Being involved in a car accident can be a shocking experience. Even if no one is injured, most motorists involved in a collision — either with another vehicle or with a stationary object — feel a sense of anxiety and discomfort afterward.
Because of this, it can be difficult to know what to do after you’ve been involved in an accident.
After you’ve contacted the police, spoken to your insurance provider and carried out the other tasks recommended in our guide to responding after an accident, there are several items you can and should hold onto to increase your chances of a successful insurance claim.
We’ve listed these six items below, all of which are worth remembering when you launch the process of filing your insurance claim or seeking legal action against the party responsible for the accident.
Valuations of damage to your vehicle
Was your vehicle damaged during the accident? From minor scratches to major structural or engine damage, it’s important that you have a full appraisal of your vehicle performed to give you a complete understanding of how much it will cost to repair (or replace).
Most insurance claims, lawsuit damages or settlements are calculated based on the value of a vehicle and the approximate cost of repairs. Providing a detailed valuation of your vehicle and the cost of repairing its damage can help you strengthen your case or insurance claim.
Photographs of the accident scene
This is one of the top items on our list of things to do after a car accident and for good reason. If you have a smartphone, use it to take photos both of the damage to your vehicle, the damage to the other party’s vehicle (or vehicles) and any injuries you sustained during the crash.
Obviously, this advice is primarily for minor accidents, where the priority is to record the results of the accident rather than to rush to help other people. In a serious accident, safety and health should always come first.
Once you’ve photographed your vehicle and any other relevant items, make sure you store the photographs in a secure location. A photographic record of vehicular damage and injuries can be immensely valuable when it’s time to make an insurance claim.
A police report of the accident
For anything other than minor accidents (for example, a tiny scratch on your vehicle caused by a backing car or shopping trolley), it’s always a good idea to contact the police for a record of the events.
After responding to the call, the police officers that visit the scene will write a report. Often, you can acquire a copy of this report by contacting the police. A full, comprehensive police report is an important document that can assist you in successfully making an insurance claim.
Proof of your regular income
If your accident resulted in injuries that prevent (or prevented) you from working, it’s important to have a written record of your typical weekly or monthly income.
Proof of income can take the form of records showing direct deposits from your employer, bank records demonstrating withdrawals from your own business account (if you are self-employed), paycheck stubs, or even records of the tips you receive (if you work in the service industry).
All of these records strengthen your case and increase your likelihood of receiving an adequate level of compensation for any income you’ve missed or will potentially miss out on as a result of an accident.
Recent medical records
If the accident you were involved in causing any injuries — even if minor — it’s important that you keep copies of all medical records. This is important even if you didn’t sustain any major injuries as a result of the accident if only as a precaution against future injuries developing.
In addition to medical records, you should keep copies of your medical bills, prescriptions and all other documents provided by your doctor. The more complete your medical records, the easier it will be to prove to your insurance provider that you suffered injuries as a result of the accident.
An activity and injury journal
During the process of making a claim or taking legal action, you’ll need to recall the dates of specific events. Keeping an activity and injury journal gives you a complete record that you’ll be able to reference, if required, in the insurance claim or legal process.
There are several ways to keep a journal. If you have injuries as a result of your accident, you can keep a physical journal and write down symptoms as they occur throughout the day. If you don’t have injuries but simply need a written record of activity, you can use a word processor.
Regardless of the specific format you choose, an activity and injury journal is a highly useful tool for keeping track of events that follow from your accident, as well as a valuable asset during the legal or insurance claims process that can help a Costa Mesa car accident attorney assist you.