Top Ten Mistakes Made By Car Accident Victims
Award-winning car accident attorney Chris Davis is the author of the popular legal guide book The Ten Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Washington Accident Case. In addition to educating victims about the legal claims process, the book also provides real-world examples of the more frequent mistakes that people make after a serious accident. These common mistakes include:
- Victim does not call police or gather information at the accident scene. If you fail to obtain accurate information about the other driver it can cause problems in your insurance or legal claim. Not calling the police can also be a big problem, especially if there is a dispute about who caused the accident. If you have a camera, then taking photos of the vehicles and the accident scene is very helpful.
- Waiting days or weeks to get medical treatment. The more time that elapses following the accident before you first seek treatment the more difficult it may be to prove that either your injury was caused by the accident or that your injury is severe enough to justify a claim for compensation.
- Sharing too much information with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Giving a “recorded statement” to the insurance company and/or signing medical authorizations is a big mistake. Innocent statements and past medical history can be used by the insurance company to minimize your injuries or undermine your case.
- Not hiring an attorney immediately when injuries are serious. If the claim is serious enough to involve a personal injury attorney, it is usually preferable to do so early in the claim. Often times, a lawyer can spot potential problems with the claim or anticipate defenses from the insurance company very early on and take efforts to avoid them or minimize their impact. But if you wait months or years after the accident the attorney is stuck with whatever mistakes were made early on.
- Hiding past accidents from the lawyer. Insurance companies keep extensive accident history files and will look for ways to connect your injury or condition to a previous collision. If you hide a prior accident history from your attorney it can severely damage your case if not destroy it.
- Attorney refers accident victim to a doctor. Insurance companies are highly suspicious of people who are referred to a doctor by a lawyer immediately after the accident, particularly if this is the first and only doctor that was seen.
- Hiding past injuries or medical conditions from the lawyer. You need to inform your lawyer about injuries or medical conditions that existed before the accident. If your lawyer knows about your medical history from the beginning, then they can minimize how it might impact your accident claim.
- Making damaging statements to the doctor that show up in the records. You need to be aware that any statement you make to your doctor can show up in the medical records and then be a permanent “record” in the case. For example, describing your injury as “not that bad” or describing the accident as “minor”.
- Failing to attend all medical appointments or has “gaps” in treatment. People who miss appointments or who stop and restart treatment after a long period (weeks or months) can seriously damage the case. It can also be difficult to prove that treatment received after a significant “gap” in time was related in injuries caused by the accident.
- Misrepresenting injuries or activity level. Insurance companies routinely hire private investigators to monitor people who claim they were injured in an accident. If you misrepresent your limitations or activity level the insurance company may dig up “hidden camera” footage or social media posts that can destroy your credibility and ruin your case.
Click Here to get your free copy of The Ten Biggest Mistakes
What Types Of Auto Accidents In Washington State?
A motor vehicle collision can happen in a number of different ways, and no two accidents are identical. Some of the more common types of car accidents we see at Davis Law Group include:
- Head-On Crashes: When two vehicles collide head-on, the violent impact can cause very serious injuries or death. These collisions often involve a drowsy or distracted driver, or someone who is driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Hit-And-Run Collisions: Tracking down the responsible driver after a hit-and-run collision can be difficult. The right team of investigators and attorneys on your side can make all the difference.
- Rollover Accidents: Rollover accidents typically occur in situations where a vehicle is trying to avoid a collision, such as with another vehicle or an object or animal in the roadway. Defective vehicles and negligent roadway design can also play a role in these types of crashes.
- Rear-End Collisions: While liability for a rear-end crash typically rests on the following vehicle, it's still important to conduct a thorough investigation into the collision and determine other possible contributing factors.
- T-Bone (Side-Impact) Collisions: T-bone accidents are perhaps most common at intersections where one driver has run a stop sign or red light. These collisions typically occur at high-speeds and leave innocent victims with serious, life-changing injuries.
- Pedestrian Accidents: Pedestrians are vulnerable to serious injury in a collision because, unlike motorists, they are not protected by a vehicle. Liability can be difficult to prove in pedestrian accident cases, and in many cases witness testimony is crucial.
- Parking Lot Accidents: Parking lots are private property, which can cause a number of legal issues in the event of an accident. Accidents can be serious even at low speeds, and often involve pedestrians or bicyclists.
- Bicycle Accidents: Bicyclists share the road with motorists, but the size difference and visibility issues create a significant risk of serious injury or death. Bicyclists often do not have their own insurance, which means a thorough investigation is necessary.
- Freeway On-Ramp Or Off-Ramps: Improperly or illegally-parked vehicles can cause a serious collision on the on-ramp or off-ramp of a freeway or highway. Injuries are often serious because of the high speed nature of accidents that occur on a freeway or highway.
- Illegal Turns: Illegal left-hand turns and U-turns at traffic signals or in uncontrolled intersections can lead to a serious accident, and liability may be disputed.
- Side-Swipes: At low speeds, a side-swipe accident is likely to be minor and result in very little, if any, injury. At high speeds, however, the sudden impact and drivers' reactions can cause a major collision with extensive damage and potentially serious injuries.
What Are The Most Common Causes Of Vehicle Accidents?
It is important to understand that all car accident cases are different and unique in some way or another. That being said, there are some common factors and causes that we often see in car accident cases, including:
- Distracted Driving: One of the most common causes of car accidents. Drivers are often distracted by the cell phones, GPS systems, or other passengers inside of the vehicle.
- Alcohol Impairment (DUI): Drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs pose a serious risk to other motorists.
- Drug Impairment: Studies show that drugged drivers experience slowed reaction times, increasing their chances of being involved in a serious collision.
- Dangerous Roadways: Municipalities have a duty to ensure roadway design issues do not jeopardize public safety. If a dangerous roadway leads to an accident, the department of transportation or other government agencies may be held legally responsible.
- Elderly Drivers: Pursuing an injury claim or lawsuit against an elderly driver can be difficult, but with serious injuries and medical bills you may have no other choice.
- Inexperienced Teen Drivers: Teen drivers and those with limited driving experience often react slowly to a potential crash and may have a poor understanding of traffic laws.
- Reckless Driving: Vehicles traveling over the speed limit or following too closely often cause serious and even fatal car accidents.
- Defective Vehicles & Parts: Malfunctioning equipment or poorly-maintained cars and parts can break down and make it difficult for drivers to control their vehicles.
- Roadway Debris: Drivers who fail to secure their load can be subject to a citation. In the event that an accident results from roadway debris, the driver who left the debris behind could be held legally responsible for any damages that may result.
- Uncontrolled Intersections: Drivers are expected to exercise reasonable caution at uncontrolled intersections. Liability for these accidents is often heavily disputed, so hiring an attorney can be very beneficial to victims.
- Police Chases: Police must consider public safety when pursuing a suspect, and failure to exercise reasonable care can lead to legal liability for a crash.
- Speeding: Drivers traveling too fast for conditions is one of the most commonly-cited factors in collision reports in Washington state, and the person who is guilty of speeding is often the person who is legally responsible for causing the accident.
- Snow Or Black Ice: Winter weather conditions are a common issue in Washington state. It's important to conduct a thorough investigation after an accident involving snow or ice on the roadway.
- Wrong-Way Drivers: Drivers who travel in the wrong direction of a road or highway put the public at serious risk of injury or death. These drivers are often under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What Are Common Kinds Of Car Accident Injuries?
Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of personal injury in Washington state and throughout the United States. And although no two car accident cases are alike, some types of injuries are more common in auto accident cases than others. Some of the more common types of injuries our clients often suffer in motor vehicle accidents include:
- Lower Back Injuries: Lower back injuries can range from general sprains and strains to torn ligaments or broken vertebrae. Getting a clear diagnosis of your injuries after a collision is crucial to building a strong case.
- Torn Ligaments: Ligament injuries can take a long time to materialize or become apparent. Certain types of imaging may not detect torn ligaments, so a thorough review of medical records and treatment recommendations is important.
- Traumatic Brain Injury: Head and brain injuries are common in motor vehicle collisions because occupants' heads can jolt and impact other stationary objects inside of the vehicle, such as a steering wheel, dashboard, or window.
- Spinal Cord Injury: The violent motion of a vehicular accident can cause injuries to the spine or spinal cord. These injuries are very serious and can potentially lead to life-changing conditions such as paralysis or loss of function.
- Herniated & Bulging Discs: Discs provide critical support to the spine, but herniated or bulging discs are extremely painful and can make it difficult to walk or perform basic tasks.
- Pregnancy Complications: Pregnant mothers are extremely vulnerable in the event of a crash, and a serious collision can cause harm to a developing baby.
- Fractures & Broken Bones: Broken bones are often painful and may require expensive medical treatment, including surgery, in order to make a full recovery.
- Lacerations: Large cuts can result in significant blood loss, infection, permanent scarring, and other complications that can complicate the auto accident claims process.
- Burn Injuries: High-impact crashes may lead to a vehicle catching fire, and burn injuries can take a great deal of time to recover from - both physically and emotionally.
- Amputations: In extreme cases, accident victims may suffer injuries to an extremity that require amputation. Victims in these cases typically experience severe psychological and emotional trauma.
- Death: Automobile accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and family members who suffer the loss of a loved one may pursue a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party.
What Is My Washington Car Accident Case Worth? Average Settlement?
You are probably wondering what amount of financial compensation is fair for your case. The specific dollar amount will depend on the unique facts of your case, but there are a few common factors to consider when attempting to determine value of an injury claim. There is no magic formula or process by which an attorney can predict with certainty the amount of money a person is entitled to receive, especially where damages are awarded for ‘pain and suffering’ and ‘loss of enjoyment of life.’
However, our office will usually have a pretty good idea of a reasonable settlement range after your medical condition has stabilized. We rely on such factors as the extent and permanency of your injuries, the effect your injuries have had on your life, the amount and duration of your medical treatment, prior jury verdicts and/or arbitration awards received for similar injuries, etc.
What Kind Financial Compensation Can Car Accident Victims Get?
There are essentially two types of damages that are recoverable in a car accident claim; economic damages, and non-economic damages. Past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, and the cost of necessary household services are examples of economic damages. Non-economic damages include losses that are more subjective, such as mental and physical pain and suffering, humiliation, emotional distress, and even damage to a person's reputation.
The potential result that may come from your case depends on a number of different factors, including:
- Medical Expenses. You are entitled to seek compensation for all medical bills related to the injuries you suffered in the car accident. If you are going to require future medical care and treatment, those expenses will also be included in the resolution of your case.
- Non-economic Damages. You may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other damages that you have suffered as a result of the accident. Understanding what you are legally permitted to recover allows us to get you the best possible result.
- Lost Wages & Earnings. Compensation for wage loss is usually based on how much money you would have earned if you had not been injured. Car accident cases have long-term implications, and we will do everything we can to ensure your financial future is protected.
- At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Coverage. If the at-fault driver was carrying a policy with low liability limits, you’re unlikely to receive anything over those limit amounts, unless that driver has significant assets. Our legal team will investigate every possible avenue and source of recovery to ensure that you get what you deserve.
- Your Insurance Coverage. If you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, your chances of being compensated fully are much higher. Unfortunately, even your own insurance company is likely to put up a fight over these benefits, and we can help make sure they offer fair compensation for you and your family.
- Potential Litigation. Insurance companies want to avoid the risk of a jury awarding a large verdict to accident victims at all costs. A willingness to file a lawsuit can sometimes put additional pressure on the insurance company to settle the case fairly.
It is important that you hire a qualified attorney who has experience in handling car accident claims. Experienced attorneys can ensure that victims get the full value that they deserve. You only get one chance to resolve a car accident case, so it's important that your attorney includes all of the recoverable damages in your claim.
How Can A Car Accident Lawyer Help?
Insurance companies are in business to make profit, and their revenue comes from customers' insurance policy payments, while their largest expense is paying out claims. Most car accident victims have a limited understanding of their own legal rights after being injured in a collision, and the insurance companies use this to their advantage during the negotiations process. Many of the car accident victims we speak with are shocked at the low-ball offers they receive after submitting their claims to the insurance companies.
In order to maximize their profitability, insurance adjusters will do just about anything they can to decrease the value of valid personal injury claims. Hiring an attorney who is not afraid to take your case to trial gives you more power and a higher likelihood of an excellent result.
Studies by the Insurance Research Council have shown that on average, claimants who hired a lawyer received a settlement that was 3 and a half times more than they would have if they had tried to negotiate on their own. Insurance companies are in business to make profit; their largest expense is paying out claims, which means that they have a strong incentive to try to convince accident victims to take lower payouts. You can learn more about this study by downloading our free report: Why Injury Victims Who Hire A Lawyer Receive Larger Settlements.
Free Consultation: Your Questions Answered, Your Legal Options Explained
Most car accident victims don’t understand their legal rights, and the insurance companies use this to their advantage during the negotiations process. At Davis Law Group, we focus treat our clients like part of our family. When you hire us, you can expect:
Personalized Care. We give each of our clients the time and attention they deserve, and our experienced legal team keeps each client up-to-date with the progress and status of their unique case.
Commitment to Justice. We want to make sure each client gets the best settlement or verdict that is reasonably possible. While other law firms may leave money on the table in order to settle your case more quickly, we take the extra time to get the best possible results for every client.
Constant Communication. We don’t just want the best results for our clients - we want to make sure they understand the process from start to finish. You’ll receive free books and information from our law firm about your car accident case, always written in plain English.
Our legal team is dedicated to helping you get the best possible result for your car accident injury case, as we have for each and every one of our clients over the past 25 years. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, it may be in your best interests to consult with an experienced auto accident attorney.
Don't trust your legal rights and financial future with just anyone else, hire the award-winning attorneys at Davis Law Group. We offer a free case review to all car accident victims and our law firm works on a contingency fee basis, which means there are no up-front fees and you do not owe anything until we successfully resolve your case. Call our office at (206) 727-4000.