On an average day, it’s safe to say that no one is prepared for a car accident, as minor as it may be. You can take all the precautions you’ve been taught — but when you feel that sudden, trembling jolt of your vehicle being crashed into, there’s a chance that everything inside you might freeze.
As the adrenaline courses through your veins, you might have no idea what to do next. You may worry about making a wrong choice, one that could possibly result in a court case or a massive fine.
But we’re here to help. Take a look at our list of three common mistakes that drivers make after an accident. Once you know what NOT to do after a car accident, you can consider what you SHOULD do instead!
Mistake 1: Failing to Call the Police
So you’ve made it through an accident — that’s great. Take a breath and try to gather your thoughts. Once you’ve followed your legal obligation to exchange information with the other driver, you absolutely have to file a police report with local law enforcement. When it comes to what not to do after a car accident, failing to call the police is the first thing on the list.
It doesn’t matter if no one appears to be injured; a police report can still be beneficial for both parties. Police can analyze the road conditions and other details that can provide evidence as to which party in an accident is at fault. They can also make sure that the drivers have exchanged the necessary information and take down the information that can help you if you file a claim in the future.
As you’re working with the insurance companies, a police report and evidence of a 911 call could be used as support for a claim. It may seem intimidating (and the other party may try to insist you don’t), but filing a police report is more than a way to document evidence in your favor — in most states, it’s the law.
Mistake Two: Admitting Fault
When it comes to what NOT to do after a car accident, this is a tricky one. For most human beings, it’s instinctive to say “sorry” as they interact with the world. We do it when we crowd the aisles at the grocery store or have to squeeze through a row in the movie theater. There are even people out there who will apologize to the light poles they bump into while walking down the street. But if there’s one thing NOT to do after a car accident, it’s to say that you’re sorry.
The honest truth is that, though a crash may seem to be your fault, there’s a chance that it wasn’t. Even if you are partly to blame, the other party could be slightly more at fault than you are. You won’t know at the moment of impact, and you still probably won’t know until after a police investigation. Don’t jump to take the blame, either accidentally or on purpose.
This is another reason why it’s so vital to get a police report. With a report, an informed third party can examine the environment in a way that you may not be able to. Insurance adjusters may go through a similar process, and through the combined analysis of authorities like these, blame can be assigned.
A statement admitting fault will work against you if the claim is taken to court. And taking blame prematurely could result in citations and rate hikes that you could’ve avoided otherwise. Additionally, be super careful about giving a “recorded statement” to any insurance company, even your own. It’s for the insurance company’s benefit, not yours.
Even if you’re almost certain that the crash was your fault, it’s better to keep your answers succinct until you get a chance to talk to an attorney.
Empathy is a lovely trait in most cases, but premature empathy — especially when it comes to legal claims and physical health — won’t help you much.
Mistake 3: Misjudging Your Injuries
The process of reporting a car accident is not fun. It may be tempting to say whatever you need to so that you can end the process as quickly as possible. When the officer asks whether you’ve sustained injuries, it can be easy enough to insist that you’re fine. Sure, you’re tense and disorientated from the crash, but that’s a normal reaction, isn’t it?
Symptoms like soreness and confusion may seem like a typical response to a sudden shock, but don’t disregard what could be a severe injury. You could have a sprain or a concussion, two injuries that may seem insignificant at first, but cause more damage over time.
You might not need an ambulance, but that doesn’t mean you’re not hurt. Misjudging the severity of an injury can cause trouble in the long run, as you may have future injury claims questioned based on the amount of time you took to report the damage. But more than that, putting off a diagnosis of your injuries will result in a longer recovery process.
When you’re asked to report any injuries, don’t say that you’re fine. Instead, say that you don’t need an ambulance. This provides the right amount of information that will keep you from getting an air lift to the hospital, while at the same time give you time and space to document any injury you may have.
What to Do After An Accident
Car accidents are a scary thing. With the right actions in mind, you can navigate a sticky situation in the best way possible.
While you should avoid the mistakes above, there are some things that you SHOULD do.
These include taking pictures of the surrounding environment immediately after the crash, exchanging information with the other driver, gathering contact information from any witnesses that observed the crash, and reaching out to a qualified personal injury lawyer right away.
A Helpful Car Accident Checklist
We highly recommend reviewing our car accident checklist for additional information on what to do after an accident. Here is a quick summary of that list:
- Check to see if you or any passengers with you were injured in the automobile accident. Do not hesitate to call “911” for medical help if anyone needs medical attention.
- Safely get out of the way of traffic. If your car does not work, turn on your warning lights or open your hood to warn other drivers in the area.
- Call the police if the auto accident involves damage, injury or death.
- Obtain information from all the other drivers and witnesses involved in the car accident.
- Obtain police officers information.
- Write down the car accident information.
- Take pictures of everything involved in the car accident, as long as it can be done safely.
- Schedule an appointment with your doctor.
- Before speaking to the insurance company, make sure to consult an experienced auto accident attorney.
- Create an auto accident diagram.
If your case is brought to court for one reason or another, the biggest mistake you can make is to try to handle an accident claim on your own. Even if your insurance company recommends otherwise, hiring the right attorney can help you to navigate the process with a skilled and cool head, while preventing mistakes like the ones outlined above.
When things get particularly dicey, remember that you don’t have to handle all of this on your own. By working with a qualified attorney, you can protect yourself from expensive mistakes.
Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side.
If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!
SENIOR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY & FIRM FOUNDER
Michael Pines is a former insurance company attorney who graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1987. While he was an insurance attorney, he learned from behind the scenes how insurance companies work and how they decide how much to pay injured people. Now that he works against insurance companies, Michael’s inside knowledge has resulted in significant benefits to his clients injured in car accidents. Learn more about Michael Pines