1. If You are Injured, Obtain Medical Treatment as Soon as Possible!
Go to the nearest hospital emergency room or to your personal physician as soon as possible. An injury, if untreated, may become substantially worse. If you fail to seek treatment, or delay in obtaining medical attention, an insurance adjuster may suspect that you were not genuinely injured, and discount your claim. Even a delay of one week is often too long. Do not assume you will “be okay” – get evaluated!
2. Assist the Injured
If someone is seriously injured, call 911 or the police and tell them an ambulance is needed. Make the injured person as comfortable as possible, but do not move him or her unless it’s absolutely necessary to avoid further injury.
3. Insist on a Police Investigation and Report
In many cases, there are no witnesses and you and the other driver may have conflicting versions of how the accident happened. If you do not request a police investigation, you may seriously damage your chances of obtaining full compensation, or worse, may be blamed for an accident that is not your fault. Thus, if an accident is not your fault, insist that the police are called. This ensures that all involved drivers will be forced to document how the crash occurred before having time for “reflection.” If the “at fault” driver does not want the police called, insist that they write up an admission of fault for you right at the scene which describes how the crash occurred and their responsibility for it. This should be dated and signed by them, and should refer to the location and time of the crash. If they refuse, call the police! In the State of Washington, however, the Police are not required to do a report when there are no injuries and none of the vehicles involved has more than $700 of property damage. They are also not required to prepare a report if the collision occurs on private property, such as in a parking lot.
4. Do Not Move Your Vehicle while Waiting for Police to Arrive
Unless your vehicle poses an immediate hazard to other traffic, it is important that you leave it in the same position that it came to rest after the accident. Ask the other driver not to move his or her vehicle until the police arrive. The single most important piece of evidence the police use to determine fault is the position of the vehicles after the crash. Car Photos: You should always photograph the damage to your vehicle fully before having repairs done. Carrying an “instant camera” in your glove box allows you to get photos of the other car and the scene, as well.
5. If You Are Injured, Tell the Police Officer
The first record of your injuries will be contained in the investigating police officer’s report. If you fail to mention to the police officer that you were injured, it may create suspicion in the mind of the insurance adjuster (who will ultimately evaluate your claim) that you were not hurt. Ordinarily, the officer will ask if you are injured. If you are having any symptoms at all, answer “yes” and specify all areas where you are experiencing pain/symptoms, even if you do not believe your injuries to be serious. Injuries and symptoms usually worsen after you leave the scene. If the officer does not ask if you are injured, or assumes that you were not injured, let the officer know immediately of any injuries or pain. If you are in severe pain, and feel you require an ambulance, tell the police officer this, and request that an ambulance be called.
6. Obtain Names and Telephone Numbers of Eyewitnesses
Often by the time a police officer arrives at the scene, witnesses to a collision are gone. Therefore, it is very important for you to identify any witnesses to the crash and that you write down their names, addresses and telephone numbers. In the event that the at-fault driver later attempts to change their version of the accident, these independent witnesses are crucial to proving responsibility for the crash.
7. File Your Accident Report when Required by Law
In the State of Washington, you are not required to file an accident report when the collision is investigated by a law enforcement officer who files a report. You may, however, file your own report if you wish or if you disagree with the details reported by an officer. Your report, which is filed with the Washington State Patrol in Olympia, must be sent within four days of the accident, although sending it in late is better than not sending it in at all. Always keep a copy of the report sent in by you for later reference.