An auto accident has a way of rattling your nerves as well as your body. Everything may seem surreal or confusing immediately after an accident when you are trying to respond to the questions that law enforcement officers are asking. You may find that over the next few days, you are still reeling emotionally or finding injuries that you failed to notice at the time of the accident. Unfortunately, people who are involved in accidents often say things that undermine their ability to receive a fair settlement for their losses. If you are in a car accident, you want to avoid the following statements and actions:
- Do not say that you are not hurt. If you are conscious, able to move around and are not in excruciating pain, you may think that you have escaped injury. Perhaps you have, but it is also possible that you have suffered injuries that are not immediately apparent. Traumatic brain injury, internal bleeding and whiplash are just a few examples of injuries that may not manifest for days or possibly weeks. Stating that you are not hurt at the scene of the accident can weaken your case if your injuries do not appear until later.
- Do not admit that the accident was your fault. You may not know all of the pertinent facts, and since Nevada, Arizona and many other states can assign blame to more than one driver, you could be relinquishing your right to recover at least a portion of your losses. At the very least, you could be complicating the issue for your attorney or insurance company. Choose your words carefully; even a seemingly innocuous statement can be construed as an admission of fault. For example, if you tell the other driver that you just failed to see his vehicle or were distracted because you spilled your coffee, your statements can imply that you admit that you were completely at fault.
- Do not apologize to the other driver. In a civil society, apologies are often automatic. Telling the other driver that you are sorry can be taken as an admission of fault. In fact, the less conversation you have with the other driver, the better. You may want to ask if he or she is hurt, but other than exchanging names and phone numbers, you may not want to engage them. Stay calm; do not yell, accuse or threaten the other driver.
- Do not lie to the police, but do not volunteer information. If accident investigators believe a question is pertinent, they will ask it. If you are not confident that you know the honest answer to a question, simply state that you cannot answer because you do not know. Do not respond with estimates, opinions or theories.
- Never tell the other driver’s adjuster that you are not represented by an attorney. If you already have a lawyer, simply provide them with your attorney’s name and phone number. If have not yet engaged an attorney, you can state that you are evaluating your options for representation.
- Do not agree to have your conversations with the other party’s attorney or insurance company recorded unless you are explicitly directed by your lawyer to do so. Insurance companies often call very quickly after an accident. You may be groggy from surgery, enduring a great deal of pain or distracted by issues such as getting your car repaired, covering your bills while you are unable to work or arranging transportation for your children to travel to and from school.
- Do not give an official statement until you have consulted your attorney. Your official statement may not be identical to the information you provide at the scene of the accident. In the hours following the accident, you may recall relevant information that you overlooked when you were interviewed at the scene. For example, you might remember that the other vehicle did not have its headlights on or went through a traffic light before it turned green. Once you have declared an official statement, it is this statement that will be presented in future negotiations and legal proceedings.
- Do not accept a settlement offer without first consulting your attorney. Whether the offer comes from your insurance company or the other driver’s company, the goal will be the same — to convince you to settle for the least amount of money possible in the shortest time possible. Typically, the initial settlement offer will be for the minimum amount that they think you might accept. This does not mean that it is based on what you deserve or what you will need to cover your lost wages or ongoing medical treatments.
If you have been injured in an auto or motorcycle accident, contact The Powerhouse Injury Attorneys. From our offices in Las Vegas and Phoenix, we help clients recover millions of dollars each year for personal injuries suffered due to the complete or partial negligence of others. Our experienced attorneys are ready to listen and advise. For a free case consultation, call our office at 702-444-2222 for Las Vegas, NV, or 602-265-5555 for Phoenix Arizona. You can also or contact us through our website.