I’ve Been in a Car Accident – Now What?

January 14, 2013

A car accident, no matter how minor, can be extremely nerve-wracking. The time immediately following the crash is very confusing, especially for drivers who may be in shock or pain, but it is also tremendously important for any impending legal matters. The more information that can be collected as close to the time of the accident as possible, the better the chance an attorney or insurance company has at creating a comprehensive case.

What should you do after an accident?

Check on passengers and other drivers.

Your safety is your first priority. Assess yourself and then your passengers. If you can safely move around your vehicle, check on the other drivers and passengers to ensure everyone is okay. If someone requires medical attention, call 911 as soon as possible. If it is safe to move around the accident scene, take pictures all of the vehicles involved before they are moved. This will help the police or insurance carriers determine fault in an accident.

Document, document, document!

If you’re able to safely move your vehicle to the side of the road to allow traffic to flow by, do so. However, if you can, take a picture of the vehicles involved before moving them. This will help with your insurance claim and liability. Even a fender bender can be stressful, but try to remember to take as many pictures as you can. Every scratch, dent, or broken piece of your car after an accident should be documented. Pictures are gold.

Also exchange information with the other driver or drivers. This includes names, addresses, phone numbers, tag numbers, make and model of the vehicle, color of the vehicle, and insurance information. Also get the VIN numbers of the other vehicle(s). These are typically located in the windshield on the driver’s side or the driver’s side door jam. It generally looks like a sticker and is usually 17 characters long, which includes numbers and letters. Why is this so important? Because there is always a chance that the tags on the other vehicle(s) are stolen. By having the VIN number, you have a better chance of tracking down the owner of the vehicle and having your issue resolved.

If there are witnesses to your accident and they stuck around the scene, get their information as well. This includes names, phone numbers and emails. Sometimes insurance companies want to speak to them. Should your case need the assistance of an attorney, your attorney would want that information as well.

The police and your insurance company are not likely to be witnesses to your car accident. The more concrete documentation you can provide, the better.

Contact the Police

For small accidents, it may seem counter-productive to call the police. Few calls are made to the police for “fender-benders” or other minor accidents. Why? Because, not only will the police issue tickets for offenses that could have caused or contributed to the accident (such as speeding, tailgating, or failure to stop at a sign or signal), but they will also file a report, which can be damaging to the guilty party.

However, a police officer’s presence can calm an angry, irrational, or even violent driver. In some cases, another driver can claim you hit them and caused a massive, basketball sized dent in their fender. A police officer is usually able to gather an unbiased account of the accident from the two statements.

Call your insurance company to file a claim

Always report an accident to your insurance company. Your policy requires it if you want to have your insurance company cover any damages and defend you should the other driver bring a claim against you. Calmly report to your insurance company the facts of the accident. Do NOT admit fault; let the insurance company do the investigation. Provide the information you gathered at the scene. Also notify the other driver’s insurance company that you were involved in an accident.

Consult an experienced attorney

Accidents are never fun and sometimes they are not easy to resolve. Facts can get jumbled around. If you feel as though something isn’t right, contact an experienced attorney. The attorney can go over the facts of your case and explain if you have any legal options.

Always be prepared for a car accident

Though drivers never wish to be involved in a car accident, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for one. A preparedness kit is easy to assemble and includes:

  • emergency supplies, such as a bottle of water, first aid kit, flashlight, blanket, and non-perishable foods;
  • a disposable camera to take pictures of the accident;
  • an accident checklist(pictures, names, insurance, VIN, etc);
  • paper and pens for writing down information and sketching the accident; and
  • a copy of your license, registration, and proof of insurance.

You may wonder why disposable camera is on the list because your cell phone or smart phone has a camera. This is true, but there is a chance your phone could be damaged in the accident; they’re not always durable. Disposable cameras are inexpensive and durable, so they a great option to keep in your vehicle.

If you have been involved in a car accident, be sure to contact an attorney with Cochran and Chhabra.

The law office of Cochran & Chhabra has provided this website and its content for informational purposes only. The information is not intended to be legal advice or counsel. Your use of this site and its content does not construct a lawyer-client relationship with Cochran & Chhabra. You should consult an attorney for individual advice concerning your particular situation.

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