5 Things NOT To Do Right After a Car Accident: A Lawyer’s Step-by-Step Advice
We all try to be safe drivers and avoid accidents, but accidents happen. The average American will be involved in a least one car accident in their lifetime. The only way to avoid an accident with 100 percent certainty is to stay off the road, which isn’t a real option for any of us.
The surprising thing is, despite how common accidents are, few people actually know what to do when they happen. Because of this, even the smartest and most competent drivers often make serious mistakes that have legal implications or hurt their chances of being covered by insurance.
Take a few minutes to learn a few things you should always avoid after any kind of driving accident.
In most situations, leaving the scene of an accident, even a minor one, is illegal. It can be grounds for prosecution as a hit-and-run. If there are injuries, then the penalties for a hit-and-run are much higher. Some states require that drivers stop and render aid to the other driver, and failure to do so is a crime. Your best option is to stay put until law enforcement arrives and offer help in any way that you can.
Even when an accident is minor, the drivers should contact law enforcement. Law enforcement can create a record of the accident and provide aid if needed. If the accident is serious, you should call 911 immediately.
Some drivers try to make agreements with one another where they decide not to involve police. They think that because the accident is minor or because there was no serious damage, then law enforcement does not need to be involved. Unfortunately, this is a good way to let insurance companies out of paying for any damages related to this accident. Many times, no accident report means that the insurance company cannot start the claims process because they have no proof of how the damage or injuries occurred.
Additionally, sometimes there is a specific reason that the other driver does not want you to call the police—there may be a warrant out for their arrest or perhaps they are driving without a license or insurance. From a legal perspective, this is definitely the time that you want to call the police. Showing that the other driver didn’t have a license, for example, will likely help you if you should have to take legal action at some point.
When you talk to law enforcement, be sure to give them the complete story. This is the only record of the accident so you want to be sure that it is complete and accurate – just be sure to stick to the facts only, not what you think might havehappened, how you felt or anything else that could be used against you by your insurance company.
Car accidents are traumatic, and occasionally drivers are so shocked by the entire experience that they forget to stop and realistically evaluate their injuries and their passengers’ injuries. It is always a good idea to seek medical attention after an accident, even if you think you are only bumped and bruised.
It’s possible that what you think is a minor injury is actually a more serious wound. For example, broken ribs and internal bleeding are difficult to detect just by looking at someone, and the pain may not set in immediately. When it comes to an injury, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Although it’s natural to want to apologize to the other driver, just don’t. Even your instinctual, heartfelt apology can later be misconstrued to be an admission of fault, which is a good way to give your insurance company reason not to pay your claim. And if you have any injuries, admitting fault would mean that the other driver has no legal liability to cover possible injury-related costs. You can tell law enforcement what happened without admitting that the accident was your fault.
This is particularly important when it is unclear whose fault the accident actually was. If you ran a red light while the other driver did nothing wrong, then whether you admit fault or not probably won’t matter much in the long run. But that doesn’t mean you should apologize immediately; stick to the facts. You can find out more about who determines fault in car accidents here.
I know, you’re always told to immediately call your insurance provider following any incident with your vehicle. But you should actually hold off if it’s an accident. You may be a bit frazzled and emotional, which could easily cause you to say something which they could use as a reason not to pay your claim. It’s best to wait till you’re calm, collected and prepared for what to say.
Additionally, you’ll want to wait until after you’ve been examined by a doctor. If there are serious injuries of any kind, you may even want to speak to a lawyer before you call. The first conversation you have with your insurance provider is crucial in determining what happens next, so it’s always better to wait until you have a full picture of the situation.
It’s hard to have the presence of mind to make the right calls after a car accident. Even if you’re OK, the experience is scary. So it’s crucial to be very familiar with the recommended process so that you don’t accidentally do or say something that could make the situation even worse than it already is.
About the Author: John Zaid is the founding member of Zaid Law and a passionate injury attorney practicing in the Houston area. In his long experience working with clients, he’s seen that many drivers don’t know much about accident laws, so he hopes his writing can educate and inform people in ways that help them to stay safe and avoid legal issues. To learn more, visit www.zaidLaw.com.