What Steps to Take at the Scene of an Auto Collision
The average person will experience approximately four car accidents in the course of their life. While many car accident injuries may not be life-threatening or result in permanent injuries to those involved, they often require significant medical treatment, physical therapy, and other forms of rehabilitation that are not only time-consuming but emotionally taxing. As you focus on your physical recovery, it is only natural to feel burdened by lost wages, medical bills, and other costs associated with your claim. On top of that, dealing with insurance companies can be overwhelming as they may contact you relentlessly. Fortunately, Washington State allows the injured party to seek compensation against the at-fault party to help them recover costs and damages that result from an auto collision. Although the law does not require you to seek legal representation when filing an auto accident claim, doing so is highly recommended and allows you to take off some of the burden in the process so that you can focus solely on recovery and rehabilitating your injuries.
It can be difficult to know what steps to take right after a car accident occurs, especially if you have suffered significant injuries. This post will highlight some essential steps to take at the scene of the collision to ensure that you have all the information necessary to best move forward with your personal injury claim.
Ensure the Safety of You and Others
The first thing you should do at the scene of an accident is to make sure that your car is pulled over to the side of the road, away from oncoming traffic. If your car is totaled or you are unable to move it due to extensive damage, remove yourself and all other passengers to a safe distance away from the collision. This is a safety precaution to protect yourself and others from potentially suffering further injuries. Evaluate all involved parties for injuries and call an ambulance or fire and rescue for anyone who requires immediate medical assistance. Refrain from expressing anger towards the at-fault party, discussing who is at-fault, or admitting that you are okay. Even if you are okay at the moment, it can take days or even weeks for injuries to present themselves from an accident. You may not know the extent of your injuries until after you seek medical attention. The best way to respond is that you are unsure until you’ve been checked out by a physician. Remain calm and wait for authorities to arrive on the scene.
Notify Local Law Enforcement & Obtain a Report
After everyone is at a safe location, call your local law enforcement. It may be helpful to get a witness nearby to tell you the location of the accident if you are in an unfamiliar area. Prepare to provide the city, street location, and any identifiable landmarks that will make it easier for authorities to locate the collision. The responding officer will arrive at the scene to assess the damage, take statements from witnesses and all involved parties, and create a police report.
The police report serves as an objective account of the factors that contributed to the collision. You can always request a copy of the police report. The advantage of having your own copy of the police report is to ensure that all findings in the report are accurately recorded. Oftentimes, police reports may have a different description of the collision than what actually occurred. It is beneficial to have a copy of the police report to ensure that the information presented in the report is accurate to protect yourself and to establish liability to the correct at-fault party. You can request a copy of the police report through the Washington State Patrol. Get a copy of yours here: Washington State Patrol Collision Report.
While it’s not always necessary to call the police, it is necessary for your claim to file an online collision report. A link to the collision report with Washington State Patrol can be found here. Note: If law enforcement is not called to the scene, you have 4 days from the date of the collision to submit a report. You can also get collision reports from your local police department, county sheriff’s office, or Washington State Patrol district office.
What Information to Take at the Scene of a Collision
Below is a list of information you should remember to gather at the scene of the accident:
The date and time of the collision
Location of accident
Weather and road conditions
The name and contact information of all involved parties, including any witnesses
The insurance company and policy numbers of all involved parties
The number of vehicles involved, including driver’s license and license plate numbers
Pictures of the damages on your car, interior and exterior damages (and, if possible, the damages on other cars involved in the accident)
Pictures of all injuries to yourself and any passengers in your vehicle
It may be helpful to write up your own version of events on paper or even on your notes app on your phone as the details of the accident are freshest right when it happens and can be used as a point of reference in the future to remember how the events occurred. It is also important to take notes and document how you feel in the days following the accident. Be sure to take lots of pictures of your injuries as they may progressively get worse from the date of the accident (i.e., taking pictures of bruising or lacerations over time).
Seek Medical Attention
Even if you believe that your injuries are not severe enough to warrant a visit to a hospital, it is imperative that you schedule an appointment with a doctor in the days immediately following the accident. Not only will a physician be able to better evaluate and identify your injuries (such as concussions or internal bleeding, both of which don’t present with easily identifiable symptoms), but your visit will also be documented in medical records which detail the nature and extent of your injuries in the moments following the auto collision. It also shows that you were proactive in seeking medical attention, wanting to get better. Medical records are critical in demonstrating how an injury has impacted your life, and physicians outline what steps you can take to return to your new normal. It can weaken your claim if you do not seek immediate medical attention or if you have significant gaps in treatment. Receiving necessary and consistent treatment for your injuries is the best way to support your claim.
Summary of Steps to Take After an Auto Collision
To recap, here are the steps you can take at the scene to maximize your chances for fair compensation for injuries sustained in an accident. First, make sure to get to a safe location and contact an ambulance if anyone needs immediate medical assistance. Second, contact local law enforcement to arrive at the scene to record all involved parties and their statements of their version of events. Third, make sure to have a copy of all involved parties and take pictures of the damages to your vehicle and pictures of your injuries at the scene. Finally, seek immediate medical attention no matter how little you believe your injuries to be. The best way to protect yourself and assert your claim is by getting consistent medical treatment that documents your progress.
Contact a Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Today
Navigating the weeks following an auto accident can be extremely overwhelming and exhausting. If you have never experienced an auto accident before, you may not know what steps to take or what the process is like. By being represented by an attorney, they will be able to answer any questions, address your concerns, and be able to position your claim to maximize the compensation for damages you’ve suffered from the accident. One of the small but reassuring advantages of hiring a personal injury attorney is that we will make sure that insurance companies no longer contact you. All correspondence will go through us. This is to make sure that you fully devote your time to focus on healing and rehabilitating your injuries from the accident. Your recovery is important, and we want to make sure that there are the least number of stressors preventing you from making a full recovery.
If you’ve suffered an auto accident injury in the state of Washington, the dedicated legal team at Scott & Scott, PLLC, is here to advocate for you and help you with your auto claim. Call our office at 206-622-2200 to schedule a consultation to speak with a trusted and experienced personal injury attorney today.