Sooner or later, most of us will experience at least one automobile accident. We think we know everything to do at that moment. However, when the stress of the moment combined with fear and (possibly) personal injury, those thoughts are not so easily retrieved. There are a few things every driver should do immediately following an accident. These steps ensure your safety and the safety of others. Further steps allow you to collect and preserve evidence for use in future insurance claims and possible legal actions.
- Call 911 for help
It does not matter if you are injured or not, dial 911. Reporting the accident to 911 ensures the proper help is dispatched to the location. When emotions are high and adrenaline kicks in, people do not always know they are hurt. The 911 operators will send police, ambulance, and/or the fire department as needed.
- Collect important information
Exchange information with the other driver, including their insurance, name, and even their address. Gather information from any passengers or witnesses to the accident. Use your cell phone to record people stating their information if writing it down is not possible.
- Take pictures of the scene
Take pictures of each vehicle before they are moved if possible. Take photos of each side, front and back and from various angles. Take pictures of car tags, and of any people who appear to have injuries. Take pictures of damaged property, road signs and landmarks. If there are skid marks on the road, snap pictures of that as well.
Note: take pictures of the other vehicle involved in the accident first. In the event that the other driver refuses to give you information or decides to leave the scene, you will need the make, model, color and tag number of the other vehicle involved in the accident.
- Seek medical attention immediately
All injuries are not immediately evident after a trauma. This is especially true with internal injuries, as they are serious and bruising, straining, and pulled muscles are sometimes days or weeks showing up. Do not assume you are physically okay after the accident. See an emergency room doctor or your family doctor and allow them to give you an examination. Due to the nature of being involved in an accident, you will probably be subjected to x-rays and CAT scans and other tests that will allow the doctor to look for internal damage.
- Contact your insurance company as soon as you can
As soon as possible contact your insurance company to file a claim. Regardless of who is at-fault, your insurance company will need all of the information you have gathered and they will need a statement from you. Do not talk with the insurance company for the other driver. Your only duty is to provide them with the information. Let your insurance company work out any settlements. Do not sign anything or admit to anything. Now is the time to consider hiring an attorney to protect your rights.