The moments after a car crash often feel surreal. Time moves slowly, colors seem to fade, and your mind becomes filled with odd questions. Did that really happen? Who made the mistake? Is anyone hurt? What do you do now?
Fortunately, there is usually a clear answer to that last one: Call an accident attorney. However, before you do that, there are a few things you should do to collect data on the crash scene and prepare yourself for possible litigation. This guide will help you through the process.
Talk to Witnesses
If no one is grievously injured ― in which case should first call for medical aid ― you should spend some time immediately after the crash finding witnesses. Good witnesses will back up your description of events, but if you don’t collect their contact information at the scene, you may never be able to locate them again. If the police are called to your collision, they might interview witnesses ― but often they do not, so it is smart to obtain your own witnesses, just in case.
Pedestrians and motorists who witness collisions are not legally obligated to remain at the scene, but many do, either to lend whatever assistance they can or to ogle. Still, other potential witnesses may rush off for fear of doing something wrong and becoming entangled in lawsuits. Fortunately, many states protect do-gooders with good Samaritan laws, so any witnesses who provide emergency help cannot be sued.
Too often, a case becomes a battle of you-said, they-said, but with pictures, you might have a better case. Using your phone or a camera stashed in your car, you should capture the scene, especially the damage done to property and people. You might also take some pics of the surrounding environment, to include any skid marks and posted traffic signs. It is important that you enable the time stamp feature on your photos, so you can prove that they pertain to your crash. Additionally, though it might seem prudent to take video, photographs often capture more detail, so snapshots are best.
If you don’t have a picture-taking device at the scene, it isn’t a terrible loss. Likely, your insurance company will hire an investigator to collect evidence after-the-fact. However, as soon as you can, you should collect images of whatever injuries you sustained as well as any destruction done to your car.
Order a Police Report
If you call authorities to the scene, you can be certain they will collect evidence and file a report no matter if they issue a ticket or intervene in any way. That report should be available to you, but the procedure for acquiring that report will vary from station to station and department to department. Usually, you will need to submit an application and pay a small processing fee before the police will release a copy. For example, in Corpus Christi, Texas, the cost of each report is $6 ― but likely your attorney in Corpus Christi, Texas will make the effort to obtain your report on your behalf.
Estimate Your Repairs
To know what your legal demands should be, you need a professional assessment of your damages. Many insurance companies will suggest auto repair shops, but you can take your vehicle to a mechanic you feel comfortable with. In fact, many recommended collision repair shops perform notoriously shoddy work, even using broken or otherwise inferior parts to save money. You will likely receive more accurate estimates and better service at a shop of your choosing.
Get Medical Aid
Injuries from collisions aren’t all broken legs and major concussions; after your crash, you may have whiplash, sprained muscles, or other seemingly minor pains. Still, it is imperative that you see a doctor. Medical professionals will confirm that you suffered due to your collision, and any diagnoses can be used to your benefit in a legal case. Even if you lack health insurance, you should still go to a doctor or the hospital because your auto insurance will pay for your medical bills. Being tough after a crash could be seriously detrimental to your case, so there is no reason not to seek medical aid.
Not every collision requires legal assistance. If you experienced a fender-bender in the parking lot, your insurance policy (or the other driver’s) should pay for the minor repairs without a problem. However, if you feel your insurance company (or the other driver’s) is not providing enough remuneration for the event ― which is an increasingly common occurrence ― an attorney is well worth the effort and expense.