After a car accident resulting in injuries, the steps you take are critical to protecting your ability to recover your damages. When financial needs, legal issues, and insurance become involved, victims need to have the facts about their rights and how the process works.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our Washington, DC car accident lawyers have worked with many victims who have suffered harm in all types of auto accidents involving negligence. When victims reach out to us, we take the time to understand their situation and explain their options for pursuing justice and compensation. While we know our immediate involvement in a case can ensure victims take the most appropriate course of action, we also know that there are many myths and misconceptions that can lead them astray.
By debunking the following myths about car accidents and compensation, we hope to educate accident victims about their rights and what they should be doing to protect them:
1) If another driver was at fault, his or her insurance company will fairly compensate me, even if I do not hire a lawyer.
While it is true victims injured by another driver’s negligence have the right to pursue financial compensation for their damages – including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more – that compensation is never automatically awarded or guaranteed. This is largely due to insurance companies and their efforts to pay as little as possible. After all, insurance companies are businesses focused on their bottom line, and they often place profits over people. It is the norm for insurers to utilize their resources and tactics to deny, dispute, and underpay claims. To avoid being victimized by an insurance company that wants to pay you as little as they can, you can work with experienced and resourceful attorneys who can level the playing field and fight for your interests.
2) You can settle with the responsible driver and insurance company without a lawyer.
Victims should remember insurance companies defending claims against their policy holders are in business to collect premiums, not to pay victims. They are not on your side. Though it may not be fair or ethical, insurance companies will often attempt to quickly settle claims with injured victims in hopes of paying far less than they would otherwise pay if the victim had representation. The truth is that accepting a low-ball settlement early on in a case can prove devastating to victims who don’t yet know the full scope of their injuries and damages. This can leave them without the financial means to cover needed medical treatment they might require in the future, as well as other losses that may arise in connection to the injuries, such as missed wages caused by time away from work. Settling without a lawyer puts you at risk of securing compensation that is less than you need and deserve.
3) Injuries get better on their own, if you don’t have a broken bone.
Many victims believe that they do not need medical treatment if they do not have a life threatening injury. However, very often what appear to be minor neck or back injuries, or sprain or strains, turn out to be permanent life long, nagging injuries, if not properly treated early. Waiting to seek medical attention, or stopping medical treatment too early, can compromise both your health and any personal injury claim. Following a car accident, medical attention should be your top priority. Some injuries may not present themselves until time passes after a crash, and there may be serious complications that can arise when seemingly minor injuries go untreated. Additionally, when victims wait to seek medical treatment, or stop treating prematurely, insurance companies often perceive that as a sign that the person was not really injured.
4) Even if I was partially at-fault for an accident, I can still recover compensation.
While this may be true in some states, it is generally not in Washington, DC car accident cases. Because the District of Columbia, as well as Maryland and Virginia, recognize the doctrine of contributory negligence, victims harmed in auto accidents can be barred from recovering their damages from the at-fault driver if they are even 1% at fault for what happened. Although contributory negligence was recently eliminated in the Washington, DC in cases involving pedestrians and bicyclists injured by motor vehicles, it still applies to cases involving vehicle to vehicle collisions. As such, it becomes important for victims to never discuss fault or apologize after a wreck, particularly because they don’t know all the facts, and to work with attorneys who can defend against allegations that an injured driver contributed in some way to a wreck.
Believing a myth or misconception about car accidents and compensation, or acting on them in any way, ultimately puts you at risk of receiving less than you deserve, or nothing at all. By working with our award-winning lawyers at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., you can benefit from having the facts and from working with proven advocates committed to protecting your rights and maximizing your recovery. To discuss a potential car accident case and how our firm can help you, contact us for a FREE consultation.