After a car accident, there are certain records and key pieces of evidence you must gather in order to bring a successful insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. The success of your claim or lawsuit will hinge on whether you have documentation to support the assertions you make.
For example, you are much more likely to be compensated for your medical expenses during settlement negotiations if you have a file containing copies of all your medical records organized in chronological order, and billing information showing how much you were charged for that treatment. If you file a personal injury lawsuit, a police report can be critical in establishing who was at fault in the accident.
Here are the top 5 pieces of info to gather, prepare, and organize after a car accident.
*To help make this process easier for you, we’ve created a car accident worksheet.
1. Police Report
After a car accident, you should call 911 immediately. This is true regardless of how serious the accident was. A police officer will come to the scene of your accident and prepare a police report, either at the scene or shortly afterward. This is sometimes referred to as an “incident report” or “accident report.”
This report will likely include information that is crucial to an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit – including determinations as to whether any traffic laws were violated, potential causes of the accident, statements from those involved in the accident as to the circumstances of the accident, and statements from witnesses about what they saw and heard at the time of the accident.
To get a copy of the police report that contains information about your car accident, contact the law enforcement agency that came to the scene. They will likely ask you for the following information:
- The date and location of the accident (i.e., the intersection or approximate street address where it occurred),
- The names of the drivers involved in the accident, and/or
- The name and badge number of the officer who came to the scene and prepared the report.
If you are unable to locate a police report, incident report, or accident report, an experienced car accident attorney may be able to help.
2. Medical Records
If you suffered any injuries in your accident, or even if you just got checked out for precautionary reasons, be sure to get copies of all your medical records and billing information related to your treatment.
You should ask for copies of your records from every healthcare provider you see. Make sure that you have every phase of your healthcare accounted for – including treatment received, any diagnoses given, treatments recommended by your doctors, medications that were prescribed to you, and any other opinions or conclusions offered by a healthcare provider.
Keep a dedicated file for your medical records, and organize them in chronological order. You may need to locate and request medical records for:
- Emergency medical services, such as an ambulance ride or treatment given at the scene of the accident. Typically, ambulances and paramedics are affiliated with the town, city, or county where your car accident occurred. However, you may have been treated or transported by a private company.
- Services rendered in an emergency room, such as X-rays, stitches, or surgery.
- Hospital admission. Be sure to ask for the treating physician’s records.
- Treatment provided by your primary care physician.
- Prescriptions you picked up at a pharmacy.
- Physical therapy.
- Chiropractic care.
- Psychological treatment.
- Treatment by any other health care providers or specialists.
Keeping a detailed account of your medical records as they are generated can save you time and money.
3. Records Related to Your Job
If you missed any time at work due to your car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for the income you lost. If you file a personal injury lawsuit, you’ll need to show detailed proof of your lost income. You can do this by gathering paycheck stubs, direct deposit records, records of any tips you received, or any other documents from your employer that show the amount of income you missed out on due to the time you missed after your car accident. You should also keep copies of any email correspondence with your employer related to your absence from work.
If your earning potential has been permanently decreased as a result of the injuries you suffered, you may be able to recover money to compensate you for the income you will lose over time. If this is the case, it will be especially important to keep records related to your job.
4. Vehicle Damage Estimates and Proof of Vehicle Value
If your vehicle was damaged in your car accident, you will likely be able to recoup repair costs through an insurance company or by filing a lawsuit against the driver or drivers responsible for the accident. In order to calculate the amount of money to ask for, you must know how much repairing your vehicle will cost. In some cases, this might be the actual cash value of your car just before the accident happened.
Some insurance companies handle the damage estimate side of things. In other cases, you might be able to get multiple repair estimates from various auto mechanics and body shops. If your vehicle was totaled or damaged beyond repair, use a reputable resource such as Kelley Blue Book to determine the fair market value of your vehicle right before the accident occurred.
5. Car Accident Diary or Journal
You should keep a detailed chronological record similar to a diary or journal after a car accident. Write down your own statement about the car accident immediately after it occurred. Take notes on any communication you have with insurance companies or the parties involved in the accident. If you were injured in your car accident, write down how you are feeling day by day. Make a note of any medical appointments you have, and treatment you are receiving. Keep a log of missed workdays.
A car accident diary or journal can help a court determine how much money you should receive for the pain and suffering you endured. It can also help your lawyer better understand what happened during and after your accident.
Talk to an attorney
Sutliff & Stout represents victims of car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents in personal injury lawsuits. To discuss your case with one of our experienced attorneys, call (713) 987-7111 or contact us online today.