In the wake of a car accident, victims tend to be scared, overwhelmed, and unsure of what to do or say. Unfortunately, insurance companies are well aware of this, and they often take advantage of a victim’s vulnerable state. To avoid falling into the most common traps, the following is a list of things victims should refrain from doing or saying after an accident.
1. Saying sorry
It is best to avoid offering any kind of apology after being in an accident. While saying sorry is a reflex for many Midwesterners, accident victims should resist the urge. An apology has the potential to be interpreted as an admission of guilt or fault, even if it is clear the victim did not cause the accident. The reality is that insurance companies will do everything they can to protect their bottom line—including trying to assign fault to injured victims.
Instead of apologizing at the scene, consider expressing concern in other ways. Check in with the other people involved, ask them if they are all right, and offer them help with moving their car or other vehicle, if necessary.
It is also a bad idea to apologize to an insurance adjuster at any time. Sadly, these individuals listen for apologies they can manipulate into admissions of guilt, and they will take advantage of any opportunity a victim provides. Some insurance adjusters even go so far as to fish for an apology by asking whether a victim feels sorry about what happened.
2. Being dishonest or exaggerating
After an accident, the other driver’s insurance company will conduct an investigation to determine fault. This will involve an extensive analysis of a victim’s medical records and bills, police reports, and any statements provided by parties involved in the accident. Insurance companies will leave no stone unturned.
If the investigation unearths any discrepancy, falsehood, or exaggeration in the victim’s report, the insurance company will exploit it. For example, let’s say a woman is in a car accident on her way home from work. Even though she doesn’t really know how fast she had been driving or what the other driver had been doing before the accident occurred, she tells the police and the insurance company that she thinks she had been driving under the speed limit and that the other driver had been on his or her phone.
Unfortunately, the insurance company’s investigation reveals that the woman had been speeding when the accident happened. While the woman turned out to be right in saying that the other driver had been distracted, the fact that she misrepresented her speed will cast doubt on her word and may result in a lower settlement.
It is in an accident victim’s best interest to stick to the facts and say as little as possible to insurance adjusters. Being dishonest or inconsistent will give the at-fault driver’s insurance company leverage to minimize the amount of money they have to pay.
3. Giving a statement to the other driver’s insurance company
During the insurance company’s investigation, the adjuster may ask the victim to provide a statement about the claim. These statements are generally not helpful to victims, as they are an attempt to shift some blame away from the at-fault driver.
If a victim decides to give a statement, it is likely that the insurance carrier for the at-fault party will ask questions that are incredibly specific or difficult to answer. The purpose of this is to overwhelm the victim into providing information that may be harmful to his or her claim.
Accident victims are advised to consult with an attorney before agreeing to provide any kind of statement to another party’s insurance. While the insurance company might try to insist that a statement is necessary, the victim is not required to provide one to an at-fault provider. A personal injury attorney can help guide victims successfully through this portion of the claims process.
4. Settling too quickly
Insurance companies want to close accident cases as quickly as they can. In many instances, they will provide an initial settlement offer after the victim completes his or her treatment plan and all medical records and bills have been submitted. This initial offer tends to be the lowest amount the insurance company thinks a victim will accept.
Accident victims are advised to consult with a lawyer before accepting any offer from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The initial offer frequently represents a starting point in the negotiation process, and a victim may be able to increase his or her settlement amount—especially if he or she proceeds with the help of an attorney.
5. Not hiring a lawyer
Some accident victims prefer to handle their claims without the use of an attorney. While that is perfectly reasonable, it is also important for victims to understand how invaluable a personal injury attorney can be to those navigating the claims process.
Many personal injury attorneys have years of experience fighting against the insurance companies. Unlike the insurance companies, a lawyer’s primary goal is to protect his or her clients. Any attorney worth his or her salt will stop at nothing to ensure accident victims receive the compensation they need to recover from their injuries.
Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations, so there is no risk to scheduling a consult with a local lawyer. Also, accident and injury lawyers represent their clients on a contingency basis, which means that accident victims don’t have to pay attorney’s fees unless their lawyer wins their case.
Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney After an Accident
When a car accident upends a person’s life, it can be hard to remember what should and should not be done or said. Hiring a personal injury attorney can help accident victims navigate the claims process and avoid falling into the most common traps with insurance companies. Licensed attorneys know how to handle the insurance companies and will make sure victims receive the compensation they deserve.