Being in an accident can be a traumatizing experience. Adrenaline is running, there may be tension between the involved parties, and remembering everything that you should do after an accident can be daunting. Here is a step-by-step guide of everything you should do following a motor vehicle accident:
- Stay at the scene and call 911
The first step is the easiest, stay where you are and call 911. Even if an accident doesn’t seem serious, it’s important to contact the police and file a police report. A police officer will assist the parties in exchanging information, may conduct an investigation of the scene, will write citations if appropriate, and determine fault. The police report is also a crucial piece of evidence used by insurance companies in determining fault and whether to accept a claim. Without a police report, it is possible a liability determination will be delayed or made against you by the adverse driver’s insurance carrier.
- Collect Information of the Parties and Witnesses
Make sure to exchange all information with the other driver, including driver’s license information and insurance information. A police officer may assist with this. You are going to need the driver’s license so that you have the adverse driver’s address in case a lawsuit needs to be served, and you need the insurance information in order to establish a claim against the adverse driver.
You also want to get the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any witnesses that saw the accident and ask them to write a written statement with the police officer. Often car accidents can have liability disputes that come down to “he said, she said” statements of the parties, and an independent witness may be crucial in determining fault.
- Take Photos and Video
Police officers will not always take photographs for you at the scene, so it is important to take your own photos of the damages and positions of the vehicles. So long as it is safe, leave your vehicle in the area that the accident happened until police arrive. Take photos of the position of the vehicles as well as any damages you see to the vehicles. Also be sure to take photos of the license plates. These photos will allow you to capture the undisturbed scene of the crash before tow trucks and police arrive to move vehicles around.
- Call Your insurance
Once you have accomplished these initial tasks, it is important to contact your insurance to report the accident. Provide your insurance company with your account of what happened, information you have gathered, and what other information might be needed. Your insurance company is there to assist you and can also help with setting up your property damage claim. It is not necessary to contact the other driver’s insurance company yet as they will not be in a position to evaluate liability and will not assist you with your claim.
- Seek Medical Attention
If you have been injured, it is important to document those injuries immediately. An insurance company will fight a claim if there is a delay in treatment or if symptoms are not documented. Make sure to go to an emergency room or urgent care from the scene. A doctor will evaluate your condition, take x-rays if necessary, document your complaints, prescribe medications, and provide you further instructions.
- Contact an Accident Attorney
The next step is to contact an accident attorney. Do not delay in seeking representation. The car accident attorney will evaluate your case, help you establish your claim against the other person’s insurance, assist with property damage, set you up with further medical care, and answer any additional questions you have. A consultation is free and accident attorneys work on contingency fees, meaning there are no up-front costs to you in hiring an attorney.
Do not attempt to negotiate with an insurance company on your own or give recorded statements about what happened before seeking the advice of an attorney. The adverse driver’s insurance company may contact you to try to negotiate an early low-ball settlement or get a statement from you to solicit testimony against your interest. This is why it is important to retain an attorney to represent you as soon as possible.