If you’ve ever been in a car accident or sustained another kind of of injury, you know how hectic things can easily get, especially if you are dealing with something serious. What you do in hours, days, and even the first few minutes after an accident or fall can make or break your personal injury claim. To make sure that you don’t end up paying for an accident that wasn’t your fault, make sure to avoid these six mistakes:
1. Don’t say that everything is OK
Many people don’t like to make a fuss, but even if you are not immediately in excruciating pain, everything is definitely not “OK.” You’ve just been in an accident or had a fall—take a few minutes to reorient yourself and take stock of what just happened before blurting out that you’re OK and don’t need help or medical attention. The adrenaline rush you get from being in an accident may be dulling your pain; you honestly won’t know what your injuries are until you have seen a doctor. Telling someone that you are “OK”—especially an authority figure like a police officer or a store manager—may end up in an official report that could be used against you if you try to file a claim.
2. Don’t leave the scene without information
It is critical to gather as much information as you can from the responsible party after an accident or injury. Your first priority should always be your safety and well-being. If you are seriously injured, you may not be able to do anything other than wait for medical attention. If you are able, make sure to get the following information before leaving the scene of the accident:
- Names, phone numbers, and addresses of everyone involved
- Names, phone numbers, and addresses of all witnesses to the accident or injury
- Insurance information for the responsible party
- Photographs of the scene of the accident and your visible injuries
- Notes of what everyone said after the accident or injury, especially the responsible party
If you were in a car accident also include:
- Photographs of all vehicles involved, including license plates and vehicle damage
- Photograph of the other driver(s) insurance card and driver’s license
- Information regarding any crash or incident reports filed by the police
If you were in a fall or other kind of injury also include:
- Photographs of the source of whatever caused your fall or injury
- A copy of any incident reports made by the responsible party
- Names and contact information for all people you spoke with after the fall or injury
3. Don’t wait to get medical treatment
It is common for people not to feel pain immediately after an accident or a fall, but that does not mean that you weren’t injured. Many people may not feel pain until several hours or even days have passed. It is vital to go seek medical attention as soon as possible after an accident or a fall. Whether you go to the hospital in an ambulance, drive to the emergency room, or follow up with your family practitioner, make sure to see a doctor who can evaluate your injuries. Waiting too long to seek medical care can make your injuries worse and could potentially damage your claim. Many insurance companies will argue that you must not have been seriously injured or that your injuries were caused by something other than your accident or fall if you didn’t get medical attention right away.
4. Don’t wait too long to file a claim
The second you are in an accident or a fall, an invisible clock starts ticking. For most kinds of injuries, you only have two years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit. Two years may seem like a long time, but it is always a good idea to file a claim sooner rather than later. Beyond that, you need to make sure that information and evidence doesn’t get forgotten, lost, or destroyed. The less evidence you have, the less likely you are to get a good settlement.
5. Don’t accept the first offer
Insurance companies make money by not paying out on claims. No matter how good someone’s first offer is, don’t take it! The first offer will always be lower than what they are willing to pay and likely much lower than what you deserve. You may not be finished receiving medical treatment, and the first offer probably won’t even be enough to cover your medical bills. Cashing a check from an insurance company or signing a settlement release could prevent you from seeking any future damages if the settlement isn’t enough to cover all your bills. It is always a good idea to talk to a lawyer, like a personal injury attorney in Arlington, TX, in before signing anything from an insurance company.
6. Don’t wait too long to contact a lawyer
For all of the above reasons, you should always consult with an attorney to determine if you have a viable case and what you need to do to preserve it. A good lawyer will handle all of the difficult and time-consuming tasks it takes to settle a claim so that you can focus on your recovery.
Thanks to Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into car accidents and slip and fall cases.