After a fender-bender, the drivers usually get out of the car and ask if anyone was hurt. If there are no injuries, they then usually move on to surveying the vehicle damage. Sometimes people fear that reporting accident-related vehicle damage to their insurance companies will cause their car insurance premiums to increase, especially if they are at fault for the accident.
Therefore, if one driver is almost sure that the insurance companies will find him at fault for the accident, he may offer to pay for the repairs to the other driver’s car out of his own pocket. In minor accidents, there is no harm in doing this, but for accidents that involve personal injuries or even accidents that involve major vehicle damage but no injuries, it is risky to try to settle matters with the other driver off the record. You give up important legal rights, and you lose the opportunity for various strong pieces of evidence if a dispute should arise that would require a car accident injury lawsuit.
Early Documentation Is Key
After a car accident, you should go to a doctor’s office or hospital to be examined as soon as possible, preferably on the day of the accident. The report from this visit could determine the outcome of a personal injury lawsuit. Even if you do not start to experience pain until several days after the accident, or even several weeks later, you will have an entry in your medical records showing that the event that led to the pain was the accident and not some undocumented incident that happened in the same week.
Reporting the accident to insurance companies and then having a medical professional assess your health immediately after the accident is the best way to show that you are not trying to blame your pre-existing pain on the unlucky driver who happened to hit your car. If the other driver insists on not getting insurance companies involved, you can always report the accident to your insurance company later that day without the other driver’s knowledge, and you can, of course, go to the emergency room later that day.
Requesting and Receiving Non-Economic Damages
One of the biggest things you could lose if you try to settle matters privately with the other driver is the opportunity for non-economic damages. Imagine if the driver cannot deny that the accident was his fault, but he really doesn’t want anyone else to find out about the accident (maybe he was on a date with his mistress, and if the accident gets reported, his wife will find out about the affair), so he offers to pay for your vehicle repairs and medical treatment.
Even if you have the audacity to ask him to pay you for pain and suffering, how do the two of you, off the record, determine the amount? You would need to do it in court, where the court would apply the general damages multiplier.
Contact Stevenson Klotz About Car Accident Cases
Unofficial “gentlemen’s agreements” about assuming financial responsibility for car accidents are a fact of life, but even if someone offers you one, you should document everything and contact a Pensacola car accident lawyer. Contact Stevenson Klotz in Mobile, Alabama, to discuss your case and to see whether you have grounds for a lawsuit.
Following graduation from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, Eric Stevenson held a number of positions including Assistant State Attorney in the First Judicial Circuit of Florida. Eric has been practicing with partner Christopher Klotz since 2015 litigating personal injury and car accidents in Alabama and Florida.