Anyone who has been in a motor vehicle accident knows that it is a traumatizing and jarring event. Unless you have thought about it ahead of time, it can be difficult to try to figure out in the heat of the moment what steps need to be taken in order to best protect your rights and ability to recover damages if you were not at fault for the accident. The following is a list of steps that you can and should take to maximize the chances that you and your rights will be protected:
Ask eyewitnesses to give statements or give their information.
Exchange information, but otherwise do not speak to the other driver.
Refuse to give any recorded statements.
1. Call 9-1-1.
The most important priority in any accident is to make sure that anyone who is injured gets immediate medical attention. If you are injured or think that you are injured, don’t take any chances with your health: Go to the hospital. If you do not go to the hospital on the day of the accident but experience pain in the days following the accident, take care yourself and visit an emergency room or hospital as soon as possible.
Calling 9-1-1 will accomplish two goals: First, it will call emergency medical services to the scene; second, it will alert the local police department to dispatch an officer to the scene of the accident.
Oftentimes, the single most important document in a car accident case is the police report. It is very important that the police are called to the scene of the accident to make a report regarding how the accident happened and to identify the parties involved. If you were not at fault for the accident, a police report exonerating you will be critical evidence in your case against the at-fault individual.
2. Ask eyewitnesses to give statements, or take down their information.
The aftermath of an accident is not the time to be shy. If there are any witnesses to the accident, it is important that the investigating police officer has an opportunity to take their statement and get an objective and thorough understanding of how the accident happened.
Sometimes, people are in a rush to get elsewhere. Nonetheless, if you have been in accident, it is important to at least obtain the contact information of any witnesses—especially if you were not at fault. If the only witnesses are you and the at-fault driver, your car accident case can be much more difficult.
3. Exchange information, but otherwise do not speak to the other driver.
In a lawsuit, the admissions made by an opposing party at the scene of the accident are generally admissible evidence. Therefore, it is very important to take care not to make any admissions of fault or to apologize in any way for the accident. The only information that should be exchanged are drivers’ license information and proof of financial responsibility or insurance.
The only person to whom you should give a statement is the investigating police officer.
4. Take photographs.
You should also take photographs of the scene of the accident and its location, any damage to your vehicle, any damage to the other person’s vehicle, as well as their license plate information. If you have suffered visible injuries, such as cuts, scrapes or bruises, you should also take pictures of those injuries. These photographs are very helpful in evaluating a potential personal injury lawsuit and may even be used as evidence at trial.
5. Refuse to give any insurance company a recorded statement.
While you should report the accident to the insurance companies involved, you should not give the other driver’s insurance company or even your own insurance company a recorded statement without first speaking with a skilled personal injury attorney. Insurance companies are experts in asking unassuming questions that limit your damages and distort the other side’s responsibility. Instead of giving a recorded statement, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to advise you on the best course of action.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and think that you may need a lawyer, please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Armstrong & Lee LLP for a free consultation at the phone number at the top of this page or using the contact form on this page.
Photography credit: Brian Van Der Brug, LA Times, via Getty Images