The most important steps to take immediately following an accident
What you do directly after sustaining a personal injury can have a major impact on any claim you make. Obviously, the most important first step is to obtain the medical treatment you need, but if you find yourself on the scene waiting for help and you can still walk around and function, the following might help you.
If you have been involved in a traffic accident, you should probably report it to the California Highway Patrol or local police so that they can create a report documenting the accident. This will usually be done in most crashes on major roadways, but you may wish to call the authorities to ensure it is done. Doing so is useful in all cases to establish that the accident happened should the other party try to claim it did not. If the other driver struck you and then fled the scene, this is of paramount importance; both to give the police a chance to catch the person and to make a claim on your own insurance if you have an uninsured motorist provision.
If there were third party witnesses, you should try to obtain their contact information.
It is probably best to avoid speaking with the other driver and anyone they may be with other than to exchange insurance information. Do not discuss the accident with them or how you feel—even if you feel healthy there are injuries which may not affect you until sometime after the accident.
Similarly, if the authorities arrive to take your statement do not volunteer any more information than what they ask. Part of the report involves the officer making a conclusion as to who or what they feel is at fault for the accident. Because of this you need to be careful to report only what you know and not guess or speculate. A police report that says you caused the accident when you didn’t can make it harder to prosecute your claim.
In all cases you should also try to take pictures of everything: the injuries, property that was involved or damaged, and the scene of the injury. It is especially important to take pictures of physical injuries ASAP before they heal and look different. If you have a camera that can time stamp the photos, make sure to turn this feature on.
If you can’t take pictures and if there is no accident report to be made, try to at least write everything down: the location of where the accident happened, how it happened, when it happened and a description of the persons involved and vehicles, if applicable.
You should seek treatment as needed and not try to tough it out. Untreated injuries have the potential to become even worse and insurance companies, as well as juries, are reluctant to compensate claimants/plaintiffs who did not seek immediate medical aid.
Keep all receipts, reports and bills for all treatment, repairs and anything else that occurs in the case. Finally, you may want to keep a diary or journal about the accident to help you remember events.
You should probably also avoid giving your statement to the other party’s insurance company, if any, prior to consulting an attorney. The insurance company may badger you into giving them a recorded statement before you have consulted with an attorney so that they can try to use your words against you later.