Whether you’ve been involved in a car accident or you’ve just witnessed an accident happen, it’s important to know what questions to ask on the scene. Here are the top 5 questions to keep in mind:
1. Who should I contact?
In a severe accident, the first number to call is 911. Reporting the accident may also be important for more minor collisions. If you don’t see any local law enforcement officials nearby, calling 911 can ensure that a police officer in the area stops to take an accident report. Some drivers may also wish to call a roadside assistance service, or even a lawyer.
If you’ve witnessed a collision and someone involved appears to be injured, you can ask if there’s anyone he or she would like you to contact. Some people have emergency contacts listed in their cell phone contact directories, but be sure to ask the victim’s permission before making any calls using their phone.
2. Should I be taking pictures of the collision?
Taking pictures after an accident can be incredibly helpful for the victims, especially if they end up filing an insurance claim or an injury lawsuit. Photo evidence can do more than just record what happened to the vehicle; it can also provide evidence for weather conditions, road conditions, and other mitigating factors (such as speed limits or road signs).
3. What really happened?
You’d be surprised by how quickly your memory can distort details or mix up facts! Even if you can’t take pictures, you might want to write down some notes about what happened as soon as possible. Taking note of every detail you can remember may be one of the most valuable things to do immediately after an accident. Details that don’t seem important initially may end up benefiting your case in the long run.
4. Was there another driver involved in the accident?
In a multi-car accident it’s important for all parties involved to share their contact information. This includes:
- Name, address, and phone number
- License plate number
- Name of their insurance company
Without providing this information after an accident, you could be held liable for a hit-and-run accident. The phrase “hit-and-run” is somewhat misleading, because it also applies to drivers who stop after an accident but refuse to provide their contact information before leaving the scene.
Of course, if you’ve been severely injured in the accident, you are not expected to provide your personal information or collect the other person’s information; you won’t be held criminally responsible if you’re taken to get medical treatment before the other driver learns your name.
As a witness in an accident, you may also wish to provide your contact information to the police or to the victims. You may be called into a deposition or a court hearing if the victim is taking legal action against the liable driver.
5. Was I responsible for causing the accident?
While you don’t want to withhold information from the police, you also don’t want to admit fault right away. Your point of view during and after an accident might not be completely accurate — and that can be a good thing. It is sometimes possible for multiple drivers to be held partially liable in an accident. If this is the case, you don’t want to admit fault too early.
However, if you’re certain that you caused the accident, be polite and responsible at the scene. Acting aggressive or hostile toward other drivers or police officers will likely work against you if you are called to court.
Calling a lawyer isn’t always necessary after every car accident, but professional legal counsel can be helpful for accident victims who need to recover financial losses. Whether you’re filing a personal injury lawsuit or a simple claim with an insurance company, talking with a local attorney may help you stay organized and credible.