Car accident claims are a combination of events happening simultaneously—the negligent motorist trying to shift blame, victims panicking and making rash decisions, and insurance companies often trying to reduce their financial liability. The result is often the victim being under-compensated or not getting any compensation.
Seasoned car accident lawyers advise victims to be careful when dealing with insurance companies, because in this case you deserve insurance compensation. It's not like you've lost your money playing online craps games. Victims should contact a car accident attorney well-versed in dealing with insurers, if possible. However, if you find yourself a victim of a car accident and lack immediate legal representation, here are five post-accident mistakes to avoid when talking to an insurance company. Reach out to a personal injury lawyer.
Apologizing to the Insurance Company
While politeness is a well-embraced virtue among Midwesterners, being overly courteous can be costly, especially when dealing with an insurance company. Avoid offering any kind of apology when conversing with insurance companies after a car accident.
The insurance company can interpret your apology as an admission of guilt or fault, despite you being the victim and not the at-fault party. Insurance companies will do everything possible to protect their bottom line by paying unfairly low settlements or not paying at all.
As such, they may try to assign fault to the car accident victim. The quickest way to fall into this trap is by offering an apology—a statement that can be twisted into admitting guilt and responsibility.
Insurance adjusters will mostly likely fish for your apology by asking whether you feel sorry for the accident. In such a case, you can choose not to answer to avoid the trap.
Making an apology can have a massive impact on your compensation claim. The insurance company will use your apology to deny liability based on your contribution to the accident, an aspect known as contributory negligence.
The result can be little to no compensation at all. Therefore, If you must express concern, you can direct it to other car accident victims and without apologizing.
Exaggerating or Being Dishonest in Your Account
The insurance company conducts due diligence after car accidents by conducting thorough investigations to establish fault. The investigation often involves an extensive examination of each party’s statements, police reports, video/photo evidence, and the victim’s medical records and bills.
If the insurance company’s investigation uncovers any falsehood, exaggeration, or discrepancies in the victim’s report, the company will investigate it further and exploit it. According to the Wisconsin Statute Section 943.395, it is a crime in Wisconsin to prepare a false or fraudulent statement knowing it will be used to support an insurance claim.
If you have to speak to the insurance company, it is best to stick to facts and avoid going overboard with your statement. Exaggerating the extent of the damage of your injuries, intentionally or not, can lead to the court ruling against you.
Dishonesty or inconsistencies in your statement will likely give the at-fault motorist’s insurers leverage to reduce your settlement. In some cases, it can lead to them denying your settlement entirely.
Settling Too Quickly
Insurance companies often rush to wrap up claims and cases as quickly as possible to protect their bottom line. In contrast, some car accident injuries and resulting conditions can persist for a long time.
Generally, insurance companies will want to offer car accident victims an initial settlement after the victim completes their initial treatment plans and submits all their medical bills and records. This initial settlement offer tends to be the lowest possible amount the company can justify offering the victim as compensation.
Below are the dangers of settling too quickly with an insurance company:
- The initial offer is the jumping-off point for negotiations. Insurance companies will hope victims are grateful for their initial offers and overlook negotiations. Instead of rushing to settle too quickly, consider this initial offer as the starting point of your negotiation. An experienced personal injury attorney can better negotiate on your behalf to ensure you get the full compensation you deserve.
- Insurance companies don’t serve your best interests. An insurance adjuster’s job is to save their company money, and making a quick offer is often the best way to do this. Accepting an initial settlement offer means you can’t raise objections or appeals if you later discover the amount isn’t enough to cover your damages and injuries.
- You don’t know the full scope of your injuries. As previously mentioned, some accident injuries may persist longer than expected. Once your healthcare provider ascertains the full extent of your damages and releases the relevant paperwork, your personal injury lawyer can negotiate a proper settlement on your behalf.
Working with a car accident attorney to negotiate your insurance settlement may result in a reasonably higher settlement amount than the company’s initial rushed offer.
Giving a Statement to the At-Fault Driver’s Insurer
Expect your insurer and the at-fault driver’s insurance company to conduct thorough investigations into the matter. During the investigation carried out by the at-fault driver’s insurance company, their adjuster may attempt to solicit a statement from you—the victim.
While this may indicate due diligence on their part, these statements are not helpful to you. In most cases, they want to shift some blame from their client, the at-fault driver, to you.
If you decide to make a statement, the insurance adjuster may ask some unreasonably specific or hard-to-answer questions. The goal is to overwhelm you into providing information that can hurt your claim for compensation by shifting some blame to you.
Ensure you hire an experienced personal injury attorney before providing any statement to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Failing to give in to the insurer’s persistence won’t harm your claim, and your lawyer should be able to guide you through this process to avoid any pitfalls.
Not Hiring a Lawyer
A car accident victim without legal representation is easy prey for insurance companies. Some accident victims may prefer to handle their claims independently without a lawyer. While this is acceptable and reasonable, it is important to understand how valuable a lawyer can be to your claim process.
A personal injury lawyer typically has experience in navigating the claims process. They understand how to deal with insurance companies to get reasonable compensation for their victims.
Unlike insurance companies, a personal injury lawyer often has the victims’ interests in mind. An experienced and dedicated personal injury lawyer will stop at nothing to ensure the car accident victim has received compensation from the insurance company to cover their accident injuries and damages.
A personal injury lawyer should offer free initial consultations, thus saving you the expenses. In addition, personal injury attorneys represent their clients on a contingency basis. As such, victims don’t have to pay legal fees unless the lawyer successfully reaches a settlement or court award.
A personal injury lawyer has knowledge of all potential damages. You need to know the full extent of your damage before accepting a settlement. You also need to know what entitles fair compensation when filing an insurance claim.
Victims may recover compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
You may also recover lost income if the accident costs your job or you miss time while recovering. A personal injury can leverage their experience and knowledge of potential damages to help the maximum compensation.
What Common Mistakes Can Hurt Your Car Accident Claim?
Generally, the period after a car accident can be confusing. Having understood the common post-accident mistakes to avoid when talking to insurance companies, below are additional mistakes that can generally affect your claim.
Leaving the Accident Scene Too Early
Seek medical care immediately after an accident. However, it is vital to allow authorities to arrive and document the accident scene before you can leave.
Therefore, the sooner you call the police, the faster you can leave the accident scene.
The police must come to the accident scene to:
- Take both motorists’ statements
- See both vehicles in their actual state and position after the accident
- Get statements from eyewitnesses
More importantly, the police will need to get both drivers’ contact info. The police will use most of this information to write a detailed report from their professional perspective. The police report is one of the essential documents to help your attorney investigate the accident and solidify your insurance compensation claim.
Failing to Seek Immediate Medical Attention After the Accident
Delaying your hospital visit after dealing with the police can hurt your insurance claim. In some cases, victims may not feel any significant pain immediately after a crash.
As such, without getting a proper medical checkup,you cannot discover serious internal injuries, such as:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal Injury
- Organ damage
- Internal bleeding
These injuries can be life-threatening if left untreated. Additionally, waiting to see a doctor can make it difficult for a personal injury attorney in Wisconsin or Minnesota to prove you sustained the injuries from the accident and not some other incident. This disconnect can lead to claim reduction or denial.
Reaching an Agreement With the Other Driver
Closing an informal deal with the at-fault driver isn’t advisable. Some accident victims also accept money from the negligent driver to cover the initial cost of medical examination by ER doctors and the ambulance ride costs.
Consequently, the negligent driver’s insurance adjuster will use this as a justification to dismiss your claim—stating that you already settled with the driver. In case of a subsequent personal injury suit, the at-fault driver will use this initial agreement to undermine your case’s validity.
Waiting Too Long to File a Claim
Depending on the accident’s severity, you may take a long time in the hospital and post-treatment recovery. In such cases, it is easy to run into statute of limitations issues.
The statute of limitations dictates how much time someone has to file a lawsuit following an accident injury. Personal injury victims in Wisconsin have three years from the accident date to file and six years in Minnesota to file a personal injury suit. The lawsuit is often the last resort, especially if settlement negotiations with the insurance companies fail.
Insurance companies also know that most people don’t know the statute of limitations. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous insurance companies may delay deciding on your compensation claim until the statute of limitations has expired. A personal injury lawyer can help support your claim and ensure to file your claim on time as you focus on recovery.
Discussing Your Accident on Social Media
A golden rule for all car accident victims is to stay away from social media until the claim has been settled. Posting updates, photos, or videos can be used to contradict your insurance claim and destroy your case. If you claim non-economic damages for mental anguish and emotional trauma, the insurance company may claim that you’re in an adequately happy mood to share updates on social media platforms.
What to Do After a Car Accident
Here is a recap of what to do after a car accident in Minnesota or Wisconsin:
- Assess yourself for injuries.
- Stay within the accident scene and leave everything as it is.
- Call the police to report the accident. At the same time, request an ambulance dispatch in case of severe injuries to you or other passengers.
- Contact your insurance company. However, you need to be mindful of what to say to avoid the insurance company shifting some blame to you. This can affect your compensation claim amount significantly.
- Contact a car accident lawyer immediately.
Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer After a Car Accident
Car accidents can be disorienting to most victims and their lives. Effects include personal injuries, car damages, loss of income, death, etc. Unfortunately, amid all this anguish, insurance companies may try to take advantage and shift blame to victims to protect their bottom line.
Knowing what to say when talking to insurance companies after an accident can help you get fair compensation.
If you find yourself talking to an insurance company after the accident, avoid these common mistakes:
- Apologizing to the insurance company
- Settling too quickly
- Exaggerating or being dishonest in giving your statement
- Giving a statement to the at-fault driver’s insurance company
- Not hiring a lawyer.
A personal injury lawyer in Wisconsin or Minnesota is a significant reference point for the claims process following a car accident. Hiring a personal injury lawyer can help a victim navigate the claims process and avoid falling into the insurers’ traps.
Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who can handle insurance companies and help you pursue maximum compensation, while you focus on your recovery.