5 Fatal Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Car Accident Lawsuit

mistakes that can ruin car accident lawsuit

Most drivers know that there are some important things they should do after a car accident: for example, call 911, get injured people to safety, and exchange insurance information. 

But what’s often less obvious to drivers? What not to do after a crash.

In the confusion after an accident, it’s easy to fall prey to common mistakes that can jeopardize your potential case for financial recovery, whether in an insurance claim or car accident lawsuit. 

In this blog post, we’ll break down five pitfalls that can seriously limit your ability to recover compensation after a crash—even if you weren’t the one at fault.

Remember: No two car accidents are alike. If you have specific questions about your legal options after a crash, it’s best to contact a Los Angeles auto accident lawyer.

1. Not Reporting the Accident to the Police

It’s always safest to call the police if you’ve been in an accident. Even if the collision seems minor, it’s often in your best interest to have law enforcement officers there to investigate and document the scene.

Failing to call the police can make it look like you’re trying to avoid responsibility for the damage involved in the crash. This can reflect badly on you if you want to file a claim or lawsuit to recover compensation in the future.

California drivers are also required by law to report car accidents to the DMV when:

  • Someone is injured,
  • Someone is killed, or
  • More than $1,000 in property damage occurs.

Everyone involved in these types of crashes has to fill out one of these reports, even if you’re not at fault. You can do this online or by mail using the DMV’s SR-1 form. Drivers have 10 days to complete and file the form. If you don’t, you could have your driving privileges suspended, as well as hurt your chances of getting compensation.

2. Accidentally Admitting Fault

Drivers often apologize out of habit after an incident with another driver, even when they aren’t the one at fault. But even a throwaway statement made in the aftermath of an accident can hurt your claim in the long run. 

After an accident, it’s important not to apologize or say anything that suggests you’re responsible for the event. When exchanging information with another driver, it’s best to stay calm and stick to the facts. Give them your insurance and vehicle information, but avoid talking about fault or causes.

This applies to any conversations with other drivers or an insurance company. It’s safest to save discussions about potential fault for a consultation with a Los Angeles car accident attorney.

3. Relying on Your Memory Alone

Your memory of the crash might feel vivid in the minutes after it happens. But memories can be faulty and eventually fade. Documentation and physical evidence are essential for making any case for compensation after a car accident in Los Angeles.

After you’ve made sure it’s safe, take time to make a thorough record of the scene. This can include:

  • Taking photos of vehicle damage and injuries;
  • Recording videos of the accident scene, including any road conditions and obstructions;
  • Getting contact information from witnesses;
  • Writing down what you remember of the crash itself; and
  • Noting observations from interactions with another driver (e.g., if they seem intoxicated or admit fault).

Without a record or physical evidence, it can be challenging to verify your version of events. This can make it more difficult to prove both the extent of the damage you suffered and that the driver is liable for your losses.

The best place and time to gather evidence from an accident is the crash scene itself. However, some valuable pieces of evidence may need more time and investigation to get ahold of—e.g., cell phone records, surveillance cameras, and detailed witness interviews. For victims juggling insurance claims and medical treatment, gathering this evidence before it’s lost often requires the aid of a Los Angeles car accident lawyer.

4. Refusing Medical Treatment

Many drivers don’t think it’s necessary to see a doctor unless they’re seriously hurt. However, it’s best to be examined by a medical professional any time you’re in an accident, even if you don’t think you’ve been injured. 

For one, accident victims often don’t realize that they’ve been hurt in a crash. Adrenaline can hide pain in the moment. Some serious medical conditions, like whiplash and concussion, may not show symptoms until hours or days after the event. 

A medical examination is also another valuable piece of evidence to support a lawsuit or insurance claim. If the crash was caused by someone else’s carelessness, medical records that link your injuries to the accident are essential for your case for compensation.

Waiting too long to see a doctor after the accident can lead to questions about how badly you were hurt. This can impact how much you’re able to recover in compensation in the long run.

5. Speaking to an Insurer Without a Legal Professional 

In the days or weeks after an accident, the insurance company of the other driver will likely get in touch with you. They may ask you to give them a statement about your memory of the accident as part of their investigation. They might also offer you a settlement: this is a payment aimed at covering any losses caused by another driver outside court or a claims process.

In any case, it’s best to avoid speaking to an insurer until you’ve gotten the advice of a legal professional. Generally, an insurance company is looking to resolve any potential claims as quickly and cheaply as possible.

If you’re not careful, an insurance adjuster could use your account of an accident to devalue your claim. Your words can also be used against you as evidence for partial responsibility in the crash.

An insurance company’s first settlement offer also rarely reflects the full value of your potential damages. Especially if you’ve been hurt in a crash, you may face complications as you recover from your injuries.

Insurance adjusters may not take into account the future cost of your injuries and the impact they have on your life and earning capacity. If you accept an insurer’s first offer, you lose your right to negotiate for higher compensation in the future—or to file a lawsuit. 

When you hear from an insurance company, the safest thing you can do is get in touch with a Los Angeles car accident lawyer. An experienced personal injury attorney can handle communication with an insurer. They’re also trained to investigate your accident in detail and offer an accurate estimate of the compensation that you’re owed.

Learn How a Los Angeles Auto Accident Lawyer Can Help

It’s normal to feel a lot of uncertainty after a car accident. However, waiting too long to take action after a crash can also hurt you. If you want to seek financial damages caused by another driver’s negligence, California law gives you only two years to file a car accident lawsuit in civil court. Missing that deadline means you lose out on your chance to recover compensation by legal means. 

At Starpoint Law, we understand how much pressure car accident victims are under in the days and weeks after a crash. That’s why we make it a priority to ensure that drivers feel comfortable getting in touch sooner rather than later.

Our experienced car accident attorneys offer free consultations to Californians who’ve been involved in a vehicle accident. Our dedicated representation has helped California accident victims recover millions.

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Starpoint Injury Law Staff

Starpoint Law was founded on a number of core principles that allow us to help our clients and develop deep and meaningful relationships. If you have suffered injuries or facing an issue with your employer, reach out to our legal team and we can sit down for a free consultation and start the process immediately.

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