You were just in an auto accident. You are in pain, upset and frustrated. You are beginning to walk through a maze that is in unfamiliar territory. The other party may even make you feel as if you did something wrong, even though you are the victim. There are several questions as to what to do and what you are entitled to, but you need to report the accident to the police as soon as possible.
Call 9-1-1 immediately after an accident
You should call 9-1-1 or have someone else call the local police department to report the accident. It is important to have the police at the scene of an accident so a police report can be made and filed. If liability has to be established, their report will be extremely beneficial to you. Also, it is important that the police have an opportunity to speak with witnesses and the at-fault party. If a witness is not questioned by the police at the scene and they give a statement at a later time, their credibility may be questioned.
Gather contact information from witnesses
Should a witness’ name and address not be obtained at the scene, you may not be able to track them down later when you really need them. We have dealt with this situation. My clients have told me that there was a witness, but they had no information on them. In these situations, liability is usually in dispute. Without an independent fact witness, it is impossible to go forward or the case is significantly devalued. If a witness cannot be located, you may not be able to go forward on your case. However, if you get their name and phone number, that can save your accident case.
Also, the police officer's determination of liability is critical when dealing with the insurance company. This opinion may not be allowed into evidence at trial, but the insurance company relies on it. It is not the final say, but it is a good place to start and usually given high credibility to your case.