Cases are won or lost partly based on what you do during and immediately after an incident. Car accident cases are the among the most common types of personal injury cases that I and most personal injury lawyers handle, and I have 30 years of experience handling personal injury cases. Based on my experience, here are the steps I recommend you take immediately after a car accident:
1. First of all, you should remain calm. Arguing or yelling at the other driver can destroy your case. Do not blame the other party, do no admit fault or apologize for the accident.
2. You should begin by moving your car to the shoulder of the road or as far out of the way of other traffic as soon as possible if the car is drivable. Staying in the middle of traffic can cause more injuries, however, take photos of the vehcicles at their points of rest before they are moved.
3. Ask the other driver and passengers if they are okay. If someone has been injured call 911 and ask for an ambulance and/or the police right away. If another driver or passenger urges you not to call 911, ignore them and do it anyway.
4. Get the other party’s full name, driver’s license number and insurance information. The insurance information you need is the name of the insurance company, the name of the insured and owner of the car (which might be different from the driver), the policy number and its expiration date. You should also note the make, model, and license plate number of the other car. You should give the same information to the other party. Take photos of the other driver(s) drivers license, license plate, regitration and insurance card.
5. If there are are witnesses, including passengers, ask for their contact information. The best witnesses are people who were not in the accident because they are neutral and will not be seen as biased.
6. Take notes about the incident, including its location, time, day, weather conditions, traffic conditions, witness statements, and anything you heard or saw. Take photos of your injuries and damage to your car and the other driver’s car.
7. Once the police arrive explain how the accident happened and cooperate with the officer by answering questions. Again, do not admit fault. Many officers carry business cards, so ask for one. If the officer does not have one, ask for his or her name and badge number. Make a note of what agency the officer works for, for example, Los Angeles Police Department, Nevada Highway Patrol, etc. Police officers are important witnesses even when they did not see the accident and arrive afterwards, which is almost always the case.
8. If you are injured, it is important that you seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Waiting to see a doctor makes it seem like your injuries are not serious, which can hurt your case. Your medical providers can be paid by what you win in the lawsuit if you cannot afford to pay them or do not have insurance.
9. You might be contacted by the other driver’s insurance company and asked to make a statement. Do not do so. Tell them you are seeking an attorney who will contact them later. Then get their name and number. If they contact you in writing, save the documents so I can keep them in my file but do not respond to them. Do not sign anything.
10. You should contact your own insurance company after you speak to me but do not make a recorded statement except in my office with my participation.
11. Your should contact me as soon as you can. I will need your photographs, notes, insurance information, information about the other driver and his insurance information, your injuries, medical providers, medical bills and records. I will contact the officer’s agency and request a copy of the incident report. I will also contact your medical providers to get complete copies of your records and bills.
Representing yourself in an injury matter is risky because everything you say and do can be used against you in your case. The advantage of retaining me to handle your case is that I give you my personal attention and experience at all times. Since I am solo practitioner your case will never be passed off to an inexperienced lawyer like at a larger firm. I am your personal lawyer. After retaining me you can rest assured that your case is in capable hands because I have 30 years of experience with these types of cases and have extensive knowledge of the applicable laws and
Peter Goldstein – A Personal Injury and Civil Rights Lawyer