I’ve had an accident. What should I do?

Here is a list of things you should do if you are involved in an accident.  It is divided into two parts:  At The Scene of the Accident, and When You Get Home.  Getting prompt medical attention for your injuries greatly improves the degree and pace of your recovery. Prompt legal representation is no different.  Accident scenes can change and key evidence often gets lost or destroyed.  Delaying will not make things better for you.

If you have been injured but are unsure if you have a case, please contact me as soon as you are able. You can call me at (925) 977-9600 or fill out my Free Case Evaluation form.  I will give you an honest and fair assessment of what I think I can do for you.  Remember, all cases are handled on a contingency fee basis.

At The Scene Of The Accident:

1. Determine if anyone requires medical attention.  Be sure that everyone at the scene is accounted for.  Try to keep an even temper while doing this.  Emotions can run very high, especially if there is a serious injury. This is NOT the time to assign blame or argue about what happened.  Just make sure that everyone gets whatever medical attention they require.  DO NOT discuss the cause of the accident with them.

2. Call 911, to get the police and medical personnel on their way.  Give clear, accurate description of where you are so that you can be found quickly.

3. DO NOT move anyone, or try to provide medical assistance yourself unless you are properly trained or the situation is so dire that it cannot wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Untrained people can greatly increase the injuries that a person has received my moving them.

4. Everyone has cameras in their cell phones these days.  IMMEDIATELY after everyone is safe, take some pictures of all the vehicles involved. You will want to do this while the scene is still untouched.  Emergency personnel will start clearing the scene as soon as they can so be quick about this.  Take pictures of everything that you think might be relevant.  These include but are not limited to: the vehicles (with their license plates), damage to those vehicles, damage to structures or other items, skid marks, street signs, etc.  In short, if you find yourself wondering if a picture of something would be helpful, snap the picture.

5. Try to convince everyone involved to wait until the police arrive and complete their written report. Many drivers will try to give you their name, address and insurance information, and then get on their way, especially if their vehicle is still drivable and no one appears to be injured.  Try not to let this happen, but DO NOT attempt to force them to stay.  In that case, make note of their description, get a description of their vehicle and it’s license plate number.

6. Determine if there are any witnesses to the accident.  Get their names, addresses and phone numbers.  This is extremely important.  Many witnesses tend to move on once the police show up or even before.

7. When the police arrive, tell them exactly what happened.

8. Like the oath that you give in court, always tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. DO NOT lie or exaggerate in any way. You can destroy your entire case if you are caught in a lie.  Be safe and honest.  Tell the truth.

9. Do not refuse medical treatment unless you are CERTAIN that you are not injured.  Minor aches and pains need to be reported to the police or medical personnel at the scene.  If you assume that you will feel fine tomorrow and refuse examination, it may be used to argue that you are faking your injury. Adrenaline runs high immediately after a crash and can mask the severity of injuries that you may have sustained.

10. Be sure to get a copy of the police report as well as the name and badge number of the officer that wrote the report.

When You Get Home:

1. Contact an experienced attorney, such as Thomas Woelfel right away. Mr Woelfel will evaluate your case and has the experience to know what needs to be done next.  Once you have hired an attorney, DO NOT talk to anyone that contacts you about the crash.  You should simply tell them that your attorney has instructed you not to speak to anyone about the incident unless he is present.  Give them your attorney’s name and phone number and nothing more.

2. If possible, revisit the scene with a higher quality camera than your cell phone and take some better pictures.

3. Do everything possible to preserve physical evidence.  Ask your attorney about this step as there are far too many things to consider than can be adequately listed here.  Your attorney will give you specific instructions customized to your case.

4. When you visit your doctor, bring a written list of all your aches and pains no matter how minor they may seem to you, and, again, tell the whole truth. By giving the doctor a detailed list, you make it easier for him to do his job and you minimize the possibility of your forgetting about something.

5. Follow your doctor’s advice to the letter. Insurance companies focus in on when you ignore your doctors advice.  They will try to use it as proof that your injuries are not as severe as you claim.

6. Keep every doctor’s appointment unless you have a very good reason for missing it. If you must miss one, be sure to reschedule it.  Again, insurance companies focus in on when you do not make all your appointments.

7. Keep a journal of everything that happens in your case.  This would include a calendar with such things as: A daily pain journal, all doctor’s appointments, medical tests you have had, your doctor’s instructions, phone calls you have received about the case (who called, what they wanted, date and time of the call), work you missed, costs of things you had to pay for due to your injuries, plans you had the needed to be cancelled because of injury related problems, etc.

8. Get a copy of the police report and double check it’s accuracy.  If you find anything is not correct, promptly bring it to the attention of the reporting officer. If the officer will not or cannot fix it, tell him you want to file a supplemental report describing how the report is inaccurate.

9. Finally, DO NOT give a recorded statement to ANYONE. When you give someone a recorded statement, you are giving evidence that can be used against you.  Now of course if you have read and are following the instructions in this list, your attorney would already be present if you are talking to anyone about the accident, right?  If there was ever a legitimate need to record a statement, your attorney would be right there beside you as you do it.  Remember: no attorney present, no statement!