What not to do after a car accident: Tips for dealing with insurance companies

One of the biggest challenges after a car accident is dealing with the insurance companies. You pay premiums year after year, and you expect that your insurance company will come through when you need it. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

Accident victims often make the mistake of assuming their insurance company is on their side. They're not careful about protecting their rights and, as a result, they end up leaving large sums of money on the table.

Protect yourself in the wake of an accident by following these tips:

  • Don't apologize. After an accident, you may feel shaken and worried - or perhaps even embarrassed. Yet by saying "I'm sorry," you may create the perception that you were at fault. In most cases, a thorough investigation is the only way to determine fault. Protect yourself - and your rights - by resisting the urge to apologize.
  • Don't make a statement. You should never feel pressured into making a formal statement with the insurance company. As they say in the criminal law context, "Anything you say can and will be used against you." The insurance company won't hesitate to back you into a corner if it's to their benefit. Then they will have a record that may limit your rights later.
  • Don't accept a settlement without talking to a lawyer. It takes time and money for insurance companies to deal with claim disputes. Often, in an attempt to resolve claims quickly, they will make an offer that seems tempting at the time. However, don't be fooled. The full extent of your injuries - and therefore your financial losses - may not yet be apparent. You don't want to be tied to a settlement that turns out to be only pennies on the dollar of what you actually deserve.
  • Don't put off seeking medical treatment. Getting a prompt and thorough medical evaluation is critical for establishing your claim. Even if you feel fine at first, some injuries can take days or weeks to become apparent - especially those affecting the back and neck.
  • Don't try to represent yourself. Your insurance company has a team of lawyers on its side to look out for only one set of interests: its own. You, too, need an advocate. A personal injury lawyer can level the playing field and ensure that your rights don't get trampled.

Nobody gets behind the wheel expecting to be involved in an accident. If it does happen, though, it's important to be prepared - and that means making wise choices when it matters most.

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