It’s everyone’s worst nightmare: you’re safely driving along the freeway, when—WHAM!—another car hits yours.
At best, car accidents are stressful and frightening; at worst, they are catastrophic. Your first thoughts after the fact will be focused on your own safety and the safety of your passengers. More than likely, you won’t have time to think about this accident will impact your future.
However, the choices you make at the accident scene can greatly affect any personal injury claim you may choose to file. That’s why it’s crucial to know ahead of time the steps you’ll need to take after a car accident.
To help you prepare for the worst, we’ve put together a list of the information you’ll need to gather after a car accident in California, both at the scene and in the months that follow. Keeping this documentation will help your attorney build your case and get the compensation you’ll need following your accident.
Information to Gather Immediately After a Car Accident
Information from the Other Driver
Just about everyone knows that getting the other driver’s information after an accident is crucial, but not everyone knows exactly which information is needed, or what it will be used for. Here’s a brief list of information to gather immediately after the accident:
- The other driver’s name, address, phone number, and driver’s license: This information will allow you to report the accident and your attorney to move forward with any claims against the negligent driver.
- Their license plate number: You’ll need this number when you report the accident to the California DMV (which is required for accidents causing injury, death, or damage over $1,000). It will also be useful for your insurance company and attorney.
- Their vehicle identification number (VIN): Many insurance companies record insured vehicles by their VIN, not their license plate. Ensuring you have this number will make the claims process easier down the road. You can find the other driver’s VIN on their insurance card, registration information, or on the driver’s side of their dashboard. It should be 17 characters long and will not include the letter I, O, or, Q
- Their insurance card: This will let your attorneys know which insurance company they will be dealing with post-accident. Obtaining the other driver’s policy number is essential.
- The make, model, color, and year of their car: In case you’re unable to obtain any of the above information, noting the other vehicle’s characteristics can help your case in the long run.
Photos of the Accident Scene
Taking pictures and videos at the scene is one of the best ways to preserve evidence of your accident. Any photos of the scene, nearby road signs, the vehicles involved, any injuries, the emergency response, or the surrounding areas can help your attorney build your case going forward.
Witness Contact Information
If anyone chooses to stop and be a witness to the accident, the information they provide can be invaluable to your case. Witnesses often provide unique details and an outside perspective that can help prove the other driver was at fault. Try and get their contact information so that your legal team can take their statement as soon as possible.
Information to Gather in the Months Following a Car Accident
Police Accident Report
Calling the police after your accident is required by law if anyone is injured. However, we’d recommend you call the police even for minor fender benders. Responding officers will file a police report, which will provide an outside, objective account of the accident.
To obtain a copy of the police report of your accident, you may need to ask for the report number from the police officer at the scene. You can also call the police department in the days that follow and ask for the report. You’ll need to provide the date and location of the accident, the involved drivers’ names, and the name of the officer who responded.
Car Repair Receipts
After an accident, your car will likely be damaged. To help your lawyer build your case, we recommend keeping receipts of any and all car-related expenses you incur following your accident: towing costs, rental car bills, repair charges, and more. If you can get repair estimates from multiple mechanics, this can help justify your case even further.
It may also be helpful to get an accurate estimate of your car’s value before the accident occurred. Kelley Blue Book and other reputable car valuation services can help with this.
Physical and mental injuries are an all-too-common consequence of car accidents. Even minor injuries can create a mountain of medical bills. You’ll need to track every cent that leaves your wallet so you can be properly compensated later on.
Here are some examples of documents you will want to obtain and keep:
- Any and all medical bills
- Prescription forms
- Records of emergency care and/or hospital admission
- Insurance statements
If you do not have access to these records, your attorney can obtain them for you. Make sure to record the name and address of any medical provider or specialist you see after your accident.
Proof of Income Loss
If your car accident forced you to miss work, you’ll need to provide proof of lost income to support your case. Emails, letters, and conversations with your employer can case your case. Ask your supervisor for a letter detailing your employment status, rate of pay, and the number of hours you missed due to your accident. Former tax returns, 1099s, and pay stubs can help your attorney establish what you would have been earning had your accident not occurred.
Lastly, if your doctor writes you a note recommending that you stay home from work, show this to your attorney.
Medical Treatment Journal
As you heal, it can be helpful to track the progress of your injuries, symptoms, complaints, and recovery in a journal or log. Some insurance companies will try to minimize your injuries to avoid paying you proper compensation. If you keep careful record of your experiences, it will be easier for your attorneys to refute their accusations.
Get the Guidance You Deserve with PARRIS
This is a lot of information to remember during an extremely stressful time in your life. After a car accident, you should be focused on your recovery, not on paperwork.
Hiring PARRIS car accident attorneys to help navigate this process can make all the difference in the world. Our skilled trial lawyers will gather all of the information you’ll need, fight insurance companies on your behalf, and ensure you get the care you deserve.
Call PARRIS today for a free review of your case. We’ll fight fearlessly until you see justice.