You are driving down the road, listening to the radio and paying full attention to the traffic around you when, out of nowhere, you are rear-ended. You know that there is some information you should collect, but you’re not sure exactly what it is. If this happens, follow these steps and procedures so that you can have the strongest case possible in the event you are injured or your car is damaged.
The key to proving negligence, should you need to file a personal injury, is evidence. Quality and effective evidence can help assure you receive the full amount of compensation you deserve for your losses. Any evidence should be gathered as soon as possible in order to retain the integrity of the facts.
So, what should I do?
Be Prepared– Before you are ever involved in an accident, there are some things you can do to be prepared for the unfortunate event. Primarily, you can do the following:
- Keep your car’s registration and auto insurance card or information, as well as any relevant medical information about you and your family, in the car.
- Make sure the above information is together—a binder or paper clip works well—and in an accessible place. This will be convenient not only in the event of an accident, but also if you are pulled over by a police officer.
- Have a pad and pen in your glovebox, just in case. Also, keep a charger or battery-pack for your cellphone in case the battery is low at the accident scene. Your phone will be critical.
- Make sure you have the right amount of auto coverage to fit your needs. You will be glad you did.
Stop– The first thing you should do, once the accident has occurred, is stop. Any driver of a motor vehicle— this includes a car, truck, semi-truck, or motorcycle—involved in an accident is required by law to stop immediately if: a person is injured or killed; or if an attended vehicle or other property is damaged. Even if either one of these two unfortunate criteria are not met, stop anyway, just in case.
But where should you stop? If your car is operable, pull over as close to the scene of the accident as possible without blocking or impeding traffic flow. A parking lot or nearby grassy area is usually best. Turn on your emergency/hazard lights if they are working.
Assess– Once you, and the other vehicles involved, are safely out of the way, check on the condition of yourself, your passengers, and the other vehicles’ passengers. This is important to do right away in case anybody needs emergency medical assistance. Even if the incident seems minor, you never know.
Call the Police– You should always call and report the accident to local or state law enforcement. In Florida you can dial *FHP (*347) to contact the Florida Highway Patrol directly. If the accident is obviously serious, call 911 immediately. Let law enforcement know if anyone is hurt and the extent of their injuries. Tell them:
- The location of your vehicle (where you are at the time so they can find you)
- Your name
- The address of your location, if you know it, or the nearest intersection.
- Sometimes, if the accident is not serious, the police will not come to the scene. Report it immediately anyway. In this event, they may ask for your driver’s license number, tag and/or registration, and what happened over the phone.
- If the police don’t come to the scene and you did not call them, you can file an incident report at the nearest police department or on their website. Having an official report will be helpful in the event of a personal injury suit.
The police will dispatch the nearest fire/EMT rescue unit available.
When the police arrive to the accident scene, request from them:
- The officers’ names
- Badge numbers
- Where you can get a copy of their police report.
As always, cooperate with the investigating officer(s). Answer their questions regarding the facts of the accident truthfully. Do not admit fault to them or anyone else. Do not discuss the accident or how it happened with anyone else. Do not discuss the amount of insurance coverage you have.
Record Evidence– In order to substantiate your claim later, gathering evidence is the most helpful thing you can do for yourself once it is determined everyone is safe and the police are on their way. It may seem like a lot of information, but you will have time to kill anyway and it will be extremely helpful later.
In today’s world, it’s so simple to just take a photo with your cellphone. Use this method to “make a copy” of not only the physical evidence, but any documentation also.
Collect the following for each person involved:
- Personal Info– Name, address, phone number, driver’s license number (remember, snap a photo of documents), physical description, etc.
- Vehicle Info– Vehicle tag information, registration, make & model, color, year. If it is a commercial vehicle, be sure to record the business name and any other information.
- Insurance Info– Insurance card, including policy number, dates, carrier, insured, etc.
- Witnesses– If anyone witnessed the accident, ask them for their name and contact info. They could prove extremely helpful later.
- Location– Write down the location of where the accident occurred with any necessary details like, “turning lane, on this road, heading in this” Also, the time of day and the weather conditions might be helpful.
- Details– Record details like traffic conditions; road signs, markings, or signals; estimated speed; direction traveling; use of things like headlights or turn signals; number of passengers; anything else that may seem relevant.
- Damage– Description of the damage to vehicles, property, and any injuries.
Photograph Evidence– Photographs of the scene and vehicles involved can be very helpful in the event you decide to pursue a claim. These days, they are becoming more and more empirical. Be sure to take the photos as soon as possible, since conditions change and things are cleaned up rather quickly. If you are not able to take photos or record what happened, see below.
- Take photos of all vehicles involved before they are towed or driven away, including all points of impact, damage caused by the accident, preexisting damage, and anything else you think might be relevant.
- Take photos of the road and the scene around the vehicles, including any tire marks, dangerous hazards, or any other conditions that may be related to the collision.
- Take photos of the debris scattered on the road. Sometimes, information regarding the way items and parts fall off a car can assist accident reconstruction experts in their analysis.
- Take photos of the weather and nearby businesses; anything to help recreate the incident as accurately as possible.
Take Notice– Be observant. Look around to see if there are any traffic cameras or nearby business with security cameras. You can imagine how affective video evidence can be in proving a claim. Also, is anything out of the ordinary? Is the driver acting suspicious? Can you see any beer cans on their floorboards? This kind of information could communicate what happened more clearly for a jury or judge.
Don’t Leave– If you wreck into something that is not occupied, like a pole or someone’s mailbox, don’t leave the scene of the accident. If you run into an unattended vehicle, try to find the owner. If you can’t, leave a note containing your name, address, and phone number. Record the details of the accident, including anything that is pertinent from above.
After you are safe and have collected the necessary information, begin the process of letting your insurance company know what happened. The sooner you do so, the fresher the details will be in your mind.
What if I’m unable to collect this information?
If you are unable to collect the above information because of injury and/or you are transported to the hospital, then have someone do it for you. Contact, or have someone contact for you, a trusted friend or family member to come gather the above information for you as soon as possible. Ideally, right away.
An experienced auto accident attorney will serve as your advocate in many capacities, including investigating the scene of the accident. For this reason, you should never hesitate to call an attorney—or have someone else call one for you—as soon as possible.
Dolman Law Group
Attorneys who lack experience litigating personal injury cases do not understand the type of evidence that is necessary to adequately prove negligence in an auto accident, so that you can recover financially. At the Dolman Law Group, our auto accident lawyers have extensive experience pursuing personal injury claims on behalf of injured auto accident victims. We can assist you from the very beginning to the very end of your case, supporting you every step of the way.
If you have been in an accident, please call our office at 727-451-6900 for a free consultation and case evaluation today.