Automobile Accident Checklist

If you are involved in an automobile accident, you can use the following checklist to help protect your legal rights to recover damages:

  1. Obtain driver’s license, car registration and insurance information from the driver that caused the accident. Call your own insurance agent following the accident.
  2. Take and keep detailed notes of all conversations with drivers, witnesses and insurance company representatives, and get names, phone numbers, and job titles of people with whom you speak.
  3. Take pictures, if possible, of the damage to your vehicle, the accident scene, and your injuries.
  4. Keep all receipts of medical expenses, meals, lodging, and purchases made in connection with time spent pursuing your claim or recovering from your injuries from the time of the accident until final settlement with your insurance company.
  5. Do not “apologize” to other parties regarding the accident. Under the law, an apology can be considered and admission of fault.
  6. Do not give any recorded or written statements to any party or insurer until you are sure you understand your coverage. Remember you are not required to allow the insurance company to record your telephone conversation. If you have doubts, do consult an attorney.
  7. Do not automatically accept the estimate or appraisal of your losses given to you by your or the other party’s insurance company. Insurance companies will often try to get you to accept their contractor’s repair estimate or replacement estimates, which might be low.
  8. Do not sign any release or waivers of any kind until you obtain legal advice. A bad financial situation after a major loss may make it seem necessary for you to accept a premature, inadequate settlement from the insurance company. But you may remember destroyed items after you have signed a release as to payment for your personal property inventory or other claims. For these reasons, it is advisable to consult an attorney before signing a release or waiver. Be sure to read the fine print on any payment from the insurance company.
  9. Do not accept any check that says “final payment” unless you are ready to do so.
  10. Do not ignore time limits set by your policy. Most policies require a signed proof of loss within a certain time limit. Be sure you comply with this requirement unless you obtain a written waiver from your insurance company. Many policies allow you only one year from the date of loss in which to bring a legal action if your claim has not been adjusted fairly. If your claim has not been settled to your satisfaction 11 months after your loss, consult an attorney immediately. A failure to do so could result in the loss of your right to sue.
  11. Contact an experienced accident lawyer to determine if you have a legally recoverable claim for damages.