The moments following a traffic accident are full of confusion, shock and disorientation. Whether it’s a fender bender or a multi-car collision, though, there are six major mistakes you want to avoid, mistakes which can cost you money, or prevent you from recovering the compensation you deserve.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, Conexion Legal can help. Attorneys in our network have recovered more than $50 million in car accident cases, and can help you in both English and Spanish, regardless of your immigration status.
In order to receive free legal advice, simply call us at 1-800-201-1220 or message us through WhatsApp. If you find that you need legal representation, we can connect you to one of the experienced traffic accident attorneys in the Conexion Legal network.
Six mistakes not to make after a car accident
- Leaving the scene
It is a crime to purposefully leave the scene of an accident without making an attempt to wait for the proper authorities and exchange insurance information with other parties. In the event that you have struck an unattended or unoccupied object, it is a crime to leave the scene of a collision without attempting to contact or locate the other party when you knew — or should have known — that an impact occurred. So-called “hit-and-run” cases can involve fines, jail time or a prison sentence.
Always ensure that the other parties involved are uninjured before moving your car out of traffic or to an adjacent, safer location. If you must move your vehicle, do so in a slow and controlled manner and, if possible, clearly inform the other parties that you intend to do so, so that there is not even the appearance that you tried to flee the scene.
- Losing your calm
Inflamed emotions are the enemy of good judgement. Before engaging with the other parties involved, take a moment to collect yourself. Do not yell at them or blame them. You can show empathy, as all parties involved are experiencing the same trauma, but never apologize. It can be taken as an admission of fault, which can have major legal and financial ramifications.
- Admitting fault
Any admission of fault — sometimes saying something as simple as “I’m so sorry for hitting you” — can be used against you. If you admit fault, your insurance company will have to pay for the damages to your and the other party’s property. You should never even admit partial fault, even if you think you caused the accident, because there may be other factors involved that you were not aware of.
Instead, calmly collect the other party’s insurance information, and give them yours. Say no more than you must. Provide a factual statement to the police, but do not speculate about the cause of the accident.
- Failing to inform the authorities
Even if an accident is not serious, you should still call emergency services and the police to come to the scene and take a report. Without detailed documentation of the facts of the case, other parties may try to claim damages for injuries they did not sustain.
A plaintiff can still come back days or even months after the accident and decide to sue you for personal injury, even without a police report. While it may be time consuming to involve the authorities, their involvement will ensure that evidence has been collected and facts have been gathered in a professional manner by an objective party. Remember: You, too, can use police reports and evidence to further your own pursuit of compensation if symptoms of long-term injuries surface later.
Authorities, though, are not just limited to police and emergency services. Be sure to inform your insurance provider as soon as possible. Some states also require that you inform the Department of Motor Vehicles if the value of the damaged property exceeds a certain amount, and if there are injuries. A traffic accident attorney in your state will know what procedures you need to follow.
- Signing documents you do not understand
This advice isn’t limited to car accidents. It is never advisable or wise to sign documents you have not read or do not understand. Do not feel pressured to do so, either. Signatures can represent the release of responsibility for other parties involved, and waive your right to claim compensation for an accident.
- Skipping the legal advice of traffic accident attorneys
While we have detailed several legal hurdles you may face after a car accident, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Traffic accident attorneys in your state and city will have experience with cases like yours, and will have a detailed understanding of all local regulations, statutes of limitations and peculiarities.
‘No-fault’ vs. ‘at-fault’ states: Why you should hire an attorney after a car accident
Laws governing car accidents can vary widely from state to state, and the differences can determine which legal options are available to you.
For example, some states have what are called “no-fault” insurance laws. In these states, the law requires all drivers to carry personal injury protection insurance. In a no-fault state, a driver who is injured in an auto accident — whether they caused it or not — simply has to file a compensation claim for their injuries. Once the claim is filed, the other driver’s insurance provider must pay, and neither party has to prove who caused the accident. However, the injured driver cannot sue for additional damage, a feature intended to reduce small claims from the court system.
Many states have revised no-fault laws. These revised no-fault laws frequently allow the victim who was not at fault to be released from the responsibility of proving the other party’s fault before they can receive compensation.
California is an example of an at-fault state. Each insurance company pays for damages sustained according to the degree of fault of each party. The at-fault party is responsible for damages to whoever was injured, and their insurance company will pay the injured victim(s). In California, drivers also retain their right to sue for additional damages.
An experienced car accident attorney can help you navigate the laws in your state, and at Conexion Legal, we can also connect you to Spanish-speaking attorneys who can help make the legal process less intimidating. Call us at 1-800-201-1220 or message us through WhatsApp to schedule your free consultation. If you find that you need legal representation, we can connect you to one of the experienced traffic accident attorneys in our network.