Simple Steps You Can Take to Properly Document Your Accident
Author: Egena T. Younger, Claims Consultant
The immediate aftermath of a motor vehicle collision can be a chaotic and confusing time. Accordingly, many people involved in accidents rely on law enforcement officers or road assistance personnel to document and record the details of the collision. Typically, the primary objective of law enforcement officers or motorist assistants is to check for injuries, ensure the safety of people involved in the crash and clear the travel lanes for other motorists. As a result, important information about the collision itself may be lost forever once the cars are removed from the scene and property damage is repaired.
Thankfully, there are a few simple, yet important steps that you can take to document your accident. Simple things like taking photographs, recording contact information for witnesses, and obtaining insurance information from the other drivers preserves a record of what happened and may prove vital in corroborating your version of events later on. This documentation can be exceedingly helpful when negotiating with insurance adjusters or presenting your case in court long after the accident occurred.
First, and most importantly, make sure you are safely out of the travel lanes, not impeding traffic and not in danger of being hit by another motorist. If you have them, put down flares and turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights and call for emergency assistance as soon as possible.
Once you are safely out of the road and away from danger, take photos of all the vehicles involved in the collision. Most people have cellular phones equipped with a camera, which makes this easy. Try to include every side of the vehicles involved, as well as their license plate numbers. Avoid photographing small areas of the vehicles, as these pictures can be hard to identify after the fact. Remember to also photograph any damaged areas inside of the car, including the dashboard, broken seats, etc. If any personal items such as cell phones, eyeglasses or laptop computers are damaged, also take photos of those items.
Photographs of the scene are also important. You should attempt to safely photograph any skid marks or debris left in the roadway. Photos of any signs, fences, or shrubs that are damaged due to the accident should also be secured. These pictures provide the best evidence of the way things appeared immediately after the crash and can demonstrate the magnitude of the impact and the resulting damage it caused. After you leave the scene and the roadway is cleared this valuable evidence could be lost forever.
Many times there are witnesses or bystanders who respond to an accident scene immediately after a collision. These people may not stay at the scene long enough to be identified by law enforcement. If possible, try to secure the names and phone numbers of people who saw the collision or spoke with the other driver at the scene. If you can, try to get two phone numbers from all witnesses Since cell phone numbers often change. Remember that the other occupants of your vehicle are also witnesses. Make sure that you document their first and last names and record their phone numbers, as well.
Assuming that police officers will obtain contact information for witnesses can be a mistake. When speaking with responding law enforcement officials ask them to document the names and contact information for witnesses. Many of our clients recall that witnesses were present at the scene of their collision and assume that the police officer wrote down their contact information. If the officer did not obtain the information it is likely lost forever.
If your vehicle has to be towed, make sure your personal items are removed. Record the name of the tow truck company, the driver of the truck itself and the address of the location where your vehicle will be taken. Try to secure the name, law enforcement agency and phone number of the investigating officer who responded to the scene so that you have a direct point of contact. While it may seem simple, this information can be exceedingly difficult to obtain after the fact.
If you are a passenger involved in an auto accident, you may not receive any information from the investigating police officer who will likely communicate only with the driver’s of the vehicles involved. It is vital that you secure your driver’s insurance information and try to obtain the information of all involved drivers. Also, try to safely secure the evidence listed above. Documentation is just as important for injured passengers as it is for injured drivers.
Health and safety are the top priorities in the aftermath of a collision. After everyone is secure, remember that much of the information available immediately after the collision is only available for a limited period of time. Taking the opportunity to secure the photographs and contact information described above will help you properly documents the scene of your accident and might prove crucial in promptly and properly resolving any claims that arises in the wake of the crash.
About the Author: Egena T. Younger is a claims consultant working out of the Chesterfield Office of personal injury law firm Allen & Allen. Under the supervision of attorneys Trent Kerns and Paul Hux, Egena assists clients with their accident injury claims in the Chesterfield, Midlothian and Richmond areas.