Being involved in an accident, whether you’re driving a car or a motorcycle, can be a harrowing experience. Most people are unsure what to do after an accident occurs. Do you call the police? Do you call your insurance company? Do you speak with the other person involved? What should you document, if anything at all? The last thing anyone wants to do is stick around; most just simply want to go home and rest. Resist the urge to leave the scene before you have taken the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family (unless you need medical attention). Things become even more complicated if a friend or family member is taken away in an ambulance due to a serious injury.
Despite all of this, you need to think clearly at a time where it’s completely natural to feel stressed and overwhelmed. That’s why it’s important to understand what you should do right after getting in an accident. Here’s a comprehensive checklist of what you should do before you go home as well as what you should do in the days after.
At the Scene: What to Do Right After an Accident
If anyone needs medical attention, get them help immediately. Avoid pulling people out of cars or moving anyone unless they are in immediate danger. Call 911 and wait for first responders to arrive. If you can, get yourself to and any others to safety, ideally the side of the road. If your car can move, safely move it to the side of the road, turn off the engine, and put your hazard lights on. If you have an emergency kit in your car, place any available hazard signs by the wreckage (or flares if it’s dark) and stay off the road as much as possible. Assess any injuries you or others may have, then wait for help to arrive.
Do not attempt to leave the scene of the accident, ever.
Once the first responders have arrived, they will assist anyone who is injured. Those who need immediate assistance will be taken away via ambulance. If medical teams insist that you or someone with you should be taken to the hospital, it’s wise to follow their advice and go.
When the police arrive, they speak with everyone involved in the accident. Be thorough, descriptive, and truthful in the account you give them; this will all be recorded and can be used in any insurance claims and legal actions taken later. Make sure to get the name and badge numbers of the responding officers. Once you are done speaking with them, be sure to ask for a copy of the accident report and ask them what the next steps are.
If you can, it’s best to avoid interacting with the other people involved in the accident (outside of asking if they are injured). Tempers and emotions can run high after an accident, and you never know how other involved parties will react.
Although the police will take statements, they will not normally document anything else at the scene. If you are able to, document as much as possible—it will help you in terms of insurance claims and any legal actions you take. Some things to document at the scene of the accident include:
- The names of all drivers involved in the accident
- The names of any and all passengers
- The names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident (bystanders, other drivers, etc.)
- Take pictures of all cars involved in the accident. Make sure to document the damaged areas.
- Take pictures of the surrounding area (the traffic signs and lights, the lanes, the turns or intersections, speed limit signs, and anything else of importance).
- Take note of any traffic cameras or security cameras in the area. Any of these could have recorded some or all of the accident.
- If you have a dashboard camera, make sure to retrieve, save, or backup the data so that it is not lost when the vehicle is hauled away.
Any portion of this information can be pivotal in your case should you decide to work with a car accident lawyer.
After the Accident
Once first responders have left and your vehicle has been removed from the scene, you can go home, provided you do not need medical attention. Although the incident may be over, that’s not all there is for you to do. There are several important actions you should take after the accident has been cleared off the road.
- Monitor your health: not all injuries occur right away, Ther are several things that can go wrong in the hours, days, and even weeks after you have been involved in an accident. Be extra cognizant of how your body is feeling and seek out medical care if you feel off or are concerned about anything at all.
- Contact the insurance companies: make sure you contact your insurance company to make a report of the accident. You may also be contacted by the insurance provider of anyone else involved in the accident. Be prepared to go over in depth what occurred and provide any evidence they require to complete the report. Be cautious when speaking with them, as they can use minor inconsistencies or omissions in what you tell them to reduce your payout or outright deny your claim. Also, be wary of insurance companies trying to offer you immediate settlements right away. These can be lowball offers that are designed to prevent you from taking further legal action against them.
- Follow up with the police: if you were not given a copy of the accident report on the site of the accident, follow up with the police to obtain one. It also helps to ask for any other paperwork, information, or any reports that were filed regarding the incident. Keep everything filed away in a safe place so it doesn’t become lost.
Contact An Attorney to See if You Have a Case
Accidents can have lingering effects on your life, especially if you or a loved one has been injured as the result of one. Everything that has been recommended up until this point can help you win a lawsuit (or obtain a settlement) that can help you receive payment from an insurance provider or from a company or individual who is responsible for causing the accident.
When you work with our team at Morelli Law, we’ll help you with every facet of your case, starting with a free consultation. We’ll work with you to get you and your family the justice you deserve. Call 646-783-3703 or contact us on our website.