What to Do After a Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault?
November 23, 2021
Unfortunately, the course of our lives will involve many of us in car accidents in our lifetimes. NHTSA reports that there was a six percent increase in the U.S. population in the past decade. There was also a ten percent increase in vehicle miles traveled during that same time. This means that Americans are driving more, which increases the likelihood of being involved in a motor vehicle collision. Any car accident is an overwhelming experience.
If you were never in a crash before, you might not know what to do, and this confusion can make the experience even worse. It can also impair your legal right – if you do not know what to do, it can be easy to say or do something that can hurt your injury claim. This is why you need a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after an accident. Meanwhile, you can learn more about what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault:
Do not make any statements about the accident to the insurance company.
An injury lawyer can open claims with the insurance companies on your behalf. If, however, you choose to do it yourself, you must be very careful about what you say. The insurance company can twist around any statement to blame the accident on you. Many insurance companies will ask you to make a recorded statement about what happened before the collision occurred.
You should not do this before you hire an attorney. In fact, you can refuse to talk to the insurance company at all and require them to go through your attorney. This protects you from saying anything to them that the insurance company can potentially use to hurt your case.
You should also be careful not to discuss the accident with other people. The insurance company can also use these statements against you, and you never know what will get back to the insurance company. You can simply explain to your friends that you were in a car accident but cannot discuss the details until your case is over. Your family, of course, may need to know the details of your medical treatment and car repairs. But in general, the best policy is to say as little as possible until your case has reached its resolution.
Do not post anything about the accident on social media.
It is natural to want to share the details of dramatic life events – like car accidents – with your friends. But it is very important that you not post anything about the accident on social media until your case is over. In fact, the less you can post, the better. Insurance companies hire investigators who try to “dig up dirt” on injury claimants. In the old days, this meant that a stranger might be following you (and your kids) to your home or office.
This still happens sometimes, but most investigators can now find everything they need online. the insurance company can use even something as simple as a gym selfie against you. (The insurance company might say that if you can work out, your pain and suffering must not be that bad.)
Your privacy settings might not protect you from this type of intrusion. The best practice is to simply post as little as possible online until your injury claim has reached its resolution. Be careful of posted statements, photographs, geotags, and even emojis.
Do not accept any settlement offers or sign any documents.
Another common insurance company tactic is speed. After you file a claim, the adjuster will likely offer you a quick settlement offer. They might put pressure on you to settle quickly, claiming that the offer will not be valid for long or that you will get less money if you wait to settle your case. There is no rush whatsoever to settle a personal injury claim immediately after an accident.
In most cases, the statute of limitations is months or even years. You have every right to consult with an injury lawyer about your legal rights. You do not have to take a quick settlement offer. Usually, these offers are intentionally low, and the insurance company is trying to pressure you into a quick settlement before you can research your case to find out how much it is really worth.
You should also be careful not to sign anything until you have hired a lawyer. The insurance company will send you many different documents. Some of these can affect your privacy and legal rights. If, for example, the insurance company sends a medical release that will allow them to collect your medical records, they can end up with all sorts of private health information about you. You do not have to allow this.
Personal injury lawyers collect their clients’ medical records themselves. They carefully review them and redact any information that is not related to the accident. This is an essential step toward protecting your privacy. The insurance company might also try to send you settlement documents or other legal forms that affect your right to compensation. You should not sign any forms until your lawyer has had a chance to review them and advise you about them.
Start researching personal injury lawyers as soon as possible.
As you can see, there are many critical steps an injury attorney takes to protect your legal rights. This is why it is important to hire an accident lawyer as soon as possible. But how do you know which lawyer is right for you?
A quick internet search for “car accident lawyers near me” will turn up dozens of results. It is important to find a lawyer who is right for you. Read an attorney’s reviews and check their website to learn more about them. Most injury lawyers offer free consultations, so it will not cost you anything to meet with these attorneys and learn more about them. You also do not have to hire the first attorney you meet. It is okay to meet with a few different lawyers to see who you are more comfortable with.
Here are some questions that will help you determine which injury lawyer is right for you:
- Does this person have enough experience?
- Is this lawyer’s experience in personal injury or some other area of law?
- Does this attorney have experience handling my specific type of case? (a truck crash or bicycle accident)
- Does this lawyer understand my specific injuries?
- Can this attorney explain what will happen next?
- Does this lawyer seem to have a plan for handling my case?
Most importantly, you must feel comfortable with whoever you decide to hire. You are entrusting your accident lawyer with important legal rights. If you cannot trust them to handle your case competently, they are not the right lawyer for you.
Follow through on all medical treatments that your providers recommend.
You should never assume that you were not injured in an accident just because you are not in immediate pain. Many injuries take time to show symptoms. Whiplash, for example, is a common injury in a car accident. Rush University Medical Center reports that over two million Americans suffer from whiplash every year.
But this condition typically does not show symptoms for hours—sometimes even days – after an accident occurs. And if you don’t treat it properly, whiplash can lead to ongoing pain and discomfort that can affect your life for years to come. This is why it is so important to follow through on all treatment recommendations from your medical providers.
Following through does not just protect your health: it also protects your legal right to compensation. If you do not get all the treatment you need, the insurance company can try to claim that you made your pain and suffering worse. Pain and suffering is often the largest component of a personal injury award. It is best not to give the insurance company any reason to try to attack the value of your claim.
Document how your injuries have affected you.
Because pain and suffering is such a large part of a personal injury award, insurance companies often try to attack its value. They might claim that your pain isn’t really “that bad.” They might try to tell you that other accidents are far worse, or a jury won’t be sympathetic to your case, or that other claimants received less for their pain and suffering. Your car accident lawyer will provide compelling proof of your pain and suffering to use in settlement negotiations—and, if necessary, at trial.
So how do you prove the value of your pain and suffering? First, photograph any physical signs of your injuries. Bruises and swelling are common, You might have stitches or scars, and photographs of these injuries are persuasive to a jury. Second, you should keep a journal of the ways that your injuries have affected your life. Perhaps you miss work or a family event.
Maybe you cannot engage in your normal exercise routine or hobbies. Often, injury victims lose sleep because they are in pain. Sleep deprivation can, in turn, cause problems at your job and in your interpersonal relationships. It is helpful to a jury to hear the details of your physical pain and emotional suffering.
Use caution to avoid aggravating your injuries.
Your body can be in a fragile state for months – or even years – after a car accident. Be sure to follow all of your doctor’s advice to give your injuries the best prognosis possible. Often, a doctor will recommend that you avoid contact sports, exercise, and other activities that can further aggravate your injuries. It is important to follow this advice. It will protect both your health and your legal rights.
As we see firsthand, insurance companies like to attack the value of a claimant’s pain and suffering. This can happen if you don’t follow through with medical treatment. But it can also happen if you do not take reasonable precautions to avoid aggravating your injuries. Listen to your body. If you start to feel pain, tension, discomfort, or other symptoms, be sure to stop what you are doing and consult with your doctor.
Be willing to hold negligent drivers and companies accountable for the damage they cause.
It is important to hold drivers accountable for the damage and injuries they cause through their negligence. According to the National Safety Council, car accidents cause an estimated $463 billion in economic losses every year. This includes medical expenses, lost wages and productivity, property damage, and the administrative costs of claims handling.
This staggering figure does not even account for non-economic losses (such as pain and suffering, which are often the largest component of a personal injury award). Negligent defendants must be held accountable for these financial and emotional losses. This deters others from engaging in similarly dangerous conduct and helps keep the roads safer for everyone.
Some drivers are even more likely than others to cause fatal car accidents. The CDC reports that teen drivers aged 16 to 19 are three times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as drivers 20 and older. Teen drivers especially need to see the consequences of their actions. By correcting poor driving habits at an early age, they can become safer drivers throughout their adult lives. Seeing the consequences of a car accident encourages their friends and peers to drive safer, as well.
It is not always easy to hold a negligent driver accountable in a long personal injury case. You might have to file a lawsuit, or give a deposition, or relive some very painful memories. But your car accident lawyer will help you every step of the way. With support from an experienced legal professional, you can make it through the claims process to hold negligent drivers accountable and enforce your legal right to obtain compensation for your injuries and losses.
“These lawyers are not only very efficient, but caring as well. I would not hesitate to refer them to anyone.”
MATTHEW T. / FORMER CLIENT