In the aftermath of an auto accident, many people are stressed or afraid, which causes them to freeze up, not knowing that actions to take. While most people know to exchange insurance and contact information, that is about as far as it goes. Unfortunately, if you fail to take a few crucial steps following an auto accident, you may jeopardize your rights. Just remember to follow these five basic steps, as explained by an experienced auto accident lawyer.
Step 1: Take time to regroup
For most people, the adrenaline kicks in immediately after an auto accident and the nerves are frazzled, especially if you have never been in an accident before. The best advice is to take a few minutes to catch your breath and center yourself. In fact, don’t get out of the car unless you are in immediate danger. It is best to not move too much, but try instead to stay calm and assess your injuries first. Once you are settled, gather your proof of insurance, vehicle registration and any other information you may need. If no one has called the police, go ahead and do so.
Step 2: Exchange necessary information with the other driver
In situations where the injuries are minor and there is minor property damage, emergency responders and police may not be necessary. In that case, you need to exchange the necessary information with all other drivers involved on your own. The most important information includes insurance information, contact information and driver’s license and license plate numbers. Be sure to get the other drivers’ names, phone numbers and addresses. With regard to insurance information, be sure to get the insurance carriers name and contact number, as well as the applicable policy number.
If paramedics and police officers do arrive at the scene, then you may need to provide additional information to them. Only report the facts as you remember them clearly and with certainty. Avoid admitting any blame or apologizing for anything related to the accident. Never guess about what happened or what may have caused the accident. It is also important to obtain basic information about any potential witnesses, the identity of the police officers who come to the scene and the names of the responding paramedics.
Step 3: Gather other important information before you leave the scene
Before you leave the scene, if you are able of course, you should collect certain other information related to the accident. Gathering this information could help you protect any potential claims you may have or to defend yourself if someone else files a claim against you.
If possible, use your cell phone to take pictures of everything you can. Document your injuries, property damage to all vehicles involved, weather conditions if applicable and the scene of the accident. You can even record the scene and discussions with witnesses, if the consent. If you have to leave your vehicle behind, either because you leave in an ambulance or your vehicle is totaled and must be towed away, make a list of the personal belongings that remained in the vehicle.
As soon as you are able, write down a statement for yourself documenting everything you can remember about the incident. This should include what people said at the scene and what you saw. The reality is, over time your memory can falter. Notes about what happened, recorded as close in time to the incident as possible, can be very reliable in the future.
Step 4: Create a file relating to the accident
This is an important step when it comes to investigating your accident if you intend to make a legal claim. In order to protect your rights, you should create a file for yourself where you keep copies of all documentation that relates to the auto accident. Your file should include medical bills and records, car repair receipts, tow truck bills, your notes, contact information for individuals involved, and anything else related to the accident.
Step 5: Refrain from making public comments about the accident
It is important to remember that, just as you will be documenting everything about the accident, the other driver will likely do the same. For that reason, you need to avoid publishing comments about the accident on social media. What you say about the accident could have a negative impact on any subsequent legal claims.
As your auto accident lawyer will tell you, regardless of whether you caused the accident or not, information regarding the accident can have a serious impact on your legal rights. The comments you make could be misinterpreted and used against you, whether you are filing a claim against the other driver or defending yourself against their claims.
If you have questions regarding auto accident claims, or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.