Actually, I’ve have been involved in four car accidents. In three of them I was driving; I was a backseat passenger in the fourth. As it turns out, I didn’t enjoy a single one. Car crashes are terrifying, inconvenient, costly, and painful. Often people walk away injured, without usable transportation, and in financial peril. On top of all that is the confusion and hassle of trying to deal with the insurance companies and repair shop.
Experiencing an auto accident is almost always an extremely traumatic event, and it’s relatively easy to make mistakes following a crash. Over the course of dealing with four separate motor vehicle collisions, I’ve been taken advantage of by insurance companies, failed to collect available evidence, and generally made every mistake possible after a wreck. My experiences have cost me in many ways, and I’d like to use such to educate everyone on what should and shouldn’t be done following a car accident.
Accident Number One
The first time I was involved in a car wreck was when I was seventeen (17) years old. I was making a left turn onto a two-lane road that was separated by a turn lane. After being waved through by a kindly driver who was waiting for a red traffic signal, I attempted to slowly pull into the center turn lane. Unfortunately, a young woman attempting to make her pizza delivery “within thirty minutes” was illegally speeding down the turn lane and demolished the front passenger-side quarter panel of her car on the very tip of my front bumper. Five or six scratches on the front of my car compared to the severe damage to this pizza delivery person’s vehicle.
My first mistake was not immediately calling the authorities and reporting the crash. Instead, I chose to pull out of the roadway so that the traffic could get through. Once we’d pulled off the roadway the pizza delivery driver wanted to get to her delivery, so she suggested we’d trade information and be on our way and I agreed. Never, ever make such a mistake. A host of vehicles in the area and a quick description of the accident would have led most police officers to assign blame on the pizza driver for illegally using a turn lane to circumvent traffic. Instead, I was blamed for the accident and my insurance rates went through the roof. Although police accident reports are generally inadmissible at trial, they are essential to the insurance carriers assigning liability.
Another mistake was my failure to take photographs at the accident scene. Back then I didn’t have a camera phone in my pocket at all times, so this mistake was much more reasonable than it is today. Despite that fact, not having pictures of the scene made describing the accident to the insurance company much more difficult. The confusion is likely part of the reason why I was ultimately blamed for an accident I didn’t cause.
Accident Number Two
It wasn’t until five years later that I had a second car accident. This time it was partially my fault and there was no way around it as the police were involved and I was cited. Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured.
The mistake I made after the second time I had car wreck was dealing with the insurance company on my own. At twenty-two years old I was ill equipped to handle the persuasive nature of an insurance adjuster. I had no idea that the insurance company did not have my best interest at heart and I gave multiple recorded statements without ever consulting an attorney. Without assistance in dealing with the insurance companies, I managed to damage myself in terms of a possible lawsuit. If the other driver had been seriously injured, I would have given them all the ammunition that she needed to destroy me in court.
Consulting with an attorney is always important before talking to insurance companies after you have a car accident. Whether or not you think you may be at fault for the accident, the law may see things otherwise. In my case, I admitted to being at fault for the accident without thinking about how the other driver had not even attempted to avoid missing me. In reality, the crash could have been attributed to negligence on the part of both drivers, and an experienced personal injury attorney would have told me that. It’s important to know that when you have an accident calling an accident attorney will not cost you anything, and at the very least you can get some advice on how to deal with the insurance company
Accident Number Three
The third vehicle wreck that I was involved in was the time I wasn’t driving. After a night out with friends, our designated driver could not avoid a vehicle that was traveling the wrong direction on a one-way street. A head-on collision occurred with a drunk driver. My decision to not wear a seatbelt in the backseat of the car was a huge mistake. The collision caused me to lurch forward crashing my head into the back of the driver’s head.
Fortunately, the cut the head-to-head collision caused was above my hairline so any scar I have is covered. Unfortunately, my lack of proper restraint in the backseat of the car made me comparatively negligent for the damage I suffered. I did not suffer any permanent or serious injuries from the accident, but if I had, the insurance company would’ve had a field day with the fact that I was an unrestrained passenger. Since becoming a personal injury attorney, I have seen a host of cases decimated because of the plaintiff’s decision to not wear a seatbelt. Make sure to buckle up every time.
After I had this third accident, I once again failed to seek the advice of an attorney. Instead, I handled dealing with the insurance adjuster directly. This was a huge mistake as I failed to pursue recovery from two additional insurance policies that would’ve covered all of my medical costs. Instead I ended up paying quite a bit of money out of my own pocket to handle the bills. If I had consulted with an experienced attorney I would’ve been made aware of the other policies and would not have been strong-armed into a minimal settlement.
Accident Number Four
The last time I had a car accident was shortly after getting my bar license. I was already working as a personal injury attorney and though I knew all the mistakes that you could make after an accident. I knew to get a checkup from a physician before saying whether or not I was injured, to call the police and allow them to collect evidence, and to take pictures and collect evidence immediately following the crash. This time everything turned out to be fine.
If I had been injured I knew exactly who to talk to and what to do. Unfortunately, most people don’t have that information. The knowledge that experienced personal injury attorneys have can help you dramatically following a car accident. My first call after my last accident was to Matt Dolman, and I encourage anyone who finds themselves in a similar position to do the same. Always remember to protect yourself and your rights after an accident by making the right choice of attorneys. I knew that by calling Matt Dolman I would get to speak to him directly, and would get advice directly from the source. What I didn’t know is that Mr. Dolman would drive to the scene and make sure that I was ok in person. That kind of personal service is why I now work at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and why I intend to stay.
It’s almost inevitable that mistakes get made after you have a car accident. Minimizing those mistakes is crucial to ensuring that you are treated fairly by insurance companies. The best way to ensure that you are protected is to get an experienced attorney working for you as soon as possible. My days of making mistakes after car crashes are over and after reading this advice, hopefully yours are too.
Lessons to be learned:
- Call law enforcement and report the incident: This is vital for the insurance carriers
- Do not deal with the insurance carrier on your own: Retain an experienced car accident attorney.
- Take photographs of both cars involved to illustrate the property damage sustained.
- Be certain to take down the names and contact information for all witnesses.
- If injured, it is vital to immediately seek medical attention to rule out a serious injury and to properly document any injuries you may have sustained.