Generally speaking, accident scenes commonly involve motor vehicle crashes. However, an accident scene can also refer to occurrences of personal injury that does not involve automobiles. Faulty construction equipment, damaged sidewalks, or broken railings can all potentially become “accident scenes,” and result in a personal injury lawsuit.
Whether someone is involved in a vehicular accident, or takes a bad fall, there is still the same imperative to gather ample information from the scene. If an injury results, or the potential for liability exists, being armed with a detailed account of the event can be your best weapon in protecting your legal rights.
Steps You Should Take at the Scene of an Automobile or Other Accident
In Cases of Potential Damage or Personal Loss (Car / Property), here are 5 things to remember:
- Remain at the scene at get to a safe place (side of road or away from danger)
- Contact the police or dial 911 if you or someone else may be injured.
- Exchange personal contact information with the other driver or person involved
- If possible, obtain the contact information of any witnesses of the accident
- In any case – do NOT discuss insurance coverage details or admit fault in any way. It is OK to exchange names of your insurance carriers but do not provide policy details.
Begin to gather details and specifics. It is important to gather as much information at the scene as possible. Your goal should be to recreate every detail of the accident as to eliminate all doubt.
Accident Photos – If your cell phone is equipped with a camera, be sure to snap as many pictures as possible to account for the following:
- Damage to the vehicles and/or property
- Accident scene conditions:
- Vehicle: road conditions, skid marks, debris in roadway, vehicle positions
- Other: Sidewalk condition, broken equipment, building fixtures, posted signs (or lack thereof)
- Accident scene location identifiers such as street signs, nearby buildings, traffic signals, staircases, or shots of the entire scene (hallway or intersection)
- Proof of Identification – if possible, photograph the licenses and insurance cards of any other people involved. If this is not possible, ask the emergency responders on the scene to provide you with the names of the other people and their insurance carrier information.
- Remember: more pictures are better than not enough!
Documenting the Details – In addition to photographs, it is important to document the following details for each person involved in the accident:
- List the names, phone numbers, addresses and e-mail addresses of all occupants, including the number of occupants in the other car(s). If this is not an auto accident, get the information of anyone who could be connected to the incident and is present on the scene.
- List the names, phone numbers, addresses and e-mail addresses of all potential witnesses. This applies to ANY accident.
- Describe the location (intersection/address/exit number). Think of writing a description to accompany your pictures. Explain the precise location.
- Write down the company name, policy number and phone number for other insurance companies. In case your photos aren’t clear, this info will save time.
- If emergency services respond to the accident, list the name of the police department, the police report number, phone numbers, officer names, badge numbers, ambulance company, and fire department names.
- In addition to these his may include occupants of your vehicle or the foreman of a construction site…depending upon the accident circumstances. Explain the precise location. If a camera is unavailable, these written details could be your only evidence from the scene.
Remembering these basics will help you, and potentially your attorney, gain the edge in any investigation and personal injury claim. It is likely that insurance companies will be working ahead of you in most cases, so you want to have as much information as possible from the start. A strong, detailed account can help in cases where the other party tries to deny or falsely represent the events in any way.