Once an auto accident happens, it is a pretty chaotic and confusing scene. As you examine the damages and assess any bodily injuries, you get bombarded with a flood of questions from multiple directions.
It is important to stay calm and cool! However, to protect your rights and help with any legal issues that may arise, here are 5 things you should do before you leave the scene.
1. Take Pictures
Obtaining evidence right away is important for any type of accident, especially an auto accident. Take pictures of your own vehicle damage as well as the other vehicles involved. Wide shots are fine. However, close-ups are important since they will highlight the extent of the damages.
You should also take a pictures of the accident scene. Sometimes the positions of the vehicles can be relevant.
2. Get Contact Information from Eye witnesses
Eye-witnesses are important to your auto accident case. This is because the at-fault party may try to change their story once you pursue a claim. Obtaining contact information for witnesses at the scene will make it much easier for your auto accident lawyer and the insurance company to investigate the accident and make a liability determination.
Do not discuss the accident with the witness. Just get their information. Hopefully, the eye-witnesses will cooperate.
3. Exchange Information
Here is where many people miss the mark. Getting the correct information is essential to identifying all the right players:
- Get the name, address, telephone number, and drivers license number of the driver. Take a picture of a drivers license. Confirm that the address on the license is current;
- Get the name and policy number of the other vehicle’s insurance. Take a picture of the insurance card if you can; and,
- Get the state of issuance and license plate number of the other vehicle. You can also take a picture of it.
Just getting the insurance information is not enough. You need to get the driver’s information also. If future legal action becomes necessary, you must file the suit against the driver. You are not allowed to file a lawsuit against the insurance company. But if you cannot identify or locate the other driver, it makes it more difficult for your attorney to get the suit properly filed.
Here is a form you can print out and keep in your car in case you are involved in an auto accident. Use this form to collect the pertinent information at the accident scene.
4. Call the Police.
Many police departments have changed the way they respond to auto accidents in Dallas, and other major metropolitan areas in Texas. Many times, the police will not come out to the scene unless the accident resulted in serious injuries to the occupants of the vehicles or if the vehicles have to be towed. If no one needs an ambulance and the vehicles are otherwise driveable, the 9-1-1 operator will just instruct everyone to exchange information and move the vehicles out of the roadway.
If the other driver is refusing to exchange information, then the police will usually come to the scene and help facilitate the exchange of information.
Additionally, the police officer will not make an official report unless the accident is of a more serious nature.
5. Do not sign or discuss anything about the accident.
Beware of discussing the accident with the other driver. What you say can be used against you. The other driver may try to engage you in a discussion about what happened and may even get angry. Stay cool! Do not argue with the other driver and do not discuss the accident. Your best response is to calmly say: “This is neither the time or place to resolve this matter.” Then, offer to exchange the relevant information.
Do not, under any circumstances, write down or sign anything about the accident. Just exchange information.
If the other driver is being belligerent or uncooperative, step aside and call 9-1-1. Tell the operator that the other driver is not cooperating in exchanging information and that you need an officer’s assistance.