Importance of Preserving Evidence
What To Do After a Car Accident - Part 3
What To Do After a Car Accident - Part 3
It is best to contact law enforcement after a minor car accident. Different law enforcement agencies have different policies about whether they will respond. In most situations, law enforcement can help facilitate the exchange of important information between the parties even if they do not make a formal report related to your accident.
I want to talk about a case that I have in mind that becomes our illustration for part three of a video series that we are doing on what to do immediately after you have been in an accident? In Part One of the video series, you remember we talked about the importance of paying attention to your surroundings and making sure you are safe. Sometimes the safest thing to do is to stay in your car with your seat belt on and wait for law enforcement. Sometimes it might be to move your car out of the way of traffic, especially in low light or foggy conditions. We have the second part of that video series, which you can check out with one of the links elsewhere on this page, but today, our third part of our video series is about preserving evidence.
So you have been in an accident, you have made sure that you’re in a safe place, and you have also made sure that law enforcement and medical have been summoned, you have called 911, but now it is time to collect the information about who has been involved in this accident. First things first, sometimes people are in an accident, they are very emotional, sometimes they can even be angry, do not put yourself in a dangerous situation. However, assuming you have calm folks at an accident scene and assume that your injuries are not so severe that you cannot get up and move around. Please take a picture on your cell phone or get information about their insurance, driver’s license, and license plate. This is information you have to exchange by law, and if law enforcement does come to the scene of your accident, they can help you with that.
We all carry smartphones for the most part now, so it is also important that you take pictures at the accident scene. This can be important to describing how an accident happened later for an insurance company. Even the damage patterns on a vehicle can tell us how the cars came together, the speeds they were moving at, the angles they were moving at, and even what was happening immediately before impact, all from the way a car crumbles in an accident. So get those pictures, not only of your vehicle but all other vehicles that are involved in the accident. Be wise, be safe about doing this, do not walk out into a busy roadway to get pictures. It is not worth it. Nevertheless, if you can do so safely, collect all of that evidence.
Also, there are witnesses. Witnesses have a way of disappearing. If somebody comes up to you at the scene of an accident, they say, I saw everything. Here is my name. Please make sure you get their first name, last name, and contact information. Be critically important to have the viewpoint of that independent witness to help us understand what happened in an accident. Insurance companies will often discount what you have to say about an accident because you are a party, they say you are biased, but an independent witness, that is tough to refute. So if you have an opportunity to collect witness information, do so, and make sure you provide that to your attorney.
Let me give you an example. This is the case I said that I had in mind. Our client was preparing to turn right, and the light was red but turned green, and she turned right on the green light. She was immediately struck after that by a vehicle moving north on the roadway that had run the light that had changed red for her. At the scene, there was a dispute between the two drivers, our client and the driver who ran the red light, about who it was that had the green light and who it was that had broken the law. Our client did the right thing. She ensured that she was safe, got out of the vehicle, was on the sidewalk, and took pictures. She took pictures of her vehicle and got the other driver’s information. In the background of one of those pictures was somebody I recognized. In the background was another local attorney who practices in a different area of law, and I noticed in the picture that it looked like that attorney was talking to my client’s husband. Furthermore, I asked my client if she remembered that conversation and I asked her husband if he remembered that conversation and they did, and they knew the attorney’s first name.
So I was confident that the person that I could see in the picture from behind was the attorney I was thinking of. I called him, and he remembered the accident perfectly, and he prepared a document called a declaration, which told everything that he saw in the accident. Before this, we tried to resolve this case with the insurance company for the driver heading northbound, and they had denied liability. The only reason they denied liability is that their insured had said they had the green light. Once they got the information from this independent witness included in this declaration, they completely changed their position, they accepted 100% liability, and we were able to resolve the case. This is a key example of why getting that basic biographical information and collecting that primary evidence at the scene is so important. So if you have been involved in an accident and can do those things safely, please do so. It is going to help you a little bit easier.