In an effort to ensure that car accident victims do not make an important mistake after an accident, we suggest taking the following steps after being involved in a collision:
Immediately after the Accident
Call 911 Even if you think you were not injured and the damage was minimal, call the police. If for no other reason, you should call the police so that an official accident report is filed.
Do not admit fault Never admit to anyone at the scene of the accident that you were at fault, even if you think you were. This includes the other drivers, the police or even a bystander. In the initial aftermath, you are likely not aware of all of the factors that played into the accident.
Get driver/passenger information If you are able to, get contact information for the other drivers. Ask for a name, address and telephone number. Also ask to see a driver’s license and insurance card. Be sure to take down the license plate number of the vehicles as well.
Get witness information If you are capable of doing so, get contact information for any witnesses to the accident. It can be very difficult to track down bystanders later if there is no contact information, and independent eyewitness testimony can be crucial.
Gather physical evidence If there is any physical evidence that might have been the cause of the accident, try and gather it while you are there. For example, if a blown tire in the roadway caused you to swerve, point it out to the authorities or pick it up and take it with you if you are able.
Take pictures Carrying a camera in your vehicle is always a good idea. However, a cell phone will usually do for taking photos of the scene if you are able to do so. Along with photos of the vehicles, take pictures of the surrounding area and any physical evidence that you are not able to pick up and take with you.
Remove your belongings Remember to remove your personal belongings from your vehicle if it is towed from the scene. Ask a paramedic to remove them if you are not able to do so yourself.
Go to the hospital Always accept the offer to be transported to the hospital. A car accident can cause serious internal injuries that you may not realize and that can only be identified by a physician. Along with protecting your own health, having a medical examination done immediately after the accident also helps from a legal standpoint. Your attorney will have to prove that any injuries you sustained were a result of the accident. The longer you wait to seek medical treatment, the harder it is to prove that your injuries were sustained in the crash.
Shortly after the Accident
1. Get follow-up care- Make sure to follow-up with any recommendations made as a result of your medical examination. Again, this protects both your health and your chances of receiving compensation for your injuries.
2. Return to the scene- When you are able to, return to the scene of the accident and take additional pictures or ask nearby neighbors or businesses if they witnessed the accident
3. Summarize the accident- Shortly after the accident, sit down and write out a brief summary of the accident so that key details are not forgotten.
4. Report accident to your insurance company- Call your insurance company and report the accident as soon as possible. Not doing so could jeopardize your right to coverage. However, do not give a written or recorded statement, even to your own insurance company, without talking to a lawyer first.
5. Get estimates- Obtain at least three estimates for any repairs that will need to be done to your vehicle as a result of the accident.
6. Contact an attorney - Obtain legal representation as soon as possible after the accident. Important evidence and witnesses could be lost if you wait too long to obtain representation. In addition, your attorney will handle all communications with the defendant and any insurance companies involved in the accident.
7. Do not give a statement- Once you have legal representation, the defendant’s insurance company will have to communicate with your attorney. Before that time, make sure that you do not give a statement of any kind to the other driver’s insurance company or to anyone else.
8. Start a recovery journal- A car accident often results in injuries that are more subjective in nature, such as pain and suffering. In order to make a stronger case for compensating these injuries, you should begin a recovery journal. Make a note each day after the accident about the pain you are in, your inability to work and the emotional impact the accident had on you that day. This can be an invaluable tool when it comes time to negotiate a settlement or when your case is presented to a jury.