Even a minor auto accident can be overwhelming. You have to think clearly and act correctly in the aftermath, even though you are shaken up and/or injured to a degree you might not realize until much later.
Of course, there are some actions that you MUST take: You have to stay on the scene and cooperate with police, for example. What you may not be aware of is that it’s also important – even if you strive to handle the situation properly – to know that some simple mistakes can undermine any future personal injury case you may wish to bring.
Six things NOT to do if you are in an accident
- Do NOT say that the accident was your fault, either to the police at the scene or to the other motorists involved. If there is litigation in the future, things you may say could be used against you. Remember, share the FACTS about your accident, don’t offer an OPINION that it was your fault.
- Do NOT sign any documents or agree to pay any damages. Your insurance company will determine what expenses are appropriate to pay and be responsible for paying them. That is why you buy insurance.
- Do NOT determine the extent of your own injuries at the scene. Hey, in many situations, you do get points for being stoic, for picking yourself up and saying, “I’m OK.” This is not the case after a car accident. Some injuries take time to develop, or you may be confused by the collision and not even sure of your own condition. If you are asked if you were injured, always say, “I am not sure about my injuries – I plan to see a doctor.” If you have any pain at all, and the police officer offers an ambulance, you should consider letting him or her call one for you.
- Do NOT give a statement to the other driver’s insurance company. Offer only the very basics. The insurance company will be in contact with you soon after the accident regarding the property damage to your vehicle. That does not give them the right to ask you detailed questions about your injuries. It is best not to speak with them at all regarding your injuries until you seek the advice of a personal injury attorney.
- Do NOT take money for your injuries or settle until you have finished treatment. Insurance companies may try to offer you money for your injuries right away. The full extent of your injuries may not be apparent for weeks or months. Once you settle for your injuries, you can’t get any more money, no matter what they tell you.
- Do NOT hire a “family attorney” for an injury case. Many people have an attorney who assists with wills and real estate or domestic matters; however he or she may not be the best attorney to handle a personal injury case.
These tips are taken from the Ziff Law Firm’s “Accident and Car Crash FAQs,” one of our ways to share important information about personal injury cases with you. Another source to check out is the New York Personal Injury Lawyer Blog by Mark A. Seisel. One section specifically covers car accidents in New York – causes and legal issues.
Thanks for reading,
James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529