You have been in a car or automobile accident. If you are physically able to do so without risking any further injury to yourself or others, you should gather as much information as possible while you are still at (or at least close to) the scene of the accident.
Below is a list of seven important pieces of information you should try to collect at the accident scene:
- The other driver’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number, driver’s license number and insurance company name (don’t forget the policy number). If you have a cell phone or camera available, take a picture of the driver’s license, registration card and insurance card.
- The other car’s make, model, year, license plate number/expiration date and the vehicle identification number (called the VIN – you can generally find this number on the vehicle’s registration slip and/or insurance card, or look for a tag with the VIN located on the vehicle’s dashboard just inside the front windshield).
- The names, addresses, telephone numbers and driver’s license numbers of any passengers in the other car.
- The names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the accident. Ask them to stay and talk to the police, but if they need to leave, ask them to tell you what they saw and either write that information down or record what they say (with their permission) using your smartphone.
- The names and badge numbers of any police officers who respond to the scene of the accident. Ask the officers for their business cards, and have them write the incident number or report number on the card. Also ask them when their report should be available.
- If you can do so safely (that is, without putting yourself at risk of being hit by traffic), take photographs of the scene of the incident using your cell phone or camera. Take a photograph of any key features of the scene – for example, if the other party ran a stop sign, take a photo of the intersection showing the stop sign; if there was a road construction crew doing work, take a picture of the construction crew at work. If you are not able to take photographs, make a simple diagram of the scene of the accident. Make note of key features (such as stop signs or road construction crews), and note the date and time of the accident and the weather conditions at the time of the crash.
- Take photographs of the damage to ALL vehicles involved in the accident. Be as thorough in taking photographs as you can – include photos of the front, back and both sides of the vehicles. Take close ups as well as full-car shots.
We realize that it may be impossible to collect all of this information after you have been in a car crash. However, the more information you gather, the better off you will be when it comes time to settle up with the insurance companies for the damage or injuries resulting from the crash.