In a recent interview, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Barry J. Schoch drew attention to the overall statewide decline in car accidents between 2011 and 2012 while cautioning that traffic fatalities nevertheless increased during the same interval. This is decidedly mixed news for Pennsylvania motorists, who are naturally the first to bear the consequences of these accidents. Traffic collisions and their aftermath are upsetting experiences for anyone, all the more so when they result in personal injury litigation. Regrettably, drivers routinely aggravate their own circumstances by committing a few very preventable errors after a car accident. What are some of these mistakes?
Failing to document the scene
The first thing you should do after an accident is examine yourself and your passengers for immediate injuries. The second is to begin documenting the scene. Few vehicles carry dash cameras – although it would be a good idea – but many people have a smartphone. Use it to immediately photograph the position of, and damage to, all cars involved. Ensure their license plates are clearly visible, and don’t forget to record the contact information of any witnesses.
Failing to keep records
In accident investigations, no detail is irrelevant. Track all incurred medical bills and lost wages. If you purchase an arm sling or medical tape from the pharmacy, keep the receipts. Be sure to solicit the police report as soon as it becomes available, and cross-reference it for discrepancies with your own records. Meticulous documentation at this early stage can save headaches down the road.
Failing to seek timely medical attention
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that neck injuries resulting from car accidents, commonly referred to as “whiplash,” do not always manifest themselves right away after an accident. As a result, many initially decline medical care because they mistakenly believe they are uninjured due to a lack of immediate pain or visible wounds. This both unnecessarily delays treatment and greatly complicates any personal injury claim made once injuries do become symptomatic. It is important to be promptly screened by a medical professional for latent injuries such as a concussion or whiplash and have all such injuries documented so that demonstrating causality later will not be an issue.
Giving a recorded statement without consulting an attorney
Your insurance company and that of the opposing party typically request a recorded statement after a car accident. While it’s generally inadvisable to provide one to an opposing insurance company, you may be contractually obligated to deliver one to your own. However, there’s no contractual requirement to do it immediately. Delay any recorded statement until an attorney has been consulted to ensure nothing is inadvertently stated in the document that may damage your case.
Dealing with insurance alone
An experienced car accident attorney may know how to negotiate with the insurance company in a way that does not compromise his or her client’s best interests. Without unduly vilifying them, remember that insurance companies don’t necessarily have your best interest in mind. Indeed, a recent article in the Chicago Tribune detailed how some companies utilize computer software to “low-ball” clients out of due financial compensation. Having an attorney at your side can alleviate the risk of going it alone.
If you’ve suffered an accident, proper forethought may substantially mitigate your damages. A skilled personal injury attorney with experience in car accident cases may be able to help you achieve an optimal result at each stage of the process and avoid needless slip-ups that may make things worse.