Call your Attorney
The first phone call you should make after you are involved in an accident is to your attorney. When you call me, I can help guide you through the next steps during a time when you are undoubtedly anxious and flustered. It is easy to forget all of the things you should take note of and remember to report when your mind is racing, trying to assess the physical damage to your vehicle and figuring out if you and/or your passengers are in pain.
My husband was in a severe car accident and fortunately, he remembered to call me as soon as it happened. While I could tell that he was distressed and distracted, I was able to stay on the phone with him and instruct him on what to do until I was sure that all immediate needs were taken care of. Let’s walk through what that process looks like.
Call the Police
The next step you should take after calling your attorney is to call the police. I can think of very few instances where you would not want to do this.
If You Are At Fault for the Accident
It may be tempting to opt out of calling the police if you believe you were the one at fault for the accident. However, it is still in your interest to contact the police and have a report made, particularly in instances where the accident was minor. The police may indicate on their report that no injuries were reported, that visible damage to the vehicles was minimal or nonexistent, or they may forego preparing a full written report. According to Arizona Revised Statutes 28-667, an officer is only required to complete a full report if there is injury, death, damage to property in excess of $2,000, or a citation is issued. If none of those apply, the officer only needs to complete a portion of the written report. If you are at fault, the officer’s report can help you (and your insurance company) pursue a defense that the accident was too minimal to cause injury.
If You Are Not At Fault for the Accident
Alternatively, if the accident was not your fault, the police report helps validate your position, so long as you can ensure the appropriate information is given to the officer. Many car accidents occur as a result of one vehicle failing to control their speed and rear-ending the vehicle in front of them. In most situations, it is easy to determine who is at fault in a rear-end collision, and the location of damage to the vehicles helps tell the story of how the collision occurred. In my husband’s situation, he had been traveling straight on a regular public access road when another vehicle pulled out suddenly from an apartment complex and turned left in front of him. While state traffic laws place a high duty on the left-turning vehicle to ensure that the road is clear before they begin their turn, these types of accidents can still easily turn into a he-said/she-said situation in determining fault. For example, the left-turning driver may falsely state that they had safely begun their turn when the other vehicle was traveling at an unreasonably high speed and failed to avoid colliding with them. While there are certainly many arguments to be made to prove either side of that story, it is best to gather evidence and support early on that can be recorded in the police report.
As I was talking to my husband in that initial phone call, he told me that there was someone standing nearby who said they had seen the entire accident. Witnesses to an accident are rare and valuable, so if you are lucky enough to have one, don’t let them go! I told my husband to speak with the witness and ask them to stay until police arrived and were able to talk to him. At the very least, I told him to get the witness’s contact information. My husband lucked out with a witness who was willing to wait for the police, so the witness’s contact information and statement were able to be recorded in the report. In addition to my husband’s statements to the officer, and the officer’s evaluation of how the accident occurred, this solidified my husband’s position that he bore no fault for the accident.
What Do I Tell the Police About My Injuries?
I wanted to first note that it is not a deal breaker to your claim if your police report indicates that no injuries were reported. I have seen this on hundreds of police reports, and the claims are still considered and paid out. Sometimes it is because (according to the injured person) the police officer did not specifically ask the person if they were injured, sometimes it is because the person does not yet feel pain from the accident and does not report any issues to the officer. This is quite common, as often the injuries and symptoms take time to set in after the adrenaline and anxiety from the collision have worn off.
That being said, I recommend that if the officer asks if you have any injuries or need medical attention, you remember these two things: 1) always answer truthfully, and 2) don’t immediately say you feel fine. A lot of times people don’t want to inconvenience the officer or are afraid to get checked out because of cost, so they say they are fine and go on their way. Give yourself an opportunity to assess how you feel, and don’t feel bad asking the paramedics to check you out (especially if they have already been called out). You will not receive a medical bill from the paramedics unless they actually transport you to a hospital via ambulance. If you do choose to take the ambulance, I can help you get it resolved and paid for when we submit your claim to the at fault driver’s insurance carrier.
Where Do I Go After the Police Leave?
Be sure to stick around as long as you can to ensure the officer has listened and understood your statement about how the accident occurred, and that they have communicated with any beneficial witnesses that have remained at the scene. Once you have done that, and the officer has cleared you to leave, you should seek follow-up care. This will look different for everyone based on the severity of the accident and what you are feeling. If you have obvious injuries, open wounds, or have hit your head and may need imaging done, you should head to an emergency room, or at the very least, a nearby urgent care. If you’re still assessing injuries, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician so they can guide you on next steps for any care you may need. Always follow the recommendations and follow-up instructions of your medical providers.
If you would like additional or more specific information regarding your claim, please call or email me for a free consultation at 480-450-0626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article should be used for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. If you need legal advice regarding these issues, please feel free to contact me at 480-450-0626, or contact an attorney in your area.