Being involved in a car accident is bad enough, but now you face the hassle of dealing with the insurance companies. This can be a particularly complicated process, even when the accident was not your fault. You will be working with the insurance company of the at-fault driver through an adjuster who will make protecting the insurance company’s bottom line a priority — not you or your right to fair compensation.

At the Law Offices of Patrick S. O’Brien in St. Louis, we have more than three decades of experience and a long history of achieving high-value settlements. We have seen many common mistakes that people make before and after filing an insurance claim, so this article offers information that we wish injured people knew when starting the process.

Be sure to watch what you say after an accident

If you have been involved in a crash, it is important to avoid saying anything that could be construed as accepting blame for the accident. Your comments at the scene may be used as evidence against you later.

You need to gather information and documentation at the scene, not later

If there is no medical emergency that needs urgent attention right after the accident, then stay right where you are and gather as much information as possible at the scene. A car accident can be a tragic and exhausting ordeal and we know it is tempting to simply take down the number of the other individual involved and work out the details later, but we urge you to get as much information as possible right away.

Collect the contact and insurance information of the other drivers involved. Also, look around for any witnesses to the collision who can give their account of the events, if need be. Don’t forget to use your cell phone to take pictures of the scene, preferably with all vehicles still in place as the accident occurred.

See a doctor as soon as possible after the accident, even if you believe you are uninjured

It is important for your health and well-being – and the success of your claim – to be evaluated by a medical doctor to identify any injuries, even if you believe you are uninjured. Some very serious injuries may not show immediate symptoms. It is common for 24 to 48 hours may pass before the painful symptoms of whiplash appear. Other far more serious injuries, such as a brain injury or internal organ damage, may not have obvious symptoms but are life threatening if not treated immediately.

Also, get these things checked out as soon as possible so that there is no question about the timing of the injury. If you wait too long to see a doctor, the insurance company could argue that your injury was due to something post-accident and therefore unrelated.

Don’t agree to an off-the-books arrangement because your damages may be more extensive than they first appear

If the at-fault driver offers to cover your losses without involving the insurance companies, it is vital that you refuse to agree to this arrangement. You have no way of knowing if the other driver will follow through or even has the financial capacity to cover the cost of your damages. Your injuries and property damage may be more extensive than they first appear.

Failure to report an accident to your insurance company could jeopardize your right to file a claim or receive assistance in collecting compensation from the at-fault driver.

Once again, ALWAYS report the accident to the insurance company

Don’t accept a settlement offer right away – you could receive more compensation if you seek the consultation of an attorney
The insurance company’s goal is to pay you as little as possible. Insurance company representatives may try to pressure you into settling a claim quickly, but the amount offered may not fairly compensate you for your injuries and other damages. Your medical expenses could be far more than you originally expected, and the settlement should adequately compensate you for any lasting damage.

Once you have settled with the insurance company, you will be bound by the settlement agreement. If you discover the settlement amount did not fully cover your losses, there will be nothing you can do about it. A knowledgeable St. Louis car accident lawyer at the Law Offices of Patrick S. O’Brien can protect your rights and help you avoid the risk of agreeing to a settlement offer that is less than you deserve. As a nationally-recognized personal injury law firm with an extensive history of achieving high value settlements, we are deeply committed to protecting the rights of people who have been seriously injured in vehicle accidents across St. Louis and beyond. Contact us today to discuss your case.