Not every automobile accident ends up in a lawsuit. However, having been in the business long enough, I can tell you that, even in accidents involving very minor impacts, a future lawsuit is a possibility. If you were the cause of the accident or if the cause is in dispute, here are a few general, common sense things to do, or to not do, after the accident.
While still at the scene:
1. Make sure all persons involved are okay. Call for emergency assistance if necessary.
2. Remember that there are people involved. Even if you don’t think the occupants of the other vehicle are injured, make sure they are doing okay first, before worrying about the damage to your car.
3. Obtain identification and the insurance information of the other driver (or drivers if multiple vehicles were involved). Even if it was your fault, make sure you obtain this information.
4. If possible, take pictures of the damage sustained by the vehicles involved in the accident. You especially want pictures of vehicles when the damage is minor, just in case they try to claim some unrelated damage in the future. It’s also a good idea to take a picture of the other vehicle’s license plate. Keep the pictures safe and save them for at least five years.
5. Be observant. Most likely you’ll be a little shaken up at the scene and you may not be thinking too clearly. However, it’s import to try to focus on what’s going on around you. Try to remember what the accident scene looks like. Look to see where the vehicles ended up, whether there was debris from the vehicles on the roadway or whether either vehicle left skid marks.
6. Make note of the number of occupants in the other vehicle. Unfortunately, someone who was not involved in the accident may try to say that they were in the accident, in order to make a claim for personal injuries.
After the accident:
1. Notify your insurance carrier of the accident. Depending upon the laws of your State, you may also need to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles that you were involved in an accident.
2. You may be asked to provide a statement. If so, make sure you know who is asking for it. As a general rule, it is okay to give a statement to your own insurance carrier and/or attorney. If it’s the other persons insurance or someone acting on their behalf, it’s typically safer to respectfully decline to give a statement. If you’re not sure, ask your insurance carrier or attorney.
3. If a police report or traffic collision report was prepared for the incident, try to obtain a copy and review it for accuracy. If you see something wrong, you may be able to go into the office of the department that prepared it and attach an addendum to the report to clarify the inaccuracies or add to your statement about the incident.
4. Avoid using social media to communicate any information related to the accident. It’s possible that those comments or posts can be used against you if a lawsuit is filed.