The time immediately after a car accident is full of stress and high adrenaline, but it’s also the time when you need to have your head on straight to avoid causing mistakes that could hurt you later.
It’s common for individuals in a motor vehicle collision to be confused and scared. But the things you do right after your accident and while your case is actively being investigated can absolutely wreck your ability to receive the benefits and compensation you are entitled to.
Here are 7 of the most common mistakes people make after a car accident that can destroy their case.
What Not to Do After a Car Accident – 7 Dangers to Your Lawsuit
In a lawsuit, it’s the job of the attorney to prove their client’s case. Unfortunately, that means someone is out to prove you wrong and protect their bottom line.
You may not have done anything inappropriate on purpose, but mistakes happen. If you know about them ahead of time, you can prevent them from your end and help avoid common issues that could hurt you and your case in the long run.
1. Failure to contact the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
Many things can keep you from filing a police report in what you might consider a minor accident. Maybe you’re in a hurry or you feel sorry for the other party. They may have given you a sad story about why they don’t have insurance or why a police report could destroy their lives.
But ultimately, your job is to look out for your best interests, and if you don’t file a police report you are responsible for all medical bills and property damage that may show up after the other person leaves the scene.
When you don’t report the accident immediately, you lose the opportunity for an objective, trained person to determine fault. The other party can come back later and claim that you were the one who hit them. Or, you may be more injured than you originally thought, and now the at-fault person has disappeared with no evidence that you are telling the truth.
2. Dealing with the insurance company too little or too much.
Each insurance company has a policy regarding how long you can wait before you file your claim. Obviously, if you are in the hospital with serious injuries, calling your insurance is not the first thing on your mind. But otherwise, you should call and report your accident within 24 to 48 hours.
When you call, though, keep it simple. Insurance adjusters have the goal of saving their company as much money as possible for every claim. They know how to work their questions into the conversation to attempt to trip you up and reduce your benefits.
Instead of falling for their tricks, let your attorney do the majority of the talking. You can see more at atlantaadvocate.com on how to protect your rights.
3. Opting out of medical care after the accident.
Many injuries don’t appear right away. Some can even take up to a few weeks to start showing up. When you opt out of seeking care soon after your accident, you may lose your medical benefits with your insurance company.
In some cases, claims have been lost because the injured party did not seek timely care. The at-fault party can give the defense that you weren’t truly injured from the accident, or that your injury came about from an incident that happened later.
More importantly, you could be causing yourself more damage. If you have a delayed injury that isn’t showing any symptoms, you are probably doing the same old things that you always do.
Injuries like whiplash aren’t always evident right away. But by continuing to use those muscles and going on with daily life as usual, you could be straining them more and making your problem worse. Instead of taking the chance, get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible and let them use their expertise to decide if you have emergent or hidden symptoms of injury.
4. Not following the doctor’s orders.
Personal injury lawsuits are not won because the injured party claims they are hurt. They are won based on documented medical evidence that proves the injury exists and the severity of the damage.
When you disagree with something your physician recommends that you do or you decide that you are healed and don’t need further care, you are throwing a wrench in a well-oiled system of documentation.
Your doctor knows how to handle cases with your type of injury. He or she knows whether you need further testing or specialist examinations, medications, and referrals for other care. But if you disagree with something that is recommended, talk to your physician about alternative options.
If you absolutely do not want to continue on the course of treatment recommended by your physician, talk to your attorney before you discontinue care. They may be able to recommend another doctor, explain the importance of the care to you, or find another solution.
Do not simply stop treatment without notifying your physician and your attorney.
5. Avoiding full disclosure.
When you are asked a question about your previous medical history of your current injuries, it’s best to be as honest and thorough as possible. Even accidental omissions have a way of coming back to bite you in a personal injury lawsuit.
Unless you are an expert in the medical field, you probably don’t know how one injury may connect to another one. It’s therefore important that you disclose every aspect of your medical history, including medications that you are on or have recently taken, prior accidents, injuries, or surgeries, and any illicit drugs you have been on. This isn’t to discredit you – it’s to ensure that nothing the doctor prescribes for you to do or take has an adverse reaction.
It’s also common for injured people to downplay their injuries. They don’t want to be seen as whining or complaining. But you must be honest and give the nurse and doctor all of your symptoms in order for them to come up with an accurate diagnosis and beneficial therapy.
By fully disclosing all of your medical history and thoroughly explaining your symptoms and pain level, you prevent the defendant’s attorney and the insurance companies from using any omissions against you.
6. Turning to social media to document their post-accident lives.
Social media is almost as common in today’s society as putting on clothes is, with billions of people using it regularly. But there are a lot of cons to the pros of social media platforms, and some of those cons could cost you your case.
By talking about your accident and injuries on social media, you will receive a lot of well-meaning attention. Friends and family will probably give you plenty of advice on what to do and what not to do, who to see, and what tests and treatments to have. But they aren’t your physician, and by listening to them, again, you’re potentially damaging your case.
Another reason social media is dangerous is because it’s a permanent documentation of your life and your activities, available for anyone to see. Even if you have a “private” profile, it’s easy for someone who knows what they are doing to access your feed.
When you claim to have an injury but are doing something that a person with your level of damage is considered unable to do, you have just put a nail in your case. When you talk about feeling sorry for the other driver, those words can be taken out of context and misconstrued by the opposing attorney to try to show that you feel remorse for causing the accident.
Social media is a dangerous world to navigate if you have anything to lose. When you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, the less said or posted about, the better.
7. Deciding when their care is finished.
One of the most common problems that personal injury attorneys see with their clients is that they don’t want to continue medical care as they are prescribed. This usually happens for one of two main reasons: either they feel like they are all better and going for treatment is a waste of time, or they don’t want to run up a bigger bill that has to be paid for out of their pocket.
The problem with this line of thinking is that you are not the doctor, and you don’t have the full picture of your injury and how to resolve it.
Think about it like an antibiotic. You are sick enough to be prescribed the medication, so you start taking it. But after a couple of days, you feel better so you don’t think you need it anymore. The problem is that the germs – or the injury, in your case – weren’t completely healed, so now they come back. And this time, it will take even more treatment to get you back to normal.
Don’t Make the Same Mistakes
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel and make things harder on yourself, and there’s no need to repeat the same mistakes that thousands have made before you. Use these 7 tips to prevent any wrenches from messing up your personal injury lawsuit.