If you are in an accident involving motor vehicles, it can unnerve you. Of course we all know to get the name and insurance information from the driver(s) of the other vehicles, but there are other considerations besides the basic information.
It is important to keep calm, and keep these things in mind. Some people even carry a checklist of what to do if involved in an accident. It is not a bad idea, because in all the excitement, important things may be forgotten.
First of all, get to a safe place out of the way of traffic, or, if you have been seriously injured or cannot move the car, just stay in the car. Call the police and make sure there is an accident report filed. This creates an official record of the incident, which you may need for insurance purposes and any potential personal injury claim.
Get the name of the other driver(s) and their insurance information. If there are any witnesses, make sure to get their names and contact information. Be sure to note the time of the accident and any weather conditions (such as fog or heavy rain) that might have contributed to the accident.
Seek Medical Attention
Even if you think that you were not injured, or not injured seriously, you should be examined by a doctor. Many, many times there are injuries from an accident that do not manifest themselves immediately. Getting immediate medical attention can also create a baseline of your condition just after the accident, should there be a lawsuit later. If you delay medical treatment for several days or weeks, it makes it more difficult to prove the injuries were caused by the accident.
If you have any sort of pain, dizziness, numbness or other discomfort, make sure those symptoms are addressed in the medical examination.
Protect Your Identity
This may sound overly cautious, but be careful about the information you give to the other driver. Of course they need your name, and the make, model, color, year and VIN of your vehicle, but they do not need your address. Give them the name of your insurance company, the policy number and perhaps your agent’s contact information. Do not let them take a photo of your license or registration – it could wind up in the wrong hands. Sadly, some accidents are “staged” just for the purpose of obtaining this information, and you could end up a victim of identity theft as well as a victim of the accident.
Take Photos – Lots of Them
Nearly everyone these days has a phone with camera capability. It is important to take pictures of the accident scene, any traffic controls (such as stop signs or lights) and other relevant things. The time of day may be particularly important, or the weather conditions at the time of the accident may have played a part.
Take pictures (or have someone else take them) as soon as possible after the accident. Make sure to include lots of pictures of the damage to the car from various angles. You should also snap the locations of each of the cars after the point of impact. Take pictures of the debris, the skid marks. These could be very helpful for an accident reconstruction specialist if the case is litigated.
Take pictures of the license plates of the vehicles involved. Snap street signs for context of the location. If there are contributing factors such as traffic control signs obscured by shrubbery or trees, make sure to get a photo of that situation.
You should also have pictures of your injuries, but keep in mind bruises take a few days to fully appear. Have someone help you with this, so it is clear in the photos that you are in fact the person with the injuries – this is not the time for “selfies!”
Keep Good Records-Document Everything!
You should keep track of your injuries and medical treatments. A good way to do this is with a journal or diary of some sort. Be very specific, and include such things as your level of pain, discomfort or inconvenience resulting from the injury.
Make sure you keep track of the expenses associated with the accident. Keep the receipts for any expense that may be related to the accident. This list is not all- inclusive, but it gives you an idea of the types of expenses that may arise.
- Doctors bills
- Therapy bills
- Medical devices
- Travel expenses related to medical treatment
- Damage to your vehicle
If you have not been able to work as a result of the accident, make sure you keep track of your lost wages and tips or bonuses that you would have received if you were working.
Each time you speak to an insurance adjustor, or investigator, or police officer, be sure to write down the day and time of the conversation, the name of the person with whom you spoke, and the major points of the conversations.
What NOT to Do!
First of all, NEVER leave the scene of an accident. It could multiply your troubles greatly.
Secondly, NEVER admit fault – be courteous to the other drivers, and to witnesses, but admitting fault at that point in time can come back to bite you. It may not be true at all, but making that statement could hurt future settlement or litigation. Let the insurance companies (or the courts) figure out the issue of fault.
Finally, don’t be confrontational or accuse the other driver – accidents happen and that is why we are all required to carry insurance. Emotions can run high after an accident – there is a lot of adrenaline pumping in everyone involved. Don’t let the incident escalate to something more than a traffic accident.
Seek Experienced Legal Counsel
An attorney experienced in injuries arising from accidents can help speed the process of compensation for your injuries. They know how to deal with insurance companies, and they know what a fair settlement would be for your injuries. Most injury attorneys have a free consultation, and work on a contingency basis.
Florida has some very specific rules about injuries from accidents, and an attorney experienced in accidents will know exactly what should been done for your particular circumstances.