Should I do an investigation of the facts of the accident on my own?
A car accident can be a stressful event. For most people, the aftermath is quite possibly as bad or worse than the accident itself. Without preparation, it’s difficult to know what to do, or what to say. Should you try to figure things out on your own, or should you get help?
Tough questions for anyone to answer, to be sure. But even that doesn’t illustrate the real risk. You could be on the hook for repairs, medical bills and even criminal liability in an accident. Still want to take a chance you’ll get it right?
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t document what you can at the scene of an accident. Afterwards, however, you should immediately seek advice and counsel from a qualified professional like an nyc personal injury attorney.
Protect Your Rights
It goes without saying that beyond showing your license, registration and insurance to the appropriate authorities at the scene, you should not discuss the accident with anyone, especially the police. You should protect your rights, and that means remaining silent, locking your car, refusing consent to any searches and seeking legal advice as soon as possible.
Once you are protected, then you can move on to other priorities.
Document the Scene
Naturally, you should take note of other drivers’ information such as licenses and insurance information. License plates of all vehicles at the scene are important as well, for obvious reasons.
The good news is, these tasks can be made much simpler by modern technology. Anyone else at the scene who has a record of what happened can be made subject to your requests to divulge that information in the event of a legal dispute. This begins with the police but can extend to civilians as well, including first responders, EMTs, tow truck drivers, witnesses and other involved drivers.
One item you should pay special attention to is the presence of any dash cameras. If another driver involved in the accident has one, you should notify police so the footage can be preserved. The same is true of any mechanism in other vehicles that might have recorded data related to the accident like speed, engine metrics or mechanical failures. The reason you should notify police is to prevent that data or footage from being tampered with or destroyed.
Find out who else is documenting the scene so you can avail yourself of that information later.
Use Your Own Technology
Nearly everyone is carrying a fully-functional television station around in their pocket now. The digital camera in that mobile phone is the key that opens all gates when it comes to a car accident. Your nyc personal injury attorney will be most thankful if you can provide them with a fully documented timeline of the accident. Should you use it? Absolutely.
Take pictures of all the documents you are presented. Photograph the exterior and interior of every vehicle. Photograph the license plates of every vehicle. Photograph the ID of every police officer and first responder. Get pictures of insurance information. If possible, photograph any obvious injuries at the scene.
Then move on to the scene itself. Photograph the road and the sky. Make certain you get shots of any street signs or traffic signals in the area. Get good shots of any construction in the area, especially if it involves asphalt, painting or blocked lanes.
Get pictures of any surveillance cameras in the area. Photograph any public facilities like bus stops or parks. Also make sure you look around to see if there are any ATMs in the area, as they all have cameras that may have caught the accident or the events before or afterwards.
While none of this technically qualifies as “investigation” per se, it does qualify as gathering facts that may later prove crucial in investigations by your attorney, the police, your insurance company or any other drivers that may have been involved.
Four months later, when your attorney is waving those pictures in the air in court and your adversary can’t come up with anything but hazy guesses about what happened, you’ll be glad you were prepared.
As always, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney if you are in a car accident. They will be able to advise you on the proper course of action to avoid unnecessary liability and expense.