What to document at the crash scene
It’s tough to even think straight after a sudden car accident, even if you aren’t hurt. It’s a scary time, and people are full of adrenaline and often dazed or confused. But it’s important to try to remember the right information to document about your motor vehicle accident. This can help you to protect your legal rights later – and at the scene is when this information is available before it may be lost forever.
When I lecture or give talks to groups of people about how to protect yourself after a car accident, I’m always reminded that for many people it seems unfair that you, as the accident victim, have to be the one to document detailed information when someone else caused the car crash. But as an attorney, I see constantly that the driver who caused the crash will often change his or her story along the way. If witness information is not preserved at the scene or shortly after, or if it’s missing from the police investigation, it will become much more difficult to prove negligence.
An “admitted liability” car accident where the other driver apologizes for running the red light becomes much harder to prove later on , when that driver says he had the right of way and there are no eyewitnesses to prove otherwise.
Also, police often make mistakes on police reports. And police can make mistakes in determining who is at fault for the car accident, sometimes even switching drivers on the police report or confusing the cars on the UD-10.
Always call the police, even when the other driver says he or she will pay for all the vehicle damage and you don’t think you’re hurt. That hurt may come on later, big time, and many police departments will refuse to make a police report after a certain period of time has passed. That can cause you a lot of problems with insurance, whether that be making a workers comp claim or getting your medical bills paid under Michigan No Fault. While police reports are almost never admissible in a civil trial, the lack of police report can quickly trigger your claim to be flagged for fraud and referred to a special investigation unit by an insurance company.
If you are hurt and your personal injuries make it difficult to think, try to call friends or family to help you.
Try and get this information if possible:
- Name, address, phone number, driver’s license number and insurance information of all drivers involved in the auto accident.
- License plate numbers of all vehicles involved in the accident.
- All personal injuries that you or your passenger(s) experienced.
- Accident location.
- Time, weather conditions and direction of travel at the time of the crash.
- Description of how the accident occurred.
- Statements by other drivers admitting responsibility.
- Name, badge number and phone number of all police officers at the accident scene.
- Take photos of the scene, and of the car damage, but only if it’s safe and possible to do so.
If you believe the other driver will dispute liability, consider hiring an experienced accident attorney quickly. A good lawyer can help with the auto accident investigation, and identify the cause and circumstances before critical evidence is lost or destroyed.