Whether it is a minor fender-bender or a major wreck, getting into a car accident in Dallas Fort-Worth, TX, can be an extremely traumatic and chaotic experience. Of course, you are entitled to recover sufficient compensation for your medical bills, auto repair costs, lost wages, and other expenses by filing a car accident injury claim. But the stressful nature of car crashes increases the likelihood that you will make some critical mistakes that may compromise your ability to recover the compensation you deserve.
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Listed below are 11 common mistakes you should avoid to secure your rights in the aftermath of a car crash. We hope you are never involved in a car accident in the first place, but it cannot hurt to be prepared!
Mistake #1| Leaving the scene of the accident
Texas’s hit and run laws require that anyone involved in a car accident that results in property damage or injury must not leave the scene (regardless of who is at fault). You may need to move your car to the side of the road, but you cannot leave the scene, and neither can the other driver. Failure to comply with the laws can result in either a misdemeanor or a felony conviction.
Mistake #2 | Admitting fault
If you were involved in a car crash and think you may have been partly at fault for what happened, you might have an overwhelming urge to say “I’m sorry” to the other driver. This could either be because you are rattled from the accident or just want to get on with your life. However, know that an innocuous apology could be construed as an admission of fault — or at the very least, an implication of fault — and jeopardize your right to seek compensation for damages from the accident. For that reason, you must never admit fault in a car accident, even if you think you were somewhat to blame for it. It’s the jury’s job to determine fault.
The truth is, insurance companies are not on your side. They will go to great lengths to find any reason to waive your rights to compensation. If—while reviewing statements from the responding officers, the other driver, witnesses and your insurance company representatives—they find that you have admitted or implied that the accident was your fault, you better believe that they will use that admission to significantly devalue your claim or deny it altogether. You may find it hard to believe that an insurance company would take your off-hand statements after the car crash and use them to reduce or refuse your payout. But the truth is that insurance companies operate on an unofficial “reduce or deny coverage first, investigate or negotiate later” policy. They will take any ammo you give them.
Mistake #3 | Not calling the police
It does not matter how minor the damage/injury may seem or how apologetic the other driver claims to be, you need to report the accident to the police. If the police are not involved, it will be your word against the other driver’s word, which can come back to bite you when you later file a personal injury claim.
The police officer who arrives on the scene of the accident can pick up valuable clues and attest to the reality on the ground in their report, which also includes their assessment of who seems to be at fault. While this assessment is not definitive, particularly because the responding officer probably did not witness the car accident first-hand, it can be invaluable as a launching point for your claim for recovery.
Note: Make sure you write down the officer’s name and badge number for your records and always be sure to check your copy of the officer’s report for errors. If something must be corrected, make sure it is done immediately, while the details are still fresh in the officer’s mind. Police officers are very busy, and mistakes happen.
Mistake #4 | Not documenting the accident scene
While you may understandably feel confused or in shock at this time, recording the details of your car accident is often a critical component in proving the other driver’s liability and pursuing your personal injury claim. The more evidence you have to support your personal injury case, the more likely you are to protect yourself from any fabricated allegations made by the at-fault driver or their insurance company and win a fair settlement amount to cover your losses.
Assuming you are in a condition to do so, make sure you document as much as possible, including:
Photographs of any injuries you may have suffered, the condition of the vehicles involved and their damage, placement of the cars, debris from the collision, skid marks or broken glass, any road defects or construction work that may have contributed to the accident, any traffic control devices (like traffic lights or stop or yield signs) at the scene, and weather and lighting conditions. Photographic evidence can be critical in explaining the mechanics of the crash and proving your lack of fault in a car accident claim.
If your car accident occurred at a business, such as a store parking lot, ask the store manager if they have surveillance cameras. Obtaining a copy of this video can be extremely beneficial to your personal injury case.
The names and contact information of the pedestrians in the area or the drivers of other vehicles who may have seen the crash and the events leading up to it. These eyewitnesses may be able to provide objective descriptions of precisely what they saw and help back up your side of the story.
The other driver’s name, home address, phone number, license number, license plate number, and insurance information. If the driver was driving for their employer at the time of the accident, you must also get the name and contact information of the employer.
Remember that a lot of vital evidence in a car accident can only be retrieved on the crash site, which makes it essential that you take control of the situation and act promptly. If you are able to stand and walk about, try to gather all the pertinent evidence mentioned above as quickly as possible.
Mistake #5 | Not seeing a doctor
No matter how severe or minor a car accident is and whether or not you feel any pain or discomfort at all, you should always make sure to visit a doctor as soon as possible. Adrenaline can mask the pain from serious car accident injuries, such as contusion, concussion, brain hemorrhage and internal bleeding, that may not become apparent until weeks or even months after the car crash. These injuries can have lasting consequences and be life-threatening, so quick medical intervention is a must. A timely diagnosis can literally save your life.
In addition to the critical short and long-term medical considerations involved with seeking prompt medical attention to treat car accident injuries, the longer you wait to see a doctor, the harder it will be to prove your injuries were caused by your accident. Not seeking medical care or even missing a doctor’s appointment is a red flag to the insurance company that your accident injuries are not as severe as you have stated or wore caused by some other, later event. The insurance company may use your failure to seek medical care against you to deny your claim or substantially reduce its value.
This is why it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention after a car accident. From your initial ER visit to your routine appointments, your medical records (such as receipts of prescription and over-the-counter medications related to your injuries, as well as diagnostic images such as x-rays or MRIs) can serve as evidence of the nature and extent of your injuries resulting from the car accident. They can be used in your personal injury lawsuit against the person or parties responsible for the crash to help you recover your treatment costs.
Mistake #6 | Not documenting expenses after the accident
Your memory will fade over time, so you must rely on documentation to help make your case. To help ensure that the full value of your injuries is taken into account, it is vital to not only document your accident scene, but also your injuries, expenses, and experiences in the weeks and months following your accident.
Here are some tips that can help:
You must document every expense you incur as a result of your injuries and keep receipts for everything. For example, if you need to hire someone to drive you to physical therapy, build a wheelchair ramp for your home, or even cut your grass, make sure you keep a receipt. You can only be reimbursed for the expenses you can prove, and your receipt is that proof. Keeping detailed notes on all your conversations with insurance adjusters is also essential.
In addition to documenting your expenses, you will also need to keep track of all your lost wages. The only way you will ever be able to recover lost wages from an insurance company is to prove exactly how much money you lost by being out of work following your accident. You will need some form of the official documentation, like paycheck receipts, to back up these claims. Being self-employed or paid on commission may present some difficulty in proving income to the insurance company. You may have to go so far as to show tax returns from years before your injury.
Mistake #7 | Not calling your insurance company
When it comes to your own auto insurance policy, you have a contractual obligation to notify your insurance provider soon after the car crash. Failure to do so may breach the terms of your insurance policy and even result in the revocation of your policy or give your own insurance company a reason to reject the claim. Keep in mind…providing notice does not mean having a detailed chat. Take a look at the next common mistake.
Mistake #8 | Talking about your case with the insurance company
It is routine practice for insurance adjusters to call accident victims in an attempt to garner a damaging statement. If you have not yet consulted with a personal injury attorney, you may be particularly vulnerable to this tactic.
Like we said earlier, the other driver’s insurance company is not on your side. It does not matter how friendly or helpful they seem to be, be wary of divulging too much information to the insurers or agreeing to give them a recorded statement. Expect that they are going to pull out all the stops to find evidence that could pin some of the blame for the accident on you so that they can pay you less (or nothing at all).
Your best bet is to limit all your communications to only your personal injury attorney, or to have all contact with an insurance adjuster go through your attorney’s office.
Mistake #9 | Accepting the first insurance offer
Although it is tempting to accept a check that can help cover some of those first medical bills and resolve your case outside the court, you can be sure that the first settlement offer is a lot less than you deserve. The insurance company wants to convince you that you are getting a significant settlement because they want to “help you,” while the truth is that they are actually getting away with paying you only pennies on the dollar. There’s even a name for this sleazy practice—“Swoop and Settle.” Insurance adjusters prey on crash victims before those victims have time to get a lawyer to help them.
Do not accept a lowball settlement offer and do not sign any releases, waivers, or checks an insurance company representative presents to you. Even seemingly innocent papers such as car damage (mini-tort) releases sometimes can have fine print waiving future injury claims or allowing an at-fault insurance company to access your medical records and violate your privacy. In other words, you could end up signing away your legal rights to the compensation that you need and deserve. Taking the time to build your case can convince the insurance company that you deserve much more than what they first offered to pay.
And it doesn’t require that you sign anything. If you agree to accept money during a phone call, you may have just screwed yourself. The promise may have been “$500 to help you out” but you wind up settling your entire case for $500.
Mistake #10 | Waiting too long to file the claim
No matter how strong or persuasive your personal injury claim is, if it is not filed in a Texas court before the “Statute of Limitations” is passed, the court may strip away your right to file it. This could leave you with significant past/future medical expenses and lost wages that you will not be able to recover. According to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003(a), the Statute of Limitations for adult car accident claims in Texas is two years from the date of the accident. This two-year period applied to adults. Minors have different rules that a qualified, board-certified lawyer can explain to you.
Besides, evidence critical to your case can fade over time or be lost forever, making it essential to filing a claim and acting promptly to prove the extent of your losses.
Mistake #11 | Not hiring a car accident attorney
If you have been injured in a car accident, you are likely to benefit immensely from an experienced personal injury lawyer’s support and guidance. The insurance company may advise that you do not need a lawyer, but that is only because they do not want you to get one.
The importance of consulting with a board-certified personal injury attorney following a serious car accident seems self-evident, yet many people think they can handle these complicated legal proceedings on their own. At the very least, a car accident attorney can review your accident’s fine points in a free initial consultation and explain your legal options. If you have a significant claim due to injuries and other losses, an attorney can also 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. And if we believe you can handle the case yourself, we will tell you that.
Car accidents are confusing, disorienting, and traumatizing events. With all of the commotion and turmoil, it is easy to make a hasty decision that could have a long-lasting impact on you and your potential for a personal injury claim. Given the mental, physical, and financial stresses that follow car accidents, hiring a personal injury lawyer is usually the last thing you want to do. But having your legal rights protected is definitely worth the effort and much less of a hassle than going after insurance companies on your own.
Talk to our Farmer’s Branch / Carrollton / Dallas-Fort Worth car accident attorneys today!
If you have suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a car accident in or around the Dallas-Fort Worth area due to the negligence, recklessness, or carelessness of another driver, the car accident lawyers at Samples Ames PLLC can work for you and with you to ensure that you are making the best possible decisions in your case. Our car accident attorneys have the experience and resources to help you get a fair settlement to recover from your injuries and move on with your life.
If you contact us today at (817) 605-1505 or (469) 466-2600, we will be happy to review your case and determine the best way to proceed to ensure you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Since we charge no fee unless we are successful in obtaining an award for you, you have nothing to lose.