scene
Never drive away from an accident before filing a police report and exchanging insurance information with the other driver. Even if you are not at fault, fleeing the scene makes you look guilty. Worse, if the other driver is injured, even if the accident was their fault, you can be arrested or fined for leaving the scene of an auto accident injury. Stay calm, file a report, and call an attorney from the scene if you are unsure what to do next.
Not Gathering Evidence
The police report will be very useful for the court to determine exactly what happened and who was at fault. Gathering your own evidence at the scene will be very useful for proving your own side of the story. Take pictures of the damage to both cars. Document the position of the vehicles and the road signs in the area. Finally, ask for the contact information of any witnesses nearby. If the other driver’s story differs from yours, you’ll be glad you took a moment to gather some evidence.
This is sometimes the most difficult thing to remember for people experiencing a car accident for the first time. You may feel embarrassed or confused, and you may absent-mindedly apologize to the other driver. Unfortunately, being polite in this situation can hurt you down the road. Admitting fault at the scene of a crash may make you financially and legally liable. If the other driver reports what you said to the police or their insurance company, you may be held entirely responsible even if you are only partially so. Instead, remember to stay calm, gather evidence, and report your side of the story.
Accepting The First Offer From An Insurance Company
If your car is damaged and/or your body is injured, you may feel compelled to accept the first promise of compensation that an adjuster throws out. This is also a mistake. An insurance adjuster’s job is to attempt to pay out as little as possible to victims of car accidents. They can achieve this by giving you a lowball offer initially and by pressuring you to accept their offer right away. They can often save money by getting you to agree to a payout before your injuries are thoroughly examined and lengthy treatments or therapies are prescribed.
Not Calling A Lawyer
A qualified personal injury and auto accident attorney can help present your case and tell your side of the story. They can also contend with insurance adjusters and debt collectors, so you don’t have to. When disaster strikes, it’s important to have someone you can trust fighting on your behalf.
At NBF Accident Law, we achieve the best possible results for accident victims by fighting for them with effort and energy. Let us hear your side of the story. Call (206) 923-8888 today.