Mistakes to Avoid After a Car Accident in Durham
After a car accident, it is normal to be rattled and try to complete the steps that you feel may be appropriate after the accident. Unfortunately, many of these attempts to remedy the situation early can lead to significant difficulty with insurance and the eventual ability to file a successful claim.
If you have been in a car accident, our team of experienced Durham car accident lawyers can guide you through the process to make it as smooth as possible, and help point you in the direction toward maximum recovery. Medical attention is paramount to any legal issues, but as soon as your health has been stabilized and you are able to speak with an attorney, it is the very next call you need to make.
Admitting Fault at the Scene
Jumping to conclusions and admitting fault at the scene of the accident is a mistake that is crucial to avoid. People often want to feel better about what happened, may be under stress, and my not realize they were not actually at fault in the accident. It is generally human nature to want to apologize for the things that an individual may be at fault for, but for legal purposes, apologies can easily be twisted into an admission of fault to be used later in court.
No statements should be made to anyone regarding whose fault the accident was, but being truthful to the investigating officer about what each driver remembers happening is fair. It can really hurt a case when a driver immediately admits they are at fault. If it is later determined that the statement is admissible, the driver may be found to be responsible under contributory negligence, and thus, not able to recover any monetary damages.
Giving Recorded Statements
Oftentimes after a car accident, adjusters, who work for insurance companies to find out what happened, will call an injured client requesting a recorded statement. The purpose of the statement is to set the claimant up with leading questions to find contributory negligence so the insurance company can later deny payment of any type of claim. However, an attorney will enable their client to give a recorded statement after they have prepared to make one, leading to a clearer, true, and more concise statement. The lawyer will also be on the phone with the client to object if the insurance adjuster asks leading or inappropriate questions.
Some people are worried that calling a lawyer automatically files a lawsuit, and would rather handle their cases personally without considering the actual severity of their injuries. People may falsely believe that insurance companies are there to help them, based on the reassuring advertising of the company, but the only party truly on a claimant’s side is their attorney.
Speaking to Insurance Companies
An insurance adjuster’s job is to try finding ways to avoid paying claims. They are not on the driver’s side, do not work for the driver, and have no duty to help the driver. They may ask a series of questions, but these are only designed to prevent payment of the claim. Insurance representatives can show up at the claimant’s door, even on the day of the accident, or may call the claimant’s personal phone numbers to talk to them as soon as possible.
By contrast, an attorney representing a client has a duty to protect. The attorney’s involvement with recorded statements can ensure the claimant gives the insurance company necessary information to properly evaluate the case, while preventing them from stumbling into a mistake that may inhibit their ability to recover anything.
Cashing Another Insurance Company’s Check
People are contacted by insurance companies shortly following accidents and offered settlement money in their cases with assurance that by signing a check or release, the company will pay for their medical expenses. Truthfully, that signature usually affirms prevention of any future claims to be brought.
Insurance companies determine reasonable medical treatment. These are often scams, or fraudulent, by not clarifying to the signer exactly what is being signed. Accepting settlement checks may actually be agreeing to smaller claim settlements.
Insurance companies may send checks for vehicle repairs or replacement. Accepting checks in property damage claims is fine, because the claimant is not giving up any rights to their injury claim. Insurance may also offer acceptable medical payment coverage, but the checks to be careful of are those that purport to be some type of settlement of the claim.
Claimants do not always need to hire a lawyer in order to obtain free advice, and that advice is critically important when it comes to cashing checks received from an insurance company.
Failing to Contact an Attorney Quickly
People make the mistake of thinking they can handle the claim on their own, without being aware of hidden damages they may be entitled to, such as punitive damages. It is important to consult an attorney, because even a free consultation provides incredibly valuable insight.
An attorney takes the insurance-induced stress of the claim off of the individual, supporting sole focus on recovery. Attorneys contact insurance companies, set up all of the claims, and ensure that all available resources are captured for the client’s claim, from property damage, to lost wages, to medical payment. A lawyer also maintains contact with the client’s attending physicians, physical therapists, and anyone else involved in treatment to efficiently obtain medical records, ask questions that the insurance company will want answered, and prepare a settlement package once the individual has been released from care.
Lawyers are not involved with directing medical care, but some providers, such as physical therapists, are able to continue to treat an uninsured client based on what is called an attorney main letter. The letter serves as the attorney’s promise to pay a certain portion of the settlement to the treatment facility in exchange for continued treatment. This option is not guaranteed and in every case must be evaluated differently.
Car accident lawyers employ full-time investigators to contact witnesses and police officers, photograph accident scenes, and help understand exactly what happened. It is important to get on the ground immediately after an accident to collect fresh evidence. Attorneys begin working immediately after a car accident, but continue to serve as significant assets when facing insurance companies.