According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 13 car accidents occur every minute in the United States. If you drive regularly, the odds are that you will have a car accident at least some time in your life. Indeed, the average driver is involved in three to four car accidents during their lifetime.
Being involved in an accident is frightening and disorienting, even if no one is injured. Although thinking clearly right after the car crash might be difficult, drivers should gather as much evidence as possible before leaving the car accident scene.
Why is gathering evidence at the accident scene critical in a car accident claim?
When you are involved in a car accident, remain calm and gather evidence at the crash scene or as soon as possible. The evidence will be crucial in proving fault and helping resolve vehicle damage and personal injury cases fairly. Without all the evidence, you and your attorney may have trouble protecting your interests in a legal claim.
Also, if you fail to act promptly to gather evidence at the scene of the accident, important evidence may be lost forever. For example, the other driver could destroy valuable evidence if they believe the evidence proves they were at fault. Even if no one destroys evidence, roadway conditions change quickly. Also, if you fail to obtain contact information for witnesses at the accident scene, neither you nor your insurance company and attorneys may be able to find them later.
What evidence is important in a car accident case?
When a car accident occurs, any evidence that sheds light on the accident is critical.
Photos of the scene can help an insurance company, police officer, and attorney determine how the accident occurred. You should take pictures of the property damage to the vehicles involved and to any other property.
It also helps to photograph the position of your vehicle and other vehicles at the scene. You also want to take photos of debris, broken glass, and skid marks on the road. Look for any road defects and photograph those. If the accident occurred in an intersection, you’d also want to take pictures of the presence of any traffic control devices, such as traffic lights, yield signs, and stop signs. You might also take photos of the view the other driver had on approaching the scene in case they later describe the scene differently than you remember. For example, they may say a stop sign was missing.
Be sure to take pictures immediately of any personal injuries to you or others involved in the car accident.
Often video cameras will have recorded the car accident as it occurred. If you notice the presence of video cameras, obtain the footage or have your car accident lawyer do so on your behalf. Having the video evidence can help support a collision or personal injury claim to a reluctant insurance company.
Witness testimony also can be key evidence in a car accident case. Talk to any witnesses at the scene of the accident, and obtain their contact information for your insurance company or accident attorneys. Your car accident lawyer may need to talk with them in case of a possible legal claim.
Other drivers and vehicles
Obtain basic information from the other party or parties involved, including their names, driver’s license numbers, and contact information. Also, obtain the car registration and license plate number for every vehicle.
According to the law in most states, drivers must report almost every car accident to local or state police. When a police officer responds to a car accident call, they will take statements from the drivers, passengers, and witnesses. The responding officer will also investigate the scene and write a police report. They may also issue a traffic ticket to one of the drivers. Be sure to obtain a copy of the police report for any accident.
Evidence under the control of the other party
Other vehicles involved can be evidence in car accident cases. Even if you or a family member have photographed the other vehicle at the scene, your insurance company or car accident attorney may want to take additional photos or evaluate the vehicle damage.
Preserving evidence, even that under the control of another, is critical in a car crash. Car accident attorneys can write a letter, sometimes known as a spoilation letter, preventing the other driver from destroying this evidence.
Car maintenance records
Car maintenance records also are evidence. Obtaining copies of these records can help prove whether a faulty product caused the accident. It also can help prove that the failure of your vehicle did not cause the crash.
Many states require drivers involved in an accident to file an official report describing the incident and events leading up to it. The accident report also can be important evidence, and sometimes drivers write something different in the report than what they told the police at the scene.
You have a right to a copy of the accident report filed by the other driver, which may prove critical in establishing liability for the crash.
Medical records are essential in proving or disproving a personal injury claim. Your healthcare professional can provide the records related to your injuries; however, your insurance company or law firm may need to request records for those in the other vehicle.
Also, keep track of your medical bills. You may receive reimbursement if the other driver is liable for the accident.
What should I do after a car accident to ensure the availability of the evidence?
Ensuring you have the evidence you need to gain a fair settlement in a car accident case requires more than just gathering evidence at the scene. You must also take the proper steps to ensure the evidence trail exists.
In addition to gathering evidence, here are the other steps you should take as soon as possible after a car accident.
Seek medical treatment
Seek medical attention even if no injury is apparent. Some injuries do not show symptoms until several days after the accident. If your doctor suggests follow-up appointments or recommends additional medical treatment, follow through. Otherwise, an insurance company or jury may think your injury is less severe than it is.
Notify authorities and insurance
Call the police and report the accident to your insurance company. Often drivers are reluctant to report an accident to their insurance provider because they fear the rates will go up. However, most insurance policies require you to report the accident.
Even if you and the other driver agree at the scene not to contact the police or insurance company, the other driver may change their mind when they realize they are injured or that property damage is greater than expected. If they report the accident and you don’t, your insurer could deny the claim or cancel your insurance. You also might face sanctions from your state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Hire legal help
Contact a car accident attorney or law firm experienced in handling car accident cases, especially if you or others have suffered injuries. Victims who obtain assistance from car accident attorneys tend to receive higher monetary settlements than those who do not.
Settlements can include money for pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, and money to repair or replace your vehicle. The attorney will help with insurance settlement negotiations and, if necessary, will file a lawsuit. Most car accident attorneys offer a free consultation and accept cases on a contingency fee basis, which means you only pay if you receive a settlement.
Also, most car accident lawsuits settle out of court. Some do go to trial. Choosing a law firm or attorney with litigation experience can ensure you are prepared.
Call 1-800Ask-Gary for referrals to car accident attorneys and physicians
Many people don’t know a law firm specializing in car accident cases or can’t bring the name to mind when necessary. 1-800-Ask-Gary is a hotline that refers accident victims to medical practitioners and car crash attorneys. The hotline is open 24/7, and representatives start working immediately after your call to find the best professionals for you. 1-800Ask-Gary can refer accident victims to licensed professionals in Florida, Minnesota, and New Mexico.