Being involved in an automobile accident can be a shocking and traumatic experience and knowing what steps you should take immediately after the accident can seem overwhelming and confusing. In the first few minutes following an automobile accident, it can be extremely challenging to think clearly, but this is the time when it’s important to take the necessary steps to create a less stressful situation and to help your car accident case should you need to file a personal injury claim. Here are the steps you should take to help your car accident case.
Check for Injuries
The first step is to make sure everyone is safe and if there are any injuries to you, your passengers, or the other driver involved. If anyone is injured, regardless of how minor the injury may seem, call 9-1-1 immediately. If you appear to have an injury to your head, neck or back do not attempt to move or get out of your vehicle as this may worsen the injury. Instead, call 9-1-1 and explain to the dispatcher that your injuries are preventing you from moving or getting out of the vehicle. If you are able to get out of your vehicle, then you should check on the other people involved in the accident. Turn your flashers on and stay at the scene until you are removed by an ambulance or law enforcement has released you from the scene. Keep in mind that some injuries may not show up until a day or two after the accident, so if you do not go to the hospital by way of ambulance, it’s important to still get checked out either by your family doctor or the local hospital emergency room.
Call the Police
If no one’s injuries warrant a call to 9-1-1, it is still important to call the local police. Without filing a police report, it can get extremely complicated when attempting to file a claim with the insurance companies. Do not leave the scene of the accident until the police arrive and take your statement. When talking with the police remember to write down the officer’s name and badge number as well as the precinct in which they work. This information may be useful later, especially if you hire a personal injury attorney to file a claim for injuries and/or damages.
The police on the scene will generally get the other driver’s insurance information and their personal information, but it’s important that you get this information as well. You will need to get the driver’s name, address and phone number, their insurance information, including policy number, vehicle year, color, license plate and make and model of the car, and their driver’s license number. You will also need to provide this information to the other driver, so make sure all information you provide them is correct. It’s also important to get the name, address, and phone number of any witnesses.
Outside of ensuring everyone’s safety, one of the most important steps you should take following an automobile accident is to take photos and share them with your attorney. Pictures can be taken using any type of camera, including a cell phone. Along with taking photos, it’s important to write down the circumstances at the time the accident occurred, including the weather, how other drivers were driving, the traffic, time of day, and anything that may have potentially contributed to the accident, such as a traffic light being out or a large pothole. Write down everything and anything that you remember. Some of the things you should photograph include:
- Photos of the accident scene, including noticeable damage to the automobiles and/or property involved in the accident and photos before the vehicles, are moved
- Photos of any debris in or near the accident site and skid marks around the accident
- Photos of the location, including street signs, traffic lights, traffic signs, the intersections, and surrounding landscaping
- Photos of the accident report and report number, law enforcement information including name and badge number
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
You should contact your attorney as soon as possible after the accident-before contacting either insurance company, including your own. If you speak with the insurance companies, you may risk giving them unintentional information that may seriously damage your case. If you speak with your attorney first, they will guide you through filing the report to the insurance company in the correct way and provide you with instructions on how to proceed. The majority of personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation for victims of automobile accidents, so speaking with them before speaking with the insurance companies may be in your best interest.
It is extremely important that you not lay blame on anyone for the accident, including yourself. You should not admit fault to the other driver or attempt to discuss with the other driver what happened or who is in the wrong. You should only give your version of the accident to the police and your attorney. It’s also important that you not post any pictures or comments related to the accident on your social media pages as this may be misinterpreted in the wrong light by the insurance companies, witnesses, or the other driver.