Preserving Evidence in an Auto Accident
Even minor car accidents will rattle most drivers, but what you do immediately after the accident can have a big impact on what follows. Take a moment to learn how to preserve evidence if you're ever in a car crash.
Remember, it's crucial to make sure everyone receives medical attention first, before beginning to document and preserve evidence.
Simply put, documenting and preserving evidence is extremely important when it comes to obtaining the maximum compensation for your property damage and physical injuries. Even the most skilled auto accident attorney will benefit from this evidence should you need legal assistance when filing your claim.
The best time to begin documenting and preserving evidence is immediately after the car accident (after everyone has received medical attention). Not only are certain elements of the process directly available, but also, everything is still fresh in your mind.
Unless there are no injuries or the accident damages don't exceed a certain amount of money, generally the police arrive at accident scenes (of course, their requirement to arrive can depend on your area's laws); however, if the police don't arrive, you still can visit the police department to file a report.
While completing a police report, the officer will ask you and the other party questions about the accident, as well as record his or her own observations.
Police reports can play important roles when it comes to:
- Filing your insurance claim.
- Quickly obtaining compensation.
- Helping your attorney better make your case (should you need to go to court).
Thus, it's imperative you obtain a copy of the police report; the responding officer or police department can provide details about that process.
Refer to How to File an Accident Report with the Police for more details.
Often, police reports include witness testimonies; however, it's never a bad idea to obtain witness testimonies on your own.
Generally, witness testimonies are comprised of the witness' names and contact information (such as addresses and telephone numbers) and their personal account of the car accident.
However, witness testimonies aren't always credible. Be prepared for your witness testimony to be discredited if the witness:
- Wasn't in an ideal location to view the entire accident.
- Didn't observe the accident from start to finish.
- Was potentially distracted, such as by walking a dog or pushing a baby stroller.
- Has poor eyesight or hearing, or has memory problems.
- Was intoxicated at the time of the accident.
Other factors that can impact witness testimonies is his or her reputation for dishonesty, any criminal record, and whether the witness is determined to have a personal stake in the outcome.
Photos are a great way to document and preserve evidence after an auto accident; specifically, personal injury and property damage—even if the accident involved only you.
Some tips for taking car accident evidence photos include photographing:
- Each of your immediately visible injuries.
- Anything that might have contributed to the accident, such as:
- Fallen trees, road debris, or other road conditions like potholes.
- Weather conditions, such as snow, ice, or deep mud holes.
- Damaged or out-of-order road signs or traffic lights.
- Damages to your vehicle and the other party's vehicle.
- Damages to another person's property, such as a fence.
- The entire accident scene as a whole.
Also, take as many photos as you can, and try to take them from as many angles as possible.
You can take photos with your cell phone's camera, but consider printing the photos as well; you never know when your phone will lose data.
Take Personal Notes
In addition to the police report and any required DMV report, you'll want to keep your own personal notes about the accident, too. It doesn't have to be a formal document, but it will help you remember details about the accident that could prove imperative as you move forward with your claim or court case.
Immediately following the accident, record everything you remember about the accident (the subject of your photos are a good way to start); of course, because you'll probably be a bit shaken up after the accident, certain memories might surface once you get home.
Your initial injury photos are a good way to document personal injuries related to the accident, but keeping copies of all your medical records following the accident is even more important.
Not only do you want records of hospital visits immediately following the accident, but also you need records of each return visit for every injury.
Contact the DMV
Some states require you to contact your motor vehicle department following an auto accident; however, depending on your state's laws, not every accident needs to be reported. For example, some states require you to file a report with the DMV ONLY if the crash resulted in personal injury or monetary damages exceeding a specific amount.
Also, there might be a deadline. So, play it safe and contact your local office for details, and find out how you can obtain a copy of the report.