It’s disturbing to think that, after a serious car wreck, that there are things you can do that will compromise your case. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this happen many times. Someone will come to us after a car or truck wreck, and—after talking with us—realize that they have unwittingly done something to ruin or seriously complicate the case. That’s why, as you read through our website and other sources of information for car accident victims, you’ll see a lot of warnings about protecting yourself from the other driver’s insurance company and making sure that you avoid common tricks, traps, and mistakes.
The first step in protecting yourself and your case is knowing what not to do. At VB Attorneys, we know that victims are overwhelmed after a serious accident. That’s why we provide a free, one-on-one consultation to answer all of your legal questions. Our experienced injury attorneys can tell you what to expect in your case, mistakes to avoid, and how to much you could be owed for your suffering. However, even if you don’t choose to contact us, you can start protecting your rights immediately by learning more about the top ten mistakes we see the victims of car and truck accidents make.
Mistake #1: Agreeing to Give the Insurance Company a "Recorded Statement"
Giving a recorded statement is always a bad idea after an accident, especially if you have not consulted with a lawyer. Insurance representatives are highly skilled in manipulating you into stating things in ways that hurt your case. You probably won’t even know that your own words are killing your case—or that you didn’t technically have to give a recorded statement in the first place. Keep in mind that the insurance companies do this every day, and they are very good at it. Odds are that you have never been through this process. The insurance companies know this and they take advantage of this unequal playing field in every possible way.
How to avoid this mistake: Do not agree to give any kind of written or recorded statement to the insurance company until you have consulted with an attorney. A qualified attorney will know whether or not you need to give a recorded statement. If, for some reason, you do need to give such a statement, an attorney can also be with you to make sure the insurance company does not unfairly manipulate your statement.
Mistake #2: Delaying Medical Treatment
Has the other driver’s insurance company has promised to "take care of you" after an accident? You (and many, many others before you) think this means they will help you with your medical treatment. This is nonsense. Insurance companies aren’t intended to directly help an injured person get medical treatment. You should see a doctor or go to the hospital the moment you realize you are hurt and need medical attention. Unfortunately, when insurance companies make these kinds of “promises,” they are usually hoping to string you along so that you delay your medical treatment. They do this because they know that, if you ultimately hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit, this "treatment gap" will severely hurt your case. Their lawyers will point to this and say, "look, if Joe was really hurt, wouldn't he have not waited two weeks before seeing a doctor?" The insurance companies and their lawyers know these treatment gaps will hurt, and maybe kill, your case, so they try to manufacture these gaps themselves up front.
It’s also not always the insurance company that’s the problem. Sometimes, after a crash, the shock of the accident makes people think they are “fine.” Or accident victims may want to “be strong” and “wait and see” if they really need medical help. Unfortunately, if you really are injured and you wait to seek care, the same applies as above. Not only can you make your injuries worse by waiting, but the insurance company will see that you delayed seeking care and claim you were hurt as severely as you claim.
How to avoid this mistake: Get the medical treatment you need as soon as you can. Do not wait for the insurance company to help you with anything, and don’t try to just “tough it out” if you have symptoms.
Mistake #3: Agreeing to See Only "Company Doctors"
Many times, the insurance companies involved in your case will imply that you can only see the doctors they select. This is never true. You can ALWAYS see your own doctors. The insurance companies hope you do not realize this, and they hope you are seen only by their doctors. This will definitely hurt your case. They screen the doctors they want you to see. They pay them for their time, and the doctors know who is paying them. Company-approved doctors are usually paid because they are reliable in helping the insurance company prove their side of the story. It's as simple as that.
How to avoid this mistake: Always see doctors of your own choosing, who you trust. Do not rely only on insurance-paid company doctors. If you aren’t sure how to see a doctor of your own choosing, don’t be afraid to discuss the situation with a personal injury attorney.
Mistake #4: Signing a Full Medical Information Release
In reality, the insurance company only needs to see a very limited selection of your medical records to resolve your case. If you sign a general medical release form, you’re authorizing the insurance company to go digging around in your private medical records. Why would they want to do that? They are looking for any previous medical condition or injury you have had in the past that will help them avoid paying you fair compensation. They’ll use every old accident or doctor visit as proof that you were already hurt or already had problems before the wreck. Remember that the only medical records they should need are the ones that directly relate to your accident injuries and treatment for those injuries.
How to avoid this mistake: Make sure you carefully read over any document from the insurance company before you sign it. If you are at all unsure about what your signature might be authorizing, review the document with an experienced attorney.
Mistake #5: Accepting a Quick Settlement From the Insurance Company
Surprised at how fast the insurance company offered to settle with you? Don’t be. Insurance adjusters often get checks out to accident victims very fast, hoping you’ll take the cash and they’ll be done with you. However, they rarely offer you a fair settlement. Sometimes they even send checks out before you’ve fully recovered from your injury or completed treatment. They hope you’ll be so excited to see a check so fast that you’ll pounce on it—and they’ll get off easy.
How to avoid this mistake: Don’t automatically accept the first settlement offer that the insurance company makes, especially if you are still under medical treatment. Do not cash any checks that are sent. Talk with an attorney about what a fair settlement might look like and how to go about fighting for what you truly deserve.
Mistake #6: Settling Your Case Without Consulting a Lawyer
The insurance companies hope you never consult with a lawyer. They know that a lawyer will know far more about your rights than you do. Even after the initial settlement offer, they may still be minimizing your injuries or your losses. The insurance companies act like they are on your side, and that they want to help you. However, they have a job to do and a bottom line to protect. They will often try to entice you by offering you an amount of money that seems like a good deal to you, but they know you are entitled to much, much more. Because you haven’t spoken with an attorney, though, you don’t have any way to know that you are being “lowballed.”
How to avoid this mistake: Consult with a lawyer before you decide to settle your case. You don't even have to hire the lawyer. By talking to a lawyer, you will be better informed about fair settlements for your case than if you don't.
Mistake #7: Not Being Truthful
During your case, there are many people with whom you could be less than truthful. No matter who it is, it's ALWAYS a bad idea to do anything but tell the complete truth—even if you think it will hurt your case. Even the slightest shading of the truth could easily wreck your entire case, because your case is highly dependent on your credibility.
How to avoid this mistake: Be truthful to your lawyer, to the insurance company, to the insurance lawyer, to the jury—to everyone. If you’re worried about something or aren’t sure what you should say, discuss your concerns with your own attorney before you speak with the insurance company.
Mistake #8: Not Understanding That Your Words Can Be Twisted
You know you're not supposed to give a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster, and many of the same issues apply when you're asked to give a recorded statement to the police, or even when talking to others at the scene. Whether you’re filling out part of the police report, talking to the other driver, or talking to the insurance company, it’s important to pay attention to what you say. Your words can easily be taken out of context later or twisted around to weaken your case.
How to avoid this mistake: Always stick to the facts, and avoid saying:
- “I’m sorry.” Many people will instinctively apologize after an accident, even if they weren’t at fault. It’s a way of showing that you didn’t mean for it to happen. However, in a written statement, it may be seen as an admission of guilt.
- “Kind of/maybe/about.” Nobody can know for sure how fast someone was going at the time of an accident, or exactly what moment the car started to skid. However, you should avoid second-guessing your answers. If you were going “about 50 mph,” the insurance company may argue that you didn’t know how fast you were going.
- “I think….” Try not to speculate on what happened, even if you’re pretty sure you know what went on. By saying something like, “I thought he was going to make the turn,” you’re saying that your actions were in question.
- Anything incriminating. Stay calm, stick to the facts, and keep your story consistent. Do not admit to being tired, stressed, etc. It’s completely normal to want to unload after the shock of an accident, but those things may be completely unrelated to your accident and may ruin your case if you vocalize them.
Mistake #9: Talking to the Wrong People
Even if you are careful about what you say, and even when you only stick to the facts, the best way to protect your rights is to avoid talking about the accident until you better understand your rights. In most cases, there is no need for you to immediately speak with:
- The other driver
- The driver’s employer
- The other driver’s insurance adjuster
- The other driver’s attorney
How to avoid this mistake: Don’t talk about the accident or your injuries with anyone other than your doctor, your attorney, and other trusted people—at least not until you’ve talked to an attorney about your rights and what to watch out for. If the other side is pressuring you to respond, politely decline and make an appointment with an attorney as soon as possible.
Mistake #10: Giving Up
If you are having trouble protecting your rights and dealing with the insurance company, don’t give up. We know that nobody likes to fight with the insurance company, and nobody likes to be made to feel that the accident was their fault when it really wasn’t. Nobody likes an accident case to drag on forever. But, if you decide to give up, the insurance company wins. Unfortunately, they may be hoping that you’ll feel so lost and frustrated that you’ll either do whatever they want or you’ll just go away.
How to avoid this mistake: If you feel like giving up, let a skilled accident attorney help you. In many cases, an attorney can take over the burden of a personal injury claim, allowing victims to focus on recovering from their injuries.
Mistakes Happen, But You Don’t Have to Let Mistakes Wreck Your Injury Claim
What happens if you find out just a little too late that you shouldn’t have given that recorded statement or that you should have taken more pictures at the scene? The sobering truth is that, although you don’t necessarily have to give up all hope of recovery, your accidental mistake could have a big impact on how successful your injury claim ultimately is.
However, it’s remarkably easy for accident victims to make mistakes in the first few hours or days after an accident. We know from experience that those mistakes don’t always mean that they have to give up on their injury claims. No matter what the insurance company tells you or uses to try to pressure you into backing down, you can’t know the truth about your injury claim until you’ve gotten real answers about your rights from someone who actually has your best interests in mind.
At VB Attorneys, our team understands that you were still reeling from what happened, suffering from the pain of your injuries, and probably unaware of your rights after the accident. And we also know that insurance companies are not above taking advantage of accident victims who aren’t aware of the tricks, traps, and pitfalls they now face. We have helped other accident victims who didn’t necessarily do everything exactly right after an accident, and we would be happy to review the details of your case, determine what the potential problems are, and help you move forward with confidence.
If you think you may have made a mistake after you were hurt in a car accident, contact our team as soon as possible for an in-depth review of your case. You can reach VB Attorneys at 1-877-724-7800, by starting a Live Chat, or by completing our confidential online contact form.