What to Do When You Are Involved in a Car Accident: Part 1

Part 1: Reporting and Gathering Information

The steps to take after a car accident may seem like common sense, but they’re not. It’s easy to become flustered and forgetful when stressed out by an accident. If this happens to you, take a deep breath and remember the advice in this series. Remember, the steps you take immediately after an accident can determine how easy (or how hard) the subsequent claims process will be.

We’re going to break out the steps and advice into a 4-part series. First, let’s deal with the procedures for reporting the accident and gathering the information you will need.

Assess the injuries. The most important thing is to determine if anyone involved in the incident is injured. If any injuries seem serious, immediately call 911 and request an ambulance to be dispatched.

Move the vehicle if possible.
If your vehicle is drivable, move it to the side of the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic. This will make it safer for you, the emergency responders, and the police.

Report the incident. Remember, no matter what type of car accident you are involved in, call the police and report the incident. It doesn’t matter if the accident appears “small”. You need to report it to the police regardless. This way, there will be a record of the incident on file.

Having a record of the car accident on file can make a big difference. The insurance companies for both parties will need accurate information about the incident and also an official record of who was at fault. Also, police reports will take notes of other important details, like the weather and road conditions at the time of the incident, the locations of the vehicles, the
appearance of (or lack of) skid marks, and the exact time the crash occurred. The insurance company will need to know these details to make an accurate assessment.

Exchange insurance information. Make a point to obtain this information as soon as possible. Often, underinsured or high-risk drivers will try to leave the scene before the police can even arrive.

Gather evidence. If you are physically able, begin your own investigation of the facts while waiting for the police to arrive. Take photos of the damage to all cars involved. This is easy today as most cell phones have very adequate cameras built in. Take loads of photos or video – these photos can help make your case. Also take photos of the surrounding area.

Witnesses. If you become aware of witnesses to the car accident, be sure to get their name and contact information. Your attorney or insurance company will find this very useful.

Stay and wait for the police. Do not leave the scene of the accident. Stay put and go over the details in your head. Make sure you have obtained all the necessary information, photos, etc. that you possibly can. Be aware that leaving the scene can result in criminal charges. And, watch what you say. Be polite and remember that everything you say can and will be used against you. Listen and think before you talk.

The police. It’s always a good idea to get the officer’s name and badge number in case your insurance company or attorney wants to contact them directly. Note that Florida law protects your conversations held with the police officer as he prepares his report. Nothing said to the officer can be presented as evidence in a trial should one occur. However, anything you say to bystanders or the other people involved in the car accident is not protected.

Coming up… The medical side of an accident.