Whether on the busy streets of New York City or a quiet rural country road, few things are more traumatic than experiencing an auto accident. No matter how serious the occurrence, being in the right frame of mind immediately after a crash is not something to be expected. Even a minor collision can leave those involved rattled and unsure of how to proceed. As a result, accident victims are often prone to making costly mistakes that can lead to unwanted legal and financial consequences.
Because most people are at a loss for what to do (and NOT do) in the aftermath of a car accident, it’s good to have an awareness of some basic, post-accident protocol. Better understanding where people often go wrong after an automobile collision can help you avoid the following mistakes that could do the most damage.
MISTAKE #1: LEAVING THE ACCIDENT SCENE
Auto accidents involving bodily injury and/or property damage can have serious ramifications and leaving the scene before all the authorities arrive is a definite no-no. Aside from potentially being charged with a hit and run, leaving the scene also leaves you in the precarious position of not having the necessary information should you decide to seek compensation through a personal injury claim.
It should be noted that there are a few instances when it’s legal to leave an auto accident scene early. These exceptions include: the need to seek emergency medical care, and the need to distance yourself from a threatening person or situation. In the event you do leave the scene, be sure to notify the police as soon as possible and provide them with specific details of the accident, along with your contact information.
MISTAKE #2: NOT CALLING THE POLICE
As just touched upon above, notifying the police is a must for the majority auto accidents that occur each day. Not calling the police is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in the immediate aftermath of an accident. While the first instinct of many is to avoid getting the police involved—especially when the accident appears to be a minor fender bender—failing to notify them can lead to a host of headaches, both legal and financial.
Why does a police and emergency medical responder presence after an auto accident matter? Having these professionals at the scene to verify the damages and injuries can make a huge difference should you decide to move forward with an insurance claim and/or personal injury case. Police reports offer extremely valuable and credible statements that insurance adjusters and lawyers rely on to determine fault. Without getting your vehicle and your body examined by the right professionals, you’re putting yourself at a serious disadvantage should you try and pursue a future claim.
MISTAKE #3: UNDERESTIMATING YOUR INJURIES
You may feel fine right after an auto accident, and hopefully you’ll continue to be ok in the days ahead. However, as you may well be aware, aches and pains brought on by trauma are not often fully felt until the following day. As a result, you should always have a physical exam by an EMT, hospital or urgent care center immediately after a serious car accident.
In many instances, a doctor may identify injuries that you were not aware of at the time of the accident, including injuries that may call for further assessment and treatment. Furthermore, quickly being evaluated by a medical professional will provide evidence of when your injuries occurred, which can make things a lot easier should you choose to file a personal injury claim.
MISTAKE #4: ADMITTING FAULT
Even if you feel responsible for an auto accident, do not make those feelings known at the crash site. Along with not being in the right mindset after a serious accident, you may not be fully aware of exactly what happened and how the collision took place.
While you should offer accurate information to the police, you should not over-share information about the accident as it may have negative consequences to a potential claim. You could also be subject to traffic citations and insurance rate hikes that are unwarranted. An investigation will provide more specific details what occurred. At that time, you can look at all the evidence to determine who is primarily at fault, and to what degree, for causing the accident.
MISTAKE #5: NOT GATHERING INFORMATION AND EVIDENCE
If your injuries don’t require immediate medical attention, gathering plenty of information and evidence at the scene of the accident will make things much easier moving forward. The data you collect can be vital to your case, as well as any potential claims with insurance companies. A few things you’ll want to gather at the accident site include:
- Names, contact numbers and statements of witnesses
- License plate numbers, driver’s license numbers, phone numbers, and insurance information of all those involved in the accident.
- A copy of the accident report
- Perhaps most important, pictures of the crash scene. Use your smart phone to photograph the damage to your car and any other vehicles involved.
MISTAKE #6: POSTING DETAILS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Sharing details and updates on social media about your auto accident is not as harmless as you may think. Even the most basic information about the accident and your condition can negatively affect your claim. This is because any details you decide to share could assist insurance companies in their efforts to build a case against you.
Topics to avoid sharing include information about your injuries and recovery, causes of the accident, and pictures of you engaging in moderate to intense physical activities. If working with a personal injury attorney, speak with them to better identify what you should avoid sharing about your accident.
Auto accidents can be devastating for all those involved, not just in the immediate aftermath but in the days, weeks, months, and even years ahead. Avoiding these common post-accident mistakes can make a huge difference when it comes to the success of your potential insurance claim and/or personal injury case. Making the right decisions at the time of the accident can make your life a whole lot easier moving forward.