Getting into a car accident can be one of the most traumatic moments of your life. It may result in severe injuries that are realized right away, or it can cause injuries that take time to show their true severity. It is the latter case that oftentimes results in people making a common mistake that destroys their car claim, but those in the former category need to be careful to avoid these types of mistakes as well.
The bottom line is that you want to ensure that you receive just compensation for any losses that you experienced. These can be medically related to yourself and others involved with the accident as well as related to the state of your vehicle and any other property that may have been damaged. The best way to do so is to be mentally prepared for this situation beforehand, instinctively knowing what to do should you ever find yourself in that scenario. Also rectify any mistakes that have been made as soon as possible.
Failing to Focus on What Is Best for You
During every step of the process, it is essential to realize that most others involved with this process do not have your interests in mind. These will often include others directly involved with the accident – e.g. the driver in a car that you were in an accident with. Insurance companies provide another example. Both of these entities will be much more focused on their own interests than they are with yours.
Saying Too Much to the Insurance Company
You should be wary of saying too much to the insurance company. It is probably best to keep in mind that anything that you tell them could be used against you later. In particular, refrain from talking about who is or may be at fault or any injuries that you have or may have. Generally, you want to provide as little information as possible – i.e. all that you are legally required to tell them.
The most important thing that you are in fact legally obligated to do is to tell them about the accident as soon as you can. However, only share the most basic of details at that time, and do not allow yourself to be pressured to, for example, provide a recorded statement with details and opinions related to it. This is a time that you are likely overwhelmed by what had occurred, and insurance companies often take advantage of that to make these types of requests.
Not Getting a Police Report
The police report of your accident is one of the most important documents that lawyers on both sides of your case will be referring to and utilizing, and you want to ensure that you have one to share. You should always get one, including during situations in which you do not believe that any physical injuries occurred and that all of the damage, which you believe was limited, was property-related.
In particular, you do not want to agree with any other parties who are involved with the accident to settle the matter without getting this police report.
Failing To Get Medical Treatment
You should always get medical treatment. This is true if you know that you are a victim who has been injured, and it is also true if you do not believe that you had suffered any physical damage. Auto accidents often result in injuries that are not immediately apparent but that end up being quite significant in the long run. These types of situations can involve internal bleeding, injured muscles, broken bones and concussions.
Plus, if you do suffer from injuries, whether immediately felt or not, you want to avoid a situation where an adjuster or lawyer with the insurance company makes the claim that you had suffered them in different circumstances – i.e. not related to the accident in question.
Not Documenting the Accident Scene
You want to save as much documentation of the accident scene as possible. This includes the positions of any vehicles involved with it, internal and external car damage, skid marks, related signs that perhaps should have been adhered to but were not, road conditions and any injuries suffered if they are readily apparent to the naked eye. Also secure contact information of any witnesses who are willing to provide that information.
Accepting a Settlement Right Away
One of the things that insurance companies tend to do is offer quick settlements because they know that you may be in a financially challenging situation as a result of the accident and desperately need money right away. These settlements often include an amount of money that is not indicative of a fair payment to you as it relates to the suffering that you had incurred and the damage that had occurred to your vehicle.
Perhaps, for example, you have significant medical bills and are also unable to work or even transport yourself to work.
Before you accept any sort of settlement, contact an attorney to ensure that you will ultimately be fairly and fully compensated for the losses that you had occurred as a result of this accident.
Failing to File Your Claim in Time
Under Texas law, you must file a lawsuit related to personal injuries within two years. Failure to do so will invariably result in your case being quickly dismissed, even if you would have had the right to significant compensation had it been filed in a timely manner.
Your accident claim does not need to have been completely resolved within that two-year timespan. The filing just needs to have occurred by then. However, in most cases, you will want to start this process much sooner than then to ensure that you receive the compensation that you deserve in a more timely manner than using the entire allotted two years would allow for.
Also note that someone dying as a result of this accident extends this timeline in that the two years do not start until the person has died.
In addition, keep in mind that these statute of limitations timelines will vary in other states, so any accidents that occurred outside of the Lone Star State will usually result in different deadlines associated with them.
Unless you are a lawyer experienced in these types of cases, you should refrain from representing yourself during this process. It is generally best to allow those who have training and experience related to car claims to take the lead as they will be more apt to understand all of the nuances necessary to get you the fairest settlement possible.
Most importantly, keep in mind that lawyers who represent insurance companies are well trained to get settlements that are in their employers’ best interests. Even if you do not feel overwhelmed going against them yourself, you most likely will be, nonetheless, if attempting this.
Saying, “I’m Sorry”
Although it may seem natural to some to say, “I’m sorry,” regardless of whether or not you are at fault for something that happened, you want to refrain from doing so in this type of situation. If you do this, another party involved with the accident may tell the court that you apologized for what had happened, which would likely cause belief in you causing the accident to increase.
Simply put, it is best to say as little as possible, both at the accident scene and to insurance companies.
Accepting an Insurance Company’s Denial
In many cases, insurance companies will deny quality claims as they have strong incentive to do so as this step increases how much money they earn or save in the big picture. Do not simply accept a denial. Talk to an attorney about the situation, and determine if it should have been declined.
Not Fighting a Traffic Ticket Related to the Accident
If you receive a traffic ticket connected with this accident, you may consider just paying it instead of fighting it, but note that doing so will generally make it much more difficult to win this type of case as that may be viewed as proof of you accepting blame, accepting liability, for what had occurred.
Not Hiring an Attorney in a Timely Manner
You want to ensure that you have someone in your corner fighting for your just settlement, and hiring an attorney as early in the process as possible will increase the chances of this occurring. Doing so will allow all deadlines to be met, both related to the insurance company and to the court system, and negotiations to be made by experienced individuals who understand what insurance companies are looking to get and the tactics that they commonly use while pursuing that.
The preferred way to avoid many of these common mistakes is to consult the services of an attorney who is professionally trained and experienced with these types of situations. We at Haney Paschal & Romoser, P.C. have that training and experience. If you would like to discuss with us what we can do to help you receive a fair settlement, reach out to us at (936) 295-3712.