What should I do after an accident?

After an accident, you should remain at the scene, take steps to help prevent any further injuries, and take actions to preserve evidence of the accident and any resulting injuries or damages.

  1. Do not leave the scene of the accident. The situation can only be made worse by leaving the scene. You may be subject to criminal prosecution for leaving the scene of an accident, so stay where you are.
    If possible and allowed, move your vehicle out of the road to avoid causing additional accidents or injuries. Turn on hazard lights; raise the hood of your vehicle; and if available, use cones, warning triangles, or flares for additional safety.
  2. Call 911 for an ambulance, if necessary to treat any injuries incurred by anyone involved. Anyone who is injured should get medical treatment as soon as possible, as injuries may worsen if treatment is delayed. Prevent further injuries from occurring: avoid moving anyone who is injured if you are not trained in how to do so properly, because some injuries may be worsened if the person is moved improperly.
  3. Call 911 for the police so they can investigate the accident and file a report. Information in the police report may be valuable evidence later on. You need not rely solely on the police report for an investigation of the accident, though. You should record as much as possible about the accident on your own as well.
    Give only the necessary and requested information to police or other parties. Do not discuss your own condition, state of mind, or anything not related to the accident. Do not say anything that might imply the accident was your fault, even if you think it might have been. Do not sign anything other than a police document or one from your own insurance agent. This will help guard against post-accident legal action.
  4. Call your insurance company or agent.
  5. Write down the names, addresses, telephone numbers, drivers license, and insurance information of all drivers involved in the accident, as well as the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any passengers and witnesses. It may be impossible to locate witnesses if you do not get their information at the time of the accident. Many websites offer detailed lists and tips for dealing with accidents and collecting information, including vehicle identification. See the helpful links page.
  6. Take pictures of the accident scene. If you have a camera with you, take pictures immediately. If not, come back to the scene as soon as possible with a camera to take pictures before skid marks or other evidence disappears. For example, suppose a tree limb completely obstructed one driver's view. If you wait a week--or even a day--to take pictures, the limb may be trimmed back by that time.
  7. Take pictures of damage to vehicles or any structures with which the vehicles collided. Take plenty of pictures from multiple angles. You don't know now which pictures may be most helpful to you if you are sued, or if you sue the other driver. Take pictures of injuries as well, so that you will have visual proof of the extent of bruising, etc. You may wish to continue to photograph injuries over time to show the length of the recovery.
  8. Get the advice of an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. An attorney can evaluate the evidence that you have gathered and determine what else may be needed. Do not wait too long to contact an attorney, or you may no longer be able to locate valuable evidence.

The Law Offices of
Mark R. Schwartz
Attorney at Law
11355 West Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90064
(310) 235-2311