When you are involved in a serious collision, the moments immediately following the incident can be quite stressful. It can be challenging to take on these responsibilities alone, especially without prior experience. According to the experienced car accident lawyers at Reyes Law, after an auto accident there are several important tasks to follow to protect your rights as a victim. To assist you in handling these circumstances, appropriately, we have provided an in-depth guide on what to do after an accident.
Contact the Police
To many, this seems to be an extreme measure, but it is necessary for accidents of all kinds. Police officers can offer many different services after a collision:
- Securing the scene: If the vehicles need to be moved to the shoulder and out of further danger, then the officer will ensure that this happens. Further, accidents can bring out the worst in people. If there is a chance that anyone may become violent as you attempt to exchange information, the officers will protect you from any potential assaults.
- Collecting evidence: A police report is a critical piece of documentation when building a case for damages. In this report, they will gather all evidence necessary to prove your innocence in an auto collision. This evidence includes:
- Environmental conditions (i.e., rain, snow, cloudy skies, slippery roads)
- Contact information of all affected parties
- Contact information for witnesses
- Vehicle information:
- Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs)
- License plates
- Condition after the collision (i.e., any dents or other damages)
- Location, date, and time of the crash
- The officer’s speculation of who is at fault
- Transportation to medical attention. If you are unable to seek medical attention yourself, the police officers will transport you and all other affected individuals to a local hospital.
Having this legal documentation provided by a law enforcement officer offers an objective perspective of your case that stubborn insurers cannot manipulate.
Document All Evidence at the Scene of the Crash
As mentioned above, you will need to collect documentation alongside the police report you will be filing. The combination of evidence recorded by you, as well as the officer, will surely provide an irrefutable case for compensation on your behalf. The factors that you will be expected to record will be similar to those gathered by the officer:
- Photo and video evidence of all damages. Document everything that you possibly can at the scene of the collision. If possible, leave everything untouched. Meaning that if there are components hanging off your vehicle or certain positions that will demonstrate the full extent of the property damage, do your best to photograph these details as they naturally occurred. If there is mechanical damage that can only be demonstrated by closing and opening doors, for example, record a video instead.
- Contact all information of all parties involved. Unfortunately, it is highly common for people to attempt to mislead officials of their presence at the car accident. Not only will the police report reflect their involvement, but the evidence you collect will do so as well.
- All information regarding the vehicles. Everything about the vehicles must be included in your documentation. This includes all details listed below. Be sure to note if there are any dashcams or any sort of recording device on the vehicle, as it may come into play later on in the investigation and collection of further evidence.
- License plate numbers
- Make of the car
- Year of the vehicle
- Personal information of witnesses. Some accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. If you are unsure of all the details of the event that led to your crash, then it is vital that you collect additional perspectives from eyewitnesses. This can mean the difference between you succeeding or failing to prove liability in your case.
- Environmental conditions. Again, this will echo the information recorded by the police officer. This is critical in case there is confusion regarding liability. For instance, if the roads were slick, the other party must still be held accountable, even if their vehicle hydroplaned or a similar occurrence.
Report the Incident to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
State laws vary on this matter, but the general rule after an accident is to report the incident to the DMV. For example, in California, anyone who is involved in an auto collision is legally required to report the incident to their DMV within ten days. However, the stipulations of this statute go further. It may not always be the case that you are required to report an incident. Concerning the California rule, this report is required only as long as the following criteria apply:
- The property damage exceeded $1000
- Someone was injured in the collision
- Someone was killed in the collision
Neglecting to file this report after an accident can result in severe consequences, even if you are the victim. Those who fail to report their incident to the DMV may have their license suspended, which could then affect your eligibility for insurance coverage in the future. This, of course, can be appealed if this discipline was issued falsely. Yet, you still need to do everything in your power to avoid such consequences.
Call Your Insurance Provider
Most insurance companies only provide brief windows in which their policyholders can file a report. Further, it is best that you call as soon as possible. Any delay may result in your insurance company suspecting you to be at fault.
Keep in mind that when you are discussing the incident with your insurance provider, you should never speculate liability or admit fault in any capacity, even if you do suspect that you may have caused the crash. The determination of liability is exclusively the responsibility of your insurer and the judge overseeing your trial, should it go to court. Any admission of guilt will only give your insurer grounds on which they can deny you compensation.
Once you have completed all these steps, you must contact an attorney. They will seal the deal, so to speak, in ensuring a successful claim for damages after your accident. You may be unfamiliar with all that it takes to handle the manipulation and stubbornness that insurers and others put forth when progressing in the litigation process, but your lawyer will be prepared to defend you from this. Get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible once you have completed the steps provided in this guide.