What not to do if you've been involved in your first car accident

If you're involved in a motor vehicle accident, there are a few things you need to do. Unfortunately, if you've never been in this position in the past, you may not have the first idea as to which steps you should take.

First things first, your health is top priority. Even if you do nothing else, make sure you examine yourself for injuries and get professional medical assistance if need be.

Once you're in position to do so, you'll want to contact your insurance company to report the accident. You need to be very careful when doing so, as any mistake could come back to haunt you in the future.

Also, since you don't have any experience making a car insurance claim, you may not know exactly what you should and shouldn't be doing.

Here are some things you absolutely need to avoid if you've been involved in a car accident and are dealing with insurance companies:

1. Don't give a written or recorded statement

You should never record a statement or put anything in writing unless you are 100 percent sure of what you're doing. Along with this, you aren't required to allow the insurance company to record your conversation.

2. Don't accept the first offer

Insurance companies will make a low ball offer in an attempt to put the accident in the past as soon as possible. Unfortunately, if you accept this, you could be leaving money on the table.

3. Don't sign a waiver or release

Even if you've read the document in great detail, you may not fully understand what it's saying. Obtain legal advice before you sign on the dotted line.

4. Beware of checks saying "final payment"

If you accept a check that is marked as "final payment," it means exactly that. Once you take this money, you'll find that you can't go back to the company for more in the future.

5. Don't be pushed around

When you purchased insurance coverage, you and your company entered into a contract. As long as your policy is active, your provider has a legal obligation to live up to the details of the contract.

It's never easy to deal with insurance companies after a car accident. Even so, when you know what you should and shouldn't be doing, when you get the help of a legal professional, you can avoid serious mistakes that cost you time and money.

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