Mistakes to Avoid After an Auto Accident in West Virginia
The steps that you take after a car accident are very important. When you take the right steps, you can protect not only your health but also your right to pursue full and fair compensation for your physical, emotional and financial harm.
Mistakes, on the other hand, can be very costly. If you have been involved in a crash in Charleston or elsewhere in West Virginia, you should be aware of these mistakes to avoid:
Failing to Seek Medical Care
Even if you do not require emergency medical care at the scene of the accident, you should go to the emergency room or see a family doctor within one to two days of your car accident. You should be checked for any potential injuries.
In particular, you should seek medical care for a possible concussion, whiplash injury, muscle sprain or strain, back injury or laceration injury.
If you do not seek medical care for your injuries, it could endanger your health. Also, the insurance company may later doubt the authenticity of your injuries and may deny your claim for compensation for medical expenses.
In addition to seeking medical care, make sure you keep thorough documentation of all medical treatment. These documents will be essential when you file a claim for damages.
You should never admit fault after you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident. Even saying something as seemingly innocent as, "I'm sorry," could be used against you by the other driver, police or insurance company. The reality is that fault can only be determined after a careful investigation.
Keep in mind: Fault will play an important role in your case. If you are more than 50 percent at fault for your auto accident, you could be barred from recovering anything for your losses. Otherwise, your recovery could be reduced according to the percentage of fault assigned to you.
For this reason, you should not take the subject of fault lightly. When you are speaking with the police, insurance company or anyone else about your case, simply stick to the facts and avoid discussing fault or giving your opinion on fault.
Waiting Too Long to Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
Even if you believe that you may have been at fault for your accident, you still need to report the accident to your insurance company in a timely manner.
If you do not report an accident to your insurance company within the company's required timeframe, you may be barred from recovering compensation under your policy. For instance, you may need to file a claim through your uninsured / underinsured (UM / UIM) policy.
For this reason, it is best to always report the accident as soon as possible to your insurance company.
Signing a Settlement Release
After a car insurance company has been informed of your accident, the insurance adjuster will be responsible for gathering statements, making a determination about who was at fault, assessing the extent of your injuries and damages and making a settlement offer.
While you may be tempted to accept a settlement offer and immediately sign your settlement release - perhaps even believing that you are getting a great deal - do not do so before the offer is first reviewed by an experienced auto accident lawyer.
While accepting a settlement offer can seem like the right thing to do - especially in the midst of all your losses - a first settlement offer is almost always lower than what a victim of a car wreck really deserves.
The reality is that an auto insurance company is out to maximize its profits. This means that the insurer will want to pay as little as possible for your claim.
If you sign a settlement release, the process is over. You are releasing the car insurance company from any further obligation to pay you damages. For this reason, you should allow an attorney to review your case and determine what would be a full and fair settlement amount in your case.
Your attorney can then seek that amount by negotiating with the insurance company or by taking your case to court, if needed.
Failing to Hire an Experienced West Virginia Car Crash Lawyer
Finally, do not make the mistake of failing to hire a car crash attorney - especially if fault in your accident is contested or if you have suffered very serious injuries and are filing a car wreck claim for a large amount of money.
The role of a motor vehicle accident attorney is to:
- Conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of your auto accident
- Help you to establish your right to compensation
- File a claim with the car insurance company
- Negotiate for a fair settlement amount
- Take your case to court if necessary.
A car accident attorney can also assist you if a lien has been filed against you for outstanding medical bills.
Most people assume that they cannot afford to hire an auto accident attorney. However, because many attorneys work on a contingency fee basis (including Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC), the attorney will be paid only a percentage of your car wreck settlement amount and will not get paid if your claim is not successful.
For this reason, failing to hire an attorney could actually be a costly decision.
Keep in mind: If you were not at fault for the accident and are interested in pursuing an auto accident lawsuit against the at-fault driver, you must do so within two years' time from the date that the accident originally occurred. So, you should not hesitate to take action following a car crash.
Contact a West Virginia Car Wreck Attorney
The experienced West Virginia car accident lawyers at Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC, can guide you through the process of pursuing damages after an auto accident. From helping you to avoid common mistakes after an auto accident to making sure a settlement offer is fair, our Charleston auto accident attorneys are ready to get to work now. Simply contact us today by phone or online to receive a free consultation about your case.