It’s easy to make mistakes when you make a car accident insurance claim. Every mistake that you make can reduce the eventual value of your settlement.
If you heed all these do’s and don’ts, you increase the potential value of your claim and increase your chances of a successful claim. Making the right moves isn’t even complicated, it’s just a matter of remembering what you need to do at a time when you’re under stress.
Do: Gather Evidence at the Scene
Once you’ve gotten your vehicle (if possible) and yourself to safety, it is vital for you to take evidence at the scene. It may seem unfair that you should have to do this for yourself, but you’re your own first and best advocate.
If you’re too injured to take down evidence that’s okay. Often injury victims are unconscious at the scene of the accident or are bleeding out. In these cases getting medical attention should be your only concern.
Yet if you are capable of gathering evidence, you should.
Start by calling the police. In Alberta, you must call the police any time an accident results in injuries.
Next, you need to get the contact information and insurance information of the other driver. We recommend taking a photo of it so you don’t risk losing the paper or transposing a number.
If there are other witnesses you should take down their contact information as well.
The police should also give you a copy of the police report. If they don’t, you should be able to get it later.
Do: Watch Your Words
It’s quite human to say some things after an accident that could ultimately hurt your case.
Two of the most common things to say are, “I’m sorry,” and “I’m okay.”
“I’m sorry” could be construed as taking responsibility for the accident. Even if the other driver is found at fault this could be used against you under Alberta’s contributory negligence laws. Each driver is usually assigned some percentage of fault. For example, you might be found 10% at fault while the other driver is found to be 90% at fault.
Your injury settlement will then be reduced by that 10%. Thus every single percentage point of fault that you are assigned can cost you thousands.
The other driver’s insurance company will be trying to push your fault as close to 50% as possible, ensuring that the return for a suit is as low as possible. Don’t give them ammunition by indicating you might agree with them.
As for “I’m okay,” you have to understand that insurance companies will also fight your case by alleging that your injuries aren’t nearly as bad as you say they are. While they can’t reduce your medical bills this way, they can reduce your pain and suffering awards this way.
Don’t be stoic. You can say nothing at all, but you don’t have to reassure anyone else.
Do: Seek Medical Attention Immediately
Obviously, you do this in part for your own health, but you also do it for legal reasons.
When you press a personal injury case, one of the things you have to prove is that there is a direct line from the accident to the injuries that you sustained.
If you wait to receive the medical attention you call that into question. You’ll create room to allege that you exacerbated your own injuries. You will again create room to allege that your injuries aren’t that bad, and you’re just exaggerating to get money.
So get medical attention…and follow all your doctor’s orders.
Do: Start Keeping Records
There are some records you’ll need and want to retain, and there are some you’re going to need and want to create.
You’ll want to retain medical bills, discharge papers, prescriptions, doctor’s instructions, and receipts that prove you have incurred accident-related costs.
You’ll want to create a journal or diary that helps you document the pain, suffering, and difficulties that you’re going through as a result of your injury. This can be entered into the legal record and used to help you increase your pain and suffering award.
Do: Contact a Lawyer Right Away
In general, if you have a case at all, then it is best to involve a lawyer right away. Your lawyer can file your claim and handle both your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company on your behalf. The insurance claim process for car accidents is truly labyrinthine, but personal injury lawyers handle car accident claims every single day. Put that expertise to work for you as quickly as you possibly can.
This can ensure that neither insurance company leads you astray or tricks you into taking actions that can harm your case.
Even if you can’t get a lawyer to take your case, you can often get a little bit of advice for how to handle your insurance adjuster and what kind of settlement might be reasonable for your case. In a case where you have catastrophic injuries due to someone else’s negligence, making this call early can put thousands of dollars back in your pocket.
Do: Stick to the Facts
Whether you’re dealing with the police, your lawyer, or an insurance company it is vital that you don’t let emotion or embellishment enter your narrative. Don’t interpret events. Don’t volunteer information you’re not asked about.
Just answer every question factually to the best of your ability.
Don’t: Assume You Don’t Have a Case
Many of the clients who come to us have already made some mistakes. For example, they may have tried to handle the insurance companies on their own for months before they called us, or they might have said the wrong things at the scene.
While these issues complicate your case they aren’t insurmountable. In many cases, your lawyer can do damage control and can get your case back on track.
Don’t: Talk to Any Insurance Company Before You Talk to a Lawyer
As mentioned earlier, insurance companies play a lot of dirty tricks. For example, they tend to ask leading questions that can lure you into making statements that will harm your case. They may also ask you to sign a medical release, which gives them the ability to cloud the waters of your claim by alleging that your injuries are the result of pre-existing conditions.
Did you know that calling a personal injury lawyer is risk-free? You won’t have to pay a retainer. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Most of the lawyers in our office have 20 to 30 years of experience handling personal injury cases for Alberta residents just like you. We’re known as savvy negotiators and fearless litigators. We fight hard to protect your rights and your interests throughout any personal injury case.
We’re responsive and kind to clients though, and take the time to answer your questions, meet your concerns, and explain the process to you at every step of the way.
We’re also convenient for you! You don’t have to leave your bed if you don’t want to. We’ll meet with you via Zoom and start the process on your behalf. We can even deal with insurance companies for you! Call (780) 413-9777 to set up your risk-free appointment today.