According to the state of Ohio, there were 1,008 motor vehicle fatalities in our state in 2017. These tragedies often result in wrongful death lawsuits, however, even a “minor” motor vehicle crash can be traumatic, making it difficult to think clearly in the moments and hours following the incident. When serious injury occurs, it may be even more difficult to make good decisions—but it’s also even more important.
Simple mistakes at the collision scene, in interacting with emergency personnel, and in decision-making about medical care and insurance inquiries, can have a lasting impact on both your health and your ability to secure fair compensation.
If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision, protect yourself by avoiding these common missteps.
Don’t take responsibility
It’s human nature to apologize when something traumatic has occurred, even if you weren’t responsible. But, comforting another driver with, “No, no…it wasn’t your fault,” or “I wish I’d stopped sooner!” can come back to haunt you in the courtroom, potentially costing you the recovery you deserve.
Even if you think you were responsible, keep that opinion to yourself at the scene. Your in-the-moment assessment may be wrong, particularly if you’re not familiar with negligence law. But, when a jury hears that you said, “Oh my gosh, that was all my fault!” they’re likely to believe you.
In Ohio, courts analyze car accident claims under a standard of comparative negligence. This means that the party most at fault is entitled to a recovery, but the amount of the recovery is reduced by your level of negligence. So, you can almost think of the legal evaluation process as a pie chart graph outlining the percent each party contributed to the accident. The insurance adjuster is aware of the comparative negligence rules and will negotiate based on the “fault cards” you are holding.
Don’t neglect the legalities
If you’re physically able, make sure to exchange insurance information with the other driver, and that someone calls the police. These measures will help you pursue compensation if you were the victim of another driver’s negligence, but that’s not the only reason to ensure that these boxes are checked.
Ohio law requires a driver involved in an accident to provide certain information to the owner of the other vehicle, and failure to do so can result in a misdemeanor criminal charge. Though you aren’t always required to make a police report, it is a good idea to do so. And, depending on the nature of the accident and extent of the damage, you may be required to file a crash report with the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).
Don’t brush off a medical assessment
Often, after an upsetting experience, people just want to get home. While that’s understandable, declining medical care at the scene or failing to get checked out by a physician right after a collision can put your health and your finances at risk.
Shock can mask the severity of pain and other symptoms immediately after a crash, which means your injuries may be more serious than you realize, so it’s better to err on the side of being assessed by a professional. Delaying treatment can worsen your injuries and make it difficult to prove that the collision caused them.
Don’t ignore your physician’s advice
A medical assessment immediately after the incident is just the first step. It’s important that you follow your treating physician’s instructions carefully, including taking any prescribed medication, scheduling and attending follow-up visits, and participating in any recommended physical therapy or other treatment.
Failure to follow up or follow medical instructions can hurt you in two ways. First, and most obvious, failure to follow your doctor’s orders and participate fully in your treatment can hinder your recovery—in some cases, neglecting your own care can turn a short-term injury into a long-term or permanent one. Second, you may also receive less than full compensation for your injuries, since a judge or jury may determine that you’re partly responsible for your own pain and limitations.
Don’t talk to the responsible party’s insurance company
If you were in a collision with another driver, you’ll almost certainly be contacted by that driver’s insurance company. The insurance company’s demeanor will likely be “business as usual,” creating the impression that giving them a statement is just part of the process. But you’re not required to do so.
When the other driver’s insurer asks you for a statement, remember who they represent and what their goal is. That representative’s job is to try to get you to say something that will let them off the hook. The less said, the better. The safest approach is to refer them to your personal injury attorney.
Don’t miss the opportunity to preserve evidence
Depending on how serious your injuries are, you may not be able to take any action at the scene. But if you are able or someone with you is able, get names and contact information for any witnesses. If possible, take photographs of the scene. Once bystanders scatter and the road has been cleared, it can be difficult to reconstruct exactly what happened or identify and contact witnesses.
Don’t jump into a quick settlement
When you’re watching medical bills mount, you may feel a sense of urgency about settling your claim—especially if you’re unable to work for a significant period after a collision. But it’s important to fully understand the extent of your injuries and the amount of your damages before entering into a settlement. Otherwise, you could find yourself paying for additional medical care that should have been covered by the responsible party.
The insurance company may claim that they want to move the settlement forward quickly to help you out, because they know that you’re off work and are incurring medical expenses. But the real motivation for an insurer to settle quickly is to get you to release claims against them before you know the full extent of the damages.
Don’t wait too long to hire a personal injury attorney
In most cases, you have two years from the date of an Ohio car collision to file a personal injury claim. But that doesn’t mean it’s wise to wait until the last minute—or even months—to consult a personal injury attorney. The sooner an experienced personal injury lawyer like Plevin & Gallucci takes over your case, the better. Early involvement means your attorney can interact with the insurance company on your behalf and help you avoid pitfalls like the ones listed here.
Working with an experienced car accident lawyer from the beginning also offers the attorney a better opportunity to locate and speak with witnesses while their memories are fresh, gather evidence before it is lost or destroyed, and ensure that all procedural and technical requirements are met as your case moves forward.
If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle collision, take the first step toward protecting your rights right now. It is never too early to educate yourself about your options and learn how to protect yourself as you move forward.
Contact Plevin & Gallucci to schedule a free consultation. Just call 1-855-4-PLEVIN or fill out the contact form on this site.