Five Things NOT to Do if You are in a Car AccidentFeb. 28, 2023
By Melissa Heinlein, Esq.
Over the past 10 years I have represented many people in car accident injuries. Sometimes the best way to learn is by taking lessons from the past mistakes of others. Through my experience as a personal injury attorney in Minnesota, I have developed a top 5 list of things NOT to do if you are in an automobile collision. I would like to share these tips with you so you know how to protect your legal interests if you are ever in a car accident.
1) DO NOT LEAVE THE SCENE until after you have been told you may do so by responding authorities. No matter how serious or how minor the accident, it is important to wait for the police or highway patrol to arrive. Not only will you need a police report for any insurance claim, but it is a crime to leave the scene of an accident. In certain cases it is even a felony. If you need medical attention, wait for the emergency responders; they can best attend to your medical needs.
2) DO NOT LOSE YOUR TEMPER. Even the most mild-mannered individuals can be provoked to outbursts when an accident occurs. After a traumatic event like a car crash, your body floods with adrenaline, initiating your body's natural fight-or-flight response. Try to remember to take a deep breath, count to 10, or do whatever it takes to regain your composure. The last thing you want to do is make it appear that you are (or were) not in control of your emotions. You do not want to provide the other party with fuel or provocation to bring a lawsuit against you.
3) DO NOT APOLOGIZE. This is a difficult one for Minnesota nice. While it is fine to show concern and ask if the other driver or passengers are okay, do not apologize. Any apology could be used as an admission of fault by the other party or insurance company. Even if you feel you were at fault, you should always speak to your attorney or insurance company rather than the other party. Be polite and considerate, but do not be apologetic.
4) DO NOT SPEAK TO THE OTHER DRIVER'S ATTORNEY OR ANY INSURANCE COMPANY INVESTIGATORS (EVEN YOUR OWN). Statements you make can eventually be used as evidence. The best way to proceed is to contact an attorney who is experienced in Minnesota car accident cases. Let your attorney handle this communication, or at least advise you on how to proceed. If you are contacted by the other driver's attorney or insurance company, take a name and phone number and tell them you will get back to them. The same holds true for speaking to your own insurance company; get legal counsel first. Once you make a statement, it is hard to take it back. In case of a vehicle accident, you have certain rights, but statements you make without legal counsel could negatively impact your rights.
5) DO NOT TAKE THE INSURANCE COMPANY'S FIRST SETTLEMENT OFFER. You may be tempted to take the first check offered by the insurance company and move on with your life. However, the insurance company wants to settle the claim for as little as possible, so sometimes they will make an early and minimal settlement offer. This will be your only option to settle your case, and it is important that you have a full understanding of the extent of your injuries before accepting any offer to settle. Although sometimes being injured in a car accident puts people in financially difficult situations due to missing work or mounting medical bills, you are most likely entitled to far more compensation than you will be offered initially by the insurance company.
If you have been injured in a car accident and have questions about what you should do, I always offer a free 30-minute consultation. 612-333-5673. At Lord + Heinlein we are your powerful legal voice.