12 Steps to Take After an Accident
You have just been in an accident. Now what? Follow these TWELVE STEPS.
1. Get to Safety
Your car may be disabled in the middle of the road, where another car coming over the hill may hit you again. Get to safety immediately! Don’t worry about valuables in your car. Your safety is more important!
2. Call 911
If you or others in the accident were injured, an ambulance will need to be called. It is also good to call the police, who can make an official record of what happened in the accident.
3. No Admissions!
This is not the time to discuss why the accident occurred. Many people will get out of their cars and the first thing they say is, “Oh my God! I am sorry. It is all my fault.” Do NOT do that. As bad as you may feel about the accident, do not make any admissions of fault. If you do, it will be used against you later. Many people get very agitated and angry after an accident. They may accuse you of driving negligently. “What are you, blind? How did you not see me?” Do NOT respond to these statements. No drama. Just say, “Let’s just get each other’s insurance information, okay?”
On the other hand, if the other person makes an admission, such as “It was all my fault,” make sure you write that down.
4. Get Eyewitness Information First
The other person in the accident is obviously going to stay for a while to get your information. Eyewitnesses are different, however. They have things to do, places to go. They may not stick around. As soon as you are to safety and have called 911, find the eyewitnesses. Get their names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mails. Ask them what they saw and write it down. If they take off before you can get that, write down their license plate number. Your lawyer can find them later. The eyewitness is going to be seen as an unbiased witness. The jury will take great stock in what they say, so if the eyewitness favors you, that will really help your case.
5. Take Photographs
Take photographs of your car’s damage and the other person’s vehicle damage. Take multiple photos from different angles and distances. If the vehicles are still in the lanes of traffic and have not been moved over to the side of the road, take the photos from a distance. Be safe! Do not get hit by a car trying to take a photograph. If you cannot safely take a photograph of the vehicle, then do it later after the vehicles are moved or towed. Take a photograph of the streets and the accident site. If there are skid marks or broken glass or debris in the road, photograph that (again, only if it can be done safely). If you are bleeding or bruised, have someone take a photograph of your injuries. When it is convenient, take a photograph of any relevant street signs or lights, especially speed limit signs. Later, at the hospital, have someone take a photograph of your injuries, especially bruises and cuts, which can fade over time.
6. Exchange Information
Take out a pad of paper, and write down the following information about the other driver and his or her vehicle:
- the driver’s name, residential and work address, residential and work phone, cell phone, e-mail address, driver’s license issuing state, driver’s license number, and driver’s license expiration date. If the license indicates a date of birth, note that down.
- the driver’s license plate and issuing state, the VIN number (it is a long alpha-numeric number usually imprinted on the dashboard by the steering wheel), make, year, and model of vehicle
- the driver’s insurance company, insurance agent, insurance agent’s phone number, policy number (if he has no insurance card, ask him if he has insurance and get as much information about insurance as you can)
- find out if the driver OWNS his car. Many people forget this. If the driver is not the owner, you need to find out the name, address, phone number, and e-mail address of the owner of the vehicle.
- names, addresses, phone numbers, ages, e-mail addresses of all passengers in the other person’s vehicle. Find out where each was sitting in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
7. Are You Hurt?
When you are getting this information, ask the other driver and passengers if they are hurt. If they say no, write that down. If they say they are hurt, find out as much as you can about their injuries.
The other driver may ask you if you are hurt. If you are hurt, say yes, but then do not go into detail about how you are hurt. If you are not hurt, try to avoid answering the question at all. After all, you may feel bad hours, days, or weeks after this accident. You do not want the other party saying that you admitted you were not hurt at the scene.
8. Make a Sketch of the Scene
Draw a little map of the scene. Pay particular attention to which way is north, south, east, west. Write down the names of the streets. Note how many lanes there are going each way. If you can recall how the vehicles came to rest in the lanes, right down a map of what it looked like. Draw where the eyewitnesses’ vehicles were located and mark down what color each vehicle was. If there are skid marks, write those down on your map. Note the speed limit for the area and write that down on the map. Indicate on your map which way is north. Most people are not very good judges of distance, and you probably will not have a distance wheel in your car. So estimate the distances involved in the accident as best you can, using some reference like car lengths.
9. Speak with the Police Officer
Give a factual account to the police officer. Just the facts. Do not embellish. If the officer wants to write you a ticket, and asks you to sign, it is okay to sign. That signature just means you promise to show up at the court date. Don’t forget: just because the officer says it was your fault does not mean you do not have a personal injury case. The officer’s opinion on fault will be inadmissible at trial, and the fact that you got a ticket will also be inadmissible. But make sure you get that ticket to your lawyer. If you hear the other driver speaking with the officer, note down on your own notes what he said.
10. Contact your own Insurance Company
You will need to contact your own insurance company to make a claim. Your own insurance company will handle the repairs to your vehicle and will hopefully get you a rental car. Give the adjuster for your company an accounting of what happened. Take down the claim number they give you. Write down the name of the claims agent, and if they give you contact information for your adjuster or person who will be handling your case, write that name and number down.
11. Do NOT speak with the Other Party’s Insurance Company
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SPEAK TO THE INSURANCE ADJUSTER FOR THE OTHER PARTY’S INSURANCE CARRIER. If you do, you could seriously jeopardize your case.
12. Get Medical Attention
Obviously, if you are seriously injured, you may not be able to take all of these steps. In that case, if a relative or friend can help you get this information, that would be great.
The next step: contact an experienced personal injury lawyer like the lawyers at The Medler Law Firm. The consultation is free. The personal injury attorney can help you take it from there. 314-727-8777.