The moments after a car accident are tense. When the dust settles and the shock wears off, your first instincts might be to make sure everyone is okay, exchange insurance information, and get the vehicles out of the road. However, it’s incredibly important to document critical evidence at the scene before leaving or moving anything. Preserving this evidence can help protect everyone involved and assist police and insurance companies in case questions arise later.
Secure the Scene and Ensure Safety
First things first, you’ll want to make sure the accident scene is safe and secure. Turn on hazard lights and set up road flares, cones, or warning signs behind the vehicles to alert other drivers. If anyone is injured, call emergency responders right away. Don’t worry about documentation or vehicles just yet—the health and safety of those involved is what matters in the initial moments.
Once everyone is safe, it’s time to start preserving critical evidence.
Document the Entire Scene
Carefully document the accident scene from all angles before vehicles or debris are moved. Take wide shots to capture the entire scene, including the position of each vehicle and the surroundings like traffic signs and signals. Then get closer and take photos of damage, skid marks, and debris like broken glass. If you have paper and a pen or marker, sketch a simple diagram mapping out details too.
Be sure to note things like the date, time, road conditions, weather, and any witnesses present with contact information for police and insurance reports later.
Preserve Vehicle Evidence
Take close-up shots of all vehicle damage from multiple angles, getting license plates in photos as well. Look inside for other identifying information like the VIN number or registration paperwork. Also make note if any lights or signals aren’t functioning properly, like brake lights or turn signals. Details like those matter.
Gather Everyone’s Personal Details
When exchanging the typical insurance and license information after an accident, also get written statements from both drivers and passengers about what happened. The more eyewitness accounts, the better. Ask witnesses who were not in either vehicle for their names and contact details as well in case police want their statements.
Provide a Thorough Statement to Police
Remain at the accident scene to give an official statement when police arrive. Provide them with your documented evidence like photos and diagrams. Be as specific as possible when you describe your account of what transpired, including estimates of speeds, traffic signal status, points of impact, and more. The evidence you gathered will help jog your memory. Answer all police questions completely and honestly.
Follow Up Down the Road
In the days following the accident, be sure to follow up on a few important items. For one, contact your insurance provider right away to file an official claim for damages and injuries. Obtain a copy of the police report too, which can take a couple weeks to finalize usually.
Save and organize evidence like your photos, witness statements, diagrams and so on, keeping both digital and physical copies just in case. And even if you feel fine initially, seek medical attention for any pains that show up later—some accident injuries worsen over time if left untreated.
Having a complete documented account of any car accident is critical for protecting yourself from false blame or excess insurance issues. Being prepared by gathering evidence and following safety procedures also shows responsibility. Stay calm, help others, and document the scene thoroughly.