You may be jarred, frightened or unsettled after a car accident. You are trying to figure out the best course of action while also handling a bit of shock. Even if you’ve never been in a car accident, it is highly likely you will be in one at some point in your life.
There are certain steps you should and should not take after a car accident to ensure you and your car are protected as best as possible. By avoiding doing the following, you will avoid liability, keep the process legal and assure you have your own best interests in mind.
After a Car Accident Do Not Admit Fault
As soon as you get out of your car, you might be inclined to say you’re sorry. Do not under any circumstances apologize. By apologizing, you’re admitting fault, and doing so will cause problems with your insurance company or potentially a court of law. This includes either insurance person’s insurance provider, as well. While you should always be honest with the insurance company, refrain from saying things that admit to negligence or confusion.
Leave the Accident
It may be a small fender bender, and everyone seems okay. There may be a tiny dent or a minor cosmetic inconvenience, but otherwise, it seems fine, and neither you nor the other party wants to deal with the hassle of a police report. So it should be okay to leave, right? Wrong.
State law requires you to stay at the scene if you or another person are injured or suffer property damage. This includes staying with your car after an accident. You should make sure you and your belongings are not in danger, call 911 and wait until the police arrive. By not sticking around after an accident, you could be liable for not only the accident itself but for breaking the law by leaving.
Fail to Properly Report the Accident
The very first thing you should do is call 911. Police will acquire information you and the other party may not realize at first. While gentleman’s agreements may seem more convenient, they are not legally binding, and hearsay can lead to a messy court battle.
Gentleman’s agreements also do not take into account the other party’s status. You cannot be sure that their insurance is in effect. Reporting the accident to the police is the best way to keep your bases covered in the event of claims.
You should also take pictures of your car and the other party’s car. While the police report will indicate the damage and lead insurance companies to determine who was at fault, pictures may reveal overlooked details later. Be sure to get the other person’s contact information, license plate number, and location as well as weather/road conditions.
Fail to Hire a Lawyer
If you or your property was damaged in a car accident, a lawyer could help. Many people think they can file their lawsuit. However, a lawyer could help with the fine details of the court proceedings.
Your lawyer will also be able to assist you when speaking with insurance companies. Insurance companies will try to lowball you into an unfair settlement. An attorney is aware of this pattern and will work to get you what you deserve. They can even speak to the insurance companies on your behalf.
A lawyer will file your lawsuit for you, as attempting to file one “pro se” can leave you penniless or worse, have your suit dismissed entirely. Usually, because an accident is more than just an accident — it may involve other crimes and charges — an attorney is the best person to help you handle your legal actions after an accident.
We don’t mean like The Hulk, but any anger or perceived violence is only going to work against you in an insurance claim.
Once you get out of your vehicle, make sure the other party is okay and remain calm. Taking a few deep breaths will keep you from blaming yourself or the other party. It will also allow you to think more clearly and gather the required materials (insurance, police report, photos) to evaluate the situation appropriately.
Even if you haven’t been in a car accident before, making a note of behaviors to avoid is important. Doing the right thing after a car accident can mean the difference between you receiving a settlement or being on the hook for one.
If you or your property is injured or damaged after a car accident, contact David Morowitz for more information.