22 Things Not to Do After a Car Accident

22 Things Not to Do After a Car Accident

April 12, 2024

Car accidents, whether minor fender benders or more serious collisions, can be chaotic and traumatic experiences.

In the immediate aftermath, it’s natural to feel a mix of shock, anxiety, and confusion.

Your mind races as you check for injuries, assess the damage, and deal with the other involved parties.

However, in these critical moments, your actions can significantly influence the outcomes of the incident — legally, financially, and personally.

22 Things Not to Do After a Car Accident by Nathan Whittenburg Expert Contributor of TruLawsuit Info and Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer

While most advice focuses on what you should do, it’s equally important to know the things not to do after a car accident.

Making the wrong move can complicate your situation, extend the recovery process, and even affect your rights and responsibilities.

In this article, we’ll explore 22 crucial missteps to avoid after a car accident — helping you navigate this stressful time with clarity and caution.

Table of Contents

1. Leave the scene of the car accident

Hit and run statutes require that anyone involved in an car accident stay at the scene of the incident regardless of whether they caused the car accident.

So, while you may not have caused the collision and you are not feeling hurt, you still need to stay at the scene of the collision and make sure that everyone is okay.

Otherwise, you may find yourself facing criminal charges.

2. Not take a photo of the at-fault driver’s license plate

Following an car accident, the first thing you should do is take a photo of the at-fault vehicle’s license plate.

Multiple times, I have heard clients tell of at-fault drivers that cause the auto collision, wait a couple minutes, and then take off.

Most of the time, no one captures a photo of the at-fault driver’s license plate, and that person gets off Scot-free while the innocent driver is forced to endure a lifetime of pain without any chance of recovering compensation.

Do not let this happen to you, take a photo of the at-fault vehicle’s license plate as soon as you can.

People will often ask, “why don’t you just get the traffic cam footage?”

Well, we do, but traffic cameras do not exist at every intersection and even where they do exist, the quality of recording is typically so bad that a license plate cannot be made out.

So please, make sure to get your own photo.

3. Not Call 911

Sometimes, after a car accident, the damage may appear minor and everyone involved may appear uninjured, however, you should always call 911 to document the car accident.

Even though everything may appear fine on the outside, vehicle damage and personal injuries may become apparent later.

4. Not start videotaping the car accident

After you have taken a photo of the at-fault driver’s license plate and called 911, get your phone out and start recording a video.

This does not mean acting like paparazzi, this simply means pressing the record button.

You can keep your phone in your hand.

If you need to render emergency care, put your phone in your pocket.

Your first duty is to help those injured.

The reason you should start recording though, is that:

  1. It can be helpful to your case to show what was happening after the collision and how stressful of an event it was; and
  2. All too often I have heard from clients that the at-fault driver admitted they caused the car accident, only for the at-fault driver to tell a different story to the police.

If you have a recording of their confession, you can save yourself years of time and stress and protect yourself from being blamed for the car accident and having to defend yourself for a traffic violation you did not commit.

5. Apologize

Even when people do not cause a car accident, sometimes it is their instinct to apologize in a general sense as to the situation.

Do not do this.

Saying “I’m sorry” can create significant issues in your legal case that delays a car insurance company from paying your personal injury claim for potentially years.

So, while you should absolutely make sure that everyone is fine following a car accident, do this without apologizing.

6. Lose your composure

After a car accident, you should consider everything you do as going to be recorded and shown to a group of strangers in the form of a jury.

When you lose your composure and begin yelling at people and acting without restraint, it makes you unlikeable.

While this behavior can be understandable as it is an incredibly stressful situation, you should remember that your behavior could be shown to a jury that knows nothing about you or what you have been through.

No matter how strong your case is, if a jury likes the person that caused the car accident more than you, it is nearly impossible to get justice.

It is important to note that most personal injury cases will not go to trial, and in many cases a lawsuit may not be filed.

Trials are only needed if there are major points of contention in your legal case.

The better you and your car accident attorney put your legal case in a position to be successful, the less likely a lawsuit will have to be filed which will extend the time and expenses spent on your case.

Regardless, it is always important to think how a jury would react to what you do and say because the car insurance company values your case on what it believes a jury would award you.

7. Get in a fight, chase them, or shoot them

Car accidents are stressful.

Do not:

  • Let the adrenaline get to you — keep your cool.
  • Start an altercation with the at-fault driver.

If that person attempts to leave the scene of the car accident, let them.

It is a sad fact, but road rage shootings do occur.

I have had clients that have been shot at — do not do anything to increase the likelihood of a shooting.

I have also had a client that decided to shoot back at the at-fault driver as he attempted to drive away from the scene of the car accident.

Do not do this.

It is not self-defense to shoot back at a moving vehicle that you are chasing.

Yes, there are “stand your ground” states, but there are no “chase down and shoot back at moving vehicles in public places” states.

I have also heard of an instance where the shooter’s child was in the vehicle with them when they decided to shoot at a following driver.

Do not:

  • Put innocent bystanders’ lives in jeopardy.
  • Put your own life in jeopardy.

Instead, you should:

  • Get a photo of their license plate and let the police do their job.

8. Not get their car insurance information

Always take a picture of the at-fault driver’s car insurance information.

While this information should be listed on the crash report, it is always helpful to have an extra copy just to be safe.

9. Not wait for police

Unfortunately, multiple times now, I have heard from clients that no crash report exists because police never showed up to the scene of the car accident despite them calling 911.

If you find yourself waiting hours for the police to show, it is often better to wait hours more than to leave.

Ensuring that a crash report exists that details the car accident is crucial to proving your legal case, so it is best to contact the local police station again and wait until an officer arrives on scene.

10. Be rude to police officers

Along the same lines of not losing your composure, do not be rude to the police officers.

Police officers will often have body cameras.

Everything you say and do will be recorded.

Just remember that this could be shown to a jury — a group of strangers that will be judging you.

Be polite.

You should explain what happened and disagree with the police officer if they attempt to put you at fault for the car accident.

But, do not:

  • Argue;
  • Yell;
  • Shout; or
  • Get mad.

It will only cause you unnecessary stress and harm your legal case.

A great car accident attorney may be able to prove who caused the car accident for you.

11. Try to walk it off

Even with car accidents involving little to no property damage, people can find themselves injured and unaware that they are injured.

If the car accident caused your body to jolt forward, you may have experienced a whiplash injury and not know it yet.

Oftentimes, following an auto collision, those involved adrenaline starts pumping and they do not feel any pain until it wears off.

You may experience no or very minor pain and think that you are okay at the scene of the auto collision, but whiplash pain often is at its worst 24 hours after the car accident and may not seriously develop up to 72 hours (about 3 days) later.

Do not sell your pain short, go to urgent care and get checked out.

It is the best thing for your health and legal case.

12. Say you feel fine

Along those lines, if you find yourself not in much pain, you should not say your fine or not injured.

Knowing that these injuries can take time to develop pain, it is best to say that you intend on going to urgent care.

13. Not take photos

It is paramount to take photos of the car accident scene, any property damage, and personal injuries.

Even when property damage is minimal, it is still important to take photos.

The more photos you take, the better your lawyer will understand your case and the better they will be able to tell your story to a jury.

Juries also will find it suspicious if you did not take photos of property damage, it is better to show photos of minimal property damage than think you can fool a jury.

This will just make the jury think you are hiding something untrustworthy.

Great car accident lawyers will own the “bad” facts of your case rather than pretending they do not exist.

14. Not Hire an Attorney

Getting an attorney early will save you much time and frustration.

Car accident lawyers that specialize in personal injury — not family law, bankruptcy, criminal law, and personal injury — know how to handle your case and put you in the best position possible to be successful.

If you do not know where you should get medical treatment, personal injury lawyers can refer you to a medical professional that handles the same types of injuries you have day-in-day-out.

With personal injury lawyers often charging based on a percentage of your settlement, you will not save money trying to handle your case yourself, you will just spend your time doing things an attorney could have done for you.

There is only so much information online and a free consultation can only go so far, do not try to replicate what has taken a personal injury attorney years to learn in hours while you are injured.

After a car accident, your focus should be on your health, not setting up personal injury car insurance claims and figuring out which doctor to see.

15. Not Include details when speaking with an attorney

Sometimes, police can put you at-fault for the car accident despite you being innocent or the car insurance involved in your legal case may be denying coverage.

Inform Your Attorney Fully

It’s important that you do not leave these details out when speaking to a car accident attorney.

Your car accident attorney will not be able to accurately evaluate your case unless they know what is going on.

There are ways to get a crash report edited after proving your innocence and there are ways to find additional car insurance coverage, but if your car accident attorney does not know of these issues, then they will not be able to help you.

Based on your case, they may not be able to help you at all, but it is better to spend your time searching for a car accident lawyer that could help you rather than wasting time with a car accident attorney that cannot help you.

Communicate Clearly, Avoid Legal Jargon

Along these lines, try to avoid using legal terminology or any terms you learned online while researching your legal case.

Yes, your legal case may involve pain and suffering and negligence, but these are broad concepts with specific legal meanings that provide no information about what happened.

Just tell your story.

It is not pain and suffering, it is “My back is killing me all day.”

It is not negligence, it is “I was rear ended while sitting at a traffic light.”

Think of it like going to the doctor, tell us your symptoms and what happened and let us solve the issues for you.

When you are paying a contingency fee, there is no benefit to doing your own legal research.

Let us do the heavy lifting for you.

16. Talk to the car Insurance Companies Without Speaking with an Attorney

When you hire a car accident lawyer, your lawyer will handle communications with the car insurance companies and will guide you on what you should and should not say to them.

Minute details that may mean nothing to you could destroy your personal injury car insurance claims.

Please remember, you are communicating with a multibillion-dollar corporation that’s sole goal is to pay you the least amount of money possible.

They will twist your words and pressure you to settle your personal injury car insurance claims for far less than what it is worth and typically before you even know the full extent of your injuries.

Your personal injury car insurance claim is not just a paycheck, it is your opportunity to get healthy, do not sell your pain short without even knowing you are selling your pain short — get a personal injury attorney.

17. Post on social media

While your legal case is pending, you should not post on social media.

Car insurance companies will get copies of your social media posts.

Do not speak about the car accident or your injuries as a slight typo or absentminded comment can destroy your personal injury car insurance claim and legal case.

You also do not want your personal life and opinions to be shown to a jury by the car insurance company.

Do not let the car insurance company control your narrative — stay off social media.

18. Not mention all your areas of pain to your doctor

Pain is the body’s way of telling you something is wrong.

Your attention will be focused on where it hurts the most.

This makes it easy to forget all the areas you are experiencing pain, soreness, or anything out of the ordinary.

You want your medical records to tell your story.

If you do not tell the doctor that your ankle is sore but just mention the major back pain you are experiencing, your medical records will not tell how sore your ankle was.

This can create issues later when your ankle, that did not receive medical attention, suddenly needs surgery.

The car insurance companies will argue that you injured your ankle after the car accident and thus they are not liable for your ankle injury.

Again, do not give them this argument and, more importantly, take care of yourself.

The longer you wait to get an injury checked out, the more likely it will worsen and become a more serious medical issue.

No matter how small the pain, make sure to get it checked out if you believe it was caused by the car accident.

19. Miss your doctor’s appointments

Life happens and people forget to go to their medical appointments.

This is understandable, but again, could cause significant issues in your personal injury car insurance claim.

Car insurance companies like to argue that if you miss an appointment, you are not injured.

A great car accident attorney can explain to a jury why you missed your medical appointment, but it is better not to give the car insurance company this ammunition against your case.

At my law firm, my clients can input their appointment dates into their client portal and receive reminders about their appointments.

If you do not have access to a feature like this, make sure to put your appointments on your calendars and set frequent alerts.

20. Ignore your mental health

All too often, following a car accident, people can develop anxiety or even PTSD from the car accident.

Following a car accident, if you find yourself more anxious than usual, ask your doctor or attorney to recommend a therapist that specializes in car accidents.

They exist and they can help you.

Take care of yourself.

21. Not log your treatment

While your medical records should give an accurate description of your journey to getting healthy, the simple fact is that medical providers are human and can make mistakes when inputting information.

They may misquote you, put that you are feeling good when you are feeling terrible, or forget to include that they have asked you to perform stretches at home.

Having your own record of events can help correct these errors and ensure an accurate understanding of your pain and suffering and the medical treatment you have received.

It is also great to keep a log to update your car accident lawyer about your medical treatment.

At my law firm, clients can log their treatment into our client portal, ensuring that I and my client are always on the same page.

22. Not keep a record of your pain

If a lawsuit needs to be filed in your case, it may be years until it is resolved.

After that much time has passed, it is easy to forget how many ways your life has changed or how many things you now do in pain.

For example, walking up the stairs may now be painful after a car accident despite it never being painful before.

After you go a year or more experiencing this pain daily, you forget that you now experience this pain.

It is much easier to recognize this pain when it first occurs, not the hundredth time it occurs.

Monitoring and Documenting Pain

Once you notice pain doing any activity — cleaning the house, reaching to the upper cabinet, taking your morning shower — take a note of it and how much pain it is now causing.

Periodically update when that pain changes.

This can help you determine when or what is exacerbating your pain and what is making it better.

Documenting Changes in Activities

Also, keep track of any events or activities you can no longer perform or perform less because of the pain.

For example, if you had a weekly pickup basketball game that you now only go to once a month because your back hurts after, write that down.

If you miss any event due to your pain, such as a wedding or work retreat, write that down too.

Communicating the Impact of Your Injuries

Do not sell your pain short — injuries after a car accident are often permanent.

Your case is the one chance you have to get justice, so please keep track of how much your life has changed.

Telling a car insurance company or a jury that you are in pain once or twice a week does not tell your story.

However, explaining that you can no longer pick your kids or grandkids up and put them on your shoulders despite their continued insistence to do so does tell your story.


Car accidents are stressful events.

You will do many of the things on this list following a car accident.

That is to be expected.

A great car accident attorney will be able to explain these issues to a car insurance company and a jury.

However, all it takes is one car insurance company, car insurance adjuster, or car insurance attorney to get caught up on one these issues and proceed to delay your case for years, adding unnecessary expenses, time, and stress to your life.

The best way to avoid these problems is to get a great car accident attorney early and remember this list the best you can.

Nathan Whittenburg

Based in Atlanta, Attorney Nathan Whittenburg is the owner of Atlanta Personal Injury Law Firm.

His practice began with car accidents and has grown to include truck accidents, other auto accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other personal injuries that occure across the state of Georgia.

Nathan is a proud member of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and the American Association for Justice.

He is a member of Georgia’s Bar Association and is admitted to practice in Georgia’s Court of Appeals and Georgia's Supreme Court.

Among the automobile cases that Nathan has worked on, notable judgments he has helped secure include amounts of $165,000 and $7.4 million.

Written By:
Nathan Whittenburg
Nathan Whittenburg

Owner & Attorney - Atlanta Personal Injury Law Firm

Based in Atlanta, Attorney Nathan Whittenburg is the owner of Atlanta Personal Injury Law Firm.

His practice began with car accidents and has grown to include truck accidents, other auto accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other personal injuries that occure across the state of Georgia.

Nathan is a proud member of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and the American Association for Justice.

He is a member of Georgia’s Bar Association and is admitted to practice in Georgia’s Court of Appeals and Georgia’s Supreme Court.

Among the automobile cases that Nathan has worked on, notable judgments he has helped secure include amounts of $165,000 and $7.4 million.

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Here, at Tru Lawsuit Info, we’re committed to helping victims get the justice they deserve.

To do this, we actively work to connect them with attorneys who are experts in litigating cases similar to theirs.

Would you like our help?