If you’re injured in a vehicle accident caused by someone else, you’re entitled to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company for your medical bills, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering. If the insurer doesn’t offer a fair settlement, you may file a lawsuit in civil court for your damages.
Recovering fair compensation, however, might not be easy. If your injuries are serious, your medical bills are high, and you miss significant time from work, the at-fault driver’s insurer is likely to dispute, delay, or deny your expensive claim. Whether you’re seeking compensation through the insurance claim process or through a lawsuit, you can increase your chances of a fair recovery by avoiding some common mistakes that many victims make after car crashes.
Common Mistakes Made by Car Accident Victims
Avoiding the errors discussed below can increase your likelihood of recovering fair compensation for your damages after an accident.
Leaving the Scene
In Texas, leaving the scene of an accident that causes injury or property damage is illegal. You may move your car if it’s causing a safety hazard, but you must stay at the scene unless you’re transported to a hospital for emergency treatment. Failure to do so can result in criminal charges against you.
Failure to Report
As soon as you’ve moved to a safe area, call 911 to report your accident and wait for law enforcement to arrive and make an official report. The police report proves that your accident occurred and documents the date, time, and location of the crash. The officer making the report will include details that are crucial in establishing the liability of the at-fault driver.
Answer the officer’s questions honestly but briefly, and do not apologize or admit fault to anyone. Try to get a copy of the report and examine it closely. If there are any inaccuracies or mistakes, let your attorney know as soon as possible so that the report can be corrected. An accurate police report is vital to your damage claim. Without a report, it’s just your word against the other driver's.
Not Gathering Evidence at the Scene
If you are physically able to do so, take steps immediately after your wreck to strengthen and protect your damage claim. Photograph the scene, your injuries (if they’re visible), the vehicles involved, and any other evidence, such as broken glass, debris, or skid marks. Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver but do not discuss or argue about the accident.
Get contact information from witnesses to the crash and note the location of nearby security cameras. If you were hit by a commercial truck, try to get a photo of the company’s name or logo if it’s displayed on the vehicle. Collecting this sort of evidence that’s available only in the aftermath of the wreck greatly increases your chance of getting adequate compensation for your damages.
Not Seeking Medical Attention
If you’re not transported to a hospital after your accident, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if you don’t feel that you’re seriously hurt, you could have a concussion, organ damage, or other internal injuries that aren’t yet apparent. The adrenaline resulting from the experience of an accident can mask symptoms of such injuries for days or even weeks.
A physician’s exam and diagnostic testing can reveal problems you’re unaware of. Early diagnosis and timely treatment not only get you on the road to recovery as soon as possible; they also provide documentation that you suffered injuries resulting from your wreck. The longer you wait to see a doctor, the easier it is for the insurance company to claim that your injuries were not caused by your accident. Keep all receipts and other documentation of your medical treatment.
Communicating With the Other Driver’s Insurer
It’s likely that an adjuster from the at-fault driver’s insurance company will contact you shortly after the accident, claiming to be concerned about you and anxious to settle your claim quickly. It’s important to understand that every word the adjuster says is intended to trick you into saying something that will damage your claim, so you should never give a statement about your accident or your injuries to the insurer. Do not sign anything or verbally agree to anything the adjuster suggests. Instead, give the adjuster your lawyer’s contact information and let your attorney do the talking. Don’t post anything about your wreck on social media.
Not Consulting a Lawyer
The insurance company will probably offer you a quick, low settlement before you even know what your long-term medical expenses will be. If you accept such an offer, you can never ask for more compensation. The smartest thing you can do at this point is to consult a Houston car accident lawyer and refer all communications from the insurer to your attorney, who will know how to counter its tactics, protect your claim, and demand fair compensation.