What Should You Do if You Are Involved in a Car Accident?
If you are involved in a car accident and think you may need a lawyer, there are many things you can do at the scene of the accident to help your lawyer analyze your case. However, under no circumstances should you ever attempt to do any of these things yourself if there is any risk that they will increase an injury that you have received in the accident; if you feel injured, it is much safer to stay put and wait for emergency assistance to arrive. Additionally, don't attempt to do any of these things if doing them will increase danger to yourself or others around you. For example, don't attempt to take pictures of the scene of the accident if it requires you to step out into the street.
Keep a Camera in your Car and Take Pictures of the Scene of the Accident
Pictures that depict the scene of an accident directly following the accident can be extremely helpful visual evidence for lawyers, accident reconstruction experts, and jurors to determine how the accident occurred and what caused it. Taking pictures of the vehicles involved and the damage done from all angles (again, as long as it is safe to do so) is definitely important, but other things may help too. For example, are there tire tread marks, car parts, glass, or debris anywhere on or near the road? Are their traffic signs? If the accident occurred in or near an intersection, what color are the lights? Where was your vehicle before the accident occurred, and where were any others that were involved? Additionally, if there is something you are unsure of but think might be helpful, it never hurts to take a picture of it.
Call 9-1-1 and have the Police Make a Report of the Incident
A police report is an extremely helpful tool for lawyers to use in your case for several reasons. First, a police report usually documents the observatins of the parties involved while the incident is still fresh in thier minds; accidents can be confusing and happen in a split second, so it's always good to get a record of what happened from each person's perspective before anyone forgets. Second, a police report will show any traffic violations that occurred during the incident. Citations, warnings, and arrests although not dispositive can be helpful in determining who might have been at fault. Third, a police report will provide a variety of other types of information that are valuable in reconstructing the scene, such as weather road and traffic conditions, the condition of the drivers and vehicles involved, diagrams of the scene, the estimated speed of the vehicles before and on impact, the positions of where people were seated, the use of seat belts, and so on. Finally, police officers are trained to make thorough observations, investigations, and reports on the incidents they encounter; in fact, some officers are trained experts in areas like accident reconstruction.
Take Down the Contact Information of Anyone that Witnessed the Incident
As noted, police officers usually arrive after the accident occurred and can at best only provide a thier observations as to what they think happened. Tthe opinions of the parties involved in the accident are usually biased and are not always accurate, credible indicators as to what happened. Sometimes all a lawyer needs to fill in the blanks is a neutral, unbiased witness who actually saw the accident occur. Unfortunately, oftentimes the most important witness that is needed to solve the case—the one guy that definitely saw one of the vehicles run a red light, for example—disappears into the shadows because no one bothered to take down their contact information before they went on with their daily business. Therefore, it is important to quickly take down information as to how to contact anyone who saw anything before during or after the accident.
After the Accident, Do your Best to Preserve the Condition your Vehicle
Qualified experts can often determine how an accident occurred by doing a thorough inspection of the vehicles after the accident, but only if the conditions of the vehicles aren't significantly altered from the time of the accident to the time of their inspection. Therefore, do the best you can to preserve the condition of your vehicle. If it needs to be towed, this means directing a professional towing company to take your vehicle to a warehouse or somewhere else where it will be safe. If the vehicle can be driven, you may still want it to be towed so that further damage isn't done; if not, you may want to keep your car in the garage and drive it with caution.