What would a lawyer do at his own accident scene?
As I came upon a line of unmoving cars I scanned ahead to see my wife’s car at the head of the line. I then saw my wife hugging a woman and both were crying. My vision moved to the right to see a third car off of the side of the road. I lept out of my car and ran to the scene to find that my wife was parked at a stop sign waiting to make a turn and two other vehicles got in a collision in front of her. The second vehicle struck the first and then struck my wife’s vehicle. Luckily no one was seriously injured in this collision. So what would a lawyer who handles automobile collisions do in this scenario? Well let me tell you.
Check for injuries
First, I checked with my wife to make sure she was ok. She was shaken, but did not have any obvious injuries and told me she was ok. I then visually checked the other two drivers who were both shaken and appeared to have emerged from the collision without serious injury.
See something, say something
Second, I called 911. I identified the location and myself. It turned out they already knew about the collision and the police, fire and EMTs were on their way.
Identify the players
Third, I attempted to get the two other driver’s names, insurance companies and policy numbers. This is critical here in New Hampshire. As reported by the local media, in New Hampshire the Chiefs of Police have recently interpreted a state law to mean that local police departments can no longer release accident reports. This means that when the police arrive and take down each driver’s information they will not release it. The only way to obtain information that is necessary to make a report to your insurance company, or to start an action against the other driver’s insurance company is to get the accident report from the Department of Safety. This can take time so it is much better to get this information at the scene.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Fourth, I started taking pictures of the scene. I was careful to avoid cars and emergency personnel, but I took photos of each vehicle, inside and out, from as many angels as I could. I also made sure to photograph the license plates of each vehicle for further identification. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Picking up the pieces
Fifth, I called my insurance company. Even though my wife was not at fault I decided not to make a claim with our insurance company. Anytime you do, regardless of fault, there is a chance they may raise your rates. Instead I elected to make a claim directly against the insurance companies of the other two drivers.
Write it down
Sixth, I took note of any other witnesses at the scene. I made sure to politely ask for names and contact information. If this matter winds up in suit it will be critical to get as strong a picture about what happened as possible. I also made note of the fact that one of the drivers said, “I never saw him!” Taking notes contemporaneously with witnessing an event is the best way to take a mental picture of what one observes.
Aches and pains
Lastly, I continued to monitor my wife’s physical condition for a few days after the collision. Soft tissue injuries like whiplash can manifest days after a collision. Often at the scene one will have lots of adrenaline coursing through one’s system and she may not feel aches and pains until it wears off. Also, if there is any hint of a more serious injury, including any possible concussion or head injury, one should go straight to the emergency room. It is important to take any possible injury seriously when one is involved in a motor vehicle collision.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of things to do, but they are things that I did when I came across an accident scene involving my wife.