Make sure to stop your vehicle in safe spot – don’t impede traffic
If you are in a collision, make sure you stop in a safe spot. Blocking traffic can cause secondary collisions.
If necessary, set warning flares or reflective triangles for at least 50 feet from your car to alert oncoming traffic to the collision, but remember, be careful when doing so.
Check yourself and passengers for injuries
The first order of business: “is anyone injured.” If someone is injured, do not move the cars. Provide assistance to the other vehicles’ passengers as soon as you are able. Find out if anyone is injured, and assess the severity of any injuries. This will make sure that you are able to give all the necessary details when calling to report the collision.
Always call the police. Give the license plate information and let them know if there are injuries or road obstructions. This is especially true if someone is injured.
Exchange and obtain information
Always obtain identifying information about the other driver, any passengers, and the other vehicle. Make sure you write the information directly from the driver’s license and insurance card (don’t take their word for it). If you can, get both home and work phone numbers. Make sure you determine who was driving and who the owner of the vehicle is. Also, write down whether the other driver or any passengers claim to have been injured. Write down any damage to the other vehicle that you believe pre-existed this collision. Note the time and weather conditions, including the conditions of the road – for example, wet, icy, or dry.
State facts of collision but not your opinion of fault
When you discuss the collision with anyone at the collision scene, detail the facts as you know them but it’s best to avoid giving your opinion as to fault.
Look for witnesses
An independent witness is very valuable to your case, so get their information and try to ensure they will be available to give their statement to the police. Make sure you obtain each witness’s name, address, and phone number, especially if police do not arrive at the scene of the collision before the witness leaves. Ask them to put their observations in writing and provide these statements to the investigating officer. By asking them to do so right away, you are helping them preserve their recollection. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, people’s memory and perception of events may change.
Call an attorney for free advice
Most good personal injury attorneys provide free advice on the telephone or in person. Before you provide any statement to your own insurance company, or the other person’s insurance company, it is absolutely critical that you get advice from an experienced attorney. Insurance adjusters make a living by getting recorded statements over the phone that they can use against you later.
- A CNN article which describes how insurance companies like State Farm and Allstate are saving billions of dollars by underpaying accident victims;
- An Insurance Journal article which covers consumer group and whistle-blower allegations that insurance companies are manipulating computer claims programs they use to underpay injury claims; and
- An internal (and formerly confidential) Allstate memo which describes their tactics to keep your settlement value as low as possible.
Disclaimer: The information contained herein is provided as a free service to consumers and does not constitute legal advice. Nothing contained herein should be relied upon as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.