You’ve just been in a car accident and your mind is reeling. You’re trying to assess the damage to your car and your injuries. Plus, you’ve now got to confront the other driver and all while directing traffic around the scene until the police arrive. With all the chaos, it can be very hard to keep calm and make the right decisions. But these early moments are critical and can make or break your case for your car accident insurance claim later.
In our practice, we’ve seen well-meaning people make mistakes that hurt their car insurance claims. Today, we’d like to share some of the biggest errors we see on a regular basis.
It’s very tempting to say too much to the other driver and witnesses at the scene of an accident. After all, we’re human – and we want to express ourselves when our emotions are high.
Be very careful about what you say. (Spoiler alert: this is going to be a recurring theme in today’s post!) Avoid admissions of any kind, such as speculating what caused the accident or apologizing. Even a simple “I’m sorry this happened” could be taken as responsibility.
There may be factors involved in the accident that aren’t clear right away. For instance, the other driver may have been under the influence or speeding. Or perhaps there was a blind spot or other vehicle involved. By speculating, key details may be overlooked.
At the scene, stick to exchanging information with the other driver and witnesses and calling the police if necessary.
You might feel OK right after an accident, only to wake up the next day in pain and unable to move. We encourage you to get evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible after an accident. Ideally, the same day.
When you choose to delay seeing a doctor, you not only delay necessary treatment, but you also hurt your car accident claim. The insurance company will notice the gap and use that as proof against you that you’re not really injured.
Which doctor should you see? That’s up to you. Many of our clients will go to their family physician or chiropractor. Depending on the severity of your injuries, an emergency room visit might be in order. Make sure to let the doctor know you were in a car accident and keep a copy of your medical records.
Don’t leave the scene or move your vehicle before taking pictures! Pictures can help prove the facts of the case as well as the damage.
Consider taking these pictures:
The more you can document, the better. Within minutes, the scene will be cleaned up and cars moved, and the opportunity for photos will be gone. Make taking pictures a priority. Of course, the caveat here is that if you are seriously injured, your health comes first. See if a witness can assist.
Recognize that you’re feeling vulnerable after an accident. You need help getting your car repaired or replaced, plus you may be dealing with physical and emotional pain.
Enter the insurance adjustor.
This is the person that’s going to write you a check, make sure you’re taken care of, get you back on your feet, right? Wrong. Remember: the adjustor works for the insurance company, not you. Her job is to minimize your payout to keep those dollars in her employer’s pocket.
Be wary of how the adjustor speaks to you. She may ask how you’re feeling, commiserate with you about the accident, and assure you she’s there to help.
The insurance adjustor wants you to put your guard down so you’ll say things she can use against you. If you feel that the adjustor is your friend, you’re more apt to be candid and make admissions. Avoid talking about your pain or injuries. Doctors’ records can answer these questions. (Or even better, a trusted car accident attorney.)
Providing a recorded statement to the insurance company is the number one mistake we wish our clients would avoid!
Here’s what happens: as soon as your case is assigned to an adjustor, you’ll get a call. The adjustor will ask a few questions and then tell you they want to collect a recorded statement about what happened. They will do all they can to make it seem like this is standard, required protocol.
But, for the record: no, you do not have to provide a recorded statement!
Anything you say in that statement can and will be used against you. The benefit will only be for the insurance company, not your best interests. The adjustor knows how to ask leading questions to trick you into downplaying the severity of your injuries. Nothing good can come from making a recorded statement.
We understand that getting to all those appointments can be overwhelming and a disruption to your life. But please, do not skip your doctor’s appointments.
Think like an adjustor. (You know, that adjustor that’s trying to pay you as little as possible.) If they learn that doctor’s appointments have been missed they can argue you’re not really as hurt as you say.
Following your doctor’s orders for follow up strengthens your insurance claim. So, follow them!
Sometimes, an insurance company will seem very eager to settle your case. They may offer you what seems like a good amount of money at the time.
Here’s what you should know: the minute you sign the settlement agreement and deposit that check, your case is closed.
The problem with settling a case too soon is that often you’re not aware of the long-term impacts of your injury. Suppose you need to see a physical therapist for a couple years after closing your claim? Or you’re not able to return to work as soon as you’d hoped? In this situation, you can’t go back to your insurance company and ask for more money.
When dealing with a severe injury from a car crash, call an attorney for assistance. They’ll work to make sure you have the money you need for both your short- and long-term medical care.
Insurance companies today will not hesitate to look you up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see what you’ve been up to.
Here are some of the things they’d love to find…
We don’t advise that you delete your social media accounts, but we would urge you to use great caution when you make new posts. Again, think like an insurance adjustor. Before posting, ask yourself: “how could they use this against me?” We feel so strongly about this topic that we covered it in greater detail on our post Social Media and Your Personal Injury Lawsuit.
After reading this post today, maybe you realize you’ve made a mistake or two when it comes to your car accident insurance claim. The good news is that our skilled attorneys have helped many clients who’ve made mistakes early in the process still come out on top.
The only way to know if we can help is to call us for a free consultation. One of our attorneys, Erik Ladenburg, wrote a book he’d love to give you. It’s called “What Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Know.” When you call us, please ask us to send you a complimentary copy.
For more information, please see our post What Should I Do After a Car Accident? and Will your Insurance Company Be There for You When You Need it Most?
Disclaimer: while we hope the information in this blog post has been helpful, it should not be considered legal advice. We have spoken in generalities today, and our tips may not apply to the specifics of your situation. As always, please seek an attorney for help about your case.