Getting hit by another driver can be as frustrating as it is damaging. What you do in the immediate aftermath at the scene of the accident, however, can help you start to pick up the pieces—or it could cause you to subvert a future auto accident claim.
Filing an accident claim with an insurance company will typically be a part of the recovery process. Although you may have had fair and easy dealings with your insurer at every point up until now, when it comes time to file an auto accident claim, you may find that:
- The insurer is more difficult to deal with.
- The insurer is not necessarily on your side or willing to honor the terms of your policy.
- You face some challenges getting the payouts you may deserve.
To help position your claim for success, below are some of the most common mistakes and missteps to avoid following an auto crash that could cost you compensation later:
Not reporting the wreck to the police may save you a little bit of time now, but it can cost you significantly later. This is because police can gather important evidence and document crucial details regarding the collision in a police report. In addition, some auto insurance policies require motorists to report more significant collisions to the police so there is a police report later. So, make sure you report a crash to the cops ASAP.
If you aren’t too severely injured, don’t skip this important step as you wait for the police to leave the scene. Use your cellphone (or another camera) to take as many photos of the damage caused by the wreck as you can. Having these pictures can back up your version of the story. They may even provide additional important evidence regarding the weather conditions, road conditions, etc. at the time of the wreck.
Do NOT admit or accept any blame for the collision, even if you think you may have been at least partially at fault. Apologies and fault admissions will likely come back to hurt a future claim, as insurers can use these statements to pin as much of the blame on you as possible and, in doing so, limit or deny you the payouts you may have been entitled to otherwise (i.e., had you not accepted blame). Don’t try to assign blame for the accident, either. Instead, simply report the facts of the crash. If you’re asked to make a formal (recorded) statement to the company, don’t agree to do so until you’re ready. This is because anything you say to insurers could be used later to try to reduce the value of your claim.
Your policy may have specific terms about claim filing deadlines following collisions, so do your best to report the crash as soon as reasonably possible after it occurs. Missing the reporting deadlines may complicate your claim.
This can include the names/contact info for the other involved drivers, the names/contact info for any crash witnesses, any pictures of the accident you may have and any damage estimates you may have already received. Don’t forget to keep copies of everything you submit! It can also be helpful to document when you submit this information in case your claim ends in a dispute with the insurer for any reason.
This is another big mistake that can cost you significantly, as insurance providers are typically not on claimants’ sides. Instead, insurers are on their own side, looking to protect their interests and profits by limiting their payouts to you. Be very careful about what you say to insurers, and don’t count on them to offer you the compensation you deserve. In all likelihood, they won’t.
In most cases, first offers are less than the value of a claim, as insurers may be hoping that claimants don’t know how much they’re entitled to and/or won’t fight back to get the payout they deserve because they need the settlement ASAP. So, if you’re offered a settlement, consult an accident attorney before accepting or denying the offer to see if you should hold out for more.
If your claim has been denied, contact a lawyer ASAP and find out if filing an appeal may be the right move for you. There can be strict deadlines for filing appeals, and moving forward sooner (rather than later) can help you protect your interests and potential rights to compensation.
This may be the biggest mistake people make following auto crashes because failing to consult with an accident attorney can prevent people from understanding their rights and knowing how to protect their interests.