Sometimes, life throws us a curve ball. A serious auto crash can leave you shocked, injured and confused. But the choices you make now can have serious implications for the future.
9 Things To Do After An Auto Accident
Follow our steps and you’ll be strengthening a possible personal injury lawsuit without even knowing it!
1. Stop As Soon As Possible
In New York, leaving the scene of an accident is a crime, whether or not it was your fault. If you hit a parked car, you have to at least try to find the driver. Leave a note with your name and contact information on their windshield if you can’t locate them.
2. Call 911
Check yourself for injuries or pain. If you can, check with the other motorist and find out if they’re okay.
Now call 911. Tell them what happened (“I was in a car accident”) and where. Give them an intersection or an address nearby. Note any injuries so they can send an ambulance along with the police.
3. Exchange Information
While you’re waiting for emergency response, it’s best to collect as much information as you can from the other driver.
Write down their:
- Name and date of birth
- Address, telephone number and email
- Driver’s license number and its expiration
- Insurance company
- Car make, model, year of manufacture
- License plate number and its expiration date
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), usually on a little sticker inside the driver’s side windshield
If the vehicle’s driver is not its actual owner, you’ll need to ask for the owner’s:
- Address and phone number
- Insurance company
in addition to all the car-specific information you’ll be recording.
If there were passengers in the other car, ask them for their:
- Contact information
4. Take Notes
Now scan the scene for witnesses. Pedestrians and other motorists who stopped after the crash can be a great resource for corroborating your side of events.
Ask for their names and contact information. Then have them describe the accident as they saw it, and write their description down. If someone can’t stay for long, get their contact information or, at least, their license plate number. The police will be able to follow up later on.
After that, draw a diagram of the accident. Start with the streets, labeling them, and then plot out the paths of each car involved in the crash.
If you can, take pictures of the scene, including ones that show damage to the vehicles involved. If there are skidmarks in the road, take pictures of those, too.
Try to estimate the speed at which you were driving, and that of the other car. Write it down, along with the exact time of the accident. If there were any weather conditions, like snow or rain, that could have contributed to the crash, make a note.
Now remember the moments right before your crash. Did you notice the other driver make any odd behaviors? Did they change lanes dangerously, or seem distracted? If so, your injuries may have been caused by another person’s negligence.
5. Speak With The Police
When the emergency responders arrive, answer their questions as fully and clearly as you can. But be aware that any admissions of liability will be formally reported. Insurance companies can use these against you later on, as can the other driver if they choose to file a lawsuit.
Ensure that the police officers take down an official accident report. Simply describe the accident as you experienced it. Afterwards, ask how you can get a copy of the report when it is finished. Then follow up and actually get that copy.
If the other driver makes a report, try to copy down their description without being intrusive.
6. Accept A Medical Exam
You should receive medical attention as soon as possible, even if you feel fine. Some symptoms only appear over a longer period of time. If a doctor can catch trauma early, it may go a long way in reducing pain and discomfort down the road.
Make sure you get a copy of every medical report a doctor makes. As you go through your recovery, you’ll need to keep exacting records of every doctor, therapist and specialist you see, along with any recommendations they make, medications they prescribe or procedures they perform.
7. Call Your Insurance Company
In New York, you are not required by law to report an accident to your insurer. With that being said, it is very likely that your insurance contract contains a clause allowing them to deny you benefits if you fail to report.
You don’t have to tell them your thoughts on fault, and we suggest that you don’t. Instead, simply describe the facts of your crash. Find answers on common questions about auto insurance claims in New York State here.
8. Contact A Personal Injury Lawyer
It’s always best to contact an attorney after an accident. Even if you’re just filing a traditional insurance claim, an experienced lawyer will be able to advise you on how to get the most out of your insurer. And if another person’s negligence caused your accident, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit.
To find more information on types of negligence that can result in a crash, visit our guide on the “Causes Of Accidents.”
9. Watch What You Say
Use discretion when choosing who you discuss your accident with. In most cases, it’s only necessary to speak with the police, your insurer and a lawyer. If you’re contacted by another driver’s insurance company, be respectful but decline a conversation. Refer them to your lawyer or insurance company.