The First Steps – Part 1
“After being bombarded endlessly by road-safety propaganda it was almost a relief to find myself in an actual accident.”
― J.G. Ballard, Crash
The very first thing you need to do when involved in a car accident is call 911. It’s best to be the first person on the record reporting an accident. If possible, try to explain on the police recording what happened and how the other party was at fault. If you are in pain, notify 911 of that fact and tell them you need an ambulance immediately. This is one of the very first steps after an accident.
TRY NOT TO MOVE YOUR CAR.
If possible don’t move your car unless and until the police arrive. I know… you may have been told otherwise. This is important because the police officer who shows up will draw a diagram on the police report of how the accident happened. If you move your car, the police officer will have no way of recreating what happened other than through what you say. Keep in mind, the person who caused the accident often misstates the facts of what happened. If the cars were moved, and there were no witnesses, then it’s just your word against theirs. The police officer won’t write a ticket and he won’t document who was at fault. When that happens, forget about getting the other person’s car insurance to accept liability. For all these reasons, you should tell the other person not to move their car either.
TAKE PICTURES, PICTURES AND MORE PICTURES.
If you are able to get out of the car safely, and you aren’t in horrible pain, begin taking pictures IMMEDIATELY. Take pictures of the damage on your car, damage on the other person’s car, and the positions of the cars to one another after the accident. Take pictures of the other person, of witnesses, of street signs and any landmarks around you. Get the idea? Pictures are huge for your personal injury claims. When I was in law school, I was in an accident which caused a huge gash on my forehead. I went to the hospital and would not let the doctors stitch me up until my mom returned from the 7-Eleven with a disposable camera (this was before the days of smart phones). Of course the doctors thought I was insane, but the pictures were great! Believe it or not, they made a huge difference in the amount of money I received at the end of the claim.
A few years ago, my mother tripped and fell in a pot hole which caused a broken hand and several broken teeth. I went with her to every doctor’s appointment and took pictures each time. Was she embarrassed and did she yell at me? Yep. However, the pictures were very important for her case. In particular, the pictures of her at the dentist’s office conveyed more information about what she was feeling than any amount of words could ever do. If the timing isn’t good to get too many pictures, don’t worry. Return to the scene of the accident at a later time (but as soon as possible) to take more pictures and document what happened.
USE YOUR PHONE’S VOICE RECORDER.
If the other person gets out of their car and approaches you, activate the recorder on your phone. Almost every cell phone nowadays has one – the trick is just finding out where it is. Tell the person you are recording them and make sure that is on the recording too. You may be able to use what they say at that moment to your benefit. It’s quite common for people to admit that they were at fault immediately after the accident, but as time goes by, completely change their tune.
The Rules of Evidence have two particular Hearsay Exceptions which are important for the post-accident situation: the “Present Sense Impression” and the “Excited Utterance” (don’t worry about remembering those names). After an accident, all sorts of statements are made by the people involved in it. The law deems these statements made during an accident and immediately after as more reliable. For that reason, the law permits parties to introduce present sense impressions and excited utterances. This is why it’s important to get on your phone’s voice recorder anything the other party may say.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate predicament of being hurt because of someone else’s actions, the best thing you can do is to call the Ticktin Law Group at (954) 570-6757 as soon as possible. By speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer and going over all the facts of your particular claim, you will get a much better idea of what steps you should already be taking and what compensation you may be entitled to.