In the unfortunate event that you are involved in a car accident, it’s important to know how to handle the situation to make sure to get things resolved quickly. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to overreact or to forget important steps that can make the whole process go a little bit smoother. Once you have determined that everyone is safe, it’s time to get started with the process. Here are 10 mistakes you should avoid if you happen to be involved in a car accident.
1. Not Securing Evidence of the Accident Right Away
Car accidents can range from just a little scratch on a bumper to totaling your entire car. When you get in an accident, it’s crucial to get evidence of the accident’s occurrence right away. The easiest way to do this is with photos of the damage. With so many people having smart phones nowadays, it’s best if you take photos of the scene and all the damage so you have it for your records.
Also, get the names and contact information of any independent witnesses who may have seen what happened. These witnesses can often make or break a case later on when the other driver disagrees with your version of the facts.
2. Not Seeking Medical Attention Promptly
Many accidents occur leaving no one injured and some accidents can be fatal to those involved in the accident. To make sure you have no medical issues resulting from the accident, it’s important that you get medical care as soon as possible for two reasons: 1) to get the necessary medical care you need, and 2) to document the injury and the fact that you have sought treatment. Even if you think you are fine, it’s always a good idea to get checked out by a medical professional. Plus, the injury claim is a document based review, and clinical records, physiotherapy records, and prescription receipts are routinely used to prove how long and how seriously someone was injured. In other words, if you have no medical documents to prove your injury, you will have difficulty getting a decent settlement.
3. Talking to ICBC About the Accident Before Getting Legal Advice
Even if you think you are not at fault for the accident, it’s best if you get legal advice before speaking to any agency about what happened. To best protect yourself, a lawyer will know the best course of action. While it may seem like not a big deal, making the mistake of not seeking legal advice can end up costing thousands of dollars. Remember, the insurance company’s job is to try and settle your claim for as little as possible and can use anything you say to them against you for that purpose. The benefit of having a lawyer represent you is that the insurance company cannot contact you directly, only through your lawyer. This will ensure that your claim is protected when communicating with ICBC.
4. Trying to Settle Your Case on Your Own
Unless you are a lawyer who specializes in car accidents, it’s usually not a good idea to try to settle your case on your own. By enlisting the help of an experienced legal professional, you’ll get years of experience and knowledge to help you settle your case as quickly and efficiently as possible. The main benefit of using a lawyer to settle your claim is that your lawyer will know what the claim is worth, whereas you may not. It is commonplace for unrepresented people to settle claims on their own, only to learn later that they undervalued their claim and were shortchanged.
5. Admitting Liability for the Accident
Even if you think you are at fault for the accident, it’s best to keep quiet until speaking with a legal professional. By admitting to the liability for the accident, you are compromising any potential claim you may have for compensation. It is possible that you are wrong about being at fault, or that you are only partially at fault. By admitting fault outright, you could deprive yourself of compensation you otherwise are entitled to.
6. Not Calling the Police
If the accident is serious and has resulted in considerable material damage, or personal injuries, or both. Or, if you believe that alcohol or drugs are involved, or that laws were broken in the course of the accident. For instance, if the other party to the accident did not remain at the scene, it is recommended that you call the police so they may investigate the accident and prepare a police report. The police may issue traffic tickets to drivers who may have broken the Motor Vehicle Act, or can even arrest people if they have violated the Criminal Code.
7. Not Exchanging Insurance Information
Another common mistake people make when they are in a minor accident is not exchanging insurance information. Even if you think there isn’t much damage done to your car, having the other person’s insurance information is best practice. In case you need to file a claim in the near future, this information will be critical. It could be that the other driver will decide to start a claim at a later point. The law requires that you report the accident to ICBC; you can decide whether or not you wish to pursue a claim later, but it is always advisable to report the accident in any event.
8. Waiting too Long to Pursue a Claim
When it comes to car accidents, getting things done as soon as possible will help to make sure you get what you need in terms of compensation for the accident. There are strict limitation periods you must comply with when pursuing injury claim in British Columbia. Should you fail to take steps to pursue your claim before these limitation periods expire, your claim could become statute barred.
9. Not Following Through on Medical Care
If you require medical care after your accident, the worst thing you could do is to neglect to follow through on the recommended treatment. Not only are you putting yourself at risk but you are enabling the insurance company to raise the defence of failure to mitigate damages. If that defence is made out, a judge or jury could make deductions from your damages award, leaving you less compensation in your pocket.
10. Accepting a Quick Settlement
It may seem like a good idea at the time, but you may live to regret accepting a quick settlement from ICBC. You may wish to contact a lawyer and obtain a consultation on what your claim is worth. At least you can then be certain that the offer is fair and decide whether or not you wish to accept it or continue bargaining. You may find that ICBC does not wish to bargain anymore, at which point you may be forced to start a personal injury lawsuit to ask the court to decide what the award should be. That process can be complicated and you should seek the assistance of an experienced lawyer to help you navigate it.
Getting in a car accident is typically not a great experience, but with proper knowledge you can get the process over sooner rather than later and make sure you get all the compensation you deserve.