Properly reporting a car accident can make all the difference in collecting on insurance claims and receiving compensation for injuries. If the right information does not reach the right desks within the proper timeframes, victims of other drivers’ negligence and recklessness can find themselves bearing all the financial costs of the wreck.

After you crash is too late to learn what you must do to correctly report an accident, of course. So allow the Columbus car accident attorneys with Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman offer these tips on collecting and sharing all the necessary information.

Help Anyone Who Suffered Injuries

Ensuring everyone’s safety must always take top priority following a car accident.

Call the Police

Dialing 911 ensures emergency medical personnel will receive the alert that assistance is needed for injured people. Ohio law also requires drivers who crash on public roads to report their accidents. Even if that legal obligation did not exist, calling in law enforcement officials would be a good idea. Officers who respond to a crash scene must prepare an accident report that can serve as official evidence in court proceedings.

You need that official report to prove which driver is believed to be at-fault for causing the collision. Preparing it can take several days, a week, or longer, but make sure you receive a copy of the final police report once it is ready. The website for the police department where you crashed should have information on how to request the report on your accident.

Get the Other Driver’s Information

Assuming you are not seriously injured, ask the other driver involved in the crash for his or her name, auto insurance company and policy number, license plate number, and mailing address. Police can compel drivers to disclose that information, so you may need to request it from authorities if the other driver will not voluntary share it with you.

Collect Extra Information on Commercial Drivers

If you wreck with a tractor-trailer, delivery van, or construction vehicle, make sure you get all of the following information:

  • Driver’s name and insurance company and number
  • Company that employs the driver
  • Company’s name off side of the semi cab
  • Company’s name off the trailer

The employer, semi cab owner, and cargo container owner likely have insurance separate from the driver’s. To collect fully on claims for accidents resulting from faulty equipment, unsafe employment practices (e.g., making the driver work too long without adequate rest), or unsecured loads, you may need to deal with multiple insurance companies. An experienced car accident lawyer in Columbus, OH, will be able to help you track down the correct insurers, but you will help kick-start that process by collecting the companies’ names up front.

Take Pictures and Speak With Witnesses if Possible

Again, if you have not been taken away for the crash scene in an ambulance, use your camera phone to take pictures of the damage to your vehicle, the position of each vehicle, the surrounding street, and nearby street signs and traffic lights. Those images can help support your version of how the crash happened.

Try to speak with witnesses, as well. Ask individuals who provide the same description you do if they would be willing to make official statements to police and insurance company representatives.

Get All Injuries Checked and Treated at a Medical Facility

If you suffered seemingly minor injuries but remained on the scene to speak with police and collect information, go to a health care facility for an examination and treatment. You may be more hurt than you realized, particularly if you sustained a concussion or internal injuries. Pain and other complications from several types of injuries often do not manifest immediately.

Visiting a health care provider also creates medical evidence you can use to support claims for insurance coverage and personal injury awards.

Call Your Insurance Company

Do not wait more than a few hours to self-report any car crash. Call whether you caused the wreck or if somebody else hit you. Insurance companies can deny claims if they have any grounds to believe you have intentionally withheld information. They can even cancel a policy outright if they think you have not dealt with them promptly and forthrightly.

On a much more positive note, contacting your insurer as soon as possible after a car accident sets the claims process in motion. Regardless of fault, your insurance can help pay medical bills, cover repairs, and arrange for a rental vehicle. Money paid out immediately may need to returned from a settlement with the other driver’s insurance company or a personal injury awards. Despite that, working with your own insurer from the first day can provide much-needed financial support.

Write Out Your Own Description of What Happened

You can actually do this at any point, and you will probably find it necessary to update your description as additional information becomes available. Writing down your story of the accident helps you keep the timeline straight, clarifies the identities of the other people involved, and prevents you from forgetting important details.

More than anything, committing your own story to paper protects you from accusations that you are being inconsistent in telling what happened. If you need to go to court to receive compensation for a car accident, you can expect the defendant’s legal team to question your accuracy and consistency.

Do Not Give an Official Statement to Any Insurance Representative but Your Own

Within a couple of days of your crash, expect a call from the other driver’s insurance company. The insurance rep will probably ask you to make a recorded statement regarding the accident. Decline that request. Even though a taped telephone conversation does not constitute court testimony, anything you tell an insurance company will be used to support or deny claims.

Speak With an Ohio Personal Injury Lawyer About Your Case

The tips shared here only scratch the surface of what you need to do to protect your legal rights, financial interests, and physical well-being following a car accident. To ensure you do not fall victim to insurance company tricks or end up paying costs that should rightfully be paid by another at-fault driver, contact a Columbus car accident attorney at (800) 678-3318 or via this website. A consultation with Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman will cost you nothing.