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Avoid these mistakes after a car accident

Every car accident is unique. The outcome depends on the circumstances, the people involved, the insurance coverage and many other factors.

There are things you can do - and things you should avoid - to protect your interests and set yourself up for the best possible outcome. Knowing what not to do might make all the difference.

These 7 rules may save you a lot of trouble later

Also see our web page What To Do After An Accident.

Do not admit fault - It's a natural impulse to say "I'm sorry" or "Oh, I feel so bad about this." Such statements could later be construed as admitting liability for the accident, leaving you on the hook financially. It may turn out that the other driver was equally (or more) at fault - speeding, texting, intoxicated, etc. Exchange information but don't discuss the accident.

Don't neglect the details - You may be dazed or shaken up. But it is important to gather information:

  • Get the other driver's name, address, phone/email, plate number and car description, driver's license and insurance information, as well as the names of any passengers.
  • Take photos or videos of the vehicles and the damage, skid marks and the surrounding scene. Take different angles.
  • Make notes about the accident while still fresh. What happened? What was the other driver doing? What were the weather and road conditions?

Don't let witnesses get away - Some witnesses will offer their information. I saw the whole thing. Others don't want to get involved. Press for their name, address and contact info if possible. Witness testimony could be crucial to your case, but locating them after the fact is unlikely.

Do not give false statements - Giving false information to police, your insurance company or the other driver can get you in legal trouble. Don't volunteer incriminating details, but do not knowingly lie, especially in a written or recorded statement.

Don't fall for sob stories or excuses - The other driver may beg you not to call police, or offer to pay your damages to avoid an insurance claim. But they could give you fake information or have no intention of paying. It will definitely be a hassle trying to collect later, especially if your property damage or medical bills exceed initial expectations. Summon police and get an accident report. Then you can negotiate compensation without involving the insurance companies if you choose.

Keep it off social media - Any picture or comment posted to Facebook or SnapChat can be used against you. Don't announce that you're "fine" or post smiling pics - it downplays your injuries. Don't discuss details of the crash or fault. Don't badmouth the other party or the insurance companies.

Don't delay medical attention - You should get checked out by a doctor, even if you think your injuries are minor. Symptoms of concussion or soft-tissue injuries may be delayed. If you later seek compensation for medical expenses or lingering disability from the accident, you will need medical documentation that connects your injuries to the accident.

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