One of the most important aspects of your car accident case is the initial investigation. Even if you are not sure of the extent of your injuries, it is imperative that you comply with an initial investigation. This way if your injuries end up being more extensive than you realize, your investigation was done properly and your claim can be backed up. While there are certain aspects of your case and investigation that may be out of your hands, there are things you can do to make everything run smoothly and help yourself in the long run.
Step 1: Call 911
The first thing you should do after an accident is call 911 to request a police officer on the scene.
This is important because the officer will create a record of the accident with a police report and possibly issue a ticket to the at-fault driver. This is also the time where insurance is exchanged, any pertinent information about the cars or the drivers is collected, and diagrams are drawn of how the accident occurred.
One of the mistaken notions people make about accident reports is that somehow they will be allowed to be presented to a judge and jury in connection with a motor vehicle accident case. This is not the situation in Florida, as there is something called the “accident reporting privilege,” where the information provided to an officer at the scene is not necessarily admissible. Of course, an exception is if there is some type of a crime committed, then information disclosed to an officer at the scene may be used against that person in a criminal proceeding.
If a person in an accident is given a ticket for violating a traffic law, sometimes a conviction for this can be useful later in the case in proving that the other driver was the cause of an accident. Often- times, a person may admit at the scene that they were at fault, and then their insurance company later claims they were not entirely at fault or not at fault at all.
Step 2: Take Pictures
While calling an officer to the scene is helpful, it’s important to remember that they probably will not take pictures of the accident. But are a great way to strengthen your case, so it’s best to take as many as possible on your own.
Photos of skid marks and other indicators that may exist at the scene may be helpful in determining what actually happened. Specific details, such as the size of skid marks or the precise type of scratches and dents on a car are helpful but not always necessary.
You should also take pictures of any damage done to your vehicle and the vehicle that hit you. If there was something going on on the road like construction that contributed to the accident or something blocking the road, take pictures of that as well.
Step 3: Get Witnesses
If someone witnessed your car accident, try to get a statement from them. While sometimes there aren’t any obvious witnesses, even the person cutting grass nearby can be an important witness. It’s best to do this right after the accident so that their memory is fresh. Be sure to get contact information from them as well and try to keep it current and updated, as personal injury cases can sometimes last years.
Step 4: Assess Property Damage
The property damage sustained in a motor vehicle accident is important in many cases. The lack of property damage or the total amount of property damage can influence the way that a claim is evaluated by both insurance companies and juries at the conclusion of the case. Having a vehicle photographed and properly repaired following a motor vehicle accident is important to your case.
Step 5: Repair Bills
If your vehicle was damaged in an accident, it is more than likely that you will want it repaired as soon as possible. However, it is important to remember that the amount of property damage in the claim is a substantial factor in how the insurance company values your claim.
In this process, you may end up asking the other person’s insurance company to handle the damage to your vehicle. While this may seem like the best idea, the insurance company wants to keep your claim low so the repair shop that they use may not use the best parts on your car in order to keep the property damage amount low.
Go to a shop that you know you can trust to fix your property damage well and of course remember to keep any and all documentation regarding the repairs for your claim.