1 12 Common Auto Accident Myths: Protecting your rights and wallet after being injured in an auto accident.
2 Introduction An auto accident can dramatically change your life. You could be injured and/or in pain for a very long time. You must deal with the insurance company. You may miss work. And not least of all, your car needs to be repaired at once. To assist you through this challenging time, here are a few facts that can help protect your legal rights as well as save you time, money, and frustration. This handbook is filled with a lot of important information that can help you, but may not apply to your specific situation and cannot substitute for the legal advice of an expert attorney. Remember: If you re in an auto accident, you have the right to seek legal representation. The experienced attorney members of Walker & Walker Attorney Network at THE-LAW2 are experts in auto accident related issues. Call us day or night, we re open 24/7 to help you. You can also visit us on the Internet by logging on to. There s no obligation. Your initial consultation with an attorney member is free and there are no up-front out-ofpocket fees. Plus, any information you provide to any of the attorney members of THE-LAW2 is strictly confidential. Find out if you have a case. 2 get answers. 2 get results. Call THE-LAW2. Thank you. Walker & Walker Attorney Network at THE-LAW2 ( ) provides access to legal representation in California in both English and Spanish 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In most cases our attorneys will help you on a contingency basis which means that they only collect fees if you win your case. We represent the skilled legal efforts of more than 90 attorney members who have helped hundreds of thousands of clients during their time of need and collected millions of dollars in settlements. The information and links in this blog, in this handbook, and on this Web site are provided for informational and educational purposes only and are not meant as legal advice. Nor is this information a guarantee, warranty or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. Results of each case may differ if based on different facts. All the information within this handbook is for general information purposes only. This Web site is intended solely for the use of people residing in California. If you have a specific legal problem, you should always seek the advice of an attorney from your own jurisdiction before relying on information from this or any other blog or Web site. Walker & Walker Attorney Network at THE-LAW2 is a group of attorneys jointly advertising their legal services to the community and is not a lawyer referral service or a law firm.
3 MYTH 1. Myth: If you feel okay immediately after your auto accident, there s no reason to seek medical attention. Fact: Just because you may not be bleeding after an auto accident, doesn t mean you haven t suffered an injury: you should go to the emergency room or an urgent care clinic. You need medical attention to rule out and/or treat serious injuries. Visiting the emergency room on the date of your accident may increase the value of your insurance claim. In the eyes of most insurance companies, reasonable people go to the hospital if they believe that they were injured or need to have serious injuries ruled out. Do this as soon as possible after your auto accident. Follow your doctor s orders. If your doctor recommends chiropractic care or physical therapy, go to your appointments; if your doctor orders any type of x-ray or test, have it done. Individuals who are truly injured follow their treatment regimen, and will follow through on all their doctor s recommendations and instructions. Sometimes serious injuries appear days or weeks after your auto accident and after soft tissue injuries subside. If this happens to you, seek medical attention immediately. Don t wait weeks to see a doctor after you become aware of an injury. The insurance company may view this as an indication that your injury is not serious or that it is unrelated to your auto accident. If you avoid treatment or suddenly seek treatment months after your auto accident, the insurance company may perceive this as fraud. Don t let the cost of medical care prevent you from getting help. Often, an attorney can arrange for you to see a doctor without any up-front billing. The medical provider will hold all billing until your case is settled by placing a lien on your case.
4 FACT 2. Myth: Hiring an attorney after being injured in an auto accident won t make that much of a difference in your settlement. Fact: Statistics show that insurance claims settle for far greater amounts when an attorney is involved. With an attorney as your advocate, you could receive a settlement that s as much as fifty percent higher than if you handled the negotiations yourself. In fact, according to an Allstate insurance adjuster-training manual, their statistics showed the average Allstate injury claim settlement represented by an attorney was $7,450, vs. $3,464 for those claimants that represented themselves. The sooner you hire an attorney the better your attorney will protect you and make sure you don t do or say anything that could damage your ability to file a claim or receive fair financial compensation. 3. Myth: If you think the auto accident was your fault you should tell the other party at the scene. Fact: What you say at the scene can affect your case. Do not get into a long discussion of the accident with the other party. When safe, exchange contact information and do not volunteer any information about who was to blame for the accident. You may think you are in the wrong and then learn that the other driver is as much or more to blame than you are. You should first talk to your attorney. Anything you say can be used against you later. However, be sure to cooperate with the police officer investigating the case. But, stick to the facts. Do not agree to pay for damages or sign any paper except a traffic ticket. 4. Myth: You should only take pictures of your car after an accident. Fact: Actually, you should take lots of pictures of lots of things after the accident. Start with your car. Take pictures of the entire vehicle, not just the area that looks damaged. Take pictures of all sides of the other vehicle as well to ensure that any claims being made for damages are based on the accident you re involved in. Take pictures of the area surrounding the accident site. Include the road, street signs and anything else that may have contributed to causing the accident. Take pictures of yourself and any other injured persons involved in the accident. It s important to note any bruises, scrapes, or cuts that you may have experienced. All these photos can help strengthen your case. Allstate is a registered trademark of Allstate Insurance Company.
5 MYTH 5. Myth: Pictures are the only records you need to keep after an auto accident. Fact: In addition to taking lots of photos, write down everything you remember about the accident. No detail is too small. Include the time of day and weather conditions. Was it day? Night? Dusk? Was it hard to see because of the sun? What direction were you headed? What lane were you in? What were the traffic conditions? Light? Was it bumper-tobumper? Write down anything you can remember that the other driver said or did after the accident. Keeping very detailed, accurate records is critical to getting the maximum monetary benefits allowed by law. Remember to keep a record of any pain you experience noting frequency and severity. Record any treatments and/or doctor visits; including time spent going to see the doctor. Document your loss of earnings, if any. Keep receipts for all your expenses. Keep track of how much time you spend on the phone dealing with issues related to your injuries. Your attorney can help you organize and prepare these records so you can get proper compensation for your claim. Draw a diagram of the scene. No, it doesn t have to be a complex 3D computer-generated image, but it should include anything that helps paint a more complete picture of the accident. To help you get started, be sure to print out the wallet- size Accident Information Guide from the THE-LAW2 Web site. Keep it in your car so it s on hand just in case you re in an auto accident. 6. Myth: If you get in an auto accident you should always call the insurance company first. Fact: You hear it all the time, If you re in an auto accident, call your insurance company right away. And while it s true, advising your insurance company of the accident is mandatory; calling them first may not be the best move. Warning: When you speak with the insurance company they record the calls anything you say can and will be used to determine your claim. After an accident you re probably unsettled and upset. You may say things that actually damage your case, limiting the amount of money you get to repair your car or your final monetary settlement. And once you ve said something, you can t take it back. A smarter option is to have your attorney make the call for you. He or she will stick to the facts of the situation and leave emotion out of the conversation. Remember, an attorney is your ally, your advocate, and is there to protect your best interests at all time. 7. Myth: The insurance company will always make you a fair offer. Fact: Your insurance company is supposed to help pay for your expenses after your crash if it wasn t your fault. But remember, every dollar they pay you is a dollar they lose. So you have to ask yourself, whose interests are going to be their number one priority? Yours? Or theirs? Be prepared for the insurance company to offer you a quick settlement or low-ball offer that may not cover all your accident expenses or what you need to return your life to normal. If you have receipts for any recent repairs or enhancements
6 FACT done to your damaged car or truck, then present those for compensation. Be sure to check on the value of your car; there are numerous sites on the Internet that can help you with this task. Some consumer experts believe that some national insurance companies make it their policy to fight every claim, regardless of the dollar amount. Don t be afraid to hold your ground, to be strong, to be persistent, and ask for what you want. 8. Myth: Your auto insurance company will automatically give you everything you re entitled to under your policy. Fact: Unfortunately, this isn t allways the case. Sometimes you must ask for what is covered under your insurance policy. Review your insurance policy even if the accident was not your fault. Make sure your attorney also gets a copy of your current insurance policy. You may find that your own insurance policy may have extra coverage (such as medical payments medpay ) that adds to your total settlement, without increasing your own insurance premiums. Under The California Insurance Code, an insurer is prohibited from retaliating against you by increasing your premiums, or canceling your policy, as a result of paying you policy benefits when the accident was not your fault. In some instances, you might be better off letting your insurance company pay for the damage done to your vehicle out of your collision coverage, and to pay for a portion of your medical bills out of your medpay coverage. Please remember, each case is different; an attorney can advise you about these issues. 9. Myth: You have weeks to file the paperwork on your accident with the DMV office. Fact: A thousand things run through your head after an accident. You re concerned about your health, missing time at work, getting your car repaired. Paperwork is probably the last thing on your mind. Don t let it be. California law requires traffic accidents on a California street/highway or private property to be reported to the DMV within 10 days if there was an injury, death or property damage in excess of $750. You can download an SR 1 Report of Traffic Accident form by simply clicking here. Don t let weeks go by before you contact an attorney. Getting an attorney to work for you within the first two weeks of your accident will help protect your rights, help maximize your monetary compensation, and will make the entire process of dealing with the insurance company go smoother.
7 MYTH 10. Myth: If you get in an auto accident it s best to settle the issue on your own with the person who hit you. Fact: Let s say you re in an accident that appears to be the other driver s fault. If the driver offers a settlement on the spot, do not accept! The damage to your car and you may be far more than you realize and what you re being offered. Today s cars are very complex, and what may look like a little fender bender could mask extensive and costly internal damage to your vehicle. While you may feel fine in the first few moments after the crash, the physical affects of the accident may become apparent later that day or even the next day. While it may be tempting to accept payment on the spot and to sign a statement that closes your claim, don t do so without consulting an attorney. A harmless looking form may include statements in which you agree not to make any claims against the other person, or in which you accept liability for the accident. The forms and documents the insurance company asks you to sign can hurt you. It s in the insurance company s best interest to get you to sign a release of liability and settle the claim as soon as possible. If the insurance company settles a case early on, they know they can avoid medical expenses for injuries that haven t been discovered yet, or that have not been fully treated. Don t sign anything without first showing the document to an attorney. Take home any forms that anyone gives you and ask your attorney to review the document and make sure you re not giving away any of your legal rights or accepting fault, or taking a legal position you may later regret. 11. Myth: Passengers in auto accidents can t bring a claim against the person who hit them. Fact: If you re a passenger in an auto accident you can file a separate lawsuit against the party responsible for the auto accident. Your attorney can help you get monetary compensation, as well as medical treatment and lost wages even if the driver of the vehicle you were in is uninsured or at fault. 12. Myth: If an accident witness or tow truck driver offers you the business card of an attorney, it makes sense to call them. Fact: What may seem like a helpful gesture from a Good Samaritan could end up hurting your case. Sometimes the individual who hands you an attorney s business card is what is called a runner or capper. And they re paid by the attorney to get business for them. Any attorney who uses these people is violating the Business and Professional Code of The State
8 FACT Bar of California which forbids paying any non-attorney for the referral of cases. In the eyes of The State Bar and the courts, this practice is seen as ethically unsound. And the validity of your case and the motives of your attorney could be called into question.
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