You’re sitting at the red light at an intersection. You have a minute so you’re looking at your cell phone; maybe you’re switching the channel on your radio. Bam! Before you know it, you’ve been hit from behind by a vehicle that didn’t stop in time.
You jump out, not believing you are injured, look at your car and survey the very minor damage. You and the other driver decide that it’s not worth the trouble of calling the police, filing reports, and contacting your insurance companies. You both drive away.
You’ve just made a very poor decision.
In most states, failing to report an accident, even if it’s just a fender bender, is illegal. It becomes a citable offense when you get in your car and drive away. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you were injured or if the vehicles didn’t sustain damage. An accident is an accident.
Aside from the legalities of the issue, you may have just ruined any potential claim you may have against the other driver. Here’s the problem:
Studies have shown that there are several injuries a person can sustain in a car accident that don’t show up for days after the incident. You get hit from behind, you’re barely jolted and you feel fine. You have no obvious injury and you would know if you were hurt — wouldn’t you?
Not always. People often think of “injuries” as broken bones, lacerations, and even head trauma. Our minds turn to severe, life-altering conditions. We don’t often consider stained tendons, stretched ligaments, or contusions, but we should.
If your body went forward, your neck snapped back or you moved forward in a sudden manner, you may wake up with severe back pain tomorrow or the next day. The adrenaline following an accident can mask an injury.
If you drive away from the scene and fail to make a report with either the police or your insurance (or both), you will have a difficult time taking your personal injury to court, even if you have a medical professional on your side.
Everything is fine. You exchange information, shake hands and go about your business. Several weeks later, you are summonsed to court because the “other” guy has filed their own claim against you. You know they were at fault and you know that the injuries they are claiming and the property damage they say you caused are exaggerated if not downright false. Remember when you chose to drive away without a report? You’ve now stepped solidly into a “you say, they say” type of situation.
In truth, most of these types of suits won’t get very far. After all, the other guy left the scene, too. But do you really want to deal with the hassle and time it’s going to take to answer the summons, potentially appear for hearings, and argue on your behalf when you know you were in the right? Chances are you have better things to do.
Maybe you and the other party didn’t drive away. Perhaps there was damage to one or both of your vehicles and you felt a police report was in order. You file with your insurance companies and the other party is found to be at fault. Their insurance company offers you a settlement and you take it. It seems the easiest thing to do and will enable you to get your car fixed more quickly. Wait a minute.
An insurance company is a business and they are out for their bottom line, not your best interests. If you accept an insurance settlement, the paperwork will likely say that you are giving up your right to any future legal action. It’s not unusual for people to believe that an insurance company offers what’s fair — and it’s not unusual for that to not be close to the truth.
Wait… what? Ok, so that is a bit of clickbait. The truth is that every attorney will cost you, but almost every personal injury attorney works on a contingency basis. This means that they take their fee out of the settlement they achieve for you.
Even better, most will talk to you for free during a case evaluation. You can make an appointment, speak with an experienced West Palm Beach, talk to them about any settlement offers you’ve been given, and ask about your rights under current state law.
This means that money won’t be a deciding factor when you are thinking about hiring an attorney. It also means that you should absolutely speak to a car accident lawyer following your collision. You have nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain.
If you were involved in a car accident in Florida, give the West Palm Beach car accident lawyers at Steinger, Iscoe & Greene a call today. It will cost you nothing to speak with a member of our team, and we are more than willing to review your legal rights with you to be sure you understand each of your options in depth.
Our family is here for yours. We will fight tirelessly on your behalf, working to secure the compensation you are entitled to. Don’t rely on an insurance company to do what’s right; rely on us instead. Give us a call 24/7; justice never sleeps.