Being involved in a motor vehicle accident is a traumatizing event, and it is hard to know or remember what to do outside of seeking medical help, calling the police, and perhaps exchanging information. Yet there are other things that should be done either at the scene or shortly after the accident which can help protect your rights and safeguard your legal interests. If you or a loved one has been involved in an automobile, motorcycle, truck, or bus accident, whether while driving, walking or riding a bicycle:
Seek Medical Help
Obtain medical treatment from a qualified physician or go to an emergency room as soon as possible. Keep all medical appointments unless you have a documented reason for failing to keep the appointment. Insurance companies will sometimes attempt to use missed medical appointments as evidence of “failure to mitigate damages”, and will seek to reduce any compensation or settlement accordingly.
Keep Your Records
Keep accurate, detailed records of any time lost from work as a result of the accident, including the date and amount of time lost. Keep records of any additional expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident, including receipts and proof of payment. You may wish to pay by check or credit card in order to have proof of payment.
Photograph and Document The Scene
Obtain photographs of the damage to your vehicle. It is important to obtain these photographs prior to sending the vehicle for repairs, to the insurance company for inspection, or to a salvage yard if the vehicle is a total loss.
Obtain photographs of the accident scene, capturing any skid marks, debris, traffic signs or signals, and the condition of the road.
Obtain names and contact information of the other driver, passengers, and any witnesses to the accident. Make a note of any statements they make concerning the accident.
Obtain a copy of any police accident report which was made, especially if you were not able to communicate with the police at the time. Review the report for factual inaccuracies or biased statements.
Seek Legal Counsel
Seek legal counsel immediately to preserve your legal rights. Legal representation is important to ensure that key evidence is obtained in a timely manner and properly maintained, including documenting the scene and obtaining witness information. Do not make any repairs to your car, accept any check or settlement or sign any statements until you have obtained the advice and counsel of a qualified and competent attorney.