11 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Car Accident Claim
Your statements and actions after an auto accident will play an integral role in determining the outcome of your claim. What you do and say while at the scene and over the days and weeks that follow could be the difference between recovering a fair settlement and walking away with nothing.
Read on to learn a few mistakes that could adversely impact the outcome of your car accident claim:
1. Not Calling the Police
Drivers who cause accidents sometimes ask the victim not to contact law enforcement. This is especially common when the at-fault driver is uninsured or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But if you don’t have a police report to serve as official documentation of the crash, the insurance company will be more likely to dispute your claim.
Accident reports often serve as essential evidence of liability, so they are particularly important when bringing a third-party claim against the liable driver’s insurance company. Even if you intend to bring the claim against your personal injury protection coverage, the accident report could strengthen your claim and prevent unnecessary complications and delays.
2. Failing to Document the Scene
Taking pictures of the scene is one of the most important steps to take after a car accident. Photos may be evaluated by your personal injury attorney and perhaps an accident reconstruction expert to determine how the crash occurred.
You should also write down the names and insurance information of all drivers involved, as well as the contact details of eyewitnesses. Your attorney will need the insurance details of the liable motorist in order to bring the claim against his or her insurance provider—assuming your case meets the serious injury threshold—and eyewitness deposition might play an important role in your case should it proceed to litigation.
3. Failing to Seek Immediate Medical Care
You might not think your injuries are that serious, and you may want to avoid the medical bills, but if you don’t seek prompt medical care, it could severely diminish your chances of obtaining a fair settlement. The insurer might say that your injuries couldn’t be that serious since you did not need immediate treatment. They may even assert that your injuries were caused by something else or that your decision to forego medical care has caused your prognosis to be worse and the resulting damages to be greater than they should have been. In other words, failing to visit a doctor right away could prevent you from recovering compensation for 100 percent of your damages.
The best time to undergo a medical assessment is immediately after leaving the scene. At the very least, you should seek medical care within 48 hours of the crash. If you put off your doctor’s visit, it may still be possible to recover compensation for all of the damages incurred, but it is still essential that you seek medical care right away.
4. Not Consulting with a Car Accident Attorney
Many car accident victims who represent themselves end up making a costly mistake that an attorney could have helped them avoid. This is especially common in cases that involve serious injuries. Fortunately, most auto accident attorneys offer free consultations and accept claims on a contingency fee basis, so you won’t have to pay anything upfront for representation, and no attorney’s fees will be owed unless the case is resolved in your favor.
Below are just a few of the ways a seasoned personal injury lawyer can assist with your case:
- Taking over correspondence with the insurance company so you don’t provide any statements that end up hurting your claim;
- Ensuring your claim accounts for all the damages you may be owed;
- Consulting with medical, financial, and accident reconstruction experts during the investigation;
- Arranging for expert witness deposition;
- Interviewing eyewitnesses to determine if their deposition would strengthen your case should it proceed to litigation; and
- Demonstrating to the insurance company that you have the means to proceed all the way to trial if they refuse to cooperate.
5. Choosing the Wrong Attorney
Not all car accident lawyers offer exceptional representation. It is important that the attorney you hire has a track record of success in cases that are similar to yours. The lawyer should also be honest regarding both the strengths and weaknesses of your claim.
Before hiring an attorney, search online for testimonials from past clients. If the vast majority are positive, this is a good sign that the law firm provides effective representation. You should also use the free consultation as an opportunity to make sure the lawyer is a good fit for your case. Below are a few questions you could ask:
- Does your law firm exclusively handle personal injury cases or do you focus on other areas of law as well?
- How many car accident claims have you handled?
- Have you won any cases that are similar to mine?
- Do you have experience litigating car accident lawsuits?
- Will I have a direct line of contact to you?
- Will I be able to contact you on weekends?
6. Getting Your Vehicle Repaired Too Soon
Sometimes it is necessary to conduct a thorough evaluation of the property damage. This might be the case if the opposing party disputes liability or if a defective auto part contributed to the crash. Do not get your vehicle repaired until your attorney says that it’s okay to do so.
7. Waiting Too Long to Commence the Proceedings
There are strict deadlines for filing personal injury lawsuits in Florida. If you intend to name a government entity in your claim, you must allow for a 180-day investigation period before you file suit. If the deadline, or “statute of limitations,” that applies to your case passes before you bring the lawsuit, your case will almost certainly be dismissed.
Even if you have several months to file the lawsuit, it is common for key evidence to become unavailable within just a few days of an accident. For example, if a nearby business has a surveillance camera that recorded the crash, its footage could serve as valuable evidence of liability, but it might be overwritten within a matter of weeks. Dash cam footage could also be overwritten or deleted. It is therefore important that your lawyer is able to conduct the investigation right away.
8. Providing a Recorded Statement to the Insurance Adjuster
Another reason to contact an attorney as soon as possible is so he or she can take over all correspondence with the insurance company. The claims adjuster may ask you questions that are designed to elicit responses that can be used to dispute your claim. A seemingly benign statement may bring liability, causation, or damages into question. To protect your rights, it is important that you direct any phone calls and emails from the insurance company to your lawyer.
9. Ignoring Your Doctor’s Instructions
As a personal injury claimant, you have a duty to mitigate your damages, meaning you must take reasonable steps to minimize your healthcare costs and other losses. Failure to do so will likely lead to a dispute and may prevent you from obtaining compensation for 100 percent of your damages. To prevent such a dispute, be sure to attend all scheduled doctor’s visits, fill your prescriptions, follow your treatment program, and do not return to strenuous activities or work without your doctor’s permission.
10. Not Keeping a Personal Injury Journal
In addition to economic damages such as healthcare costs, lost wages, and property repairs, it may also be possible to obtain compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of life enjoyment. Due to their subjective nature, non-economic damages can be difficult to prove. One way to strengthen your claim for these damages is to keep a personal injury journal in which you detail the ways the injuries are affecting your personal wellbeing.
In this journal, write about any social and familial events and activities you have to miss due to the injuries. Also, describe your symptoms and rate their severity on a scale from 1 to 10, and mention any medication side effects.
11. Posting About the Case on Social Media
One of the first things many people do after a serious crash is to post photos of the property damage or injuries on social media. While a serious collision is certainly a noteworthy event, and your friends and family will want to know that you’re okay, it’s important to remember that your close connections may not be the only people who see what you post. The insurance adjuster will likely be monitoring your social media accounts for photos and text posts that can be used to dispute your claim. You should therefore avoid posting about your accident, injury, or case online, and consider disabling your social media profiles while the case is pending.
Discuss Your Case with a Car Accident Lawyer in Stuart
If you need legal guidance after a serious auto accident, turn to a personal injury attorney from Donaldson & Weston. We offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis. Call 772-266-5555 or send us a message to speak with a car accident lawyer in Stuart.