Pursuing a personal injury claim is a complicated process, and the best way to make sure you maximize your compensation is to consult with an attorney. However, there are some things you can do on your own to put yourself in the best possible position with respect to your claim. We've created a checklist to help you get organized:
At the Scene
- Gather Information
- Speak with the other driver(s) involved. Take pictures of driver's licenses and insurance cards, as well as license plates.
- Create a file, and store all your photographs, records, notes, and any other relevant information in that file.
- Photograph Damages
- Look closely for any damage that might have been caused and photograph your vehicle from all angles.
- Don't forget to photograph damages to other vehicles as well. This evidence can help experts reconstruct the accident later.
- Identify Witnesses
- If you have to present your case, neutral witnesses are powerful evidence. Simply gather their names and contact information for later use if necessary.
- Take the names and badge numbers of any police officiers at the scene and note the officers' affiliation. State patrol? City/county police?
- Photograph the Accident
- Photograph the scene from multiple angles. Make sure to capture the positioning of the vehicles on the road and any tire tracks nearby. Document the general location (e.g. mile markers, street signs, landmarks).
After the Accident
- Photograph Your Injuries
- Should you need to present your case to a jury, photographic evidence will always be more powerful and persuasive than oral testimony. As soon as possible after the accident, take stock of your injuries and photograph your cuts, scrapes and bruises.
- Request the Police Report
- Police accident reports are publicly available. Wait a week after your accident and visit the websites for any law enforcement agencies who were present at the scene of your accident. These websites should have instructions and forms to help you obtain a police report.
- If instructions are unclear, call the records department and ask for assistance.
- Keep Track of Medical Records and Bills
- Keep a log of all of the medical providers you see for treatment relating to your accident. You or your attorney will need to follow up regularly to collect records and bills from your providers.
- If your expenses are covered by a third-party payor (insurance, Medicare/Medicaid), this organization will have a ledger you can access to determine the identities of your providers.
- Gather Paystubs
- Have you missed work because of your accident? Maybe even lost your job? Gather up your most recent paystubs and put those in your file. You might be entitled to compensation for lost wages.
- Keep Track of Receipts, Mileage, and Other Expenses
- If you're injured and going through medical treatment, you're going to incur all sorts of incidental expenses. Keep track of your mileage when you're driving to and from doctor appointments.
- Keep receipts from expenses that are related to the accident.
- Keep a Journal
- Last but not least, keep a daily (or at least weekly) journal to log how you feel, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Injury claims can take time to resolve, and you might benefit from remembering how you felt at a particular time.
- A journal is a great way to make sure (1) that you can remember the state of your health and (2) ensure that these memories are reliable and persuasive.
Please be advised that this is provided for general information purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is formed by the provision of this information. The best resource for information about your case is consulting an attorney.