If you’ve ever been involved in a serious collision, then you know how nerve-racking the aftermath can be. This is especially true when a person suffers an injury or dies. The rush of adrenaline can make it difficult to think clearly, but taking the right steps while at the car accident scene not only could help protect your safety and the lives of others, but also could improve your chances of recovering compensation in the subsequent claim.
Although your attorney can gather evidence on your behalf, it is important that you document the scene if you are able to do so. Below we’ve outlined a few steps you should take to protect your rights after a motor-vehicle collision:
1. Call the Police
In the state of California, drivers are required to report any car accident that results in death, injury, or property damage of at least $1,000 within 24 hours to the police or highway patrol. Law enforcement not only can direct traffic away from the scene and contact emergency services if necessary but also can create an accident report.
The insurance company will want to review this report when determining whether to approve or deny your claim. Depending on the circumstances, the contents of this report could be the difference between recovering fair compensation and walking away with nothing, or between resolving the case in a matter of weeks and having to enter litigation.
2. Take Pictures
Photographs taken of the crash scene often play an integral role in preventing and overcoming liability disputes. Be sure to take pictures of:
- The Positions of Vehicles: If the defendant’s version of what caused the collision differs from your own, your attorney and perhaps an accident reconstruction expert will want to see how the vehicles were positioned following the crash.
- Property Damage: Photos of damage sustained to the vehicles involved may help your legal team determine the speed the vehicles were traveling and whether the brakes were applied before impact. They may also help your attorney prove causation and damages by demonstrating the severity of the wreck.
- Injuries: Pictures of visible injuries can help your legal team prove causation and the extent of your damages.
- Deployed Airbags: Pictures that show the insides of vehicles can provide valuable insight. Deployed airbags, broken glass, and bloodstains can portray the severity of the impact.
- The Road Conditions: If poor road conditions, such as potholes, uneven pavement, or faded lane markers, contributed to the crash, it may be possible to hold a government entity at least partially liable. Take photos of any skid marks. Those can be used to determine vehicle speed.
3. Gather Eyewitness Contact Information
Your attorney might depose eyewitnesses regarding what they saw before and after the collision. Their deposition might corroborate your version of events and help your legal team prove liability. Be sure to write down their names, phone numbers, email addresses, and a description of what they witnessed. You should also ask nearby motorists if they have a dashcam that might have recorded the collision.
4. Write Down the Contact and Insurance Info of Other Involved Parties
Don’t forget to record the contact and insurance details of the other driver(s) involved. Your car accident lawyer will need that information to file the claim.
5. Look for Surveillance Cameras
Businesses in the vicinity might have surveillance systems that recorded the wreck; however, that footage might only be available for a few weeks after the crash. Ask the business owner or manager if you can view the footage, record it with your cell phone, and request a copy.
After Leaving the Car Accident Scene
Once the accident scene has been properly documented, there are steps you should take over the subsequent hours, days, and weeks to ensure your claim has the best possible chance of yielding a fair settlement. Those steps include:
- Visit a Hospital or Clinic: This is your top priority after a serious collision. The insurance company won’t cover your medical bills if you are unable to prove that they were caused by the crash. If you put off the medical assessment, the insurance adjuster might contend that the injuries were caused by something else or that they could not be as severe as you are claiming since immediate care was not necessary. A dispute might also arise over a failure to mitigate damages.
- Disable Your Social Media Accounts: Temporarily deactivate your social media accounts so the insurance adjuster cannot review your profiles for photos and other posts that can be used to challenge your claim.
- Start a Personal Injury Journal: Your first entry should be a detailed description of everything you remember about the collision as well as your statements and actions following the accident. Subsequent entries should describe the kinds of symptoms you experience, the ways the injuries are diminishing your quality of life, and any medication side effects.
- Call a Personal Injury Lawyer: All of the steps mentioned in this list should be completed as soon as possible—preferably on the same day as the accident. By getting an attorney involved right away, you will not have to speak directly to the insurance adjuster and potentially say something that harms your case. Your lawyer can handle this dialogue on your behalf and also conduct a prompt investigation to compile time-sensitive evidence.
Discuss Your Case with a Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Attorney Michael D. Waks has extensive experience helping car accident victims navigate the legal system. He can compile evidence, help you avoid mistakes, and make sure your claim accounts for all the damages you may be owed. For a free consultation, send us an email or dial (562) 206-1939.
Download Our Car Accident Emergency Response .PDF
It never hurts to be prepared for all eventualities, and if you drive regularly, there’s a good chance you will be involved in a collision at some point. By keeping our Car Accident Emergency Response .pdf in your glovebox, you will always have a handy guide to help you document the scene. Download it HERE for free.
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