An auto accident is a bad time to learn from your mistakes. In the days and weeks following a serious collision or fender-bender, one error can cost you your health and thousands of dollars in lost wages or medical expenses. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 560 people die each year following fatal accidents in the Atlanta metropolitan area, including the cities of Marietta and Sandy Springs. Many more drivers experience serious injuries. If you’ve been in an auto accident, don’t ruin your chances of a successful personal injury case by making these five mistakes.
1. Not Calling the Police
Whenever there is an accident, you should call the police. An official accident report is essential for documenting how the accident happened, what was damaged and if there were injuries. The responding officer will also collect contact data and insurance information from you and the other driver. It’s nice to think that you can exchange information and come to an amicable agreement, but the truth is that you don’t know whether the other driver has a current insurance policy or is even licensed. It doesn’t pay to be a nice person, and this is one of the biggest mistakes.
2. Admitting Fault
Never apologize or admit fault. Your words will be used against you. If your case goes to court, the judge will decide who caused the accident. Because Georgia is a modified comparative fault state, you can recover compensation as long as you are less than 50 percent at fault. However, damages will be reduced according to your level of negligence. For example, if a judge says you were 30 percent responsible, the defendant will be liable for 70 percent of your losses. To protect your rights, stick to the facts, and only discuss the accident with the police and your insurance company. Never talk to the other driver or the driver’s insurer.
3. Not Visiting a Doctor
Everyone has busy lives, but you still need to make the time to visit a doctor and get a full check-up. Your doctor will diagnose and document any injuries that you have sustained. Don’t assume that your injuries are minor and don’t require medical attention. Frequently, soft-tissue injuries take several days to fully develop. Also, you may have sustained a concussion or injury that you are unaware of but your doctor can detect. Even if you already had a sore neck or bad back, you can receive compensation if the accident aggravated your condition. Your medical records are invaluable when proving your case.
4. Signing Settlement Papers
Talking to an insurance adjuster can put you in a dangerous position. Before you receive an offer, the adjuster may ask questions and attempt to make you admit fault. That’s why it’s important to avoid mistake number two and stick to the facts. If you receive a settlement offer, remember that it will help the insurance company, but it may not benefit you or cover all of your expenses. The most important thing to understand is that when you accept a settlement offer, you’re giving up your right to sue the company or recover additional compensation. This leads us to mistake number five.
5. Not Talking to an Attorney
Before you sign anything, you should contact an attorney. Whether you go to court or accept a settlement, having an attorney on your side will ensure that you receive fair compensation. Studies conducted by Allstate and the Insurance Research Council found that people who worked with an attorney received anywhere from two to three and a half times as much compensation for the same injuries, even after attorney’s fees were paid. Don’t sell yourself short. Even if you think that a settlement offer is fair, ask a car accident attorney first.
John G. Mabrey and Carla Register Mabrey of The Mabrey Firm have more than 40 years of combined experience representing Georgia residents who have been injured due to the negligence of motorists, trucking companies and other parties. If you were involved in a car accident, call us at (404) 814-5098 to schedule a free consultation with no obligation to you.