From minor fender benders to serious crashes, car accidents are fairly common in the United States. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, 6.76 million car accidents were reported by police in 2019. Between bodily injuries and property damage, the toll of a crash is staggering.
It is so important to know what to do and what not to do after a car accident occurs. Taking the right steps after a crash can protect a future legal claim and help reduce injuries. Listed below are the most frequent mistakes people make after an accident and suggestions for what to do instead.
Assume No One is Hurt
When an accident appears relatively minor, it is easy to assume no one is hurt. That is especially true if blood or injuries are not present. However, when the human body is forced against the vehicle’s interior or against another car or structure, injuries can occur internally, which are usually invisible.
Broken bones, sprains, strains, and internal bleeding can worsen with movement. That is why accident victims should remain at the scene and avoid moving anyone until help arrives. Other injuries do not happen immediately after a crash but emerge over time. Even if a person feels fine after an accident, once the shock wear offs, they may notice something is not right.
Anyone experiencing the following symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible:
- Abdominal pain
- Neck, back, or shoulder pain
Fail to Report the Accident to the Police
It is a common misconception that a minor car accident does not require a police report. If no one appears to be hurt and the damage to the vehicle is minor, most people want to move on with their day. However, most experienced lawyers recommend otherwise. In fact, in Pennsylvania and other states, reporting a crash is a legal requirement. Always dial 9-1-1 and report the accident to the police before leaving the scene.
It is possible the other driver was impaired or distracted at the time of the collision, and the police need to know that. Having a police report on file is also necessary to file a claim to recover the costs of repairs and medical care.
Forget to Collect Evidence
After an accident, it is normal to be shaken and even afraid, but taking the time to document the scene is an essential part of any personal injury claim. It is the important details, like property damage photographs and eyewitness accounts, that tell the story of why and how a crash occurred. Different forms of evidence can prove that one person’s negligence directly caused the accident.
Leave the Accident Scene
Leaving the scene prematurely can have serious ramifications for anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident. Pennsylvania law requires anyone involved in a crash to wait at the scene for police, check on others for injuries, and exchange contact information.
People leave an accident for a multitude of reasons. Some may not notice any damage. Others have a reason to run from the police, like a warrant or suspended license. However, fleeing the scene will only make those legal troubles worse.
Leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offense in Pennsylvania that brings penalties. For crashes involving just property damage, a person who flees can face a third-degree misdemeanor charge and up to one year in jail. If someone is hurt or killed in the accident, fines and jail time increase significantly.
While it is imperative to report the facts calmly and concisely to the police officer at the scene, remember to choose those words carefully. Admitting fault at the accident site or in a written or recorded statement with an insurance company puts the accident victim, their insurance provider, and their lawyer at a disadvantage. It is difficult to think straight in the heat of the moment, but it is important to remember that it is up to law enforcement and the lawyers to determine fault after looking at the evidence.
Agree to a Quick Settlement
Soon after a car accident, an adjuster for each party will reach out for a statement. It is important to know that speaking to them without contacting a lawyer first is not required. One should consult with a lawyer before saying anything that may imply fault or jeopardize a personal injury claim. It is also just as important to avoid agreeing to any quick insurance settlement.
Before consenting to any type of release, it is best to wait at least a few weeks to ensure no new injuries arise. If that happens after a release is signed, the costs for this medical care will not be covered. In many cases, the accident victim’s lawyer finds they are entitled to significantly more compensation than a preliminary insurance settlement offered.
Misrepresent the Facts
Whether speaking with the police, the insurance company, or a lawyer, it is never okay to lie about a car accident. Even if a person bears some percentage of fault, they need to be completely transparent at all times, especially with their legal counsel. A lawyer equipped with the facts has all they need to provide the best possible legal guidance and defense. Their job is to build a solid claim based on the details at hand and ensure the best possible outcome for their client.
Wait to Act
Any car accident is an inconvenience. There are countless phone calls to be made to the lawyer, insurance company, and the auto body shop. Injuries add even more costly and time-consuming appointments and bills, but avoiding these details will only make matters worse.
In Pennsylvania, a car accident victim has two years to file a legal claim, but waiting that long is rarely a good idea. Evidence like police reports and hospital records are more likely to get lost over time. Memories of what happened tend to fade in the weeks and months following a crash. After an accident, it is important to act quickly.
Fail to Hire a Lawyer
Car accident victims do not have to navigate the claims process alone. A skilled lawyer can guide their client. These simple but costly car accident mistakes can easily be avoided with the assistance of a lawyer. A lawyer’s job is to review every detail of the case and recommend the most practical course of action based on the facts and the law.
When choosing a lawyer to manage a case, ask friends and colleagues for recommendations. Read online reviews, and look for a lawyer with a proven track record of success. After speaking with the police and getting medical care, a call to a trusted lawyer should be the next step for anyone involved in a serious car accident.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Clients Avoid Costly Mistakes After Motor Vehicle Accidents
It is common to feel anxious after a serious collision, but an experienced Philadelphia car accident lawyer at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC can help. Mounting medical bills, lost income, and health conditions after a car accident can feel overwhelming, but our legal team is ready to help you with recovery. For a free consultation, call us at 215-569-8488 or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.