It is understandably difficult to remember what to do after an automobile accident. People are injured, shaken up, in shock, and not always in a state to act rationally.

However, to the extent possible, there are a number of things to keep in mind in order to obtain the information needed to pursue a legal claim for injuries. These things include actions that should be taken at the scene of the accident and after the accident.

At the Car Accident Scene

At the scene of the accident, the drivers should do the following:

  1. Call 9-1-1. The police will respond to an accident if there are injuries.
  2. Turn off all vehicles involved in the crash and secure the area.
  3. Attend to anyone injured in the accident.
  4. Gather information from all persons involved in the accident, including names, addresses, phone numbers, drivers licenses, insurance information (carrier, policy number, claim telephone number). Also try to get the names of any witnesses to the accident.
  5. If possible, Take pictures of all vehicles at the scene of the accident.

After the Accident

Once you are safe, take the following steps to protect your right to an accident claim:

  1. Report the accident to your insurance company.
  2. Report the accident to the DMV (you have 10 days to do this in the state of California).
  3. Seek medical attention immediately.
  4. Take photos of your vehicle before it is repaired (at your home or at the towing yard).
  5. Seek the assistance of a competent personal injury attorney to pursue your property damage and personal injury claims.

Failure to follow this checklist may not destroy the possibility of successfully pursuing a legal claim, but could adversely affect or impair the value of a case. It is important to try to keep a daily diary of difficulties completing the normal activities of daily living, such as performing chores, working, assisting in family obligations, etc. It is also important to document any time missed from work because of the accident. Days missed can be corroborated with a daily diary, notes from health care providers, or letters or records from employers. The amount of lost income depends on the amount you are earning, and paycheck stubs should be retained and provided as corroboration for your lost income damages.

The bottom line is document, document, document.