The 'Do's and Don'ts' of Being in a Car Accident
- These days, people post about almost every aspect of their lives on social media. I often see people posting things like, "We were just in a car accident but we are all ok" accompanied by photos of their damaged car. This can hurt a potential claim or lawsuit down the road. When my client is injured in an accident, the insurance company for the at fault driver will do everything they can to show that my client was not really injured in the accident and paint a false picture that this is nothing more than an attempt by my client to get free money. They would love to show a jury print outs of my client's Facebook posts the day of or the day after the crash where my client wrote something like, "Whew, I was in an accident but don't worry, I feel fine." The reality is, that post could have been completely honest at the time it was made as my client may not have been feeling any pain or discomfort immediately following the crash. However, in the days that followed, the symptoms of my client's injuries could come to light at which point it may become clear that my client was seriously injured in the accident. A Facebook post like the example above is something we will have to explain away to the jury should the case go to trial as the defense will absolutely use it against my client. When you make social media posts like this, you are giving the at fault driver and his or her insurance company and lawyers free ammunition to use when they attempt to cloud the truth and poke holes in your case. We don't want to give them any ammunition. So you should never post on social media about your motor vehicle accident.2. DON'T talk to any insurance company about your injuries before speaking with an attorney.
- Similar to number 1 above, the insurance companies want to gather evidence as soon as possible that they can use against you to defend against a potential injury claim. When an insurance company calls you on the phone shortly after an accident, the call is almost always recorded and they would love to get a recorded statement from you about your injuries or, better yet, lack thereof. They know people can feel just fine immediately following and even days after an accident even if it is later discovered that you were legitimately injured in the accident. Therefore, they will call you very shortly after the accident and ask how you're feeling and whether you're injured. If you say you're feeling fine and were not injured, you better believe that statement will be used against you down the road if it is later learned that you did in fact sustain serious injuries. It is best to hire an attorney so he or she can handle these calls from the insurance company so as to protect any potential injury claims you may have now or in the future. At the very least, you should consult with an attorney to get advice on how to handle these types of phone calls or other contact with insurance companies.3. DON'T accept an offer to settle your injury claim from an insurance company before your speak to an attorney.
- The goal of the car insurance companies is to make you go away as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Part of the way they want to achieve that goal is to make you feel as if they are doing right by you and to make you feel like you don't need an attorney. Nothing is more frustrating than when a potential client who was injured in a car accident comes to me because their medical bills are starting to pile up but he or she already accepted money from the insurance company and released the other driver who caused the accident. In most of those circumstances, there is nothing I can do as they already settled their claim even though it is clear the claim is worth much more than what they settled for. These insurance companies have no interest in paying you what you deserve for your injuries. They want to pay you as little as possible. Therefore, an insurance adjuster may make you an offer for a few thousand dollars and basically say, "we feel really bad for what has happened to you but we want to make it right. Your PIP insurance should cover your medical bills but we want to give you $3,000.00 for your pain and suffering to settle this matter." That is a huge red flag. Many times the other driver's insurance company won't offer you any money for your injuries but, when they do, you should know you probably have a good case. If the person in the above scenario contacted me, I would evaluate their case and if it looks like the insurance company is making a fair offer and I most likely could not get more for them, then I will advise them of such and recommend that they should just go ahead and settle with the insurance company directly. I have yet to encounter that scenario. Every time I have been hired by a client who already had a settlement offer on the table from the insurance company, I have always been able to get my client more money than what the insurance company originally offered. This is because, in all of those cases, the insurance company was offering my client far less than what their claim was worth. These insurance companies are huge businesses who want to pay you as little as possible. They very often get away with paying people far less than what they deserve prior to that person consulting with an attorney. They will do everything they can to make you feel like they are looking out for your best interests, that they are apologetic for what has happened to you and that they want to make things right by voluntarily offering you a fair and reasonable settlement. Nothing could be further from the truth.Do's: 1. DO take as many photographs as possible.
- Regardless of whether or not you feel that you were injured in an accident, if you are physically able, you should take as many photographs as possible of the vehicles involved in the accident and the accident scene. You can use any camera you have handy or just use your cell phone camera. Take photographs of the inside and outside of the vehicles and any visible property damage to the vehicles. Take photographs of the accident scene including where the vehicles ended up when they came to final rest, debris in the roadway, skid marks on the roadway or any other visible indication that a crash occurred and where it occurred. All of these photographs could be vitally important to your case down the road. Often times, the at fault driver of a motor vehicle crash will have a vastly different recollection of what happened in the crash than that of the injured party. This could be from simply having a bad memory but sometimes people will flat out lie to protect themselves. Photographs can go a long way towards preventing this from happening. In some accident cases, it is necessary to hire an accident reconstruction expert to opine as to various aspects of what happened in the accident. The more photographs this expert has access to, the easier and more accurately they can do their job. In addition, take a photograph of the other driver's license plate, driver's license, registration and insurance card as well as any visible injuries to your body such as bruising or cuts. All of these can significantly help your case down the road.2. DO call law enforcement.
- It is important that law enforcement comes to the scene to investigate the accident so they can do an accident report so there is a formal record of the accident that happened. Additionally, if someone else is at fault for the accident, they should be ticketed for causing the accident. That will not happen if law enforcement doesn't investigate the accident. I have had cases where my client is in an accident caused by another person and that person acts very nice and cooperative at the accident scene and convinces my client not to call law enforcement so they can just "work it out" between themselves. Down the road, when my client attempts to make an injury claim or get his or her car fixed, the other driver takes the position that an accident never happened or claims that the accident was my client's fault. Having law enforcement investigate the crash can help prevent such a scenario.3. DO pay attention to any changes in your body after the accident.
- The obvious indication that you have been injured in an accident is pain. However, injuries don't always immediately manifest themselves in the form of pain. Things like memory loss, dizziness, fatigue, numbness or tingling in your arms or legs are all examples of changes that could indicate a serious injury even though you might not be in pain. If you experience any of these issues or any other changes in your body or mental health after an accident, seek medical treatment immediately. It is no coincidence that these issues only started after the accident and it is important for a medical professional to evaluate you as these could be indicative of very serious injuries.4. DO seek medical treatment immediately if you are experiencing pain, discomfort or other changes in your body after the accident.
- As stated above, any of these symptoms can be indicative of a potentially serious injury and it is important that the issue be diagnosed as soon as possible so an appropriate treatment plan can begin. If you feel the situation is an emergency, then go to the ER. If you are unsure or if you are feeling pain or discomfort but it isn't that bad, go to your doctor or even an urgent care clinic. You can call me and I can help you find an appropriate medical professional near you. Allowing potential injuries to go untreated can be detrimental to your health down the road. It is important that the issues be addressed by an appropriate medical professional as soon as possible.5. DO contact an attorney immediately.
- I am not just saying this because I am an attorney. You need to know your rights and how to navigate through this process even if it turns out you're not injured in the accident. There are simple things I can advise you to do that will make the process easier for you and will help protect any potential injury claim should you end up suffering injuries from the accident. Even if you decide not to hire me or any other attorney, I would still like to give you free advice that could significantly protect your interests. I see insurance companies taking advantage of normal people all the time who aren't experienced in how these cases work and it drives me crazy. You are not playing on a level playing field and I want to do everything I can to help level that playing field so you can get what you deserve. Call me for a free consultation/case evaluation or just for simple advice on how to proceed after an accident. LET THACKER BE YOUR BACKER!