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What should I do Immediately after a collision?

Posted by Raj Chohan | Mar 17, 2019

The rear-end collision is one of the most common car accidents that occur on America's roadways. They typically happen at red lights. For example, you are stopped at a red light and a distracted driver approaches from behind, fails to slow down, and hits the back of your vehicle. The other common collision is the left-turn case. For example, you are approaching an intersection with a green light.  The at-fault driver makes a left turn in front of you causing a collision. What should you do?

Call 911

If you or someone else was injured at the scene, the first step is obvious – call 911.

Even if it doesn't appear you were injured, it still makes sense to call 911 and report the accident.  Having a police officer investigate the collision and ticket the at-fault driver provides important evidence to help convince the insurance company to accept liability. Note: many people who suffer whiplash style injuries after a rear-end collision won't start to feel pain until hours later.  Frequently, crash victims will walk around the scene of a collision, pumped full of adrenaline, unaware they have been injured. Hours later the inflammation around their muscles, tendons and ligaments has started to cause pain.  By the next day, the pain may be severe enough to result in a visit to the emergency room.  If your case turns into a bodily injury claim, you will be glad you called 911 at the outset.

Beware of the at-fault driver who asks you not to call police. The person may be driving without a license, without insurance, or both. They may be impaired by drugs or alcohol. They may have other reasons. Whatever the reason, you risk lowering the value of your insurance claim if you don't immediately report the accident to police. You may also lose valuable evidence, including the opinion of a neutral third party police officer who regularly investigates traffic crashes. In Colorado, you will also be violating the law if you don't report the accident. In bad weather situations, when police departments are overwhelmed, you may not be able to get an officer to respond if there were no immediately apparent injuries. Nevertheless, it is worth making the 911 call. At worst, there will be a recording of your call that can be ordered later to document your version of the crash in the moments after it happened. At best, one or more officers will arrive, take photographs of the vehicles, roadway, skid marks, and positioning. They may also perform an accident reconstruction and collect witness statements.  Most importantly, the officer will attempt to determine fault and issue a traffic citation to the at-fault driver.  This is powerful evidence that can be used to convince the insurance company that the other driver is liable.  It will also be persuasive evidence for a jury if the case goes to trial.

If you choose not to call 911 because the at-fault driver has told you they want to settle the matter privately, you run the risk that the other driver will later tell the insurance company that the collision was your fault.  You will have lost the opportunity to develop valuable evidence of the crash and you may be stuck with a disputed liability challenge from the insurance company.

Gather contact information of witnesses

After you have called 911, immediately start collecting the names and phone numbers of people who saw the accident. This could be other drivers who stopped to help, or people who were walking by, or store clerks who were standing outside or looking out the windows when it happened.

Witnesses disappear quickly after a traffic accident, especially if they think someone else is aiding or assisting. Everyone is heading somewhere when an accident occurs, and most people don't want to be involved. It is important that you ask potential witnesses what they saw and request their phone numbers. If they are still standing around when police show up, you can point them out to police. If the witnesses have already left the scene you can provide their contact information to police. Make sure you keep the witness contact information as well so that your insurance company or your attorney can contact witnesses later.

Take pictures and video

These days everyone is walking around with a video camera in their phones. Use your camera to document the crash scene. Take wide photos showing the entire scene and all cars involved. Take medium photos focusing on the specific cars involved and areas of impact. Take close-up photos of the damage.  Wide, medium, closeup – rinse and repeat.  Take photos of the other driver, witnesses, road conditions, skid marks, street names, police officers on scene, and anything else that seems important in the moment.  Use your phone's video camera to document the scene as well. It will capture the sights and sounds in real time and may add important context.

Exchange insurance information

Make sure to take a picture of the other driver's insurance card and driver's license. Ask for the at-fault driver's personal phone number and ask them to confirm their current address. Ask the other driver if they own the vehicle. If they do not, ask them for the name and contact information of the owner.  If the vehicle vin number is visible, (often seen toward the bottom of the front windshield), take a picture.  Take a photo of the other vehicle's license plate as well. If police are unable to respond to your crash, you will need this basic information to set up an insurance claim.

Call an attorney

If you have been injured in a collision that was not your fault, it is important to retain an attorney now.  There are additional steps your attorney will take to preserve the value of your case. The Max Law Firm is well equipped to help you with your traffic injury case. For a free consultation call 720-699-8268.

About the Author

Raj Chohan

Raj Chohan is a personal injury attorney with a passion for helping injured Coloradans seek the compensation they deserve and the justice their cases demand. He is a former prosecutor with extensive jury trial experience in some of the most complex and serious cases that exist under Colorado law...