Car accidents cause nearly 1.25 million deaths each year. An additional 50 million are injured or disabled. Injuries can be severe and last for a lifetime.
Whether you’ve been injured or not, it’s imperative to avoid the following five mistakes after being involved in a car accident:
1. Not going to the doctor
Not going to the doctor is one of many common mistakes made after a car accident. If you don’t go to a doctor, there won’t be any record of your injuries. You need a record of your injuries to prove your case to your insurance company to recover compensation for your medical expenses.
Aside from getting proper compensation, going to a doctor is important because not all injuries are felt right away, or at all. Some injuries can only be discovered through diagnostic tests. For example, an X-ray will show hidden fractures you may not notice right away. An MRI can detect herniated discs, torn tendons, damage to cartilage, internal organs, and other soft tissue damage that won’t show up on an X-ray.
It’s important to know what injuries you’ve sustained after a car accident. Not being in pain isn’t an indicator that nothing’s wrong.
2. Relying on suing the other driver if your settlement is too low
Regardless of who’s responsible for an accident, if you live in a no-fault state, you’re required to file a claim with your insurer first. For many motorists, this means receiving a small amount of compensation that hardly covers expenses.
Many people struggle to recover adequate compensation in a no-fault state because insurance payouts are capped by both the state and individual insurance policies. Insurance companies lowball offers, and even when they pay out the maximum, it’s not always enough.
You might think you’re covered because you can file a lawsuit against the other driver, but no-fault states limit a person’s ability to file a personal injury claim after a crash. To file a personal injury claim, your injuries must meet specific criteria set by your state.
The rules vary between states, but share some commonality. A list provided by Greenstein & Milbauer describes how The state of New York defines serious injury. In New York, an injured person must have one of the following conditions to file a personal injury claim:
- A fracture
- A disability lasting at least 90 days within the first 180 days after the injury
- Significant disfigurement
- Loss of a fetus
- Permanent loss of the use of a body organ, member, function, or system
- Permanent consequential limitation of the use of a body organ or member
- Significant limitation of the use of a body function or system
If injuries don’t fall into those categories, you can’t file a personal injury claim.
Don’t reject a settlement offer without consulting a lawyer. If you’re counting on suing another driver for your injuries, and your injuries don’t meet your state’s requirements, rejecting a settlement could leave you completely stranded with no way to pay your bills. On the flip side, accepting a settlement could waive your legal right to file a legitimate personal injury claim against another driver. Don’t make any decisions without consulting a car accident attorney.
3. Not calling the police
After any car crash, call the police. Sometimes the police won’t come out if there are no injuries, or the damage seems to be under $500. If that’s the case, take photos of the accident and immediately head to your local police station to file a report in person.
Filing a report with the police right after an accident makes it easier to prevent others from making false claims.
4. Not exchanging information
Even if you simply tap bumpers in the parking lot, you should always exchange information with the other driver. Large vehicles make it harder to feel the impact, but that doesn’t mean damage hasn’t been done. Exchanging information ensures you have the other driver’s contact information just in case you need it.
5. Not getting your car checked out
You might have mechanical failure and not know it, and it could take days or weeks to notice. Instead of waiting to discover damage while you’re driving, take your car to a mechanic and have them check it out.
Don’t assume you or your vehicle are fine
After a car accident, don’t assume you and your vehicle are fine. Get checked out by a doctor, and have a mechanic look at your car. If you’ve been injured, don’t sign any settlement offers until you consult a lawyer for advice.