A car accident can be disorienting and confusing, leading to emotional stress while at the accident scene. It’s not uncommon for tensions to be high after a collision, and as a result many people simply try to be helpful by doing what they can to ease the situation. However, this leads to mistakes that could jeopardize your claim and your case should you ever need to escalate your claim. In order to give yourself the best chance at an optimal resolution to your case, here are a few things you should do and a few things you should not do when you’re at the scene of a car accident.
DO Contact Emergency Services
The first phone call you make after an accident should be to emergency services. If you call 911 to report an accident, the dispatcher will likely send an ambulance out to the scene along with a police officer who will take a report of the accident and witness statements, along with what they see. This is important—you will want that report for your case, and any insurance companies that have a stake in the accident will likely want it as well. If someone is injured in the accident, getting them medical attention should be the first priority above all else.
DON’T Allow the Other Person to Drive Off
When financial liability is involved, people often have very little motivation to be honest, and many car accident victims have been burned when the person who hit them gave them false information quickly and then scrambled to drive off. Never allow someone to leave the scene of an accident until the police have arrived and verified that the information you receive is true and accurate.
DO Report the Accident to Your Insurance
You are required to notify your insurance of any car accidents in a prompt fashion, but this doesn’t have to be an extremely long conversation. Tell the operator who is receiving your claim the basic facts only, without being too detailed. You’ll have the chance to be more detailed at a later date once you’ve spoken to an attorney. However, you want to report the accident as soon as possible to get it on record and give the insurance company as little chance as possible to try to deny your claim because you didn’t report it.
DON’T Apologize for the Accident
Be very careful what you say at an accident scene. It’s not uncommon to want to apologize to the other party to try to ease tension and show you’re willing to work with the other party. DO NOT do this. Insurance companies are not out to protect you like so many of them claim: they’re out to make money, and they do so by paying out as little as possible on accident claims. If you apologize at the scene of an accident, the other person’s insurance will most likely try to spin this as an admission of fault and absolve themselves of any financial responsibility, even if the other party was clearly and blatantly at fault. It’s okay to want to be friendly and helpful at an accident scene, but choose your words carefully.
DO Take Lots of Pictures
You’d be surprised just how many facts can be straightened out by photographic evidence, so be sure to document everything at your accident scene, including damage to your car as a result of the accident, damage to the other person’s car, any relevant traffic control devices (traffic lights, stop signs, speed limit signs, etc.), and skid marks for braking, if they exist. Discrepancies between stories can quickly be ironed out if there’s evidence that shows which side, if any, is being honest.
DON’T Accept a Quick Settlement
One tactic insurance companies will use to save money and reduce the amount they have to pay out it to rush through your claim and offer you a settlement quickly. This initial offer may seem like a lot of money, but chances are it’s actually a fraction of what your case is actually worth, and they’re hoping you take it before you catch on to what they’re doing. If you get an offer within a few days of your accident and with little to no resistance, don’t take it. Let an attorney review your case and help you determine whether or not this settlement is fair for what you actually deserve.
If you have been injured in an accident, let a skilled Augusta car accident attorney from M. Austin Jackson Attorney at Law review your case and get you the result you deserve. Through our more than 70 years of combined experience, we have stood up for the rights of those who are hurt in car accidents, and worked diligently to help them get the compensation they need to help them recover from their injuries.