Accidents are often very disorientating – after all, most people are not involved in an accident every day. While the discussion below is geared directly towards motor vehicle accidents, many of the points mentioned can be applicable to other injury-causing events like slip-and-falls, being injured by a product, or being injured on a job-site.
Immediately after an accident, if anyone is severely injured or there is severe damage to the vehicles, call 911 and request police and medical personal assistance. Follow the directions of the 911 operator and request police and medical personnel, if necessary. Also, remember to be sensitive of people’s injuries as time passes after the initial accident and adrenaline starts to wear off; you and others involved in the accident can become aware of injuries that may have missed immediately after the accident.
If you can safely move the cars to a better location (in a parking lot or on the shoulder), do so. However, remember to be careful because it can be very dangerous on the road (especially on highways and freeways). Watch out for the motorists who are coming upon your accident scene. If you are concerned about your safety, follow the directions of the 911 operator or police officers. Once you are in a safe place and the immediate medical needs of yourself and those around you are tended to, you need to get all of the information you can. Remember, information is your ally.
First, you need to exchange information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident. For example, the other driver’s full name, driver license number, and insurance policy number and insurance company. Second, you need the names and contact information of everyone in your vehicle and the other vehicle(s). You also need to get the contact information of any witnesses. Do not wait for, or expect, the police to get all of this information (the police may not even come to the accident scene). While the police are usually very good about getting witness statements, sometimes the police miss things as they are trying to help injured individuals and keep traffic moving. Also, sometimes, witnesses leave before police show up. Third, take pictures of everything you can. It can be a good idea to keep a one-time disposable camera in your glove compartment. If you do not have a stand-alone camera in your car, use your cell phone. If someone with you also has a camera, take pictures with their camera (some cameras take better pictures than other and sometimes cameras and their photographs get lost or damaged). Take photographs of your odometer, vehicle identification number, and your vehicle’s damage. Be sure to take photographs from different angles, close-ups, far away, and under the vehicle. You should also take photographs of the other vehicle involved in the accident. Once you have taken the photographs, get the film developed or send them electronically to your email account for safe keeping.
Once you have completed these steps, you should have all of the information you need to complete a DMV accident report and file a claim with your insurance company and the insurance company of the other driver(s) involved in the accident.
DISCLAIMER – This article is only meant to provide general information and not legal advice. Since every case and facts are unique and different, readers should not act upon the information contained in this article without seeking advice from an attorney. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship.