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Biggest Mistakes to Avoid After a Car Accident in Virginia

Involvement in a car accident can be a jarring and stressful situation. However, there are certain things individuals should always avoid doing if they want to best protect themselves after a car accident – both physically and financially. Below, a Virginia car accident lawyer highlights some important things people should remember if and when they’re ever involved in a car accident.

#1 Not Seeking Medical Treatment Soon After Injury

One big mistake is that people don’t seek treatment quickly enough. Maybe they don’t realize how badly they’re hurting until a few days later and then at that point, they think they can tough it out. Delaying seeking treatment never helps the case but always hurts it. Either go to your primary care physician or to the emergency room and then from there you’ll likely be told to follow up with your primary care physician or to a specialist. If you go to your primary care doctor, they also might refer you to a specialist depending on your injuries.

Establishing care as soon as you know you’ve been injured is extremely important. People frequently refuse medical care at the scene. It’s always better to accept medical treatment if you know you’ve been hurt. That’s not an insurmountable obstacle but delaying treatment really does make things more difficult when you’re trying to prove the causation of your injuries.

#2 Not Following Up With a Doctor/Treatment Program

Sometimes, people will be good about seeking treatment initially and say they have neck and back injuries and will go to the emergency room. Then, their primary care physician might either prescribe physical therapy or send them to an orthopedic surgeon.

Maybe they go to the orthopedic surgeon or therapy several times and think they’re getting better or that it’s not helping so they quit. Then a few months down the road they find out they’re really in a lot of pain and go back to see a doctor.

No matter what kind of doctor it is, a few months without any treatment makes it very difficult to show that those injuries were actually the result of the accident and not something else that happened in between. So delays in treatment or gaps in treatment are two big problems for cases and they’re really easy to avoid, but they’re still very common mistakes people make.

#3 Failing to Mitigate Your Damages

Failing to mitigate your damages is another big mistake. In Virginia, you have an obligation to mitigate your damages which basically means doing whatever you can to minimize how badly the accident affects your life. So if you’re told by your doctor that you can accept light duty work at your job and decide you’re not going to work at all,  that’s going to be a problem.

It’s going to be a problem for claiming your lost wages. It’s going to be a problem because in that scenario you will have failed to mitigate damages. If you just sit there and let things get out of control and fail to follow your doctor’s orders that can be a problem too. You always need to follow your doctor’s orders even if you’re going as frequently as they’re recommending.

#4 Giving Recorded Statements to the Other Party’s Insurance Company

Some other big mistakes that people make are to give a recorded statement to the other insurance company. That’s something that cannot be undone and even if you get a lawyer after doing so, there’s not much that lawyer can do. You’ve made a recorded statement and that statement can be used against you later and you can bet it will be. Nothing good comes out of giving a recorded statement right after an accident. There’s nothing to gain and there’s a lot to lose, so that’s another big mistake people make.

#5 Accepting a Settlement Offer Right Away

Another mistake people make is accepting a settlement offer right away after sustaining injuries. Sometimes people want to settle their claim before they know the full extent of their damages, but more often an insurance company will try to make a low settlement offer to resolve the case quickly. In Virginia, there is a little protection there: if you do accept a settlement offer within 30 days of the accident, you can revoke that settlement under some circumstances, but it is a tough process. There are some procedural hoops you’ve got to jump through. It’s better to just wait and see how badly you’re injured, talk to a lawyer and take your time going through the process, building your claim, and negotiating a fair resolution to your claim.

#6 Not Being Aware of the Statute of Limitations

I think the last mistake people frequently make is not being aware of the statute of limitations. Some people hear that some states have three year statutes of limitations and assume it’s the same with Virginia. That’s not the case. Virginia has a two year statute of limitations. Especially if someone has a long course of treatment, they might not even think about the statute of limitations until they are released from care. They might just think they need to get better and then they’ll worry later about getting compensated for their injuries. In that case, it could be too late.

If you receive treatment for your injuries for more than two years and then you try to make a claim, it’s going to be too late because Virginia has a strict two year statute of limitations. Unless you’re a minor or face some other very rare unique circumstances (like incapacitation), there’s not going to be any way to toll that statute and once that statute runs out, you’re out of luck.

Ways to Avoid Making These Mistakes

Thankfully they’re all simple. The first couple of easy things to do are to go seek treatment if you know you’ve been hurt and then to follow your doctor’s orders. If you do those things, there won’t be gaps in treatment and there won’t be a delay in treatment. Following your doctor’s orders also will help to mitigate your damages. Just do what your doctors tell you and work on getting better or getting back to work. That’s really pretty simple. Know that you’re not obligated to make a statement to the other insurance company and that you have plenty of time to evaluate things. I would of course advise you to seek counsel to help you with some of the other ways to avoid mistakes.

Knowing the statute of limitations is important because you know that there is time to work on getting better and that you’re not in any hurry to settle your claim in the short term after your accident. You need to know the full extent of your damages before you settle your claim whether you have an attorney or not. Another thing that you can do to take care of avoiding mistakes is to seek legal counsel, that way your attorney can guide you through the process and help you to avoid all of the mistakes I just mentioned.

If you contact and hire an attorney to represent you in your case, they will be aware of these pitfalls and will help you navigate through the system successfully. Use common sense, follow your doctor’s orders, and hire an attorney. That’s pretty much what you need to do to avoid mistakes.

Reasons People May Make These Mistakes

There’s a whole host of reasons. Some of it is that people don’t have health insurance so they don’t want to seek treatment because they don’t know how to pay for it. Unfortunately, that’s a problem we run into a lot of the time. There are ways to deal with that. If you need to go to the emergency room first, after receiving emergency care you will probably be told to follow up with your primary care physician. Maybe you don’t have a primary care physician or you don’t have insurance and don’t know how you’ll pay for it. If you talk to an attorney, they may be able to help you figure that out.

Most attorneys are familiar with doctors because of the clients they have had over the years. If a client needs care and doesn’t have a primary care doctor or doesn’t have insurance or the ability to pay, in a situation like that, we can usually enter into an assignment and authorization or another agreement by which the provider will agree to provide services and treatment to our clients but wait for payment until the conclusion of a case.

Every doctor is different. Every case is different. You also may have medical payment benefits on your automobile insurance policy that can cover some of those costs. So it’s really just something that a lot of people aren’t aware of, or they’re worried about how they’re going to pay for medical care so they don’t seek treatment.

Another reason is people think they can tough it out and get through the pain. Another one is that people are so busy that they don’t really think about things until it’s too late. With physical therapy, it frequently doesn’t feel like it’s helping at first. You might feel like PT is actually hurting because the first few days, the first few sessions you’re going to be in a lot of pain. You might feel worse than you did when you went in there.

But continuing to go and following the doctor’s orders is something that’s extremely important to get on the road to recovery and to build a strong case. A lot of people may think it’s not helping so they quit going to treatment. It’s understandable from a human perspective but from a legal perspective, it’s problematic for your case. So I think those are some of the reasons that people make some of these mistakes.

Another thing is that the average person just doesn’t have any reason to know some of these things because most people haven’t been involved in an accident where they’ve been injured. You really need to kind of have an idea about what the situation is which is why it’s important to contact the lawyer as soon as you can. We deal with these issues on a daily basis and we can help guide you through the process and make sure that you receive the care that you need while avoiding the mistakes that are often made by injury victims.