Don’t Make These Mistakes if You Are in a Car Accident
Being in a car accident is so traumatic that a driver or passenger can lose their judgment in the immediate aftermath. This is understandable. No one plans on being in a car accident, and the disruption is jarring. But it’s essential that if you are in an accident, you keep your cool and make the right decisions, even under extreme duress. The wrong decisions can make you vulnerable for legal action and financial loss down the road. Our firm has decades of experience representing people in personal injury cases, including those involving car accidents. Based on our experience, here are some mistakes you absolutely need to avoid:
- Leaving the scene. Never leave the scene of an accident. In Illinois, it is illegal to leave an accident scene that results in any of these outcomes: damage to a vehicle, personal injury, or death. In Iowa, it is also illegal to leave the scene of an accident involving damage to a vehicle, personal injury, or death. Don’t make the mistake of assuming, “It’s just a fender bender – how serious can this be?” and leave. If you hit a parked car, and the owner of the other car is not present, wait for as long as you can for them to return. If it’s not feasible to wait, leave your contact information, place the information securely on their windshield, and take a photo of the damage before you leave so that you have an accurate record of the damage. But leaving a note is only to be done in extreme measures – say, in an emergency. Even if you are willing to take your chances with Illinois or Iowa law by leaving the scene of an accident, you could create more serious problems for yourself from a liability standpoint especially if someone (or a security camera out of sight) witnesses your action. Just don’t do it.
- Ignoring medical attention. If you have been injured, get medical attention. Don’t self-diagnose an injury. Some injuries, such as head trauma and neck pain, don’t manifest themselves right away. You may not appreciate just how seriously you have been injured until you see a doctor. Moreover, waiting too long to get medical attention could make it difficult for you to get compensated if you file an insurance claim.
- Admitting wrongdoing. Even if you are sure you are at fault, don’t admit to any wrongdoing whatsoever. Whatever you say could be used against you if the other party decides to file a personal injury lawsuit. Admitting wrongdoing and apologizing will set yourself up for financial loss down the road. Besides, how can you be completely sure you were at fault? For example, what if it turns out the other driver was driving while intoxicated?
- Refusing a field sobriety test. If police officers on the scene ask you to submit to a field sobriety test, refusing to do so will result in the loss of your driving privileges in Illinois and the loss of your driving privileges in Iowa. If an investigating officer believes there is cause to test you, comply.
- Failing to document what happened. Document everything. Take photos. Take notes. Ask if anyone nearby witnessed what happened, and get their contact information in case your insurance company or attorney needs to speak to them. Ask any businesses nearby if their security cameras might have recorded the accident. It’s important you document what you can immediately. You need to have a fresh record of what happened before the scene is cleared up and evidence of damage is gone.
- Trying to handle everything yourself. Get help. Don’t try to work everything out with the other driver, even if they seem cooperative and friendly. Call the police so that there is an official record of what happened. Also, in Illinois and Iowa, each driver involved in an Illinois traffic crash must file a crash report if the crash caused a death, bodily injury, or more than $1,500 of property damage when all drivers are insured. It’s best to simply report the accident and not play amateur legal expert. If the other driver takes legal action against you, take it seriously and get legal help. Don’t go it alone.
- Posting on social media. We have seen incidents in which people involved in accidents openly talked about what happened on social media. Their social posts were used against them in legal proceedings. Even if your social settings are set to private, an insurance company can legally get access to your content and use it against you. Even if you post what seems to be innocent information, an insurance company could use it against you. For example, photos of the scene and details about any injury you suffered could be used by the insurance company to deny your claim or to argue that you were not seriously injured. Expressing anger, frustration, or sadness about the accident could be used against you in court.
- Not following up with your insurance company. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, it’s important to keep your insurance company updated on your medical treatment and progress. You should also make sure that they are aware of any expenses you’ve incurred as a result of the accident. Also, promptly report the accident to your insurance company and provide all necessary documentation. Failing to report the accident promptly can complicate the claims process.
- Settling too quickly. Insurance companies often lowball settlement offers. It’s important to get an attorney to review your case before you accept any settlement.
- Not documenting injuries and expenses. Keep detailed records of your injuries, medical treatments, and expenses related to the accident. This documentation will be essential for insurance claims and potential legal actions.
- Not seeking legal advice. If the accident involves significant injuries, damages, or complex legal issues, it’s advisable to consult with an attorney. They can provide guidance on navigating the legal process, protecting your rights, and maximizing your chances of a fair settlement.
If you believe you need legal help in the aftermath of an accident, call Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen now at (312) 346-6444. We have been representing our clients for decades. We are ready to assist you over the phone or in person. We perform our cases on a contingent fee basis, which means we are not paid unless you recover compensation for your claim. Call Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen at (312) 346-6444 – let us show how we can deliver results for you.