If you in a car accident involving another vehicle, then you should be aware of how to handle the incident. Many drivers know the basics about not admitting fault and filing a police report; unfortunately, too many drivers fail to create their own record of the event. This can be limiting when filing claims and attempting to obtain compensation for damage and injuries. However, in the age of the smart phone, almost everyone has the ability to take pictures and record audio with their device. Below are some practical tips on how you can use your cell phone along with taking handwritten notes to produce useful accident documentation:
Why personally documenting an accident is important
The facts regarding an accident may seem clear to you at the time, but human memory can be fleeting, particularly after stressful events such as a wreck. There are a couple of major benefits obtained by creating a written and visual record, including
- An unchanging account – documentation provides you with a consistent, factual account to provide to adjusters, attorneys and others who need to know the details about the accident. It can serve as powerful evidence in support of your position and accompanying claim.
- Confidence in your position - documentation gives you moral support to trust your own recollection of the accident and keeps others from introducing doubt into your mind about the facts.
- Capture more of the story – by taking pictures, you are gathering much more data about the situation and circumstances. A photograph may record cues that you may forget or not even think to write.
What to put on paper and what to photograph
When documenting an accident, below are several specific bits of information you should gather. While below is not a comprehensive list, it does include some important information that can be particularly helpful for your personal documentation file:
- View and photograph driver's license – the drivers of vehicles are instructed in most instances to provide other involved drivers with a visual inspection of their operator's license. Be sure that you also record important information from the license, such as the name, date of birth and license number of the driver. Use your cell phone to take a photograph of their license, as well.
- Record passenger names – it helps to record names of all the persons involved in an accident, even those who are riding in the other vehicle. They may later be in a position to serve as witnesses to the facts, and you don't want to be at the mercy of the other driver's insurance company to obtain names. When writing names, ask the passengers to slowly spell them for you so you obtain an accurate account.
- Ask witnesses for a brief account – as soon as possible after an accident, make individual contact with each witness of the event. Ask for names and them to provide a brief account of what happened. Write down the pertinent information, or if they consent, record your conversation with them on a cell phone voice recorder. Just be sure they also state their name along with their testimony so the two things can be clearly linked together.
- Photograph license plates of all vehicles involved – you should obtain a record of the license plates to be sure vehicles are clearly identified. If possible, take a photo of the vehicle identification number (VIN) which is located on the driver's side of the dash by the windshield.
- Take multiple photographs of the accident scene – always take a generous number of photos at the accident scene. Make sure that photographs are taken from all sides of the scene, and don't forget to take pictures of the roadway itself or unusual factors that may have contributed to the accident.
- Record information about your physical health – while you should take care of your body first and foremost if you are injured in an accident, be sure to write down as much information as you can regarding any pain you felt. If you felt your neck "snap" or back "pop", then note those things, too. In addition, use your cell phone to photograph any visible injuries such as scratches, cuts, or bruises.
For more ideas, ask professionals like Kuzyk Law.