After a car accident, many of those involved tend to freeze. The process of exchanging insurance information and reporting the incident goes by in a blur. Unfortunately, taking a passive approach to handling a car accident can hurt your rights later. Remember these five steps for information collection to protect your rights in any possible legal claim:
1. Take Some Time to Regroup After the Auto Accident
Immediately after a car accident, your adrenaline may be pumping. We advise everyone to take a few moments to breathe and gain their bearings. Don’t drive away, don’t get out of your car (unless you’re in immediate danger), and try not to move too much. Assess your injuries and try to stay calm. If you can, grab your insurance, registration, and any other belongings you may need during the information gathering process. Consider keeping a notebook in your vehicle specifically for accident notes.
2. Exchange Necessary Accident Information
During accidents involving minor injuries and little property damage, emergency responders may not dispatch police officers. Exchange the necessary information with other drivers involved. Take the time to exchange all of the following details before leaving:
- Contact information, including names, numbers, and addresses for all involved
- Driver’s license and license plate numbers
- Insurance information (write down the contact number, insurer name, and the policy number)
When medical professionals and police officers arrive, you may need to provide further information to law enforcement officials. Stick to the facts you remember with certainty. Avoid accepting blame, apologizing, or guessing about what caused the accident. After an accident, you may not remember the events as they occurred.
In addition to others involved in the accident, secure the following information:
- The names and contact information for all consenting witnesses
- The names and badge numbers of all police officers who arrive on the scene
- The names and company information for responding paramedics
3. Gather Non-Person Related Information About the Car Accident
Before you leave the scene, you may want to collect other information associated with the accident. Gathering evidence will help you protect your ability to file a claim or defend yourself against a claim later. Use these tips to gather information:
- Grab your mobile phone. If your mobile phone wasn’t harmed in the accident, use it to visually document everything you can at the scene. Take pictures of your injuries, property damage, weather conditions, those involved, and the area around the scene of the accident. Record the scene on video and consider recording all statements made to police officers and your conversations with witnesses.
- Write down a list of personal belongings. If you leave in an ambulance or otherwise cannot secure your belongings before a tow truck takes your vehicle, write down a list of everything in your vehicle.
- Write down what you remember. As soon as you have a moment, write down every detail you remember about the accident including what witnesses and other drivers said. Over time, your memory of what took place may fade.
4. Create a File for the Accident
Accident investigations take time and legal claims can take even longer. To protect yourself, create a file for copies of all documentation associated with the accident. Keep car repair receipts, rental vehicle information, tow truck bills, ambulance bills, medical reports, the information you recorded, and any other expenses and documents associated with the accident. You may even want to keep news reports and social media posts regarding the situation. Export images and video of the accident to a USB drive for safekeeping.
5. Remember Information Gathering Is a Two-Way Street
Another driver can document almost everything you can. In the aftermath of an accident, avoid boasting on social media sites about your close call or making claims about what happened. What you say and what you don’t say can both impact the investigation and subsequent claims.
Whether you caused an accident or someone else caused it, information will help you protect your rights. Exaggerations can prevent you from defending yourself or receiving fair compensation from insurance companies. With these information gathering tips, you will have everything you need to discuss your case with an experienced accident attorney.
6. Seek a Seasoned Baltimore Car Accident Attorney for Your Case
The Baltimore personal injury lawyer team at Rice, Murtha & Psoras can help you through every step of an auto accident case. They can help not only increase the chances for a ruling in your favor but also assist in getting a higher settlement and help to expedite the case. Call the Baltimore office today for a free consultation! (410) 694-7291.