Getting into a vehicle crash can be very frightening and often leaves those involved in shock. However, some of the most important moments that determine whether you will be held responsible for the crash are the moments right after. Here are a few mistakes to avoid.
- Not getting a medical examination. It is extremely important that you get a medical exam as soon as possible following a crash. This is obvious if you have a bad injury, but even if you don’t, seeing a doctor could save your life if an injury is not apparent at first. Having an authoritative statement about your injuries provided by a doctor can also preserve your right to make an insurance claim. Make sure that your doctor documents all of your injuries so that you can present this as proof that the injuries were a direct result of the car crash.
- Admitting blame. The person responsible for causing a car accident may be held responsible for the financial burden of the crash-related damage. Even if you believe that you may have done something wrong, it is extremely important to not tell the police or others that you were at fault. This could become evidence against your case. Your own speculation may not be correct, and why jeopardize your finances? There are many complex factors involved in the lead-up to a car crash, and all of the contributing factors may not be readily apparent to you, especially when you are in shock immediately following a crash. Avoid speculating about the cause, and simply provide short, factual answers to police questions.
- Not calling the police or notifying your insurance company. Following a car accident, there are two phone calls you must make at once: one to the police, and one to your insurance company. You have to call the police so they can investigate the accident and create a report about how the crash occurred. This report is extremely valuable as it provides authoritative evidence that can be important to you if there is a dispute about how the accident happened. The call to your insurance company is important for several reasons: primarily, it ensures that you don’t do anything to jeopardize the coverage your insurer can provide. Even if the other driver was to blame, it’s still important for you to call your own insurance company because you never know if they have sufficient insurance, or any insurance at all. If this is the case, your insurer may potentially pay through uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. Another important reason to report the accident to your insurer is that New York has no-fault insurance rules. In other words, car accident victims who suffer “minor” injuries in car accidents can only make a claim with their own insurer to have their medical costs and lost wages covered. The window of opportunity in which a car accident victim can get benefits through no-fault insurance is very limited.
- Trusting your insurance company. It is common for car accident victims to trust their insurance company after a collision. Many even make the mistake of believing the other driver’s insurance company, even if the other driver was responsible for the crash. Your purpose for purchasing an insurance policy is to protect yourself from loss, but that is not the goal of the insurance company. The ultimate goal of most insurance companies is to pay you the absolute minimum — or even nothing — to protect their own bottom line. Insurance companies have developed numerous strategies and tactics to diminish the amount that they pay out, even if the evidence of a car accident clearly indicates that the claim should be covered. Trusting insurance companies is a mistake because you might receive far less compensation than you deserve, and you might not even know it.
- Giving too much information to the other driver’s insurance company. The other driver’s insurance company knows that if they can get information from you, they can spin it so that it looks like you are responsible for the accident. If they are successful, they can avoid paying a claim. They will search for inconsistencies in your story, or ask you confusing and misleading questions about your injuries or the the accident to suggest that you are exaggerating your losses. If you speak to them without a lawyer, you give them ammunition to potentially use against you. It is important to never, ever provide a recorded or written statement to any insurance company without a lawyer by your side. The best way to prevent insurance companies from taking advantage of you for their own benefit is to have a lawyer advise you through every interaction. An experienced lawyer will be able to identify subtle insurance company traps and to help you avoid them.
- Signing anything without understanding your legal rights. Insurance companies often attempt to trick car accident victims into signing forms with confusing wording that results in waiving the victim’s rights. One example is that an insurance company may offer a small amount of compensation if the victim signs a release that absolves the insurance company of their liability. This then prevents the victim from receiving the full compensation that they are entitled to by law. If you sign something that doesn’t make sense to you, or without having your lawyer look it over first, you may be giving away important money or benefits.
- Settling your claim before you know the full extent of your injuries. Immediately following a crash, many people think they have a good idea of the extent of their injuries. However, conditions can worsen over time, or people may have ongoing medical expenses as a result of their injuries. Upon contacting a car accident attorney in New York to settle your claim, the victim is required to sign a release of liability in exchange for receiving an agreed-upon amount of compensation. This release of liability prevents the accident victim from making additional claims based on the accident, regardless of whether the injuries are more severe than the victim had thought. It is important to allow yourself enough time to fully understand your car accident-related injuries and all of the potential complications that may result from them before settling.
8. Not contacting an attorney. Car accident claims are difficult to navigate, especially given New York’s no-fault system. Having an experienced advocate with a thorough, intricate understanding of the law to advise you on how to avoid insurance company traps and proceed successfully with your car accident claim can really make a difference. Your lawyer’s job is to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. Insurance companies have lawyers and other experts working to minimize what they pay you. You deserve to have a lawyer who will prevent them from using tactics that could diminish the money and benefits owed to you.