What should I do right after an auto accident?

Understandably, many people are unsure of what to do or where to turn after they have been involved in a car accident or other type of collision.

If you were injured in a car accident, there are a number of things that you should consider before you make a big mistake that could damage your accident claim:

Call the authorities:

The police will investigate the cause of the accident, take witness statements, and record the personal information of the other driver. The police officer is required by law to file a report containing the details of the accident. The report will also contain the information about the other driver’s insurance company.

Often times the police report will help you prove your injury case, or at least locate the other driver if a lawsuit must be filed. An ambulance should also be called if your injuries are serious.  However, many accident injuries turn out to be serious even though an ambulance was never called to the scene. Seek prompt medical attention.

Gather evidence:

Get the name, contact data, and insurance information of the person who caused the accident, but some additional information may be important if your case goes into aggressive negotiations or goes all the way to trial. 

Pictures of you in the hospital after the accident can be crucial. Videotape of you on crutches or using a walker is extremely valuable evidence. Often times this evidence is lost. Average people do not think of collecting that kind of evidence. But, this evidence can be extremely important later at a settlement conference or in front of a jury. Photos of the accident scene or of your vehicle can also be extremely important. Often times the insurance company will rely heavily on the amount of damage caused to the vehicles in the collision. 

More damage to the vehicle means it may be easier to prove that the accident was significant, and that the injuries are serious. Photos of the vehicles may also assist in proving which driver was negligent (i.e., careless) so that liability can be proven in court if necessary. The insurance company will not alert you to the need to collect all this evidence. In fact, the insurance company would prefer that you never gather such evidence--because you could use it against them.

Make sure you:

  • Get contact info for witnesses

  • Notify your insurance company

  • Seek medical attention/follow through with doctor's orders

  • Contact an experienced attorney to review your case

Don't

  • Give a recorded statement

  • Admit fault

You may wish to at least consult with an experienced lawyer if (1) there’s a dispute about who caused the accident, (2) your injuries are serious, permanent or long-lasting, or (3) your medical bills and wage loss is expected to exceed $5,000.

Chris Davis
Top-rated, award-winning, attorney practicing wrongful death & serious injury law in Seattle.