Documenting facts after your car accident
Trying to remember details after a car accident is like holding water in your hands.
Most of the time an officer or several will show up to the scene of a crash to collect details, witness statements and victim testimony. Even if no one shows up, and it seems like a minor accident, it's still wise to jot down all the details
Maybe the officer will take photos, maybe not. Sometimes, however, if it's a minor accident or there are no injuries, they might not come.
What do you do then? How do you preserve the accident details for your insurance company's inevitable questions?
And even if the police do come, you want to be extra sure that all the details are correct. Police officers are people, after all, and people can be subjective.
Remember, a police report speeds up an insurance claim's filing time. Not having one is going to bog down the process. (Filing a police report with an insurance claim is only absolutely necessary when the driver flees the scene.)
In this instance, the best thing to do is grab the to-be-defendant and head on over to the nearest police station in order to give a statement. However, sometimes the reality of car accidents makes this more difficult. You might need to go to a hospital to have wounds treated, and your car could be impounded. The defendant might be extremely reluctant to cooperate. By the time you give a statement, hours may have passed. That time is crucial to your memory.
It may not seem like a long time, but those few hours are enough to cloud your recollection of what happened. The ideal time to give a statement is directly after the accident, so we have collected the best post-accident report resources we could find for that very purpose.
All jurisdictions have their own vehicle accident reports available online for your review. These provide an excellent foundation, though we have found that a simpler and more streamlined approach better serves our readers.
What we have created is a checks-and-balances approach to that accident report. Even if an officer does arrive to the accident scene, this second report allows your future attorney to see that you were on the ball and ready to double-check everything the officer wrote down.
The best way to play fact-checker is to imagine yourself as a claims adjuster. What information would you need? What would be imperative to approve the claim?
Looking at actual post-accident reports is a great way to start because it allows you to see what real police officers look for. These are available for anyone to download and use, so you can even choose the one for your jurisdiction if you want:
- USAA post-accident form
- MassDOT post-accident form
- New Hampshire post-accident form
- Federal post-accident form
See also our accident report blog post where we highlight a few more examples!
Account for the specifics
Since you probably aren't carrying a post-accident form around, you might want to print it out and keep it in the glove compartment in case the worst happens. That way you don't need to try to remember all the details later or try to look them up on your phone. Should you be unable to do either of those things, here are the details you should try to get:
- Name of offending driver
- Address of driver
- Contact information
- License plate
- Date of accident
- Description of car (year/make of vehicle)
- Description of vehicle damage
- Seatbelts used?
- Insurance information (policy number, contact information)
- Car information (owned, leased, rental)
- Injury details
- How and where accident occurred (draw diagrams if necessary; include weather/road conditions)
- Witness contact information and statements regarding accident
If nothing else, get his contact information. Repeat it back to him and make sure it's correct. The last thing you want is for the driver to give you the slip and leave you with a pile of medical bills to pay. Remember, this wasn't your fault. If the driver starts to get aggravated by you asking for all of this information, remind him that you weren't the one who caused this accident.
Your attorney will be very impressed with your tenacity in gathering all of this information yourself. A police officer will either think you're amazing or think you are trying to play private detective, but it doesn't matter. You are simply attempting to preserve the record for your insurance claim, and the better you do that, the better your settlement will be.
Cementing these details into your memory will also help you preserve the claim for yourself. You are going to be asked lots of questions by your attorney, the defendant's attorney and the insurance company's attorneys, and they will definitely know if your story isn't consistent. They are paid to notice inconsistencies. The sooner you know all the details backward and forward, the better.
Remember, we have our post-accident report form here for your use so that you can write down this information instead of storing it in your head. This can be compared to the officer's information to make sure that everything is correct. If there's an inconsistency, your version of the events will likely take precedence – you know, since you were actually there.
Once you have the information ready to go, you should find a personal injury attorney to help you take the next step. Take a look at the Enjuris law firm directory!