Driving down Main Street near one of my offices, a car comes out from a stop sign, slamming into the side of my car.
I pull over. The other driver gets out, waves her arms “there’s a curve in the street … you were going too fast” and other gibberish.
I reached into my car and grabbed a camera. An amateur photographer, I rarely go anywhere without a camera. A real camera, not the kind embedded in all of our smart phones. I photoed her car, the stop sign, shattered safety glass in the street. Ignoring the continued rant, now more of a jaw-dropping stare, I took wide shots of her car, her standing next to the car, walked behind the car a distance to get a wide shot of the stop sign and the vehicle.
At some point, I handed her my license, registration and insurance card and asked for her information.
After exchanging info, I drove to my original destination, a meeting. Afterwards, I returned to my office and called her insurance company.
They were waiting for my call. The other driver called and admitted fault. The street talk about how it was my fault she ran the stop sign evaporated.
After An Accident – At the Scene
- Avoid excessive conversation: After an accident exchange name, address, license, registration and other basics. That’s it. No one likes a hothead. Avoid drama.
- Never leave the scene: Leaving the scene of a property damage accident can get you a citation. Leaving the scene of a personal injury accident is a crime.
- Call police: The other driver says “Let’s just exchange info and leave the police out of this.” How do you know that the insurance and other info you’re being given is valid? Police are the only ones that can officially document the accident. If the other driver turns out uninsured later, you’ll need to rely on your own insurance company, and they’ll require a police report for certain claims.
- Witnesses: Look around. Is there anyone other than drivers and passengers who can help? Get name, address & phone number. If they have one get a business card.
- Take photos: I had a camera in the above case. Nearly everyone carries a basic camera in their cell phone. Photo the accident scene. Traffic control devices like stop signs or lights. Skid marks. Broken glass. Look around, anything that might help put the accident together later.
- Photograph both vehicles. Two photos of each vehicle are enough if done right. One shows the front and driver’s side, standing high enough to get the hood. The second shows the back and other side. One photo must show the license plate. If you think it will help take closeups of vehicle damage.
- “Won’t the insurance company have pictures?” (a) Insurance companies pay the minimum to close claim files. Do you really think their photos will serve your purposes? (b) Getting a human on the phone is hard enough, do you really think extracting copies of their photos, will be easy?
After an Accident – Followup
- Report the accident: Call your own insurance company, your policy requires full cooperation with your own company.
- Careful with other insurance company: If injured do not give a “statement” to the other driver’s insurer. Why? See this article.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, retain an experienced attorney. My office handles car accident claims in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Insurance laws aren’t necessarily straightforward. So, it’s worth your while to optimize the claim and avoid unpleasant legal and lien traps.