Car accidents are always unexpected. There are specific things you should do after a car accident, such as calling the police, taking photographs, notifying the insurance company, and consulting with a qualified lawyer.
But there are also certain things you should never do. We used to represent insurance companies in lawsuits over car accidents. Now we only represent injured people. While we were on the other side, here are a few things we saw people do that hurt their cases.
- Never leave the scene: Sometimes people panic. An accident can be an overwhelming experience. Take a deep breath. Do not leave the scene, do not even leave for a few minutes. The first think you must do is stop your vehicle in a safe location. If you are capable, immediately call the police and try to make sure the other person is okay.
- Don’t get angry: Getting in a wreck is frustrating. How could this person hit me? Pay better attention people! Maybe your car is brand new, or you just finished major repairs. We get it. But cars can be replaced and fixed, the most important thing is that everybody is okay. Losing your cool is not going to win you any favors.
- Admitting fault: Accidents happen in split seconds and after the fact it can be difficult to put the pieces together. As defense lawyers, we used to see Plaintiffs who would apologize at the scene and say it was partly their fault when it wasn’t. Don’t be pressured into admitting fault, and don’t feel like you need to be polite and apologize for something that was not your fault. NC is one of 4 contributory negligence states. This means if you were even a sliver at fault you recover nothing. So, don’t admit anything. The responding police officer will conduct an investigation and decide fault. However, the officer’s opinion on fault usually is not admissible in court. So, them do their job. After an accident, we would be happy to review the evidence and offer our expert legal opinion on fault.
- Speak to the at-fault parties insurance company without a lawyer: In most cases, an insurance adjuster will try to have you make a recorded statement after the accident. Ask yourself, why are they trying to record this conversation? Answer: they may try to use your statements against you later during settlement negotiations or in a lawsuit. Don’t talk to them without a lawyer on your side.
- Forget to document the wreck: Chances are you have a phone capable of taking photographs. If you’re able, take some photographs of the scene. Key details can be hard to remember months or even years after the wreck. Photographs will help prove your case to the insurance company. Also, make sure you take down the contact and insurance information for all the parties involved. If there were witnesses, try to get their contact information. Their observations may be critical in proving liability.
- Neglect your medical treatment: After a car accident you need to immediately seek medical treatment. Even if you feel fine, go get checked out. We hear too many stories of people who fail to seek medical treatment and issues arise later. When you’re injured you need to be proactive about addressing your issues. If not, the insurance company will contend you weren’t actually hurt because you failed to immediately receive medical treatment. If health insurance is an issue, give us a call and we can help you get the medical treatment you deserve.
- Fail to even consult with an attorney: Any reputable personal injury lawyer will speak to you for free about your accident. Run your situation by an experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyer. In most situations, an attorney can quickly tell you whether you have a case. If you do, you’ll likely fair much better with an advocate on your side. Otherwise, you’re up against an insurance adjuster who handles these types of claims everyday and has the upper-hand.