I've written before about things that you should do after a car wreck in Myrtle Beach, but what are the pitfalls every accident victim should avoid? What should you not do?
There are a few things that many people do not realize will hurt their chances of recovery in an auto accident case - they aren't necessarily obvious, and you wouldn't necessarily think of them unless you have been involved in an injury case before or have experience with insurance companies and the courts.
What are some of those things that you should never do following a car crash?
Things You Should Not Do at the Scene of the Accident
There are some situations that may arise immediately after the car wreck that, if mishandled, could result in a denial of your claim, decrease the "value of your case," or even land you in jail...
Don't Leave the Scene of the Accident
If another driver is threatening you or if the conditions are otherwise unsafe, go to the nearest safe location, call 911, and let them know what happened and where you are. Otherwise, do not leave the scene of an accident until police arrive or emergency officials have told you to go.
In your civil lawsuit, leaving the scene could hurt your chances of recovery or the amount of your recovery.
Unless there was a very good, obvious reason for your departure, it makes you look like you had something to hide - insurance adjusters, insurance defense lawyers, and jurors may be asking themselves, "Were there drugs or alcohol in the car?" Or, "What were they trying to hide?"
Besides the impact on your civil case, leaving the scene of an accident in South Carolina, or "hit and run," is a crime that will land you in jail:
- When you leave the scene of an accident after striking a "roadside fixture" like a mailbox or a street sign, it carries up to 30 days in jail;
- If you struck an unoccupied vehicle, it carries up to 30 days in jail;
- If it was a vehicle with an occupant, but there was only property damage and no personal injury, it carries up to one year in prison;
- If someone was injured, but the injuries were minor, it carries a mandatory minimum of 30 days and up to one year in prison;
- When there is great bodily injury, it carries a minimum of 30 days and up to ten years in prison; and
- If someone was killed, there is a mandatory minimum of one year in prison and up to 25 years in prison.
Don't Make Admissions
Don't talk to the other driver about how the accident happened - wait for police to arrive and keep the small talk to a minimum.
An admission that can be used against you in court doesn't have to intentional - the other driver is also injured, you feel terrible, and you keep telling them you are sorry about the accident... although you mean well, and you are just trying to help them feel better, your statements will be used against you as an admission of guilt later.
Talk to the officer about how the accident happened, but keep it brief and stick to the facts - it is important that the officer's report is accurate because it will be the primary document that attorneys and insurance adjusters will use to determine what happened.
Don't Refuse Medical Care
At a minimum, allow EMS to check you out at the scene.
If they recommend that you go to the hospital, go. Now is not the time to "tough it out." If you don't go to the ER immediately, get checked out by your doctor as soon as possible after the accident occurred.
If you suffered a "delayed onset injury," and symptoms do not appear until later, the insurance adjuster and defense attorney at trial are going to claim that you were not injured, that you were faking your injury, that there was another cause for the injury, or that the injury is minor.
If you were injured at the scene, why didn't you seek medical attention at the scene? If you were hurt in the auto accident, why did you go to see your doctor over a week later?
You see how that works? Get yourself checked out and do not delay.
Don't be Combative
No matter how upset you are, and you may be out-of-your-mind-upset after a reckless driver has just injured you or a family member, keep it together.
Although your actions immediately after the wreck technically have no bearing on the other driver's liability, it can make a difference in how the insurance adjuster or jurors judge your credibility - if you are screaming, yelling, or getting physical with the other driver, it absolutely can influence the amount of your recovery...
Things You Should Not Do After You Leave the Accident Scene
Once you leave the scene of the accident, whether you end up in the hospital or back at home, there are a few more things that can hurt your chances of recovering or the amount of your recovery:
Don't Talk to Insurance Adjusters Until You Have Met with Your Attorney
Tell your own insurance company that the accident happened.
Once you have met with your attorney, you should be able to get the property damage adjuster for the other driver's insurance company to repair or replace your vehicle - in most cases, there are two adjusters, one for property damage and one for personal injury, and they will usually take care of the property damage quickly.
Do not talk to the personal injury adjuster at all, and do not answer questions or provide a statement to any representative of the insurance company.
Insurance adjusters will often start calling you within a few days of the accident - they are trained to appear as helpful as possible, to pay as little as possible, and to get you to make admissions that will allow them to deny or reduce your claim.
Let your attorney handle the insurance company.
Don't Ignore Your Doctor's Recommendations
If you are hurt because of someone else's careless driving, they are responsible for your treatment and care - if your doctor recommends a particular therapy, follow up visits, or other treatment, do it.
You will have to prove the extent of your injuries and what the costs are to put you back together - you can't do that if you don't get the treatment until after the case is over...this is your one chance to get the care that you need, or the funds to pay for future care you will need, for all injuries you sustained in the accident.
Don't Talk About the Case on Social Media
If you are making statements on Facebook, Twitter, or any social media site, the insurance company's defense attorneys will find it
Don't make any statements to any person and don't write anything online that you would not want to hear again in the courtroom...
The most important thing to do after an auto accident is to get an experienced car wreck lawyer on your side immediately.