The moment you’re involved in a car accident the process of establishing the value of your claim begins. To you, it’s a horrific event that’s caused you pain, financial loss, and inconvenience. To the other driver’s insurance company, it’s just another day on the job.
After an accident, you are in a vulnerable position. You’re injured. You most likely can’t work. Bills are piling up. You’re confused and overwhelmed about what to do next. You’re angry that all of this is happening to you. All you want is put the whole thing behind you and get back to normal.
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The other driver’s insurance company isn’t as vulnerable as you. In fact, they’re not vulnerable at all. However, they are very interested in your vulnerabilities. You see, the adjusters and attorneys for the other insurance company are more than willing to take advantage of your confusion and anger and use it to their benefit.
They want you to make mistakes. They want you to say things you shouldn’t say. They hope that you’ll do things that aren’t in your best interest, due to the stress you’re under and the pain you’re in. Why? Because every mistake you make, every word you use unwisely, and every action you take that you shouldn’t weaken the value of your claim.
This is why it is extremely important that you do your best to avoid making mistakes following your accident. Remember, you and the insurance companies involved in your claim are potential adversaries. It is in your best interest to do everything you can to obtain fair compensation for your injuries. It is in the insurance company’s best interest to pay you as little as possible.
In order to ensure that you do obtain the compensation that you deserve, here are eight common mistakes that you should try to avoid:
1. Failing to Get Treatment for Your Injuries
The energy that your body is subjected to in a car accident is enormous. Over two tons of pressure can momentarily push, pull, and shove you in multiple directions at once. That kind of force can cause serious damage to the soft tissues in your body.
Soft tissue injuries often aren’t apparent right away. They can take days or even weeks to become symptomatic. So right after your accident, you may feel fine. Nevertheless, you could still be seriously injured.
On the other hand, maybe you are aware of your injuries but are delaying seeking treatment because of insurance or money issues. You might be feeling that you can’t afford to see a doctor or that you will be denied treatment because of your financial situation.
In either case, you are making a mistake by putting off treatment. The longer you delay in seeing a doctor, the greater the chances are that the insurance company will try to argue that your injuries were aggravated by your delay, or were caused by something other than your accident. If they are successful in proving this, you may find that the value of your claim has been reduced or even denied completely.
2. Failing to Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
Even if you have sought medical treatment for your injuries, you can still make an expensive mistake by not following your doctor’s orders in regard to your treatment. Going against your doctor’s medical advice puts you in the same situation as you would be if you hadn’t gotten treatment.
The insurance company will discover that you didn’t do what your doctor wanted you to do. They will then argue that your failure to follow your doctor’s orders contributed to or even caused your injuries. Again, if they are successful, you will end up with reduced compensation for your damages or, in the worst-case scenario, no compensation at all.
3. Trying to Be Helpful
After your accident, you’re going to have numerous opportunities to tell other people what happened. The people in the other car or cars involved in the crash will ask you what happened. The police will ask for your version of the events surrounding the collision for the accident report. Your friends and family will ask you what happened. The insurance company will ask you to give them a statement. In each of these instances, you have to keep one thing in mind – words can be used as weapons. Any words you choose to use can be used against you.
This is not the time to be helpful. This is not the time to try and explain away the accident. When you give a statement to anyone – other witnesses, the police, the insurance company – stick to the facts as you know them. Do not estimate. Do not guess. Do not suppose. Do not include emotion. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Your job is not to make someone else’s job easier. Your job is to take the steps that you need to take in order to get the compensation that you deserve, and you do this by simply relaying facts only.
4. Settling Your Case Before Talking to an Attorney
An auto accident is a traumatic event. There can be a strong psychological urge to get the whole thing behind you as quickly as possible. A lot of unpleasant emotions can be stirred up in the aftermath – guilt, anger, embarrassment, and more.
The insurance company involved in your claim for damages knows all about the psychology of car accident victims. They know that you want the whole thing to be over as quickly as possible. They also know that the accident may have caused you some financial difficulties. They will try to use your emotional and financial state to their advantage by offering you an amount of money in exchange for a quick settlement of your claim.
Invariably, the amount of money offered is far lower than your case is really worth. The insurance company is hoping that your desperation to put the matter behind you is stronger than your common sense. Even if you reject their offer verbally, they may still try and send you a physical check in the hope that you’ll cash it. Because if you do cash the check, your case is, for all intents and purposes, over no matter what it is really worth.
An experienced car accident attorney can look over the facts of your case and give you a good idea of its real value. They can also guide you through the settlement process, helping you to avoid the mistakes that you’d otherwise make without expert guidance.
Don’t make the mistake of handling your own settlement negotiations. Talk to a qualified personal injury attorney and maximize the chance of getting every penny of compensation that you deserve.
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