checklist steps to take after a car accident personal injury lawyer attorney law firmIf you were to get into a car accident today, would you know exactly what you need to do in order to protect yourself - physically and financially?

Most people do not realize that the initial investigation of a car accident is crucial, especially if you are unsure of the scope of your injuries. If it is later determined that you have very serious injuries, but the initial investigation was not conducted properly, your injury claim could be seriously damaged.

9 Steps You Should Take After Being Involved in a Car Accident

1) Remain at the Scene of the Accident

It should go without saying, but you should never leave the scene of an accident. Even if the accident is minor, you should pull over to a safe area and check on all drivers and passengers.

2) Call the Police Immediately

After any accident on the road - no matter how minor -  you should call the cops immediately and get an exchange of information from other drivers involved in the accident.

The police officer will write an accident report and may even issue a ticket to the at-fault driver. This is a very important starting point for your claim, since it facilitates the development of information at the scene, including pertinent information about the drivers, their insurance, and the types of vehicles involved.

When filing a police report, be as honest and detailed as possible. If you are unsure about something, say you are unsure or don’t know, rather than making a guess.

It may also be helpful to get the contact information of the officer who files the police report. Even though the officer’s name appears on the report, it can sometimes be a challenge to read the handwriting.

3) Take Pictures from the Scene of the Accident (if you can)

It is important to have scene photos taken as soon after the accident as possible. Take pictures of the damage, the cars, and a photo of the other driver’s license plate and insurance card if you can.

Photos of skid marks and other indicators that may exist at the scene may be helpful in determining what actually happened.

Surveying the surrounding area can also determine if there was a surveillance camera operating on a nearby building that may have captured the accident.

4) Collect Contact Information from Witnesses

If anyone comes up to you after a car accident to see if you are okay, get their names and phone numbers.

Interviewing the witnesses to an accident is important in any accident case. The memories of witnesses fade quickly, and it is important to talk with witnesses while the information about the accident is still fresh.

Since many personal injury cases can take years before they settle or go to trial, preserving those witnesses’ contact information and statements could be crucial. You may not think you need to keep up-to-date information on witnesses, but some people can change addresses and phone numbers frequently.

5) Notify Your Insurance Company of the Accident

After you’ve been involved in an accident, you should call your insurance company immediately and inform them of the accident. Request from them an application for No Fault benefits to get your claim started.

In accidents involving minor damage, the drivers sometimes decide they want to handle the damages without involving the insurance companies. I do not recommend this at all. Usually the other party is a stranger, and if police and insurance reports are not made, there is little recourse or consequence if the stranger breaks the agreement. No matter how minor the accident, always contact the police and insurance company immediately.

6) Seek Medical Treatment From a Qualified Doctor

If you have been injured in a car accident, you must have your injuries properly documented. This means seeking medical treatment with a doctor who is qualified to diagnose you with an emergency medical condition.

Most emergency room doctors are qualified. As well as most specialists, orthopedics and other facilities that have a medical doctor on staff.

Download my free eBook How to Get Medical Treatment After a Florida Car Accident Without Spending Thousands of Dollars You May Never Get Back to learn more about your medical treatment options after an accident.

7) Obtain a Property Damage Valuation

If your car has been damaged in the accident, you will need to get a property damage valuation. The total amount of property damage can influence the way a claim is evaluated by both insurance companies and juries at the conclusion of a case.

8) Keep a File of All Accident-Related Paperwork

Be sure to keep a file of all accident-related documents, such as a copy of the police report, your claim number, witness contact information, and a detailed account of the doctors you treated with. Keep any receipts or bills for expenses you’ve incurred.

Keeping all of this information together will become very convenient for you, especially if you decide to hire an attorney, since an attorney will ask you to bring in all paperwork related to your accident.

9) Consider Hiring Legal Representation

While there are plenty small claims involving minimal damage that can be successfully resolved with the insurance adjuster, if you were injured in a car accident you may want to consider hiring an experienced attorney to handle your claim.

Hiring an attorney means you now have an experienced advocate on your side - someone who is invested in the success of your case. An attorney will deal with the insurance company and strategize the best use of your insurance benefits while you focus on healing.

Choosing an attorney - the right attorney - can be an intense and personal process. Download my free eBook Sharing the Secrets, Learning the Lies: A Guide to Florida Personal Injury and read Chapter 13 “How to Hire the Right Lawyer and Avoid Advertising Lies” to learn more about hiring the right attorney for your claim.

Wade B. Coye
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Attorney/Author Wade Coye - serving consumers legal needs for over 27 years