2. Admitting blame. The person responsible for using a car accident may be held responsible for the financial burden of the damages resulting from the crash. Even if you believe that you did something wrong, it is crucial to not tell the police or others that you were at fault. This could become evidence against your case. There are many complex factors involved in the reason for 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.
3. Not calling the police or notifying your insurance company. Following a car accident, you must make two phone calls as quickly as possible: one to the police, and one to your insurance company. You must 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, this is crucial because it is impossible to know whether or not 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.
4. Trusting the 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 though the other driver was responsible for the crash. Although your purpose for purchasing an insurance policy is to protect yourself from loss, that is not the goal of the insurance company. Insurance companies have a vested interest in paying you the absolute minimum — or even nothing — to protect their own bottom line. Insurance companies have a variety of strategies and tactics that they employ to lower 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.
5. Giving too much information to the other driver’s insurance company. The other driver’s insurance company would benefit greatly from finding a way to force you to shoulder the blame for causing 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. By speaking with them, 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 most foolproof 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 spot subtle insurance company traps and to help you avoid them.
6. Signing anything without understanding your legal rights. Insurance companies often attempt to trick car accident victims into signing forms with obtuse 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 to which they are entitled. If you sign something that isn’t clear to you, or without having your lawyer present, you may be giving away the important money or benefits that you are entitled to by law.
7. Settling your claim before you know the full extent of your injuries. Many times, seemingly minor injuries turn out to be much more serious, or have much longer-lasting effects than the victim had initially thought. Upon contacting a car accident attorney in New York to settle your claim, a car accident 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 crucial to give 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. It is important to have 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. 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.