By: Whalen Hersh
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Injured in an Accident? Don’t Make These Common Mistakes
Injured in an Accident? Don’t Make These Mistakes
When you are injured in an accident, you may not know what to do next. At Whalen Hersh, we have helped hundreds of Colorado accident victims understand what to do—and not do—after an accident.
Here are common mistakes people make after an accident that you will want to avoid.
Waiting too long to talk to a lawyer
This is one of the biggest mistakes people make after being injured in an accident. Waiting too long to talk to a lawyer can harm your ability to understand and protect your rights and obtain fair compensation for your injuries. A lawyer can help you investigate the accident. A lawyer can advise you whether you have a claim and what your claim may be worth. A lawyer can help you make sure critical evidence is preserved. A lawyer can make sure you understand the issues that could affect your claim. A lawyer can help you submit your claim to the insurance company and make sure you are treated fairly. A layer can help you understand the insurance issues related to your claim. A lawyer can help you find the right medical care for your injuries. A lawyer can advise you about the strict timelines that apply to bringing a lawsuit. A lawyer can help position your case to maximize your compensation. A lawyer can help you make sure you avoid costly mistakes. A lawyer can help make sure your focus is on your treatment and getting better.
When you or a loved one are injured in an auto accident caused by the negligence of someone else, the first step should of course be to seek medical treatment for your injuries. Your next step should be to contact an experienced Colorado personal injury lawyer. You need to protect your health, but you also need to protect your legal rights. Waiting can seriously hamper your ability to obtain fair compensation for your injuries, so don’t wait until it is too late to talk to a lawyer.
Not calling the police
At the scene of an accident, one person might try to persuade the other person not to call the police, and the other person involved may be tempted not to call because it seems like a hassle. This is a mistake. Not only is there a requirement under Colorado law that accidents resulting in injury or property damage must be reported (C.R.S. §42-4-1606(1), but the investigation completed, and the facts developed by the officer could serve as evidence to help support your claim if you are injured, particularly if the other person involved denies fault. Failure to contact the police suggests the accident was truly only a minor incident and you were not injured, and the insurance company may use this to deny your claim.
Failing to gather evidence
If you are involved in a collision, you may be incapacitated and must rely on others to gather evidence. But if you are involved in an accident and can still function, it would be a mistake not to try to gather as much evidence as possible. This means talking to witnesses, getting their contact information, as well as taking pictures or video of the damage to the cars, any skid marks, and the overall scene. The more evidence that can be obtained about an accident caused by another person, the better off you and your lawyer will be when dealing with the insurance company.
You’ve probably heard this one before (probably from your insurance company). While liability is clear in many accidents, there are some accidents where both parties may be at fault, or some accidents where the facts demonstrate the other party was at fault. It would be a mistake for a person to admit fault when the facts show otherwise.
Take for example someone who turns left in front of oncoming traffic. In most cases, the person turning left will likely be deemed at fault for failing to yield the right of way to the oncoming traffic. But what if the oncoming traffic is speeding? In that scenario, depending on the facts, the oncoming driver may be at fault.
Or consider a rear-end accident; in Colorado, a driver who rear ends another driver is presumed negligent. But what if the driver ahead slammed on their brakes in a fit of road rage? Or what if their brake lights were out? The bottom line is that there are sometimes scenarios where the person who may be perceived as the at-fault driver is actually the victim. Thus, the best course of action at the scene of an accident is to not admit fault.
Failing to seek treatment after the accident
Some Colorado accident victims make the mistake of not going to get checked out at a hospital, or checked out by their primary care doctor, after an accident. Although they may be in pain, some accident victims decide it’s too much of a hassle to go to the doctor, or perhaps it’s too expensive. They may believe they will get better and so they tough it out. This is mistake.
A car accident places significant forces on the body. Due to the forces involved in deceleration and acceleration at the time of a collision, injuries to your back, neck, and brain can occur even if your body doesn’t physically impact any part of the car. For example, the discs in your spine may bulge and herniate, muscles can seize and tear, and your brain can hit the inside of your cranium, causing traumatic brain injury. Seeking immediate medical care is a way to make sure you are taking care of yourself, which is the most important thing after an accident. And even if the doctors do not identify any acute injuries immediately after the accident, they can provide information about potential injuries you may have and provide instructions as to what you should do if you begin to feel worse.
In addition to the importance of evaluating your injuries, failing to seek or delaying medical attention could potentially hurt any personal injury claim you wish to file with an insurance company in order to be compensated for any medical bills, lost wages, and other accident-related expenses. Not seeking treatment after an accident suggests that you are not injured, or your injuries are not serious, and the insurance companies evaluating your claim will use that against you to minimize or deny your claim.
Not complying with treatment recommendations
A mistake that some people make is failing to comply with the treatment recommendations of their medical care providers. Doctors and other treating health care providers will provide recommendations ranging from simple home exercises to physical therapy to more significant treatment like injections or surgery. Sometimes it is as simple as scheduling a follow-up visit with the doctor. For whatever reason, some patients will not follow those recommendations or be consistent in following them. That can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to recover compensation for injuries caused by another. Insurance companies love to find gaps in treatment, cancelled appointments, and failure to seek recommended care because it helps them argue that the injured person really isn’t that injured, or that the person has “failed to mitigate” (failed to reduce) their injuries. The person’s continuing pain and problems, the insurance company will argue, are due to the failure to seek consistent and recommended care. Under the law, a person’s compensation for injuries can be reduced because of the failure to mitigate.
While there may sometimes be legitimate reasons why a person may not undergo recommended treatment, the best course is to follow your doctors and other health care provider’s recommendations. If cost is a factor, a person can potentially use health insurance, MedPay, or seek treatment using a lien company.
Trusting the insurance company
Our experience tells us that trusting an insurance company to do the right thing is a mistake. Why? Because when it comes to evaluating and paying claims, the insurance company’s goal is to make sure they pay as little as possible. An insurance company is in the business of making money by reducing losses. So, when you make a claim, you are threatening the insurance company’s bottom line. They will lose money if they must pay your claim. Therefore, insurance companies and their adjusters do what is necessary to reduce their payout, which is why you cannot trust them. They may act like they are your friend or that they are trying to help you, but their job is to get information that helps the insurance company. They are not on your side.
So, if an insurance claims adjuster wants to speak with you about an accident, we recommend that you do not do so until you have spoken to a lawyer. Do not sign any documents sent to you by the insurance company without consulting with a lawyer. Do not give a recorded statement without consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
When you need a dedicated, sympathetic, and talented Colorado personal injury attorney with a proven track record of success who will fight for your best interests, contact Whalen Hersh today. We’re happy to offer you a free consultation with one of our Colorado injury lawyers to review the details of your case and discuss your legal options. You can reach us in Denver at (720) 307-2666 or in Colorado Springs at (719) 644-7000 to learn more.