If you are injured in a crash due to someone else’s negligence, Washington state law allows you to pursue a personal injury claim for the damages and other losses you suffered as a result of the accident. Before you even consider hiring a lawyer for your car accident case, there are a few initial steps that you must take in order to preserve your legal rights and ensure you don’t jeopardize your chances at successfully recovering compensation for yourself and your loved ones.
The first few steps you take immediately after being involved in a car accident can significantly affect your experience with the legal claims process moving forward. If you mishandle one of these initial steps after an accident, you might end up paying for it later.
1. Stay Calm. The first thing you should do following a car accident is find a safe place to pull over – assuming your car is drivable – and turn on your emergency flashing lights. Never exit your vehicle before ensuring that the area around your vehicle is safe.
2. Don’t Apologize. It’s only natural to apologize after being involved in an accident, even if you don’t truly believe you have anything to be sorry for. But as you’ll learn throughout this process, anything you say can – and usually will – be held against you later on. Even a simple apology at the scene of the crash can be taken as an admittance of fault, so watch what you say.
3. Call 911. After you’ve had a moment to collect yourself, it’s best to call 911 and request that a police officer respond to the scene to investigate and take statements from all parties and witnesses involved. If you believe you may have been hurt in the crash, request an ambulance be sent to the scene as well.
4. Find Witnesses. Witness statements can help prove your side of the story and are often extremely helpful for accident victims, particularly when liability or the facts of the crash are being contested. Do your best to obtain the names and contact information for anyone who may have witnessed the accident.
5. Take Photos. Photographic evidence can sometimes be just as useful as statements from witnesses, and are sometimes even more useful for proving the facts of a personal injury case. Since most modern cell phones come equipped with cameras, taking photos of the scene is usually very easy and can make all the difference in your case.
6. Gather Additional Information. Take down the names, addresses, phone numbers, insurance policy information, vehicle information, and other details of anyone who was involved in or may have witnessed the collision. These details will likely come in handy during the insurance claims process.
7. Accident Details. If you are injured in the crash, diagnosing your medical condition and getting proper medical treatment should be your biggest priority. However, detailing your memory of the collision can be helpful before you start to forget important details and other information. Try to diagram the collision if you can, or have a witness or family member assist you.
Properly following these steps can make all the difference in the chances of a successful resolution to a personal injury claim. You can learn more useful tips by ordering a free copy of our Glove Box Accident Kit, which was written and published by attorney Chris Davis of Davis Law Group, P.S.