1. Agree not to call the Police and just handle it yourselves.
It is important to call the Police so that you have a police report and independent verification that the wreck occurred. You also need to exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver. If the other driver promises to pay for the repairs to your car in exchange for you not calling the police or reporting it to their insurance company, chances are, you will never hear from the other driver again and you will have no recourse to force that person to pay for the repairs. If the police refuse to come to the scene of the collision, at the very least, get the insurance and contact information from the other driver including their insurance agent’s name and phone number and policy number.
2. Admit fault.
Do not, under any circumstances, admit fault or say anything like “I’m sorry, it is all my fault.” “Fault” is a legal conclusion and you are not qualified to determine whether it is or is not your fault. That is a matter for the insurance companies and, if necessary, lawyers and the legal system, to determine. If you make an admission of fault at the scene of the wreck, or even later to an insurance company adjuster, you may be harming your legal rights.
3. Say you aren’t injured.
Quite often, at the scene of a wreck, most people are too shaken up to know if they have been injured or to know exactly what parts of their bodies have been injured. It is only later, after their bodies have had a chance to rest, that the full effect of the collision and any injuries begin to manifest themselves. If you tell the police or the other driver that you aren’t injured, and then you discover later that you are injured, it is very likely that the insurance companies (and later a jury) will not believe you and may think that you are lying. It is better not to say anything and just wait to see how your body is feeling in the hours and days after the collision and to get a thorough exam from your family doctor to see if you have been injured.
4. Fail to take photos of the damage to the cars.
The scene of the wreck is your one chance to take pictures of the other driver’s car. If your car is towed from the scene, it may be the only chance for you to photograph your car. If the other driver gives you fraudulent information and you don’t take a photo of their license plate, chances are that you will never find them again. Make sure to take as many photos from as many angles as possible and download them onto your computer for safekeeping in case something happens to your cell phone.
5. Talk to the other driver’s insurance company.
Regardless of what the other driver’s insurance company tells you, you have NO obligation to talk to them and it will only hurt your case if you do. If you talk to them, they will want to take a statement from you. That statement will become a permanent part of your file and WILL hurt your case, even if you hire a lawyer later. Insurance companies are smarter than you. There isn’t anything you can do that they haven’t already thought of and you don’t have the ability to effectively advocate for yourself.
6. Fail to promptly seek medical treatment.
If you are injured, you need to see your family doctor promptly and follow your doctor’s treatment plan. If you wait to seek treatment or don’t follow your doctor’s advice and have gaps in treatment, the insurance company and the jury will conclude that you weren’t injured at all and that you are making a fraudulent claim.
7. Post about the wreck on Facebook.
Anything you say and do on Facebook can and will be held against you. Insurance companies and their lawyers look on Facebook for people who have been in wrecks to see if they are posting about their wrecks and to see what they have posted in the past. If you post something there, they will know about it. Even if you think your page is “locked down” and your privacy filters are secure, they can subpoena your account and make Facebook or you turn over your account and see what you posted. They can find the posts where you joked about getting a lot of money because you were in a wreck, or where you posted photos about bungee jumping just a few weeks after being in a wreck, or where you listed that your motto is “I can’t drive 55.” Be smart and don’t post anything at all that could harm your case!
8. Wait a long time before hiring an attorney.
The sooner you hire an attorney, the better. We can keep you from making these mistakes and more. Too often, people with legitimate claims lose their ability to obtain fair compensation because they wait too long to get an attorney. Don’t let this happen to you. Call Nelson Boyd at (206) 971-7601 today. We have nearly 50 years of experience representing people who have been injured, fighting insurance companies, and obtaining justice for our clients. We understand what you are going through and we can help you.