Being involved in a car accident is a stressful and overwhelming experience, especially if there are injuries involved. Unfortunately, people often make mistakes in the aftermath of a crash that prevent them from being able to recover full compensation for their injuries and related expenses. Avoiding these common pitfalls can help you protect your legal rights and financial interests after a traffic accident.
Failing to seek medical attention
Even if you think your injuries are minor, it is critical that you go to the doctor after a car accident. Seeking medical attention right away, regardless of the severity of your symptoms, can help provide documentation linking your injuries to the crash in case you need to seek compensation later. It also can reveal injuries you may not be aware of yet - especially since the shock and adrenaline from the crash may mask their symptoms at first.
While some types of crash-related injuries are immediately obvious, such as broken bones and lacerations, others can take longer to become apparent but still may have very serious lasting consequences. Back and neck injuries, for example, may at first seem mild or even undetectable, but often grow worse in the days and weeks following an accident. Likewise, the symptoms of chronic pain, traumatic brain injuries and other types of internal harm may develop gradually over time.
Settling too soon
When you settle with the insurance company, you give up the right to later go back and ask for more compensation, even if your injuries end up being worse than you expected. Insurance companies know that car accident injuries often grow worse over time, so they make every effort to settle with you as soon as possible after the crash - before you know how bad your injuries really are.
If you give in to pressure from the insurance company and settle your claim too soon, there is a good chance that you will receive less than it is really worth. This can leave you without the resources you need in the long term to cover things like future medical expenses and lost income.
Thinking the insurance company is on your side
Although the insurance representatives who contact you after a crash may very well be caring and compassionate individuals, it is important to understand that for practical purposes they are not on your side.
As mentioned above, it is in the insurance company's best interest to settle your claim as quickly and inexpensively as possible. This is true whether you are speaking with another driver's insurance company or your own; both are primarily concerned with protecting their own bottom lines - not your long-term wellbeing. Keep this in mind when talking to insurance representatives after a crash and avoid making statements or answering questions until after you have had a chance to talk with an attorney.
Handling the claim yourself
People sometimes think they can save money by working directly with the insurance companies to resolve their claims after a crash instead of hiring an attorney, but in fact the opposite is often true. Insurance companies are powerful adversaries and the claims process is designed to put you at a disadvantage. Because a single misstep can severely limit your ability to recover the full value of your claim, it is important to get help from an attorney who knows the system and can handle the steps correctly to give you the best chance of securing maximum compensation.