Getting into a car accident is a terribly stressful event. But there are some common mistakes you should avoid in order to protect your rights in the aftermath of a crash. Neglecting certain responsibilities could be costly.

Listed below are seven of the most common mistakes made by car accident victims, and advice about how you can avoid these pitfalls.

  1. Don’t lose your cool. After a car crash, you should stay calm and proceed in a business-like manner. Do not get into an argument with other drivers and do not make accusations. Cooperate with police and any other emergency responders who show up at the accident scene. Answer questions from the police honestly, but do not speculate or offer more information than what you’re asked.
  2. Don’t ignore crash evidence. If you are able, act as quickly as possible after a car accident to gather evidence about what happened. Take photos of the crash scene, including damage to vehicles and their positions relative to each other. Photograph debris and skid marks, as well as anything at the scene that may have contributed to the accident, such as damaged roadway or an obscured directional road sign (such as a yield or stop sign). Take pictures of your injuries. Gather names and contact information from witnesses and those involved in the accident.
  3. Don’t decline medical care. Call 911 for assistance right away. Cooperate with the medical personnel who respond, regardless who called for them. If they want to take you to the hospital, go. If you don’t think you need a doctor right away, you should still get a full medical examination as soon as you can. Some serious injuries are not immediately apparent, but may begin to cause problems a day or more after the crash. Also, seeing a doctor documents the accident and your injuries, which may be important if you later file a claim.
  4. Don’t delay notifying your insurance carrier. You should contact your insurance company within 24 hours after a car accident. When you talk to company representatives, do not admit fault or accept blame for the accident. Do not make a written or recorded statement without talking to a lawyer first. Do not downplay your injuries or the damage to your vehicle. Follow your insurance carrier’s instructions, such as for obtaining damage estimates.
  5. Don’t forget about the police report. If a law enforcement officer responds to the accident, he or she will file a report. Ask how quickly a copy will be available and how you can get one. Obtain a copy of the police report as soon as you can. This official record of the accident may be useful to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries and other losses. However, remember that the police do not determine civil liability for a car accident.
  6. Don’t accept a quick settlement. You may hear from the other driver’s insurer soon after the accident, and the adjuster may offer you a check for your losses. You can be certain that it is less than you deserve. An offer made too quickly cannot be based on costs of the accident that aren’t even realized yet. But it’s often better for the insurance adjuster to settle your claim quickly and cheaply. Don’t accept a quick, lowball settlement offer and don’t sign anything an insurance company representative presents to you. You could sign away your right to the compensation that you need and deserve.
  7. Don’t proceed without a lawyer. If you have been injured in a car crash, you will likely benefit greatly from the assistance of experienced personal injury lawyer. At the very least, a car accident attorney can review your case in a free initial consultation and advise you about what to expect and the steps you should take to protect yourself. If you have a significant claim due to injuries and other losses, an attorney can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and take the matter to court if necessary. Each case is unique, but in most cases an experienced attorney can obtain a better car accident settlement than you could on your own.
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