What Information Should I Gather After the Accident?

Following an automobile accident, there is a lot of information which will need to be gathered before you file a claim, contact an attorney or file suit. The earlier you begin to assemble this information, the more likely it will be accurate and complete.; The exact type of information will depend partly on the laws of the state in which the accident occurred. Different states have different laws regarding the type of damages an automobile accident victim can collect. However, most states have laws which are designed to place the victim in the same position he would have been in had the accident not happened. This has been referred to as making the victim “whole.”; In most accidents, an investigating police officer is called to the scene where he fills out a detailed preprinted accident report form. This form contains much information about the accident and the parties involved. Thus, a good starting point in gathering information is to obtain the accident report. Although the officer does not usually give the accident victims a copy of the report at the scene, he will give them an item number or reference number that the accident victim can take to the police records department a few days later and obtain a copy of the report.; You should also get a copy of your own automobile insurance policy. Even if you are not at fault in an accident, your own insurance company may have obligations to pay medical expenses, property damage and even personal injury damages if the other driver does not have insurance sufficient to cover your damages.; Obtain copies of emergency room treatment records and any office records from any physicians you may have seen after the accident. You may even want to obtain your physician records from before the accident to help prove that your injuries were caused by the accident and not preexisting.; If your injuries have caused you to miss work or use vacation or sick leave, you may want to copy your income tax returns for the last three years, W-2 forms, and paycheck stubs. All of these items will help you establish a wage loss.; Obtain copies of estimates to repair your vehicle’s property damage. If you get more than one estimate, be sure to get copies of all estimates. Remember, with property damage, make sure your repair shop is using new parts where necessary and not simply estimating the cost of patch work or bond on your fenders.; Obtain names and addresses of any witnesses to the accident. If possible, get statements from them about what they witnessed. The names and addresses of all occupants and drivers involved in the accident and their respective insurance information is also important to obtain.; If possible, take pictures of your injuries, the damage to your vehicle and even the accident scene. Such pictures could be critical evidence to an expert accident reconstructionist if it becomes necessary to litigate the claim at a later date. Pictures of injuries can help others understand the degree of pain and suffering your injuries caused to you.; Information can easily be lost, changed or destroyed over time. The sooner you gather the information, the more likely it is to be accurate and complete. Even if you do not think you will file a claim, it is easier to gather the information early and discard it later than it is to recreate information which was not obtained at the beginning.