As a personal injury lawyer who handles car accident cases, I hear a lot of things about car accidents and what to do after them—some true, but many more that are completely false. This is a list of the top 5 car accident myths that I routinely hear and what the actual truth is:
- If, at the scene, you think you are uninjured, then you can’t later sue if you are actually injured.
Many injuries take hours, days, weeks, or in the case of many brain injuries, even months or years to manifest. Just because you told the police officer at the scene of the crash that you did not need an ambulance, that does not prevent you from making an injury claim. Also, many people choose not to have an ambulance come and take them to the hospital because they are worried about the cost. As you later experience true pain from the wreck, you may still be able to bring a successful lawsuit.
- You have to give a statement to the insurance company.
You do not have to give a detailed statement to the other driver’s insurance company or yours. Giving a statement to an insurance company is very, very rarely in your best interest; instead, the insurance company hopes to prematurely lock you into a story, and then use it against you later. For example, after a car accident, if you give a statement from the scene and tell the insurance company you are not injured, then a few days later experience severe pain and make a claim, the insurance company will use your words against you. Don’t give the insurance company the chance to do that—remember, insurance companies lose money by paying claims. Typically, you only need to report to your insurance company that an accident happened and provide the when and where.
- All that matters is who the police say was at fault.
If you are in a car accident, you should call police so they can help anyone who is injured and create an accident report. The police officer may say who is to blame and give that driver a ticket, but many times juries in civil trials are not allowed to hear about tickets or who the police think is at fault. The rules of evidence only allow certain information to get to the jury, and that is one reason hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer is important.
- If you were even partly at fault, then you cannot file a claim.
Georgia is a “comparative negligence” state, which means that you may recover in a car wreck, even if you are partly to blame. You must, however, be less than 50% at fault to win your case. So, if you get into an accident with another driver, so long as the other driver is more at fault than you (maybe because he failed to yield), then you win. When a jury awards an amount, let’s say $100,000 but you are 25% at fault, then your recovery is reduced by that percentage—in this example, your award would be reduced by $25,000, so you would receive $75,000.
- My insurance rate will go up if I file a claim with my insurance company.
Your insurance rates will not go up just because you file a claim with your insurance company. In fact, Georgia car insurance laws prevent an insurance company from canceling your policy, refusing to renew your policy, or raising your rates if you are not at fault in the accident and filed a claim.
These are just some of the common myths I hear on a regular bases, but there are certainly more—lots more. We are experts at car accident cases—just like you are an expert in your job. When you are hurt in an accident, leave it to a legal expert to make sure that your case is handled properly.