Being involved in a car accident can be daunting, even if you consider yourself the calm and collected type. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, emotions are running high, and the adrenaline rush may prevent you from thinking clearly. Yet, it’s essential to take certain steps to collect evidence for your case. If you’re in a car accident, do as many of the following things as you can, as soon as possible:
1. Stay on the Scene
First, check yourself for injuries and assess your passengers. Call emergency medical services if necessary. If it’s possible for you to stay at the scene, do so. Remember, leaving the scene of an accident, especially if someone has been injured, is illegal and may result in serious criminal penalties.
Call the police so they can file a report. When the police arrive on the scene, ask where you can get a copy of their report, and ask for their names and badge numbers.
2. Gather Information from Other Drivers
Next, you’ll have to exchange information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Be as thorough as possible. Ask for their:
- Phone Number
- Driver’s license number
- License plate number
- Insurance information
If possible, get passenger contact information, including names and phone numbers. Remember to be cordial and polite to the other drivers, even if you feel angry.
Here’s an important note: never apologize, as it tacitly admits fault. Sometimes, we get caught in our routines of civility and apologize out of habit, but resist. Instead of apologizing, simply ask if everyone is all right.
3. Gather Information from Witnesses
If there were witnesses to the accident, ask for their contact information. If they’re willing, ask for names, addresses, and phone numbers. At the very least, ask if they’ve seen accidents in that area before.
4. Gather Your Own Evidence
Today’s era of mobile technology has been beneficial for car accident victims. Take pictures of the accident scene, including your car, the other vehicles involved, and any surrounding property damage. Take pictures of road signs and any other identifying landmarks. Here are some other suggestions:
- Take multiple pictures of the damage from different angles, both close up and far away. You never know which shots will give the best depiction of the accident scene.
- Take pictures of skid marks. You’ll want these to be from far away, and if your phone has a “panoramic” mode, use that setting.
- Snap a few pictures of traffic control signs (such as lights or yield signs) at the scene. If possible, make sure it’s clear who had the right of way.
5. Collect Your Police Report
If a police officer responds to the scene, they will likely make a determination of fault in their report. You have an absolute right to this report, and you should use it. While the police officer is not on the scene, their determination of fault could be key to your case. At the very least, your insurer will want to know how the officers think the accident occurred.
6. Don’t Talk About the Accident
Whatever you do, don’t give too much information or sign any documents (unless they come from the police officer at the scene). Be polite, and give your information to the other drivers involved, but don’t say anything that would be tantamount to admitting fault.
Finally, meet with a qualified Louisiana auto accident attorney as soon as possible. A free initial consultation will help you determine your next course of action and give you insight regarding whether you have grounds for a personal injury claim.
We’ve been helping victims of New Orleans car accidents get compensation for their injuries since our firm’s inception. For a strategic, confidential review of your options, contact us.