Someone just crashed their car into you. What you do next can have a significant impact on the success of any legal claim that may result.
At fault drivers will often request that other drivers refrain from calling the police, offering instead to provide contact/insurance information and take care of any damages. Although a police report can be filed after the fact, it is much more difficult to establish what actually happened. A police report taken at the time of an accident will contain the results of the responding officer’s observations and investigation, whereas a report made after the fact by its nature simply contains the allegations of the reporting accident victim. And, even though an accident seems minor in nature, injuries can manifest themselves even days after an accident (especially after adrenaline wears off). Regardless of the circumstances (except in the most minor of incidents), it is best to call 911 and request an officer to respond to the accident scene.
Police officers often fail to include the names or basic contact information of witnesses to an accident. It can be extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to identify witnesses after the fact and, depending on whether the at fault driver accepts liability for the accident, those witnesses may be crucial to prove what actually happened in the incident. Ask each witness to provide their name, telephone number and email address (and take notes about what they saw and claimed happened in the accident). Some witnesses may be reluctant to provide their information, but most will be willing to help out the victim in the accident. If you were unable to obtain the contact information for witnesses and the incident report fails to include their name(s) and contact information, you can file an open records request with the responding police department for in-car video and audio recordings that may reveal conversations with witnesses that include the information you are seeking. Be sure to also request body cam footage, which is most likely to include conversations between responding officers and witnesses.
The amount of damage resulting to vehicles involved in an accident is often a factor in the valuation of injury claims. Although minor impact accidents can result in major injuries, insurance companies rely on the extent of damage to the involved vehicles as a factor in projecting the types of injuries that could result. Before vehicles are hauled away, take photos of all areas damaged in the accident for all vehicles involved.
MOVE VEHICLES TO A SAFE LOCATION (BUT TAKE A PHOTO FIRST)
Many states have laws that require drivers to move vehicles involved in an accident out of the roadway, when safe to do so, for the protection of those involved in the accident and other drivers on the road (as well as to reduce traffic congestion). But, if the vehicles are moved prior to the arrival of responding police, it may be difficult for an officer to ascertain what happened. Be sure to take a picture or video of the position of the vehicles prior to moving them (again, if safe to do so).