Massachusetts car accident lawyers can provide crucial help following a collision. Among other things, we can thoroughly investigate the accident, help prove who was at-fault, defend you against unfair accusations, and help secure full and fair compensation for your injuries.
But we lawyers usually “appear on the scene” days after the crash, if not longer. By that time, you might have unwittingly done as much damage to your legal case as was done to your car! To help preserve your legal rights, don’t do any of the following nine things after an accident:
1. Don’t leave the scene
Under no circumstances should you leave the scene of an accident, even a very minor one. We know that it’s human nature to want to flee from frightening situations, but you must resist this impulse. It is a criminal offense under Massachusetts law to leave the scene of the accident.
So no matter how bad the situation seems for you after a car crash, it can only be made worse by fleeing.
2. Don’t admit to fault or apologize
After a car crash, stunned drivers sometimes pop out of their vehicle and say, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you!” or something similar. Even if you believe the accident to be your fault, you gain nothing by saying so at the time of the accident. Your lawyers and other investigators will examine all the facts surrounding the crash and determine who is responsible. You do, however, have a responsibility to clearly and honestly tell the police the events that led to the crash.
3. Don’t neglect to call the police of Massachusetts
You and the other driver might agree to keep the police out of it and allow your insurance companies to handle the claims. But that’s a bad idea for a couple of reasons. First, without police involvement, you won’t have a formal report of the accident, which can be useful for your insurance company or in any subsequent lawsuit. Second, you have no idea whether the other driver is honest. What happens if the other driver provides false information? Or if their insurance isn’t up-to-date? You could end up in a vastly more complicated situation than you’ve bargained for and have to carry more costs.
4. Don’t get chummy or angry with the other driver
You might be infuriated that your brand-new car is smashed thanks to someone else’s negligence, or you might feel guilty that you were fiddling with your CD player at the time of the crash. Either way, say as little as possible to the other driver beyond exchanging essential information. You could easily say something that could be used against you later (e.g., “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not hurt!” or “Well, you jammed on the brakes so suddenly, you made me crash into you!”) Before getting out of your car, take a few deep breaths to clear your head and get your emotions under control.
5. Don’t forget to document evidence
Get key information from the other driver such as their name, address, telephone number, driver license number, license plate number, vehicle description, and insurance information. But don’t forget to obtain the name and telephone number of witnesses, as well. Take numerous pictures of the crash scene from different angles. Also, at first opportunity, write down all the facts you can remember about the crash, including weather conditions and the state of the road.
6. Don’t refuse medical evaluation and attention at the scene
Refusing medical attention at the scene might bring more suffering later. You may think you’re fine, but some injuries are not immediately apparent or you might fail to recognize certain symptoms as dangerous. In addition, turning down a medical once-over or basic medical evaluation could affect your future legal claim. The other driver’s attorney and insurance company might argue that in refusing medical treatment at the scene, you weren’t seriously injured or that any injuries identified later were unconnected with the car accident.
7. Don’t talk to an insurance adjuster without your Massachusetts car accident lawyer
Just as casual chatting with the other driver can inadvertently harm your case, so can a seemingly simple conversation with an insurance adjuster. Insurance companies are looking for ways to limit or deny your claim, and any off-the-cuff statement you make to them (“I feel fine, thanks”) may be used against you later.
8. Don’t forget to file a Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report
Under Massachusetts law, if you’ve been involved in a collision that caused injury, death, or over $1,000 worth of damage, you’re required to file a Motor Vehicle Crash Operator report within 5 days of the accident. You must do this even if police were on the scene.
9. Don’t try to represent yourself
Crash victims who represent themselves after car accidents tend to accept financial settlements too early and for too low a sum. This can have unfortunate consequences. For example, sometimes injuries arising from the accident (such as spinal cord or neurological damage) are diagnosed weeks or months after the incident. If you accept a settlement too early, you could preclude yourself from receiving compensation for injuries identified later. A Massachusetts car accident attorney can help you preserve your rights and receive the full compensation that you deserve.
I Feel OK After My Accident. Should I Bother Getting Checked Out By a Doctor?
Even if you don’t think that you were hurt in a car accident, or if you think that your injuries weren’t that serious, you should still seek medical attention after a crash. There are two important reasons for doing so.
First, and most importantly, getting evaluated for injuries as soon as possible after an accident is the best way to get an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment. This can maximize the likelihood of physically recovering from your injuries.
For example, you are rear-ended in a car accident and are diagnosed with whiplash. This condition is caused by a forceful, back and forth movement of the neck. Symptoms of whiplash, such as neck pain and stiffness and headaches, often don’t appear for several days after an injury.
Seeing a doctor immediately after a rear-end accident can help to rule out other potential injuries, like broken bones. The sooner that you are diagnosed, the more quickly treatment can begin, and the faster that you can get back to normal. No matter what type of accident you were in, keep an eye out for symptoms that may indicate that you were injured.
Second, getting immediate treatment after a motor vehicle accident can help to protect your legal rights. When you go to your doctor’s office or the emergency room, you are creating a record that links your symptoms to the accident — which can be used to show that your injuries were caused by the crash. When you get diagnosed right away and follow the prescribed plan of treatment, it also prevents the insurance company from arguing that your injury is worse because you failed to get a diagnosis or comply with the treatment.
Do I Have to Call the Police After a Car Accident in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, you are not required to call the police after a car accident. This includes both minor crashes that only involve property damage, as well as collisions that cause more serious injuries. However, calling 911 after a motor vehicle accident is often a good idea.
When the police arrive at the scene, they can protect both the people and vehicles and also document the accident. This step is important because the police are acting as neutral third parties. They also will gather information, such as witness statements, that can later be used in a personal injury lawsuit.
In addition, calling the police can be critical in situations where the other driver is uninsured or has violated the law in some way. For example, if you suspect that they were under the influence at the time of the crash, the police can investigate that possibility (where appropriate), and may even arrest the other driver for drunk driving.
Even if you don’t call the police, you may still be required to report the accident to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). A Crash Report must be submitted within 5 days of any motor vehicle accident where any person was killed or injured, or where any 1 vehicle or property suffered $1,000 or more in damages. If you have questions about filling out the report or need assistance doing so, consult with a Worcester car accident attorney.
Should I Talk to the Insurance Company After a Car Accident?
The answer to this question depends on which insurance company is trying to contact you. Generally, you are obligated to talk to your own insurer if you were involved in an accident or other incident that may trigger your policy. However, you are not required to talk to the other driver’s insurance company, and should not do so without a lawyer.
Insurance adjusters use a number of tricks to get injury victims talking after a crash. They may tell you that the insurer accepts liability, or even imply that you have to talk to them to get any compensation. If you give a statement to the adjuster, it will almost certainly be used against you — and could limit the amount of money that you get for your losses.
Adjusters are highly skilled at getting accident victims to say things that could hurt their claim. Even a question that seems innocent could be designed to get you to say something that you shouldn’t. Even if the insurance adjuster seems like they want to help, chances are good that your words will be twisted to reduce the at-fault driver’s liability.
Even if the adjuster says that the insurance company accepts liability for the accident, that does not mean that it is a good idea to talk to them. Accepting liability is different than agreeing to be responsible for the full extent of your injuries. Insurance companies often accept liability, and then spend months (or years) arguing that you should not be compensated for certain losses.
Remember: you are under no obligation to talk to the other driver’s insurance company, even if they make it seem like you don’t have a choice about giving a statement. Instead, consult with a car accident lawyer, and then let them handle communications and negotiations with the insurance company. Doing this can help you get the maximum compensation that you are entitled to under the law.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today
Peter Ventura is a motor vehicle accident lawyer committed to helping people in Massachusetts who have been injured in accidents obtain compensation for their injuries. Call today for a free consultation at 508-755-7535.