What NOT To Do After A Car Accident
Massachusetts car accident attorneys 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 crash, it can only be made worse by fleeing.
2. Don’t admit to fault or apologize
After a 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
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 accident.
7. Don’t talk to an insurance adjuster without your 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.
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.