Car accidents have a way of bringing out the worst in people. Even the most cool-headed among us can find themselves completely overwhelmed when they’re involved in an auto accident. After all, keeping calm under pressure is easier said than done.
But the moments immediately following a car accident are critical times, and no time to be losing your cool. There are medical, legal, and financial ramifications that can arise from you doing or saying the wrong thing after a car accident. Forego immediate medical treatment, and your injuries could fester. Admit fault and you could cost yourself a large car accident settlement check. Flee the scene of the accident, and you could even find yourself in jail.
Should you ever find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of being involved a car accident, here are eight critical mistakes you’ll want to avoid:
It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of an auto accident scene. Chances are, your body will be pumping with adrenaline after being involved in a collision. You’re suddenly faced with difficult and potentially dangerous decisions. Your mind is likely jumping into survival mode, with fight or flight instincts kicking in. Of course, having a panic attack or freaking out at the other people on the scene while emotions are already high just isn’t helpful for anyone.
Should you feel yourself overcome with emotion and unable to process the events unfolding before you, take a moment to breathe deeply, step aside and remind yourself that you’ll be okay. Take the time you need to collect your thoughts and emotions before dealing with any of the other drivers involved or police officers on the scene.
Just make sure that you’ve moved yourself (and your car if possible) from the path any oncoming traffic first.
- Flee the Scene
This should be common sense but given the number of hit-and-run accidents that occur in the United States each year, it’s important to include fleeing the scene of a car accident on our list of avoidable behaviors. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the auto accident, you’re always better off sticking around the scene and cooperating with the authorities.
In an age where big brother is always watching, chances are good you’re on video, anyway. Once police catch up to you, you’ll have to contend not only with the accident you were involved in, but the hit-and-run charges as well.
- Admit Fault
For some, apologies are second nature. You might apologize for bumping into someone in the grocery store or walking in front of someone’s view at the movie theater, so it’s natural to want to apologize for your role in a car accident. Resist this urge. Even if you believe you caused the wreck, apologies can be saved for a later date. By apologizing at the scene, you may be perceived as admitting fault, which could hurt your chances of getting fair compensation for your auto accident injuries. Feel free to ask if the other driver is okay, and be polite when asking for paperwork and information, just don’t admit fault for the accident.
- Forgo a Call to Police
Some car accidents seem so minor that you might want to forgo a call to police and the insurance company. While it might seem silly to report such a minor fender bender, it’s up to the local authorities to decide whether or not your accident warrants a report. Do your due diligence and call the police department’s non-emergency line to inform them of the incident. Should you notice a sore neck (usually a sign of delayed whiplash after a car accident) or extensive damage to your car later, you’ll have a record of the accident.
- Ignore Injuries/Don’t See a Doctor
When your adrenaline is pumping, you might not feel the injuries you sustained in the auto accident. In some cases, it takes hours or even days for the seriousness of the injuries to become clear. Always get examined by a healthcare professional after an accident. The phrase “better safe than sorry” was created for instances just like this.
And while taking care of your physical and mental health is always the top priority after a car accident, there’s another, very practical reason to see a doctor. If you forgo an examination and notice an injury a few days later, it could be difficult for you to tie it back to your accident, leaving you to pay for the resulting medical bills out of pocket. By seeing a medical professional in the hours and days immediately following the accident you’re doing more than checking up on your health – you’e creating a paper trail of medical records that show beyond the shadow of a doubt that your injuries were in fact the result of the auto accident – and helping ensure a fair car accident settlement in the process.
- Leave the Scene Without Information
Whether you’re severely injured by a serious semi truck accident or nonplussed by a minor incident, it’s important to exchange information with the other driver involved. While it’s understandable that you might be eager to leave the scene, you’ll need as much information as possible about the other driver involved to file a claim with your insurance company. Be sure to write down the contact information of any relevant people on the accident scene… the drivers and passengers and the responding police officer. Also get the other driver’s insurance details, license plate number and snap photos of the scene with your phone.
- Post on Social Media
You always share your day with your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram followers, so why wouldn’t you keep them in the loop when you’ve been involved in a traumatic car accident? It’s becoming more and more common for insurance companies to glean information from your account to deny claims. Even with the privacy settings locked down, there are ways for strangers to see what you’ve been posting. When it comes to details about your accident, keep off of social media for your own good.
- Forgo Calling a Lawyer
Even the most minor of car accidents require some follow-up. You may find yourself on the phone with the insurance company a lot, returning to the doctor for checkups and getting your car repaired for weeks after the wreck. Calling a lawyer can feel like one more chore, but it’s an important step.
While it’s true that not everyone involved in a car accident needs an attorney, you could be making a big mistake by not at least consulting with one, particularly if fault is in question. Most auto accident attorneys offer a free initial consultation, which is a great opportunity to gain a better understanding about your situation, find out if it’s worth filing a car accident claim, and get a rough estimate of how much your settlement will be.