What Common Mistakes Should I Avoid after a Car Wreck?

mistakes after car wreck

Even the most experienced and responsible drivers can get into a car wreck when they least expect it. Motorists make mistakes, become distracted, drive aggressively, or get behind the wheel when they are drowsy or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If a car wreck does occur, the experience can be stressful and traumatic, particularly if there is serious personal injury involved. When tensions are running high, people are more likely to say something that they might later regret or forget to take important steps that will help their case if they plan to file a personal injury claim. In fact, knowing what not to do following a car wreck is just as important as knowing the right steps to take.  Even a seemingly insignificant comment to the other driver can have a negative impact on your claim and prevent you from collecting the compensation you deserve. An experienced car wreck lawyer can thoroughly examine the details of your case and recommend the best legal course of action.

The following are examples of some of the most common mistakes people make after a car wreck:

Failing to call the police: Oftentimes, motorists do not notify the police after an accident if it was a minor fender-bender and there was no property damage or injuries involved. Other times, the motorist who caused the accident will try to convince the other driver that the damage to the vehicle is minimal and that it is not necessary to get the police involved. However, calling the police is one of the most important steps to take immediately following a car wreck. The responding officer will get a statement from both drivers, assess the damage, and complete a police report. If you are injured in a car wreck, the police report can be used as evidence when pursuing a personal injury claim. It will be difficult for your insurance company to deny your claim if the police report states that the other driver was at fault and your injuries were caused by the accident.

Failing to seek immediate medical attention: After police have been notified, it is imperative that you are examined by a skilled medical professional, even if your injuries seem minor. Some car wreck injuries do not show immediate symptoms, including certain types of head injuries and internal injuries. The adrenaline that is coursing through the body immediately following a car wreck can mask pain and other symptoms of potentially serious injuries. If you fail to seek medical attention after an accident and you file a personal injury claim, the insurance company will argue that your injuries must not be very serious if you did not find it necessary to seek treatment. This can have a negative impact on your settlement offer, or the claim may be denied altogether.

Forgetting to collect evidence: If you are physically able to do so, it is very important that you collect as much evidence as possible from the accident scene, including pictures of the damage to the vehicles involved, your injuries, skid marks and debris on the road, as well as statements from witnesses who saw the accident. If you do not take the time to gather this information, you will have a more difficult time proving that the other driver was at fault. The only evidence that the insurance company will have is the police report, which may not paint a complete picture of what happened and who was at fault.

Failing to exchange information with the other driver: Any time you are involved in a car wreck, it is important that you exchange information with the other motorist, including their contact information, make and model of their vehicle, driver’s license number, license plate number, and insurance information. If you do not obtain this information, it will make the claims process much more challenging.

Admitting fault: This is a very common mistake, and one that you should avoid at all costs. Even if you think that you were responsible for causing the accident, do not admit fault when speaking to the other driver. Depending on the details of the collision, the accident may not have been your fault. Too often, motorists instinctively apologize to the other driver. A comment as simple as saying that you are sorry and asking if the other driver is OK can be misconstrued as admitting fault. The other driver can use that against you during the claims process. Never admit fault or say you are sorry, as this can be considered an admission of guilt by the other driver. Keep the conversation with the other driver brief, and only exchange basic information.

Admitting fault is particularly problematic under Maryland’s contributory negligence rule, which states that you will not be eligible for financial damages if you are partially at fault for causing the accident. That means even if you were one percent at fault, you will not be able to collect damage from the motorist who was 99 percent at fault.

Leaving the scene of the accident: Even if you were not responsible for causing the accident, you must remain at the scene until police arrive. Leaving an accident scene will undermine your credibility and jeopardize your claim. In addition, if another motorist was severely injured or killed in the accident, fleeing the scene can result in steep fines and prison time.

Talking about the accident on social media: Insurance companies will do everything they can to avoid paying a costly settlement. That includes reviewing all your social media accounts to see if you posted anything that could be harmful to your case. For example, if you claimed that you suffered a broken leg from the accident, but you posted pictures of yourself out at a restaurant, the insurance company will use that against you, arguing that your injury must not be as serious as you claim. In addition, posting a comment as seemingly innocent as telling everyone you are OK suggests that your injuries must not be serious, or that it is not having a negative impact on your life. Ultimately, posting anything on social media is strongly discouraged until your claim has been settled.

Failing to notify your insurance company: Most insurance carriers require motorists to report the accident, even if the policyholder was not at fault. In some cases, car wreck victims will choose not to report the accident if the property damage was minimal or their injuries were minor. However, if you do not report the accident to your insurance company, your personal injury claim may be denied. In addition, depending on the circumstances, your insurance company may cancel your policy.

Trusting insurance adjusters: The at-fault driver’s insurance adjuster will likely contact you after the accident to ask questions about the details of the accident, including property damage and any injuries you sustained. These individuals know how to ask questions that trick you into saying something that can hurt your case. If you are contacted by the other driver’s insurance adjuster, keep your responses brief and to the point, and ask that all further inquiries should be directed to your car wreck lawyer. That way, you do not have to worry about saying something incriminating that will jeopardize your chances of reaching a successful settlement outcome.

Settling too quickly: One tactic that insurance companies will use to avoid financial liability is to offer a quick settlement. However, these are often modest offers that typically do not come close to covering the costs associated with the accident. For example, if the injury is serious, you may be unable to return to work. In addition, medical expenses can accumulate very quickly, particularly if you were hospitalized or required surgery. An initial settlement offer rarely covers these expenses. Also, if you accept the settlement offer, you waive the right to pursue legal action again in the future. If the settlement amount does not cover the costs associated with the injury, you will likely be responsible for covering those expenses.

Waiting too long to file a claim: If you were injured in a car wreck, do not hesitate to file a personal injury claim. The longer you wait, the most likely it is that you will miss the deadline to file. In Maryland, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is three years from the date of the accident.  If the accident resulted in a fatality, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the person’s death.

Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Help for Car Accident Victims

 If you were injured in a car wreck, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will assist you with every step of the claims process and help you avoid some of the common mistakes people make after an accident. Our dedicated legal team will continue to fight for you until we secure the best possible settlement outcome. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.