1. STOP YOUR CAR: If you are able or move your vehicle to a safe place. The failure to stop may result in criminal prosecution.
2. CALL FOR HELP (911): If any party is injured, call 911 and ask for the police and an ambulance if necessary.
3. TAKE PICTURES: Take photos of the accident scene, the damages to the vehicles involved, and of any visible injuries you might have. Use your cell phone if necessary but take the pictures.
4. NEVER ADMIT FAULT: Do not make any statements admitting fault. First, you don’t know the law and you’re upset. You may also be confused and disoriented or emotionally distraught. This will all be sorted out later. Keep opinions about your fault to yourself.
5. GET ALL DRIVER INFORMATION: Exchange information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident, including name, address, phone number, driver’s license, vehicle year, make, model, color, and license plate number, and insurance information, including company, policy number, effective dates of policy, and telephone number. If you’re a passenger…get the information. Don’t just rely on your driver.
6. GET WITNESS INFORMATION: Get the name, address, and telephone number from each witness. Put a little physical description of them in your note to refresh your memory later.
7. TELL THE OFFICER OF YOUR INJURIES: If you are injured, tell the police officer. The first record of your injuries will be contained in the investigating officer’s report. If you fail to mention to the police officer that you were injured, it may create suspicion in the mind of the insurance adjuster who will ultimately evaluate your claim that you were not hurt.
8. GO GET MEDICAL TREATMENT: You may feel okay at the scene but you’re not a doctor. Obtain medical treatment. Go to the nearest hospital emergency room or to your personal physician and go quickly. Any injury, if untreated, may become substantially worse. If you fail to seek treatment or delay in obtaining medical attention, an insurance adjuster may suspect you are not genuinely injured and discount the validity of your claim.
9. CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY: Report your loss to your insurance company but never give a statement to the other driver’s insurance adjuster. Odds are a claims adjuster for the other driver will be assigned to your claim before you have been able to retain an attorney. This may occur quickly, within one or two days of the accident. The adjuster will request permission to take a recorded or written statement. If you are considering hiring an attorney, you should not give a statement to an insurance adjuster for the other driver. Statements made can seriously prejudice your case without you even knowing it. Instead, tell the adjuster that you have decided to hire an attorney, and instruct him or her to refer all further questions to your attorney.
10. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY: Do not try to settle your own claim. An experienced personal injury attorney will generally be able to obtain substantially more compensation for you than you will be offered in settlement by an insurance adjuster, even after payment of an attorney’s fee. If you choose to accept a settlement for your injury without seeking legal representation, you may receive a settlement that does not fairly compensate you for permanent injuries that may become debilitating years later with no chance for any further recovery.