As a Clearwater personal injury lawyer, I am often asked what an individual should do following an accident. After an automobile accident, the adrenaline coursing through your veins can be blinding. Questions race through your head: “What happened? How bad is it? Do I need doctor? Do I need an attorney? Am I going to make it to work?” Well…. ok… maybe not the last one. However, it can be a confusing time. Here are 12 suggestions to keep in mind after an accident.
First, do not refuse medical attention if you feel the injury is slight or say that you’re “ok” at the scene. Due to shock and the nature of some acceleration-deceleration injuries, some injuries do not manifest for hours after an accident. If you do seek medical attention later, the other party’s insurer may argue that the injuries were not serious, since you did not immediately require medical attention.
Next, when speaking with police, witnesses or other parties, don’t admit to liability or fault. Merely stick to the facts from your perspective. There is a significant difference between: “I was in the right hand lane, then I tapped the brakes and I hit her” “I was in the right hand lane, then I tapped the brakes and the cars collided”
Third, remember, It is not your job to assign fault or blame, but it is the part of all investigators to gather the facts and determine liability.
Next, do not apologize. Saying you are sorry or wish the accident did not happen can be taken out of context and interpreted as an admission of fault. However, it is not inappropriate to see if the other party needs medical assistance.
Fifth, do not talk to anyone other than the police about how the accident occurred. Often, accidents happen so quickly that you may assume certain things happened in an order that is incorrect. Alternatively, those who you speak to may believe that you admitted fault, when questioned in the future.
Sixth, do not leave the scene until all insurance, driver’s license and registration information has been exchanged. Allow the police to gather this information, This limits the possibility that anything you say may be taken out of context by other persons.
Seventh, take photographs of the scene. After getting to a safe position, grab pictures of the collision, the damage, and the immediate area. Try not to move the vehicles before getting pictures. Make sure that you can clearly see any weather that may have affected the accident, such as rain.
Eighth, don’t sign any document at this time. Please carefully review any paperwork provided to you by the insurance carrier(s). If there’s anything you do not fully and completely understand, do not sign it !!
Ninth, Do not settle the case yourself. In some cases, where injuries appear slight, there may be other unknown, serious conditions. In some cases, you may waive rights to further litigation by settling the case. Therefore, if injuries caused by the accident arise later, such as disc herniations, you may have no recourse.
Tenth, Do not take any check as full and final payment, unless you’re certain that it fully compensates you for your losses and/or injuries. For example, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can present weeks or months after an accident. Therefore, persons who are more at risk of this disorder should be careful of settling too soon.
Eleventh, don’t let time limits to file your insurance claim run out. Insurance companies require you to file an insurance claim within specified period of time after an injury. Do not disregard these limits or your claim may not be forever barred by a Statute of Limitations.
Finally, don’t take everything that the insurance agent tells you as the final word, especially when discussing the value of the claim. Insurance companies are exactly that: companies. Their goal is to make money and sometimes their estimates of losses are far lower than the true value as determined by average settlement and jury verdicts. Don’t just accept their estimates without doing further research. We discussed in our blog post about How Insurance Carriers Deal with Minor Impace Soft Tissue Cases.
Matthew A. Dolman, Esq, is a Clearwater personal injury attorney. For more information on how we represent clients, call us at: (727) 451-6900. We offer free consultations and case evaluations with our Florida injury attorneys. If you have your own tips that you would like to share, tweet to us: @DolmanLaw