This advice from Top Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers applies if you have been involved in an any type of motor vehicle accident.
10. Seek Medical Treatment
Ok, you’ve just been in a car accident. Assuming you’re still conscious, the first thing to do is relax and assess your physical condition. If the accident is serious and you have access to a cell phone, call 911 and request an ambulance. Determine whether there are any other people — passengers, pedestrians, etc. — who require immediate medical treatment and, if so, call for an ambulance.
If there is even a question as to whether or not you are injured as a result of the accident, go to an emergency room immediately. I frequently see clients who have been in serious car accidents and, for whatever reason — no insurance, don’t think they were seriously inured, etc. — they do not go to a hospital until 2-3 days, sometimes weeks after the accident.
A delay in seeking medical treatment can cause you serious injury, even death. Especially with head injuries, you might not realize that you suffered a brain injury — you might just think you suffered a minor concussion — meanwhile, your head is bleeding. You are most likely not a doctor. Let a trained medical professional decide whether or not your are injured.
9. Call The Police; Fill Out A Police Report
One of the purposes of calling 911 is to call for an ambulance, if required. Another important purpose is to create a report of what happened immediately following the accident. Policemen are trained in the procedure to follow. If there is an issue as to who was at fault for the accident, the police may generate that type of information in their police report: they may issue traffic citations, take down statements from other witnesses, etc.
At the very least, if you do not wait for police to arrive on the scene of the accident, you should still go to your local police station and fill out a police report or traffic crash report. This document contains critical information about your accident, including the names of the drivers involved, insurance information, names of known passengers and witnesses, vehicle information, and often times a narrative of what occurred, along with a visual drawing of the accident.
Should a personal injury lawsuit ever arise out of this car accident, the police report will be a critical source of information.
8. Gather As Much Information As Possible From The Other Drivers
Whether or not you wait for the police to arrive to the scene, you should exchange information with the drivers of the other vehicles involved. Even if the other driver says, “It’s ok man, I’m fine, no damage to my car” or “please, I don’t have any insurance”, you still must get as much information from the other drivers as possible, including:
- Telephone Number;
- Drivers License Number;
- Vehicle — make, model, year
- License Plate Number
- VIN #
- Insurance Company — including the Policy Number
- NOTE: If the driver of the other vehicle is not the owner of the vehicle, determine who owns the vehicle, and get the insurance information for the vehicle involved (which may be different than the insurance information of the driver)
7. Gather As Much Information As Possible From Other Witnesses
If there are passengers in the other vehicles, get their information (see #6 above for type of information to gather). If there are witnesses on the scene, get their information. These are all potential witnesses if litigation ever arises, and you need a way to contact them — maybe a year or two from now. Get multiple phone numbers, including a cell number, if possible.
If you are sure that the accident was not your fault, listen for helpful statements (regarding liability) from either the other driver(s) involved or any witnesses. Take a mental note — and later write down what they said — so that you have an idea of who might be a helpful/hurtful witness later.
6. Do Not Make Any Statements On The Scene
If you are approached by the drivers of the other vehicles involved, do not make any statements. You might be tempted to say, “I’m sorry, it was my fault” or “don’t worry, I have insurance that will pay for your damage” — nothing you say can help you; it can only hurt you.
If policemen arrive on the scene and interview you as to what happened, stick to a short, factual recitation of what occurred.
5. Take Photographs
If the accident is serious and the police arrive, many times they will call a photographer to take pictures of the accident scene and the vehicles involved. Photographs are highly probative and compelling evidence (especially to a jury) as to what occurred. Other times, insurance companies will send their investigators or photographers to take pictures, either at the scene, or at a later time.
If you have a camera with you, take pictures yourself. Many people now have cell phones that also take photographs — even if the quality isn’t great, it’s better than nothing.
What should you photograph? Anything you think is important, including:
- The Scene — Where did the accident take place? What was the weather like? The lighting? Was it an intersection?
- The Vehicles — What type of vehicles were involved? What was the positioning of the vehicles after impact?
- The Damage — How severe was the damage to your car? Where did the damage occur? What about damage to the other vehicles, or other objects, buildings, etc.? Any noticeable injuries to you or any of your passengers?
4. Keep A Diary
Memory fades. This accident might have been a traumatic experience for you, and you might want to forget what you went through. Or, it might not have been a big deal at the time, but later progressed into a debilitating condition.
Keeping a diary of what occurred, the treatment your received, and how you have progressed with your injuries will allow you to look back, say three years from now, and recall what you went through as a result of the accident. This will become invaluable if your accident results in a personal injury lawsuit.
3. Consult An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
If you were injured as a result of a car, bus, motorcycle or truck accident, which you believe was caused by the negligence of someone else, you should consult a qualified personal injury attorney regarding a potential lawsuit. Experienced personal injury lawyers can give you a qualified opinion as to whether or not you have a viable cause of action.
Should a lawyer accept your case, he or she will work to ensure that you are compensated to the full extent of the law, which may include economic and non-economic damages for pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, and loss of consortium.
2. Do Not Make Any Statements To Other Insurance Companies
A common occurrence a few weeks after your accident: you receive phone call from a representative for the insurance company of the driver who hit you. She asks you what happened?
If you were smart and consulted a lawyer, simply tell her that you have either hired a lawyer or are seeking legal representation, and will forward her the contact information of your attorney. Take down the information she gives you, and hang up the phone. Nothing good can happen from giving a statement of what occurred, or a description the extent of your injuries, to the insurance company.
1. Keep Track Of Bills And Expenses Associated With The Accident
Even if your insurance company is paying your medical bills, it is good practice to keep a file with all bills you have incurred as a result of the accident. Also, you should keep track of any expenses you have incurred. Depending on the jurisdiction, some of those expenses may be recoverable in a personal injury action.
Finally, keep track of any wages you have lost as a result of the accident. Again, even if disability is paying you despite your absence, keep track of all of your lost wages.
The more organized you are, the better prepared you will be if your accident results in a personal injury lawsuit.