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If you’re involved in a vehicle accident, there are things you should not do in order to protect your health and your legal rights if you later seek compensation for your injuries. In order to avoid the things you shouldn’t do, what you need to do is to remain calm, keep your wits about you and take a moment to think before you say or do anything.
If you are hurt or a passenger is injured, get medical attention. If you are unsure how serious the injury is, get an ambulance. During the stress of the accident, you may not feel pain from an injury. At the very least, see a physician as soon as you can the next day. This not only will protect your health (the doctor may find injuries that would get worse if left untreated), but it also can help protect your legal rights because it documents your injuries.
You or the other driver may be at fault for the accident. You may blame each other. Someone may be injured, perhaps seriously. This is not the time to lash out, yell, scream or threaten the other driver. You need to stay calm and make the best of a bad situation. If the accident is serious enough that the vehicles can’t be moved from the travel lane or if someone is hurt, call 911. You should also call if the other driver or someone from the other vehicle threatens you, hits you or is irate.
You may actually be at fault and feel bad about the fact that your mistake caused the accident. Those are not good enough reasons to tell the other driver, other people at the scene or the investigating officer that you’re to blame or to apologize. Depending on what you did prior to the accident (become intoxicated, drive far above the speed limit, text while driving), perhaps you should tell the officer you won’t answer any questions without first consulting with an attorney. What you admit may lead to your arrest. Let the police department figure out whether someone should be ticketed or arrested. That’s not your job.
After a car accident, if possible, move your vehicle out of the travel lane; but, most importantly, keep yourself out of the travel lane. It may be dark, the visibility may be bad, and if there are vehicles and parts of them spread across the road, other drivers may not appreciate what’s going on, may become confused and fail to slow down or stop. One accident is enough for one day -- you don’t want to be involved in another.
If you’re involved in a hit and run, don’t pursue the other vehicle after it leaves the scene. You don’t need to be involved in a high-speed chase with someone who may be intoxicated, irrational or who may have fled the scene because there’s an outstanding warrant for his or her arrest. If you purchased sufficient underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage through your auto insurance policy, you can recover from that even if the other driver is never found.
With some exceptions, whoever you talk to about your accident, what caused it and the effect of your injuries, could potentially be called as a witness by the defense if you file a lawsuit seeking compensation for your injuries. Anything you state on social media, any photos or videos you post to social media, could also potentially be used as evidence against you. It would be hard to show at a trial that you’ve suffered serious, long-lasting injuries if on Facebook you discuss how well you’ve recovered or post a photo of yourself sliding into a base during a softball game.
If you’ve been injured and want to be compensated for your injuries by your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company, you may be tempted to negotiate on your own, speed up the process and get a check, instead of retaining an attorney. You’ll likely end up resolving the case cheap and fast, which is what insurance companies want. If you don’t know negligence or insurance law, all the facts, the settlement value of your case or how to negotiate, this will probably end badly for you and your family.
Don’t lie to the other driver, the investigating officer, your insurance company or your lawyer. If you’re afraid you may say something damaging to your legal rights, don’t say anything until talking to a lawyer, but don’t lie. Don’t falsify statements about what led up to the accident, try to invent an injury or claim it’s worse than it actually is. Insurance fraud is a crime and, depending on the circumstances, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. No attorney or doctor in his or her right mind will help you try to defraud an insurance company.
Chances are that, if you haven’t already been involved in a vehicle accident, you will be in the future. When that happens, try to keep this advice in mind and avoid making what could be a bad situation worse.
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