Knowing what information you need to get in an accident can help you get your car fixed, your injuries treated, and your claim started sooner.
Get the other driver’s information.
That’s one recommendation you always hear after a car accident. But what does it really mean?
What information do you need to get? And what happens if you don’t get all of the right information while you’re at the scene?
First thing’s first – you need the other driver’s name.
Don’t just go by the name on the insurance card – remember, the person driving the car might not be the same person listed on the insurance card. It could be a covered family member or a friend who the owner gave permission to drive the car. When you begin the process of pursuing a car accident claim, you’ll need to know who was actually behind the wheel.
Names aren’t enough – and in the case of popular or common names, they might not be sufficient to help you identify the driver. You want to get the other driver’s address, as well. If you can, copy down the information from the other motorist’s driver’s license – or at least, snap a picture of the license with your cell phone.
A number of drivers worry more about getting the other motorist’s phone number than their address and insurance information, but this can be a mistake.
To pursue a claim and really get the compensation you deserve, you’ll have to go through the driver’s insurance company. You won’t be talking to the driver directly during this process.
If you make the mistake of trying to work things out with the other driver without getting the insurance companies involved, there’s always the chance that the at-fault driver might just stop responding when it becomes time for them to pay up.
Unfortunately, a lot of trusting drivers get burned this way. And if they have no information but the driver’s phone number, they may have a hard time ever getting any money at all for their injuries or even their car repairs.
You want to make a note of:
- The insurance policy number
- The name of the insurance company
- The numerical code representing the insurance company
- The insurer’s address
- The name of the policyholder
- The policy effective date
- The policy expiration date
You should also copy down the year, make, and model of the other driver’s vehicle as well as the vehicle identification number (VIN). If that driver has multiple vehicles on the auto insurance policy, you will need to identify which one was involved in the crash.
It may also help to note down the license plate number and even the color of the vehicle that hit you – because in the hectic aftermath of an accident, you might not be able to remember even the details you would usually notice.
You should be able to get information like the year, make, model, and VIN from the auto insurance card.
It’s also important for future reference to have your own vehicle information, especially if you’re not the owner of the car. Your own auto insurance card will provide information about the year, make, model, and VIN, if you’re unsure about that data.
It will also tell you the policy number of the auto insurance policy that covers the vehicle. You will need this information when you report the crash to your insurer – or, if you’re not a named insured on the policy covering that car, if you have to pursue a claim against the owner or driver of the car you were in.
Do you know what road you were on when the crash happened? What city? How about the time of the crash? The nearest intersection?
What damage did your vehicle sustain? The other driver’s vehicle?
You might be surprised how many accident victims don’t know this basic information – and how surprised they are to realize that they don’t have an answer to some of the first questions an insurer (or personal injury lawyer) will ask.
But after all, they’re in shock at the time of the collision. It can be difficult to notice these details or to remember them later.
To make things easier for yourself, take a moment after the crash to jot down:
- The city where the collision occurred
- The road(s) where the accident happened
- The nearest cross street and any other landmarks
- The time of the collision
- How the crash happened
- Anything you think might be important to describe the collision later on
- The damage to all vehicles involved – not just yours
If possible, take it a step farther – take pictures of the placement of the cars after the crash and of the accident scene. Also, if anyone witnessed the crash, make sure you write down the names, phone numbers, and statements of witnesses.
When police arrive at the car accident scene, they will take down your and the other driver’s information and use that to create a report of the collision. That report will be crucial when you begin pursuing a claim.
Note down what police department responded to your accident, the name of the officer, and any report number he or she may give you. Some police departments now issue cards containing this information. What’s important is that you know where and how to retrieve a copy of the police report once the document is complete.
Gathering Information on Accidents Other than Car Crashes
Of course, not every accident involves a motor vehicle. If you got hurt in a different kind of accident, like a slip and fall, work injury, or dog bite, it’s still essential that you gather the information necessary to pursue a claim. Otherwise, you’ll never get the compensation you deserve.
Get information about the property owner, including the individual’s or company’s name, address, insurance carrier, and insurance policy number. Make a note of any individuals (such as employees at a business property) who assisted you after the accident or witnessed the event. If an accident or incident report is drafted, request a copy.
What If You Miss Something?
I know – this seems like a lot to remember. When an accident happens, there’s a chance you will forget to gather some of the information you need.
Fortunately, you can often get additional information after-the-fact. The police report will often include information about the time and location of the crash, the parties involved, and their vehicle and insurance information.
It’s always better to gather as much information as possible right off the bat – especially since a police report can take days, or even weeks, to prepare. You don’t want to wait that long to get your car fixed or your injuries treated.
But if you are missing some information, don’t give up hope. A car accident lawyer can still help you figure out your next steps and where to look for the information you need.