Immediately following a car accident, your adrenaline is running, your anxiety is high, and often you’re not thinking clearly. Because of these emotions, people often make crucial mistakes that could have long lasting consequences on their injury claim. Below are the topmost common mistakes that we see clients make after an accident.
- Not calling the police after an accident – Sometimes people think because they don’t have any broken bones, or there is minimal damage to the vehicles, that it’s better to just exchange information and not be bothered with waiting for the police. This is almost always the wrong thing to do. When you call the police to the scene of an accident, they will speak to the parties involved, any witnesses, observe the accident site. They will then create a report with everyone’s vehicle, insurance, and personal information along with a diagram and description of who they believe is at-fault for an accident. The crash report is often what lawyers and insurance companies refer to the most when determining who is at-fault or what insurance someone has. The information that’s in a crash report is not necessarily the “end all be all” for your case, but it is an important aid that all parties use to refer to. Another less commonly known but important benefit of having the police do a report is the effect it can have when there is no insurance information for the person who caused the accident. If there is no insurance information, or invalid insurance information, but a report has been done and the vehicle VIN and license plate number are on the report, your lawyer can send a letter to the Department of Transportation for Florida with the crash report to see what registered insurance information they have on file. The reason why this is important, is if no crash report was done the Department of Transportation will not process your request.
- Not taking photos at the scene of an accident – Taking photos immediately after an accident is extremely important for a variety of reasons. It’s important to take photos of all the vehicles involved along with a photo of their license plates, all people involved, the scene of the accident, insurance cards, and any damage that may have resulted from the accident to other objects such as light poles. Photos are a form of evidence which absolutely would be used in support of your case. Photos help lawyers and insurance companies understand how the accident happened, and the type of damage your vehicle received. Of course, photos should only be taken if they can be done in a safe way. In addition to taking photos at the scene, it’s also important to take photos if you have any visible injuries such as bruising and cuts. If you have a large enough cut that you believe might scar, it’s also helpful to take photos of the healing process from start to finish.
- Waiting to get treatment for your injuries – Sometimes, people wait to get treatment for their injuries. The most common reason our office hears is that people believe they will be able to shake off the pain with some rest in a couple weeks. The problem with doing this, is that people risk loosing out on qualifying for their Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits. Under Florida law, a person has 14 days from the date of their accident to seek treatment for their injuries, or else they will not qualify for PIP benefits. PIP benefits help contribute towards paying your medical bills that arose from the accident. It’s always a good idea to get some type of treatment within the first two weeks of your accident, even if it’s just at an urgent care clinic, this way your PIP benefits will always be there if your injuries do not get better. If you fail to get treatment within 14 days after your accident, you will lose your PIP benefits, but you can still pursue an injury claim. So, it’s still important to reach out to your lawyer to discuss the potential impact not having PIP benefits may have on your case.
- Signing a release without having a lawyer review it first – When you get into an accident, if you own a vehicle that was involved in the crash and are claiming injuries there will be two different releases you will need to sign. One release for the property damage and one for the injury claim. It’s always a good idea to have a lawyer review your property damage release and injury release before signing them. When you sign a release, you are signing away your right to sue the person who hit you and the insurance company in exchange for the settlement they give you. These are pretty big rights that you are signing away and should never be done without a lawyer reading through and advising you of your best options.
- Not hiring a personal injury lawyer – Studies show that on average, a person will get a 3.5x higher settlement with a lawyer on their case than they would if they attempted to settle the case themselves (reference below). That means you are quite literally leaving money on the table when you attempt to handle your claim yourself. It’s important to hire a personal injury lawyer who is experienced in auto accidents right from the start of your case. If you wait months or even a year or more to hire a lawyer, it can have a negative impact both on what the lawyer can do for you, and your case. Here at the Mantia Law Firm, we provide free consultations and will give you an honest opinion or second opinion on your case.