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Post Car-Accident Checklist

Imagine that you just had a car accident. It is important to remain calm and level-headed and to think through some important items to best preserve and protect your legal and financial interests. If you have a simple checklist in mind, it may help to manage the information you should try to recall.

Steps to Take

Here is a suggested checklist for the steps to take immediately following a car accident to best protect your rights and interests:

  • Move to safety. If your car is drivable and you remain in the middle of the road, pull over to safety. You are not compromising anything by moving your car out of traffic. You are making it more safe to exit your car.
  • Put out flares or flashers. If you have an emergency kit with flares, cones, flashers, or a similar warning device, put these items to use. Your hazard lights may work if your car is operable, but possibly only for a certain time.
  • Call for medical assistance. If anyone is injured, even if only in a minor way, or if you think someone may be hurt, it is best to call for medical assistance.
  • Keep your mouth shut. It is best not to talk about the accident or even engage in small talk and babble. The best thing to do is to stand near or sit in your vehicle and wait for the police to arrive. Talk only to the police about the accident. Do not admit to liability or fault for the accident to anyone, including the police. You may not be the best party to assess liability and could be wrong.
  • Exchange insurance information. Drivers should write down the insurance company, policy number, agent, and agent contact information for each other. It is also helpful to get the other driver's name, address, email address, phone number, work information, driver's license number, birth date, license plate number, and the make, model, year, and VIN of vehicles involved.
  • Record key information. Write down the names of passengers and other potential witnesses, along with their contact information. For your records, you should also get the name and badge number of the police officer, a copy of accident report, and specific information about the date, time, place, and conditions involving the accident while your memory is fresh.
  • Take pictures. Even a cellphone camera will do. Take pictures of the scene, cars involved, close-ups of the damage to your and other cars, the environment, weather, road conditions, signs, and similar items that might be helpful to your claim or case.
  • Call counsel. If you have an existing relationship with an attorney, it is prudent to call that counsel and discuss the accident or ask for a referral to a personal injury attorney or insurance defense attorney, if your attorney's specialty is in another field. If you know of no counsel, you might do some preliminary research and consider attending initial consultations with two or three attorneys, in case you need to retain one.
  • If you are sued, alert your insurer. If you receive suit papers, hear of the threat of car accident injury lawsuit, receive a written or verbal demand, or otherwise understand that you are or will be named as a defendant in a suit stemming from the accident, immediately contact your insurance company and put them on notice. It is likely that your insurance policy requires this immediate notification.