What information do I need after a car accident?
Most of us know people who have been injured in a car accident, or have ourselves been involved in a vehicle accident at some point. Automobile collisions are always frightening, because we don’t see them coming and often do not understand the full extent of our injuries for several days. If you are struck by the driver of another vehicle, you need to obtain important information that can then be discussed with a personal injury attorney. While you don’t want to argue with the other driver, remain calm as you establish a process for evaluating the car crash injuries.
Hit and run.
Someone who strikes another vehicle and takes off without stopping could be facing serious legal ramifications. However, your job is not to chase that person or run him down, but only to gather what information you can about the accident you were involved in. The first thing to do is safely move your vehicle if it is drivable and you are able to drive to the side of the road or a nearby side road. Then call 9-1-1 or the police directly to ask for an officer to come to the scene of the accident and make a report.
While waiting, write a clear description of the situation, including the location, time, weather conditions, road condition, the other car and hopefully its license plate, the driver if you were able to see that person, and any other pertinent details. Although the police officer will take a full report as an official record, the situation could change before she gets there; for example, it might stop raining or the witness who confirmed your status as victim has to leave to get to work. Your notes could come in handy later. The police officer who arrives will prepare a detailed report that becomes part of the official record as the basis for a potential legal proceeding. If you have a cell phone with a camera, take photos of any damage to your car as well as relevant road conditions.
If the other driver stops and is willing to talk to you, call 9-1-1 to summon the police and then try to get his or her name and contact information, along with the year, color, make, and model of the other vehicle. You can also ask for insurance information, although some people might lie and say they don’t have insurance or give you false information. Take mental or written notes of the location, weather, and road conditions to relay to the police officer when she arrives. If possible, take photos of the car, but do not ask the other driver for photos of him or of his insurance card, if he has one.
At-fault drivers who are fully insured may be more cooperative than the others by calling their insurance agent and agreeing to call the police for a report. Some may seem friendly or contrite, although others might try to dodge blame or pin the accident on you. Avoid confrontation with the other drive. Speak little, and only to gather pertinent facts. Remain polite and stay near or in your car until the police get there. Take photos, if possible.
After the police report is made, it usually will become publicly available within a couple of days. View it online or pick up a copy from the police station, and then read it to ensure everything is accurate. If you find errors, let the police know so corrections can be made, if applicable.
Depending on the nature of the car accident, consider going to the ER to have any accident injuries checked out. This includes headaches, dizziness, or loss of consciousness following the crash. Impaired mobility or bleeding wounds must be tended immediately, so call 9-1-1 to request an ambulance or EMS assistance.
The next step is to follow up with your primary care medical provider if ER diagnoses injuries related to the accident. Tests and treatments may be ordered, so keep track of them, if so.
When you are functional and safe, make an appointment with a personal injury attorney to discuss the car accident. An attorney knows the laws that pertain to your case, and you will receive a professional evaluation as to the merit of any claim you might wish to bring against the offending driver. The attorney will guide you through the process of preparing a claim for damages, if warranted. Consult with a lawyer to get the facts about your rights.