1. Assume that the other driver (defendant) will admit to his insurance company that he was 100% at-fault.
This is a common assumption that many people make. When a defendant driver calls his insurance company to tell them he was in a collision, he doesn’t want to admit the collision was his fault. He may be worried about his rates going up or his insurance coverage being dropped altogether. As a result, many defendants will say whatever they can to minimize their fault for the collision or put the blame on the fault-free driver. Common examples include: “I barely tapped the other car’s bumper” in a rear-end collision. “We both swerved into each other at the same time” in a side-swipe collision. “The other driver was speeding when I turned left in front of him” in a T-bone intersection collision. The list of excuses is endless.
What can one do to avoid this? Call the police. The police will investigate the scene and get statements from the at-fault driver and any witnesses. This avoids a lot of potential headaches down the road.
2. Fail to take photographs or enough photographs, especially before the cars are moved.
In this day and age, every cell phone has a camera and most of them take high quality pictures. Photographs of the scene and the other driver are easy to take and can be done very quickly. They preserve the evidence. In many cases, an attorney has to piece together the evidence to recreate the scene of the collision. Without good photographs of the scene and the car damage (at different angles and distances), the task of creating an accurate picture of the scene becomes very difficult. Of course, this only applies if a driver’s injuries are such that they are able to take photographs. But even in cases where someone is more severely injured and are taken by ambulance to a hospital, there is usually another person at the scene who can take photographs for the injured driver. Photographs also reduce the likelihood that the at-fault driver will be able to put the blame for the collision on the fault-free driver. (See #1).
3. Assume the police will get the witnesses names and numbers.
Even if the police are called, it may be a while before they arrive at the scene of the collision. Many witnesses do not want to wait around for the police and will have left by the time they arrive. It is very important to get a name and telephone number of witnesses right away before they leave the scene. Once they leave, it becomes almost impossible to track down a witness. The police or an attorney can always call the witness later and obtain their full statement.
4. Fail to go to the doctor, Urgent Care or Emergency Room right away.
Many people who are injured in a collision, will wait before seeking medical attention. This is a common mistake. They are worried about the cost of going to the doctor, or believe that they can treat their injuries at home, or do not consider the injuries “serious” enough to go to an emergency room.
Most automobile insurance policies have coverage (PIP) that will pay the medical expenses in full if someone were injured in a collision (regardless of who was at fault). Many people are unaware of this coverage, so it is a good idea to check your automobile insurance right now and make sure you have this coverage. That way you won’t have to worry about medical cost after being in a collision. If you do not have PIP coverage – get it!
If someone is injured, it is a mistake to try to be their own doctor. It is always better to get professional medical assistance to assess one’s condition, even if they think their injuries are “minor.” A doctor, not the injured person, is the most qualified person to determine the nature and extent of someone’s injuries and recommend treatment. The earlier this is done (preferably the day of the collision), the better chance an injured person has for recovery and the less likely that the injured person will make a mistake while trying to treat their own injury.
5. Fail to tell the doctor about all of your injuries and symptoms.
An injured person must explain to the emergency room doctor all of their aches and pains from the collision, even if he or she thinks they are minor or unimportant. This is very important because something that seems minor at the time can become major down the road. For instance, a bruise on your knee that later turns out to be a torn ACL requiring surgery. If that bruised knee was not mentioned at the initial doctor visit, the insurance company may claim that it is not related to the automobile collision.