When you are in an accident, the very first thing you must do is evaluate if you, your passengers, and everyone else involved in the accident is okay. If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately. Do not assume someone else has or will do so. If everyone is uninjured, proceed with the following steps to make sure you are in the best possible position if you later need legal help regarding damages or medical bills.
Whether the accident you’re involved with is a minor fender-bender or a major collision, documentation is critical. The first step of documenting the accident is to notify the police. You can do so by calling 911 or, if everyone involved in the accident is uninjured, a non-emergency police department number specific to your area. In order to file a claim on damages to your vehicle, your insurance company will likely require a police report.
When the officers arrive on the scene, they will need to see the license and vehicle insurance cards of all the drivers involved in the accident. Follow their instructions regarding when and where to move your vehicle. Be sure to ask the officers where you can get a copy of the report and write down the names of the officers.
In the moments after being involved in a car accident, you will be frazzled, anxious, and perhaps injured. When attempting to recall details in the days and weeks after your accident, your memories may not be very clear. It’s important to have an abundance of documentation, gathered as soon as possible after the accident, to rely on instead of memory.
After checking everyone for injuries and notifying the police of the accident, take photos and videos of all the involved vehicles and the overall scene to the best of your ability. Photograph damage to all the vehicles involved, yours and those your car came into physical contact with. Also take photos of any injuries you or your passengers sustained during the accident.
Record yourself explaining what happened while details are fresh in your mind. Do not take photos of or record other people without their permission.
Be careful to avoid oncoming vehicles and remain on sidewalks or the side of the road as much as possible so that you are not put in danger while moving around the scene.
While waiting for the police to arrive, exchange the following pieces of information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident.
Also write down the following information.
Also write down the full name and contact information of any witnesses who offer to help or share what they saw.
When you call your insurance company regarding the accident, they will give you a list of documents and information they need from you to begin handling your claim.
Avoid discussing who was at fault in the accident, and do not verbally claim responsibility for the accident. The insurance company’s adjuster will determine who is at fault, and you do not want to make claims that might later be used against you in a personal injury or insurance case.
If you intend to hire an attorney due to injuries or a problem with the insurance company regarding damages, do not accept a settlement.
Obtain a copy of the police report. If you are injured in the accident or develop health problems later, keep a detailed journal of your injuries and the steps you took to treat them, as well as how these injuries have impacted your job, family, and quality of life. Carefully document all expenses you incur which are a direct result of the accident, including bills from the mechanic, rental vehicle, doctor’s appointments, Emergency Room visits, x-rays, and ambulance rides. Also document any loss of income which directly resulted from the accident.
If you wish to file a personal injury case or are having trouble receiving fair compensation from your insurance company, give us a call to set up a consultation.