Follow these 4 steps:
- Always exchange driver information even when in a minor car accident!
- Be sure to take photos of ALL cars involved in the accident.
- Get yourself checkout for injuries as soon as possible.
- If you’re injured, call a car accident laywer.
Yes, you should hire a lawyer, even after a minor car accident. Here’s the thing… That question actually has nothing to do with the car accident and more to do with your injuries. If you were injured, then you need to speak to a car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
You’re sitting at the red light after a long day. You reach down to change the radio station when…BAM! You have been hit by another driver who wasn’t paying attention. You both step out of your cars to assess the damage. You both feel fine and your cars have very minor damage. It’s been a very long day so you decide not to call the police to file a report or exchange any information between the two of you. Hey, do you really need to hire a lawyer after a minor car accident?
Do you really need to make a big fuss about all this? Maybe we can just forget the whole thing and go on about our day. After all, you want to get home, the last thing you need is to wait on the side of the road, inconvenience all these other drivers, and site here frustrated and emotional… so you leave.
That was your first mistake and the biggest mistake you could have made.
In most states, failing to file a police report after a car accident, even if it’s just a fender bender, is illegal. It becomes a citable offense when you get in your car and drive away. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you were injured or if the vehicles didn’t sustain damage. An accident is still an accident, even if it’s only a minor car accident.
Also, once you leave the scene of a car accident, it becomes so much more difficult to get the facts straight. Even a minor car accident becomes murky. So whether or not you want to hire a lawyer after a minor car accident, consider this your moment right here. You should think about calling the police before leaving the scene.
Aside from the legalities of the issue, you may have just ruined any potential claim you may have against the other driver. Even if there is no damage to your car. Here’s the problem:
Studies have shown that there are several injuries a person can sustain in minor car accidents that don’t show up for days after the incident. You get hit from behind, you’re barely jolted and you feel fine. You have no obvious injury and you would know if you were hurt — wouldn’t you?
Not always. People often think of “injuries” as broken bones, lacerations, and even head trauma. Our minds turn to severe, life-altering conditions. We don’t often consider stained tendons, stretched ligaments, or contusions, but we should.
If your body went forward, your neck snapped back or you moved forward in a sudden manner, you may wake up with severe back pain tomorrow or the next day. The adrenaline following an accident can mask an injury. Most Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers will tell you to see a doctor as soon as possible to ensure you are not suffering from hidden injuries.
If you drive away from the scene and fail to make a report with either the police or your insurance (or both), you will have a difficult time taking your personal injury to court, even if you have a medical professional on your side.
The “Other” Guy
What if you exchanged information with the other driver, shake hands and go about your business without reporting the minor car accident to the police?
Several weeks later, you are summonsed to court because the “other” guy has filed their own claim against you. You know they were at fault and you know that the injuries they are claiming and the property damage they say you caused are exaggerated if not downright false. Remember when you chose to drive away without a report? You’ve now stepped solidly into a “you say, they say” type of situation.
In truth, most of these types of suits won’t get very far. After all, the other guy left the scene, too. But do you really want to deal with the hassle and time it’s going to take to answer the summons, potentially appear for hearings, and argue on your behalf when you know you were in the right? Chances are you have better things to do!
And here’s another great tip for you, “Do not admit fault or reveal policy limits”. That’s a direct quote from the Geico insurance website. Be careful about what you do and say!
What to Do After A Minor Car Accident
Maybe you and the other party didn’t drive away from the minor car accident. Perhaps there was some minor damage to one or both of your vehicles that made you second guess yourself, so you decide to file a police report. You file with your insurance companies and the other party is found to be at fault. Their insurance company offers you a settlement and you take it. It seems the easiest thing to do and will enable you to get your car fixed more quickly.
But wait a minute. The settlement wasn’t enough to fix your car and you think you have an injury, possibly whiplash!
An insurance company is a business and they are out for their bottom line, not your best interests. If you accept an insurance settlement, the paperwork will likely say that you are giving up your right to any future legal action. It’s not unusual for people to believe that an insurance company offers what’s fair — and it’s not unusual for that to be far from the truth.
Even in minor car accidents, you should have a personal injury attorney look at your case before agreeing to any settlement! They can help you get the most compensation possible for your case. That way you will not have to come out of pocket for your car and medical bills.
But don’t move on just yet, remember these 10 things to avoid doing after a car accident:
- Leaving the Scene of An Accident Without Reporting It To the Police: Just as we mentioned in the notes above, leaving the scene of a minor car accident without reporting it to the police is a major mistake. The Police report will be used in a minor car accident lawsuit to help the judge award the plaintiff the appropriate damages.
- Failing To Gather Evidence At the Scene: Take as many pictures as you can, collect as many phone numbers as you can, and ask for as many accounts as you can from people nearby and let your car accident attorney sort through what is valuable and what is not. Simple collect as much evidence as possible while you still can at the scene of the accident.
- Admitting Fault: Never admit fault, even if you believe you are at fault for the minor car accident. The fact is, you cannot possibly know who is at fault from your vantage point and you are merely attempting to understand what may have happened to form your perspective. Never admit fault. Instead, let your attorney and the police figure out who may be at fault and how much comparative fault is at play.
- Not Seeing a Doctor: You should see a medical professional as soon as you feel as if you have sustained injuries from your accident. If you do not, and you develop any injuries from the minor car accident, it may become difficult to attribute them to the accident and not to some other wear and tear and you may find it even more difficult to be compensated.
- Not Taking Advantage of PIP: Remember that Florida requires that you have Personal Injury Protection and that is used to make sure that you are protected in the event of a car accident. Do not feel any obligation to avoid not claiming from this insurance policy if you have been involved in a minor car crash.
- Failing to Understand Insurance Companies: Remember that insurance companies are first and foremost a business and they exist to make money and that means they want to collect and hold as much money as possible while paying out as little as possible (in theory). So when you make claims, they will try to settle for less if they can.
- Not Reviewing the Police Report: You must review the police report to make sure that the facts contained on the police report are correct and that you agree with them and if you do not agree, do your best to make your voice heard right then and there and get any and all changes made as soon as possible and before signing.
- Taking the First Settlement Check Offered: Just like most negotiations, the first check and the first offer will be the lowest that the insurance company thinks they can offer to satisfy you while also ensuring they are not overpaying in their estimation and saving as much money on the car accident settlement as possible.
- Trying to Settle Your Own Case: Though you may think that a minor car accident may not warrant a car accident lawyer, we can confidently say that clients who hire experienced attorneys earn a settlements check that is on average 3X larger than those who do not hire an auto accident attorney.
- Not Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer: For all the reasons stated above and more, we believe it’s in your best interests to hire a car accident lawyer as soon as possible.