Personal Injury Car Accident Checklist
Keeping a level head after an auto accident isn’t always easy to do. Even the most minor fender benders can be traumatic experiences. And immediately after an accident, the last thing on your mind is gathering evidence. Unfortunately, gathering evidence is exactly what you need to do to maximize your recovery or minimize your liability in the event of a claim or lawsuit involving a personal injury. Obtaining witness statements and contact information, taking photographs and taking notes at the scene can swing a case in your favor.
What follows is a checklist of things you need to do and information you need to obtain to bolster your claim for damages in the event of an auto accident. Using this list will assist you in gathering and organizing information that will be essential when discussing your claim with an insurance adjuster or a prospective attorney.
The Immediate Aftermath of the Accident
Identifying Information: Obtain the other driver’s name, address, phone number, email address and insurance information. Try to obtain their license plate number as well.
Photographs: Photograph any damage to your vehicle, the vehicle of the other driver, and any personal injuries you may have suffered.
Police report: Always call the police after an accident. Always. A police report will serve as a formal record of the accident and can swing a case in your favor, particularly if the other driver was cited for his or her role in the accident. A police report also goes a long way toward avoiding “he said/she said” situations should your case go to court.
Witnesses: Obtain the names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of any witnesses to the accident. It may be helpful to take a photo or video of the witness as well, if they are willing to allow that.
Medical Care and Expenses: Keep detailed records of any and all medical treatment you receive as a result of the accident. Write down any and all visits to hospitals, clinics or doctors’ offices. This includes any type of medical treatment, so physical therapy, mental health appointments and dentist appointments should be documented as well. Keep receipts for all expenditures, including co-pays on office visits. Keep a log of prescriptions, including your out-of-pocket cost for the prescriptions. You will want to keep track of any over-the-counter medication as well. For each and every entry in your log, mark the date and, if possible, the time. Save receipts to prove your expenses.
Missed Work: Record every hour you miss work, whether you lose wages or not. If you miss work because of the injuries suffered in the accident, or because of doctor appointments, write it down. Keep track of any wages you lose out on. If possible, obtain from your employer a written letter confirming your missed time and lost wages.
Time Off From School: If you are a student, track school hours missed, or classes marked as incomplete due to time missed as a result of the accident.
More Pictures: To show how your injuries have progressed, continue to photograph your injuries during treatment and recovery. The photos will serve as a visual timeline of your injuries.
Witnesses: Contact witnesses and obtain statements as soon as you are physically and mentally capable of doing so. Do not procrastinate. Read What to Do if You Witness a Car Accident to learn more about a witness’s role in a car accident case.
Non-Economic Damages, or “Pain, Suffering and Humiliation”: It may be helpful to keep a daily journal logging any thoughts, feelings or experiences you are going through as a result of the accident. Keep track of how your injuries have negatively affected any and all aspects of your daily life. You may be entitled to damages for any pain, suffering or humiliation resulting from the accident and a journal kept in real time will bolster your claim.
Auto repair estimates and bills: Obtain three estimates for any and all repairs. Do not ever accept a repair estimate offered by an insurance company without first seeking a second and third opinion from a reputable automotive repair technician. Retain copies of any and all paperwork pertaining to the damage to and repairs on your vehicle.
Out-of-pocket expenditures: Keep all records and receipts of every item or service that you’ve paid for stemming from injuries suffered in the accident. For instance, bandages, extra childcare expenses, vacation or event disruptions or cancellations, clothing replacement, private transportation services or car rental, etc.
- Always get medical attention right after a car accident. A medical record contemporaneous with the accident is important to show your condition at the time the accident occurred.
- Never admit fault at the scene of an accident. Showing concern and empathy is acceptable—and encouraged in compassionate human beings—but avoid statements such as “I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you!” or “I was texting!”
- Even if you start to feel better, continue with your recommended course of medical treatment.
- Do not agree to provide any statements—written or oral—to the other driver’s insurance company or attorney without first seeking legal counsel. Do not sign any forms without consulting an attorney.
- To ensure that your total recovery is provided for, wait until the full nature and extent of your injuries is known before agreeing to settle your case.
- Retain copies of all receipts, invoices, estimates, correspondence or other documents related to your accident. Make extra copies.
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