Involved In A Car Accident? 2 Mistakes That Can Damage Your Personal Injury Claim

Posted on: 19 August 2015

The instant you are involved in a car accident, there might only be one thing on your mind: making sure everyone is alright. If everyone seems fine, you might be tempted to skip the typical post-accident protocol and do your own thing. Unfortunately, this mistake could cost you thousands of dollars—especially if soft tissue injuries like whiplash show up later. Here are two mistakes that could damage your personal injury claim, and how you can prevent legal problems down the road:

1: Handling The Accident On Your Own

Once everyone gets out of their cars and starts discussing the accident, it might be stressful to think about waiting for the police or contacting lawyers. To simplify the process, you might decide to work out the repairs quietly without any help—which can cause problems later. Here are a few issues you might unintentionally cause if you decide to handle the accident on your own:

  • Police Reports: In addition to issuing a ticket to the responsible party, police officers also write a narrative report about the accident, including details about the scene, the weather, and traffic patterns. These reports are instrumental in determining the preliminary assessment of fault, which can make or break your personal injury case. For example, if the police officer's report states that the other driver was intoxicated and slammed into your car, you might be more likely to win damages for your own medical bills and car repairs.
  • Statutes of Limitations: Sometimes, drivers decide to wait to talk to a lawyer because they figure that they can always do it later. Unfortunately, every state has statutes of limitations regarding personal injury lawsuits, and waiting too long could cost you. For example, in some states, like Louisiana, you only have one year from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim. If you try to file a lawsuit past that date, your case will be thrown out.

To ward off problems, always contact the police and your car crash attorney right away. In addition to making sure that paperwork is handled properly, it might give you a chance to focus on your recovery.

2: Accepting The First Settlement Offer

If you weren't at fault for your car accident, the other party's lawyer or insurance company might contact you to offer a financial settlement. Although it might be tempting to accept a fat check right away, initial offers typically aren't the highest.

For this reason, it is always smart to work with a personal injury lawyer right from the beginning, even if you aren't at fault. Instead of waiting for a settlement offer from the other party, a lawyer can help you to draft a demand letter, which outlines any expenses tied to the accident. Although most lawyers won't agree to this initial demand letter, it will pave the way for negotiations between both parties. After an acceptable settlement is reached, your lawyer will draft an acceptance letter and a release notice, which indicates that the settlement satisfies your requirements.

Before you accept any settlement offer, evaluate any current and future expenses that might be tied to the accident. For example, you might have future chiropractic visits to repair a back injury you sustained in the accident. Also, talk with your lawyer about any legal expenses before you settle. It might seem like a lot of extra legwork, but evaluating your expenses before you accept an offer might save you from financial trouble later.  

By knowing which mistakes to avoid following a car accident, you might be able to simplify your personal injury case—so that you can collect the settlement you deserve.