If you have been injured in an auto accident due to no fault of your own, you are likely upset at the person that caused the incident. Those feelings are understandable and expected. But no one other than your family is going to feel sorry for you or simply hand over money to pay you. And the driver who caused the accident has insurance that will pay for your losses. Other than paying a $500 deductible and getting a ticket, that person will not suffer any consequences. The reality is that auto accident cases are fought against insurance companies who simply don’t care about your well-being. You are simply a statistic to them. Insurance companies hire teams of actuaries, or people who analyze claims to determine the risk. Their goal is to reduce their risk, pay you as little money as possible, and make money. Their formula is as simple as that. So, how do you level the playing field?
The best way to level the playing field and make sure that you win your auto accident claim is to avoid making mistakes that the insurance company will exploit. If you give them any ammunition to devalue your claim, they will use it. This article is written to give advice to people who have been injured in auto accidents about what they should and should not be doing throughout the course of their claim.
DO Call the Police to Come to the Accident Scene
It is extremely important to the success of the claim that law enforcement investigate the accident. This is the first step in determining liability. Even if you believe that it is clear that the other driver caused the accident, having an accident report confirming the cause is what the insurance company needs. Once it receives the accident report and confirms that their driver was at-fault, it eliminates their ability to argue about whether there is a claim.
Also, do not feel bad about the other driver getting a ticket. They can always elect to do online driving school and avoid points.
DO NOT Simply Exchange Insurance Information
Many people, especially in minor crashes, feel that simply exchanging insurance information is sufficient. Perhaps the other driver apologized or you felt bad for them. But, if you do not call the police, you are risking that the other person will continue to say the same thing to their insurance company. My experience is that in these situations, very few people accept full fault. What normally happens is that the other driver tries to put some of the blame on you. When that happens, it means that the insurance company can reduce what your case is worth according to your alleged degree of fault. For example, you may think that if you are rear-ended that is a pretty easy case. Well, what happens when the other driver claims that you slammed on your brakes for no reason and contributed to the accident? What happens if there are no other witnesses to the accident? When you do not call the police and simply exchange information, you are beholden to the word of the other driver and the whims of their insurance company. That is not a winning formula.
DO Go to the Hospital or Urgent Care
One of the factors that the insurance company uses to value an auto injury claim is whether immediate emergency medical care was required. If an injured person goes to a hospital or Urgent Care, the claim is considered to be more serious, and thus, more valuable. Therefore, if there is any doubt about whether to go to the hospital, go and get yourself checked out. If the injuries clearly do not rise to the level of a trip to the hospital, then go to an Urgent Care. By performing this simple task, not only will you get peace of mind about your injuries, but you will greatly increase how much your claim is worth.
DO NOT Wait to Get Medical Treatment
Another factor that the insurance companies use when calculating the value of the claim is how long the claimant waited to get treatment. The longer the gap, the harder they will argue that the injuries must not have been that serious. This is a tactic that is used in every claim, so the best way to defeat it is to simply not have delays or gaps in treatment.
DO Take Pictures and get Witness Information
A mistake that clients often make is to simply rely on the police to do a proper investigation. However, police officers make mistakes like everyone else and it is common that they miss witnesses or document their contact information improperly. If you have not independently obtained the witness’ information, you risk it being lost forever.
The same goes for photographs. I encourage everyone to document the position of the cars from the scene. If you can get a photograph of the driver and/or witnesses, that can be helpful as well. Once you get home, take additional pictures of the damage to the car and any visible injuries. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, these photos are often extremely important to the value of your claim. Without photos of how serious the car crash was, the claim just doesn’t pack the same punch.
DO NOT Speak to the Insurance Company For the At-Fault Vehicle
The insurance company for the at-fault driver is not your friend and you have no obligation to speak to them. Before you hire an attorney, they will call you and try to ask questions about the accident and your injuries. Any information that you give to them can be used against you in the future. For example, if you tell them that your head and back hurt, and then days later your neck hurts, they will use the fact that you did not mention your neck to undermine your credibility. Once you hire an attorney, they will stop calling, but until then, I always advise not to talk about the case.
Now, the opposite is true as far as your own insurance company. You have an obligation to report the accident within a reasonable time and to cooperate with them. But, this obligation does not mean that your lawyer cannot be involved. In this scenario, after you have reported the accident, I advise that you get a lawyer involved to supervise any further communications.
DO Treat With a Specialist in Auto Accident Injuries
Properly managing the medical treatment of auto accident injuries is perhaps the most important factor to deciding how much a claim is worth. Only specialists who regularly treat auto accident injuries will know a plan of treatment and how to document the claim for maximum results. Sometimes it takes a team of professionals to cover all of the injuries. But, as long as the doctor or medical provider regularly treats auto injuries, you should be fine.
DO NOT Go to a Family Doctor or General Practitioner
A huge mistake that I see people make after an auto accident is to schedule an appointment with their family doctor or their general practitioner. Sometimes they set the appointment out a few days only to learn the day before that the doctor does not treat auto accident injuries. At that point, the person now has a gap in treatment that will cost them money. If the doctor does see them, usually they will perform an X-ray, tell them that they will be fine and maybe write a prescription for muscle relaxers. If that happens, you have just unknowingly sabotaged your case. Unless you get an MRI, there is no way that these doctors can tell what is actually wrong with you. My advice is to avoid going to them in the first place. They don’t help your injury and they hurt claims.
DO Try to Hire an Attorney as Possible
You will likely have many questions after the accident. Unless you have been in accidents before, you will want to get a lawyer involved as soon as possible. The lawyer will help with an overall case strategy that includes the correct medical providers. The lawyer will also stop the calls from the insurance adjusters. Most importantly, you will have someone in your corner to advocate your position to the insurance companies. The best way to level the playing field is to hire an experienced auto accident attorney near you.
DO NOT Post on Social Media
Another mistake that people make after an auto accident is posting to social media. Rest assured, anything that you post will be found, mined, and reviewed by the insurance company. You may not think anything of the post, but I guarantee it will be spun and manipulated at some point in the future. That means that any post of you smiling and having a drink at a restaurant will be used as evidence that you are not hurt. If you are on vacation or travel, it will be used as evidence that you are able to sit for long periods of time and enjoy life. So, whatever the post may be, expect that it will be used against you. The best defense against this is to simply not post. Even if you put your setting to private, expect that they will still be able to get your posts. I’ve seen insurance companies burn people in too many cases and advise to just not take the risk.
Contact an Auto Accident Attorney
At St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we specialize in auto accident injury claims. If you or a loved one has been injured and are looking for honest and aggressive lawyers to help with your claim, please contact us for a free consultation.