Top Five Mistakes People Make After An Auto Accident

By | May 16, 2011

Getting in a car accident can be a scary thing.  Heck, it can be downright shell-shocking, an experience you never forget.  One minute you’re going along with your day the same as you would any old day and another minute, you’re wondering what’s happened. This all-too-common experience is part of the risk we take when we use the roads these days, and it’s certainly part of the risk we take in trusting other drivers with our safety.Even so, just because potential accidents are part of the risk we take every day doesn’t mean there aren’t certain things we can learn in order to make our experience better. And if you’re already in an accident, then there’s little you can do to prevent it unless you’ve got a time machine – and we’re pretty sure those only exist in science fiction.  Here in the real world, ensuring that you don’t make mistakes after an auto accident can make the difference not only in peoples’ lives, but in their checkbooks – including yours.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the things you shouldn’t do after an auto accident – the types of things that make these accidents even worse.  If you understand what not to do, hopefully you’ll begin knowing what to do so that you can mitigate the effects a car accident has on your lives and on others.  Car accidents wouldn’t exist in an ideal world, but here in the real world, knowing how to avoid compiling mistakes on mistakes is sometimes the best we can do. Let’s take a look at the mistakes not to make.

Mistake #1: Driving away. Nothing turns a quick accident into a more serious crime more quickly than what essentially becomes a hit-and-run: driving away from the scene of an accident really makes you look at fault.  After all, why would someone drive away unless they had something to hide?  No amount of excuse-making or rationalizing will help make driving away after an accident be any better of a decision for you.  Once you’ve been in an accident the only responsible thing to do in this regard is to stay put and cooperate with any authorities who arrive on the scene.

Driving away from the scene of an accident can quickly turn the scene into that of a hit-and-run, which is substantially more serious than simply a “hit,” for example. In some cases, you’ll find that staying around and reporting the accident as faithfully as possible will result in far less scrutiny than you even thought.  The act of driving away because you’re scared of the consequences can actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy in which you force your fears about the seriousness of the situation to be realized rather than mitigating the damage by sticking around.

Mistake #2: Failing to gather good information. When you’ve been in an accident, you want to know as much about the other car owner as possible, as well as the make and model of their car.  You’ll want their insurance information, their name, their address, their home phone number – whatever information you can get on them in order to avoid problems in the future. Writing down the make, model, and license plate number of their car will also be important, as it’s a way for you to help ensure you’ve got tabs on the other person involved in the accident. Even if you consider yourself a trusting person, it’s good to follow the old adage of “trust but verify.”  It may sound cynical, but it’s important that you assume other people are not always going to cooperate fully.

Mistake #3: Not reporting the accident. Not reporting the accident is a mistake of the same type as Mistake #1, and although it might not be as serious at that mistake, it certainly qualifies as something you’ll want to avoid. You’d do best to simply contact the police after an accident – typically they’ll arrive, take down information, and let you know how to handle the situation. But if a police officer doesn’t arrive after you call them, it’s important to go down to the police station and report the accident yourself within 24 hours.  Reporting the accident will allow you to give them information up-front and will certainly go a long way in making you look less like the guilty party.

Mistake #4: Saying it was your fault. Chances are good that don’t know the law, so legal “fault” might actually be far different from what you think it is.  When a police officer hears you taking responsibility for the accident, then that can indeed be how the story plays out on paper rather in the way it could have played out: with you not being at fault because of something you didn’t notice the other driver doing.  Don’t try to talk too much after a car accident; rather give information neatly and succinctly in full cooperation with the police officer.  Just don’t start claiming it was your fault, because you never know where the legal fault really lies.

Mistake #5: Failing to document the scene. Take pictures of the damage, of the scene, of the accident location – anything you can think of to document the scene so that you have some record for later on that might prove what you’re saying is true.  Making sure you have a good record of the scene can also help you for insurance purposes, because an insurance company will want to know that you are indeed telling the truth about your accident.

Avoid these five crucial mistakes after a car accident and you should have a solid grasp on what to do. But there’s always more to learn and, hey, it doesn’t hurt to learn good safe driving practices before an accident, either.

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