You should not tell an insurance company several things after a car accident, even if they are true. For instance, you should not volunteer or admit fault for your accident. In general, say as little as possible to insurance companies post-accident, especially if you have yet to hire a lawyer.
Once you hire a car accident attorney, they will take the lead in your case. You can simply await their updates and instructions. By following your lawyer’s advice, you may avoid doing anything that will harm your case.
4 Things Not to Tell an Insurance Company After an Auto Accident
No matter how your car accident happened, there are a few phrases you should not say to an insurance representative, which include:
I Caused the Accident
In many states, the person who causes a car accident is financially responsible for the damages resulting from the collision. If you admit fault for the accident (even if you did, in fact, cause the accident), you may saddle yourself with a financial burden you can’t handle—and may not deserve.
Even if you think you caused the accident, you can be wrong. However, once you admit fault, you may forfeit your right to compensation from liable parties.
I Was Impaired
If you admit that you were impaired, you may essentially admit fault for the accident.
You should never admit that:
- You were tired
- You had drank caffeine before driving
- You drank before driving
- You were under the influence of legal or illicit drugs
- You were angry, upset, or otherwise emotionally compromised before the accident
Do not suggest that anything about you was abnormal about you before the accident.
I Was Distracted
Distracted driving happens when a motorist:
- Talks on the cell phone (even hands-free discussions can be distracting)
- Eats for or drinks a drink (which generally requires taking a hand off the wheel)
- Stares at sights outside the vehicle (which requires them to take their eyes off the road)
- Engages in distracting conversations with those in the vehicle
- Engages in any other behavior that requires them to take their hand(s) off the wheel, eyes off the road, or attention off the act of driving
If you admit you were distracted at the time of your accident, insurance companies may consider you most responsible for the collision.
I Will Accept the Settlement
Never accept an insurance company’s settlement offer without first consulting a car accident lawyer. Car accidents are often more expensive than victims first realize.
If you accept the insurance company’s settlement offer without consulting a lawyer, you may:
- Not have the opportunity to accurately evaluate the full cost of your damages, including future medical care
- Free the insurance company from fulfilling its full financial obligation (once you agree to a settlement, you cannot generally pursue any additional money from the insurer)
- Face significant financial hardship if the settlement you receive is significantly less compensation than you need
If you receive any question you are uncomfortable answering, you can decline to answer. You may then speak with your lawyer and ask their advice about how you should answer the question (or whether to answer the question at all).
Reasons to Be Cautious About Insurance Companies After a Car Accident
All car accident victims should be cautious when speaking to insurance representatives. While insurance companies can act in good faith and provide necessary help to accident victims, insurance companies often put their own interests first.
Without a lawyer dealing with insurance companies for you, you may be vulnerable to:
- Manipulation of your words or actions: If an insurance company can benefit financially by deceiving you (or otherwise being dishonest), it may do so. For example, the insurer may claim that you admitted fault for an accident by apologizing to another party involved in the collision. Your lawyer will work to hold insurers responsible for their policies by combatting any deceptive tactics.
- Intentional confusion about insurance policies (or other aspects of your claim): Insurance companies may try to confuse car accident victims. For instance, an insurer may claim that a policy does not cover certain damages—even if it does. Your attorney will become an expert in your policies and can deal with insurers in full confidence.
- Pressure to accept an unfair settlement offer: An insurance company may suggest that its lowball settlement offer is the only offer it will provide. The insurer may pressure you to accept the offer in one or more ways. Without a lawyer, some car accident victims give in to such pressure.
- Unjustified delays in the claims process: The longer the insurance process drags on, the more likely you may be to accept a lowball offer. Therefore, your lawyer will insist that insurance companies proceed reasonably quickly with your claim.
A lawyer will take the entire claims process off your hands. None of these potential challenges will burden you because your attorney will represent you.
How Can I Protect Myself from Insurance Companies?
Because insurance companies have their own financial motives to consider, you should protect yourself. Hiring a lawyer is one common form of protection.
If you deal directly with insurers, you risk:
- Saying something that can compromise your claim
- Unintentionally agreeing to a financial offer that does not pay you fairly
- Compromising your health because you are dedicating too much time to your claim rather than your recovery
You should get all of the compensation you deserve for your car accident. A lawyer will work hard to ensure that you do.
Document Your Accident-Related Damages
Your attorney will aim to prove the harm you suffered because of your car accident.
They may document your damages with:
- Invoices for vehicle repairs, temporary transportation, replacement of damaged property, and other accident-related property expenses
- Medical records, including images of your injuries
- Past income statements (which may help prove how much income you have lost because of the collision)
- Proof that you have been unable to work because of the accident
- Expert diagnoses of your pain and suffering
- Invoices for pain and suffering-related treatment (such as therapy or medications)
- Any other evidence of accident-related damages
Leave it to an attorney to gather documentation of your damages. They will use this documentation during settlement negotiations, especially if liable parties contest the nature or cost of your damages.
Calculate the Value of Your Settlement
Every damage from a car accident has a cost. It is your lawyer’s duty to calculate that cost.
The more severe your injuries or damages, the more costly they may be. For instance, a spinal cord injury can cost more than $1 million for the victim in the first year alone. It is critical that you calculate your damages accurately, and a lawyer can do that.
Negotiate a Settlement
Your lawyer will meet with liable parties (either in person or remotely) to negotiate a settlement.
Your lawyer will aim to convince liable parties to pay you fairly and may do so by:
- Explaining their calculation of your damages
- Presenting documentation of your damages
- Citing portions of an insurance policy or law that entitles you to compensation
- Responding to any arguments against your case
If your lawyer does not convince liable parties to compensate you fairly, they can take your case to court.
Take Your Case to Court, if Necessary
If you hire a trustworthy lawyer, they will be willing to take your car accident case to court. There are law firms that prepare for each case as it will go to court—this way, the lawyer can immediately transition from settlement negotiations to court.
Manage Every Other Detail of Your Case
There is no telling what demands a car accident case will place on a lawyer. Sometimes, settlement negotiations go smoothly, and liable parties pay what they owe without a significant fight. In other cases, liable parties are determined not to pay the accident victim fairly.
Your lawyer will handle every step of your case, no matter how challenging it may be. From paperwork to negotiations and beyond, an attorney will take the entire case off your hands.
What Damages Can a Car Accident Victim Receive Money For?
The two general categories of accident-related damages are:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
Car accident lawyers consider both types of damages when leading lawsuits and insurance claims for their clients.
Economic Damages in a Car Accident Case
Economic damages usually have a clear monetary cost—but this does not necessarily mean they are easy to calculate.
A lawyer will value each of your economic damages, which may include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Decreased earning power
- Lost bonuses
- Vehicle repairs
- Temporary transportation costs
- Replacement of damaged personal property (like a cell phone or clothing)
When someone has a disabling injury, they may also need medical equipment, a disability-friendly vehicle, home alterations, and other items and services. You can trust your lawyer to account for all your damages and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Non-Economic Damages in a Car Accident Case
Car accident victims also suffer non-financial damages from accidents, with pain and suffering being the most common type.
Some examples of pain and suffering include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Lost quality of life
- Sleep disruptions
- Emotional anguish
Some may experience substance misuse problems, suicidal thoughts, and other serious conditions because of accident-related trauma. Your attorney may bring in a mental health expert to help diagnose and value your pain and suffering.
Lawyers Seek Fair Compensation for Fatal Car Accidents
When someone dies in a car accident, their loved ones deserve fair compensation for their pain and suffering and financial expenses.
Recoverable damages in fatal car accident cases can include:
- Funeral expenses
- Burial or cremation expenses
- Loss of the decedent’s income
- Loss of the decedent’s household contributions
- Loss of a spouse’s support and comfort
- Loss of a parent’s guidance
- Immediate financial expenses like medical bills and vehicle repair costs
Car accident lawyers know the toll that auto accidents can take. Your lawyer will identify each accident-related damage and then assess the fair financial value of each damage.
How Should I Choose My Car Accident Lawyer?
Car accident victims usually choose their lawyer using several criteria, which may include:
- Experience: Does the attorney and their law firm have relevant experience representing car accident victims?
- Testimonials: Do former clients have generally positive words for the law firm and its specific attorneys?
- Case results: Does the law firm have settlements and verdicts in car accident cases? You will often find these results on a law firm’s website.
You can also rely on your own experience. Take advantage of free consultations. You can call the law firm and speak with a team member, asking questions about your case and the firm. This may provide you with a feel for the firm’s level of client service.
Do Not Wait to Hire Your Car Accident Lawyer
Your attorney likely has a deadline for filing your case, so do not delay in finding your law firm. Seek a free consultation to decide which personal injury attorney to hire today.