It happens to everybody – one moment you’re stopped at a red light, and the next all you hear is squealing tires and crunching metal as a distracted driver rear-ends you. Car accidents are unfortunately an unavoidable fact of modern life, but knowing what to do after one happens can make a significant difference in protecting your rights. There are many steps you can and should take both at the scene of the accident as well as afterward, and most of them center on gathering information.
What to Do at the Scene of the Accident
- Exchange Information with the Other Driver – Some of the most important information you can gather at the scene of the accident concerns the other driver. In addition to his or her name, you should ask for contact information (address, email address, and phone number) as well as his or her insurance provider and policy number. You should also write down his or her license plate number. Although it is against the law, sometimes drivers leave the scene of an accident. If that happens, just do your best to note what kind of car he or she is driving, what color it is, his or her license plate number, and a physical description of the driver if you can see him or her.
- Take Pictures – Pictures, as they say, are worth 1,000 words. If you are involved in a collision, taking pictures can help investigators determine what happened and what damage was caused. And since most drivers have phones with built-in cameras, taking pictures or recording videos at the scene of an accident is usually very easy. You should take pictures or video of anything that might be important later on—the positions of each of your vehicles, any damage to the vehicles, injuries you sustained, and the weather at the time of the accident, for example.
- Call the Police – Additionally, obtaining a police report is generally a good idea. When the police respond to your accident they will generate an official report that can be used as evidence in any investigations or court proceedings after the accident. Because the report is from a neutral third party, it can often be more persuasive than your own notes and observations.
- Talk to Witnesses – Finally, check to see if there were any bystanders or other witnesses to the accident. If they are willing, ask them to exchange contact information as well, and whether they would be willing to provide a statement of what they witnessed. Although not as official as a police report, witness statements can also be very persuasive evidence.
What to Do After the Accident
Your information-gathering mission doesn’t end when you leave the scene of the collision. Afterward, it will be critical to document the aftermath of the accident, including all of the impacts it has had on your life. Some of the records you should keep include:
- Doctor’s Visits and Medical Expenses – Keep a log of every time you speak with or visit your doctor or other medical providers, and keep any paperwork they give you. This will help you prove what the accident has cost you in time and medical costs. If you have visible injuries, you should also continue to take photos to show how they heal over time.
- Time Away from Work or School – You should also keep a record of any time you have had to miss work or school due to the accident. If possible, get an official letter from your employer or school indicating how much time you have missed.
- Repair Bills and Other Expenses – Finally, keep your receipts from any work done on your car to repair damage from the accident, as well as any other related expenses (such as car rentals or medical equipment).
Sometimes there’s nothing even the best drivers can do to avoid being the victim of an accident. On the other hand, every driver has the ability to take steps to protect his or her own interests after an accident occurs. Our office has helped guide thousands of car accident victims through the next steps after their accidents, and our attorneys are available to guide you as well. If you’ve been in a car accident and would like to speak with an attorney, please call our Santa Fe car accident attorney today.