If you are in a car accident

Waddell & Magan, Montana personal injury, car accident, and commercial litigation attorneys

Check for injuries

The first thing to do in a car accident is to check each person involved to see if anyone is injured. If necessary, call the Police, and an ambulance. If anyone is seriously injured, do not attempt to move him or her unless absolutely necessary – wait for trained medical personnel.

Exchange information

Exchange identification and insurance information, including names, addresses, insurance carrier and policy number, and the insurance agent's name and telephone number. Get driver's license numbers and license plate numbers. Note the make and model of the vehicles.

If you have a camera–take pictures

Take photographs of the accident scene and, if possible, the location of the cars at the accident site. Get photos of the skid marks, stop signs, and obstructions. If there is a convenience store or drug store nearby, get a disposable camera. If you cannot get a camera at the scene of the accident, take pictures of the vehicles as soon after the accident as possible. Take pictures of the injuries anyone sustained (especially bruises which may not be visible a week or so after the accident).

Was the other driver impaired or intoxicated?

If you believe that the other driver was drinking, tell the investigating officer of your suspicions. Also ask the investigating officer to list the names of the witnesses on the Police Report.

Get any witnesses' names

Before they leave, get witnesses' names, addresses and telephone numbers. If you don't, it may be impossible to find them later.

Make a drawing of the accident scene

Make a drawing or diagram of the accident, indicating the direction of travel of all cars. Put in the location and length of skid marks. Record the road conditions (light, dark, wet pavement, weather conditions).

Get a copy of the police report

Obtain a copy of the police report as soon as possible – check it over; if you want to clarify or correct anything in the report, go to the Police Department and insist that they allow you to make further comments on the record. If you have been injured, no matter how slight you think it may be at the scene of the accident, have it checked out through a qualified medical examination as soon as possible after the accident. Don't forget that the excitement and anxiety at the scene of the accident may mask some of the injuries that you sustain. And certain injuries do not show up immediately. Take a few moments to carefully assess your physical condition.

Call your insurance company

Call your insurance agent/company and put them on notice of the accident (for a discussion of notice provisions in insurance policies, click here).

Be wary of the other driver's insurance adjusters

An insurance adjuster for the other driver may contact you in the hope that you will settle your claim when they offer you some money at an early stage. Adjusters are trained and skillful negotiators, and their job is solely to restrict the amount of your recovery.

Keep a diary

Keep a diary containing a description of your pain, the type and amount of medication you take, the changes in your daily routine (Do you miss work? Are you unable to do household chores? Changes in socializing routines? Need household help?).