Motor vehicle accidents can happen at any time. Nobody travels the roads expecting to get into an accident, they just happen. This guide will provide some tips regarding certain things you should do immediately, or as soon as reasonably possible, after an accident.
1. Call the Police
Regardless of how minor you think an accident may have been, it's always a good idea to call the police to the scene. A police officer can not only help the drivers to exchange information, and call a tow truck or ambulance if necessary, but the police officer will often write a report detailing the facts of the accident. This can be especially helpful if the other driver later tries to change his or her story as to how the collision happened in an effort to avoid liability for the accident.
2. Take Photographs at the Scene
Almost everyone has a cell phone with a built in camera these days. Use it to take photographs of the accident scene, including the damage to all vehicles involved. These photographs can help to support your version as to how the accident happened, and the damage involved, in any surcharge appeal or insurance claim you may later find yourself needing to make related to the incident. It's also a good idea to photograph any noticeable physical injuries you have suffered as a result of the accident.
3. Get Medical Treatment Right Away to Document any Injuries
If you are injured, or even think you may be injured, seek medical attention right away. Not only is it important for your health, but it's also important to document any injuries you may have related to the accident in the event that you later decide to pursue a legal claim for compensation. A diagnosis from a trained medical provider, immediately or very soon after a motor vehicle accident, will prove helpful down the road if a legal claim to compensate you for your injuries becomes necessary. Follow any advice given by your doctors, and be sure to seek any follow up care that is recommended.
4. If you were Injured, contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer to Help You
If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident, you should contact a local personal injury lawyer right away. Initial consultations are usually free, and almost all personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis (meaning that they do not get paid unless you do). So you have nothing to lose by speaking with a lawyer about your accident and the resulting injuries. An experienced personal injury lawyer can also further investigate the accident by obtaining additional photographs and witness statements, speaking to the responding police officer, and using private investigators and an expert accident reconstructionist when necessary to help support your version of the accident. As I alluded to above, don't rely on the other drivers to be truthful about how the accident happened in any future statements they make, verbally or in writing, to law enforcement or their insurance company. Drivers can, and often do, change their tune in the days following an accident, regardless of what they may have said to you at the scene. So in addition to getting the facts documented by calling the police, an experienced personal injury lawyer can build further on that in order to make sure the truth as to what happened can be clearly demonstrated to an insurance company, surcharge appeal officer, judge or jury. Also, an experienced personal injury lawyer can fight to make sure that any compensation you receive for your physical injuries and property damage is not only fair, but for the maximum amounts possible. Provided the attorney is working on a contingency fee basis, which most (including my office) do, then you literally have nothing to lose by taking advantage of the experience and skills that can be provided by a good personal injury lawyer. They only get paid if you do, usually 33 1/3% of what they are able to recover for you. Don't make the mistake of trying to do it alone.
5. Report the Accident to your Insurance Company
Although your first call should be to an experienced personal injury lawyer, you also need to report the accident to your insurance company right away as well. Most insurance companies require you to promptly report any motor vehicle accidents you are involved in, especially when there is noticeable property damage or personal injuries involved. In Massachusetts, where I practice, there is also a requirement to file a written Operator's Report within five days after an accident (for more on this, see the link I provided below). An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you with all of this, provided you contact them soon enough to do so. But in any event, these things need to be done by either you or your attorney immediately following an accident.