Get contact information from the other driver or drivers. Jot down their name, address and phone number. Make a note of the color, make and model of the other vehicles, and the license plates if you can. The police officer can help you get all this information, and will often have a form for you to exchange with the other driver(s) involved. Do not be afraid to ask such information, or for the form.
Get the names and contact information of anyone who saw the accident. If you can, do this quickly. Often, people who saw the collision will stop for a short time, but leave before the police arrive. Other motorists, passengers or pedestrians can be critical witnesses. Get their name and phone number. A person who was not involved in the collision or accident (percipient or uninterested witness) may be the difference between winning and losing your case - get their name(s).
Do not blame the other driver even if they were clearly at fault. It may just start an argument. But, if the other driver admits it was their fault, make a mental note of it. When you get home, jot down precisely what you remember them saying. Even if you feel you may have been partially at fault, do not say anything that admits your feeling. "Fault" is often a complex determination based on the facts and complicated laws. Leave that issue for the police to decide — or an attorney, if necessary.
After the accident write a note to yourself (and possibly for your attorney, if you later need one). Include all the information you have gathered and can remember while it is fresh in your mind. Explain how the accident happened as best you can. Drawing a sketch or diagram of the collision will be a helpful memory aid later on. It may be months, or even years, before the insurance companies fully resolve any claims.
All insurance policies require you to notify your insurance company. This must be done shortly after the accident. Unnecessary delay in telling your insurance company about the crash can result in a denial of your claim.
In most states, if anyone is injured or there is significant property damage to the vehicles you must file a State Accident Report. The form, with directions, can be obtained from the police department. In some States this report must be filed within 10 days after the accident.
Every one carries a cell phone these days and most of them have cameras, so use it. A picture is worth a thousand words and they can make or break your case. If you can, and it is safe, take pictures of the vehicles before they are moved. Pictures of the damage and position of the vehicles can be very important. They can prove how the accident happened and document the force of the collision. This can be helpful evidence if the accident caused any injuries. If you are not able to take pictures, ask one of your passengers who is alright, or a witness, to do it for you. After you get emergency care and are home, remember to take pictures of your injuries — any cuts, bruises or bandages, and any casts or crutches. It is particularly important to take a picture of any seat belt bruise on the front of your shoulders and chest. This bruise may not develop right away. Taking a picture of it can keep the other side from claiming that you were not wearing a seat belt.
To protect your rights you must act quickly and correctly after a motor vehicle accident. Deciding fault can be complicated. Insurance coverage, and how you will get your medical bills paid, can be very confusing and frustrating. Insurance adjustors may call and ask you to give them a tape recorded statement. Should you do that? You may have many questions about your rights, and your obligations to insurance representatives. You may have questions whether the insurance companies are treating you fairly. Don’t jeopardize your rights. CALL US FOR A FREE CONSULTATION (559) 840-3240.