Being in a crash with another vehicle may be overwhelming. Staying calm, protecting yourself and others, seeking assistance and taking the first steps in a possible lawsuit are difficult but important actions during this confusing and overwhelming event.
Everyone’s safety is your first post-accident concern and priority even before you consider gathering evidence for a personal injury lawsuit. If you can safely move the vehicles and the damage is minor, try to get them off the road. Turn on the vehicle’s hazard lights and set up flares or warning triangles if it cannot be moved safely.
If no one is injured, move them away from the road and traffic. Do not move anyone who is seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger.
Never leave the accident scene. Call 9-1-1 if anyone is injured.
If you were injured and did not receive immediate care, go to your doctor after the accident because some injuries are not initially obvious. It is also important to document your injury if there is a lawsuit.
Washington law requires the reporting of an accident to the Department of Transportation if there is a fatality, injury, or property damage of at least $700 if the police did not already report the crash.
Calling the police may be helpful in a crash, regardless of the circumstances. A police report can be evidence in a lawsuit or required in an insurance claim. Obtain the officer’s name and law enforcement agent, their badge number, the officer’s phone number, the report number, and the method for obtaining a copy of the report.
Obtain the names and insurance information for any driver in the accident. Avoid giving out your home address, phone number and driver’s license number to other drivers because of possible identity theft. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners recommends that you provide this information:
- Full name
- Your insurance company
- Insurance policy number
- Phone number for your insurance company
If the other driver insists that you provide more information, wait until the police arrive and stay calm.
Watch what you say
Inquiring about everyone’s safety and well-being, getting assistance, and exchanging information is acceptable. But never:
- Admit fault
- Sign any documents that are not for the police or your own insurance carrier
- Accept immediate compensation
- Promise not to involve insurance companies
Ask cooperative witnesses for contact information and if they will wait for the police to arrive. Seek statements from security or a manager if the accident took place on private property.
The accident scene
Take photographs or video of the crash scene with your cell phone. Include all damaged vehicles and property, traffic signs and devices, weather, obstructions, and skid marks. Write down the details of the crash.
Submit your claim to your insurance company. Attorneys can also help you gather evidence, deal with your insurance company, and represent your interests. They can assist you with filing a personal injury lawsuit for compensation.