What Not to Do After a Car Accident

Traffic accidents are an unfortunate reality of life on the road. Even with your utmost commitment to safe and responsible driving, you might still end up in a car accident. The actions you take immediately following an accident can significantly impact your legal and financial situation, as well as your physical well-being.

Below, we discuss 11 things you should not do after a car accident:

1. Do Not Flee the Scene

Regardless of the severity of the accident, it is illegal to leave the scene. Always stay until you've communicated with all parties involved and reported the incident to the police.

2. Do Not Forget to Call the Police

Even if the accident seems minor, always contact the police. A formal police report can be crucial in settling disputes about who was at fault. California also requires drivers to report an accident if the crash led to property damage of over $1,000, injury, or death.

3. Do Not Skip Exchanging Information

Collect as much information as possible from the other driver, including their name, contact details, insurance information, and vehicle details. You should also ask witnesses for their contact details.

4. Do Not Neglect Your Injuries

Even if you feel fine, you might have sustained injuries that aren't immediately apparent. Always get a medical check-up after an accident.

The most compelling reason to seek immediate medical attention is that it can be life-saving. Injuries from accidents, such as internal bleeding or concussion, may not be immediately apparent. Delaying medical attention could lead to serious complications or even fatality.

Detecting and treating accident injuries at an early stage can notably enhance the outlook of their recovery. It allows for prompt initiation of necessary interventions, thereby minimizing long-term consequences and facilitating faster recovery.

From a legal perspective, immediate medical attention provides an essential record of the injuries sustained. This medical record will serve as evidence linking the accident to the injuries claimed.

It is also important that you do not neglect your injuries by failing to adhere to medical advice. Failing to follow medical advice not only risks your recovery process but also can impact your claim. The opposing party may argue that your noncompliance implies that your injuries may not be as severe as stated or that your non-adherence contributed to your prolonged recovery or worsened condition.

5. Do Not Admit Fault or Apologize

Avoid admitting blame at the site of an accident, even if you believe your actions contributed to it. After a crash, it's a common reflex to express regret or accept responsibility, particularly if you think you played a part in causing the event. However, it is crucial to refrain from doing so for several reasons.

The shock and stress of the situation can cloud your judgment, leading you to accept blame prematurely. Second, there are usually multiple factors at play in an accident, and it may not be immediately apparent who is truly at fault. Admitting guilt can significantly impact your claim's outcome, potentially reducing your settlement award or even leading to its outright denial.

California does operate under the pure comparative negligence rule, which allows claimants to still pursue compensation if they are partially at fault for an accident. However, your damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault. Thus, it is in your best interest to leave the determination of liability to the police and insurance companies.

6. Do Not Avoid Contacting Your Insurance Company

Even if you are not at fault for an accident, you need to report an accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. They can guide you through the process and help protect your rights.

7. Do Not Talk to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company

If you speak with the other driver’s insurer, they might use your words against you to minimize their payout. Only provide the necessary details about the accident. You should let your insurance company and/or your attorney handle communication with the other party's insurance, safeguarding your legal rights.

8. Do Not Neglect to Document the Accident

Keep a record of everything related to the accident, including medical bills, repair costs, and any conversations or correspondence with insurance companies. Also, try to document the scene with photographs or videos.

9. Do Not Rush Repairs

In the aftermath of an accident, it's natural to want to restore normalcy as quickly as possible. This often includes rushing to repair any vehicle damage. However, from a legal standpoint, this may not be the wisest course of action.

Prior to initiating any repairs, it's crucial to consult with an attorney. Your vehicle, in its post-accident state, serves as a vital piece of evidence in demonstrating the severity of the collision and supporting your claim for damages. An attorney can guide you on how to properly document this evidence through photographs, professional evaluations, and mechanic estimates before any repairs are made.

10. Do Not Ignore Emotional Trauma

The psychological aftermath of a car accident can manifest in several ways. For many, the immediate response is shock and disbelief, often accompanied by feelings of confusion or disorientation. As the reality of the incident sinks in, these can give way to more enduring psychological conditions.

Anxiety is a common reaction. Victims may find themselves constantly replaying the incident in their minds, leading to restlessness, irritability, and sleeplessness. They may develop a fear of driving or even traveling in cars, which can severely restrict their mobility and independence.

Depression is another frequent consequence. The physical discomfort and limitations, coupled with the disruption to their everyday routine, can lead to feelings of hopelessness and sadness, loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, and, in severe cases, thoughts of suicide.

More serious still is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This condition can cause flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories of the accident, leading to severe emotional distress and significantly impairing the person's ability to function normally.

While medical bills and lost wages - what we call economic damages - are relatively easy to quantify, these emotional impacts, known as noneconomic damages, aren't. Noneconomic damages encompass the non-financial negative effects of an accident on a victim's life. These damages include emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Should you suffer emotional distress after an accident, you should tell your attorney, as they can help you calculate your noneconomic damages. You should also seek help, whether that is in the form of therapy or support groups.

11. Do Not Fail to Consult a Lawyer

If you've been injured or the damage to your car is significant, it's wise to consult a lawyer. They can advise you of your legal rights and options, handle negotiations or litigation, and handle the case legalities while you take time to heal.

At the Law Offices of Wax & Wax, our attorneys have over 100 years of collective experience. If you or a loved one are injured in an auto accident, you can trust our team to offer you tailored counsel. When you retain our services, we can advise you on not only what you should avoid doing after an accident but also what specific steps you should take and what your options are.

Call (818) 946-0608 and schedule your initial consultation today.