Immediately after the accident
If you are involved in an automobile collision, stop. Most states require an individual not to leave the scene of an accident, even a minor one, without first stopping to see whether there are damages or injuries. A person may be criminally prosecuted for leaving the scene of an automobile accident.
Next, check for injuries. Generally, you should not move an injured person. Call an ambulance, if necessary, and the police. If you are unable to call, ask somebody else to call the police to report the accident and inform the police of the number of people who are injured, so that enough emergency personnel respond to the scene.
If possible, notify oncoming traffic to proceed with caution by setting out flares, turning on your hazard lights, or raising the hood or trunk of your vehicle.
You and the other driver should exchange information, including the other driver’s name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate number, insurance carrier, policy number, and agent’s name and telephone number. You should also provide the same information to the other driver.
Obtain identifying information from any witnesses to the accident, and ask the police officer that investigates the scene to provide you with a business card and the “incident number,” so that you can obtain an accident report.
You may also want to take notes about where and how the accident occurred, road conditions, speed limits, traffic control devices, weather, lighting, and what the cars were doing at the time of the collision. However, if you end up in litigation related to the accident, you may be required to share these notes with the other party.
Even if you think you are at fault, do not say so. The other driver may share the fault or other factors may have caused the accident. An admission of fault may be used against you later on.
When the police arrive
Cooperate fully with the police when they arrive, and stay at the accident scene until the police tell you that you can leave. When you speak to the police, tell them only the facts of what happened and do not draw any conclusions. Do not admit responsibility for the accident to the other drivers, passengers, witnesses or the police. Responsibility or liability is a legal matter that is not always easy to determine. Inform the police of any injuries and witnesses.
Soon after the accident
Photograph your injuries and the damages to your car. Gather all automobile insurance policies in your household for evaluation by an attorney, and inform your insurance company of the accident. Obtain legal advice before filling out insurance documents, giving recorded statements to any insurance company, or meeting with any insurance company representative. It is especially important to consult an attorney before giving a statement to the other driver’s insurance company. Do not sign any check or document from any insurance company without first consulting an experienced personal injury attorney.
Consult a physician as soon as possible. You may experience a time lag between the collision and full awareness of the extent of your injuries. Certain injuries may not be apparent until sometime after an accident. By not seeing a doctor, you risk delaying your treatment and aggravating your injury. Even minor soreness can be an indication of a more significant injury. Therefore, if you believe there is any chance you may have been injured, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. An insurance company may argue that the failure of an individual to see a doctor right away indicates that an injury must have resulted from an unrelated event after the accident. The longer you wait for medical treatment, the more difficult it will be to connect the injuries to the accident. Be sure to report any memory loss, headaches, blood or fluid in your ear, dizziness, ringing in your ears, disorientation, nausea, or confusion.
Within a few days of the accident record all important information, license numbers, and the year, make and color of all vehicles involved, and the details of the accident, including date, time, location, road conditions, traffic controls, and weather conditions. If you have not yet contacted an attorney, you should talk to a lawyer that has the experience, dedication and ability to maximize your compensation and minimize the frustration, delay and confusion that you may experience when you make an injury claim.
Document all of your losses, including medical bills, reasonable transportation costs related to the injuries, future medical treatment, lost wages, future loss of earnings, the effect on your family, and the effect on your life. An experienced attorney can help you identify all losses that may be related to your accident.