If you’ve been in a car accident. there are some things to do immediately following the crash, such as calling for emergency responders and exchanging contact information with the other driver. But did you know that there are some things you shouldn’t do after experiencing a car accident? With millions of crashes every year on the country’s roadways—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates an average of 10 million annually—the odds of being in at least one crash during a lifetime of driving are high. In fact, insurance industry experts say that the average person is involved in as many as three to four crashes during their driving life.
Thankfully, most car accidents are not deadly, but they may still involve injuries or property damage, so drivers should know how to respond appropriately following a crash. Making common mistakes in an accident’s aftermath can prevent you from receiving proper compensation should you suffer injuries or property damage and can even open you up to liability.
Here are things you should not do:
- Don’t ever leave the scene of an accident. Leaving the scene of an accident could result in suspension or revocation of your drivers’ license. If there are injuries, call 911. Also, call the police, which is required in most states if there are injuries or major property damage. The police will take a report. And that report may be important as evidence should you later decide to file a claim against the other driver or drivers or should a claim be filed against you. If the accident is a minor fender-bender, police may not come, especially in large cities; but you have done your due diligence by calling.
- Don’t admit to fault in the crash. Car accidents happen quickly and can leave people feeling shocked and frightened. Under this kind of emotional stress, a person’s perception of how a crash happened might not be clear or correct. When you are in an accident, check to see that everyone is okay, but don’t apologize or admit fault to other drivers, passengers, police, emergency responders or witnesses. Let the police and insurance investigators gather all the facts and information about what occurred, even if you believe you were at fault or shared fault. Admitting fault can come back to haunt you later if the other party decides to sue.
- Don’t forget to gather data at the scene. Get the name of the responding police agency and the names and badge numbers of responding officers. Ask for a copy of the police report. If there were witnesses to the crash, get their names and contact information if possible, and ask them to provide a statement about what they saw. And of course you will want to get contact and insurance company information from the other involved drivers. Taking pictures of the accident scene can also be helpful. Additionally, write down all the details about the accident, such as the date and time of day, whether it was light or dark outside, and what the weather conditions were.
- Don’t forgo medical attention. Visit a doctor as soon as possible after a crash. Obviously, if you are seriously injured, you won’t forgo medical help. However, even if you felt the accident was minor, you may have soft tissue or other injuries that are not immediately obvious. When a two-ton metal object hits another two-ton metal object, a lot of force can be generated and cause injuries, even at low speeds. It is wise to be safe and get checked out by a doctor. A doctor’s report may also prove valuable later if seeking compensation following a crash.
- Don’t immediately accept insurance company settlements. Be sure to file a claim with your insurance company right away when.... After the insurance adjusters—yours and the other driver’s—look at all the details of the accident, you’ll likely receive a settlement offer for your property damage and any possible medical bills. Before accepting the first offer, review all your damages, out-of-pocket expenses and potential loss of future monies to ensure you are being offered a fair settlement. It can be helpful to have an experienced personal injury attorney review the facts of your crash and the settlement offer. A qualified attorney can advise you as to whether you may have a claim beyond what the insurance company is offering. Also, don’t speak to the other driver’s insurance company—communication with the other company should be through your adjuster, or attorney if applicable.