What Evidence Should I Gather After a Car Accident?
It can be tricky to navigate a car accident insurance claim and recover fair compensation for your losses. Insurance companies are experts at making a profit by denying valid claims and reducing settlement awards. The more information and evidence you gather after a car accident in Virginia, the stronger your claim will be. The evidence you collect can be crucial to obtaining a successful settlement from an auto insurance company.
Why Do You Need to Gather Evidence?
When you are the victim of a car accident, the burden of proof rests with you. The burden of proof is the duty to establish someone else’s legal responsibility (liability) for your accident. This burden always rests with the person seeking damages, called the plaintiff. Your burden of proof during a car accident case will be enough evidence to establish that the other driver more likely than not caused your crash and your injuries. You will need to collect evidence to meet this burden of proof.
Pictures and Videos While at the Scene
Start by taking photographs and videos while at the scene of your car accident, if possible. If you are not too injured or disoriented to do so, take out your smartphone and capture images of the accident scene immediately after the crash. Include close-up shots of property damage as well as wide-angle pictures of the crash scene in its entirety. Photographs can provide evidence of damages as well as proof of the other driver’s fault, such as food wrappers in the driver’s seat.
If you cannot take photos immediately after a crash, don’t worry. Send someone back to the crash scene to take pictures for you while you go to the hospital. You may also be able to visit local businesses in the area later and ask for surveillance tapes that show the car accident. Calling 911 from the scene of the crash can also help you collect photographic evidence, as law enforcement officers will take official photographs of the wreck.
Eyewitness Contact Information
Before you leave the scene, obtain the names and contact information of eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses can provide testimony later as to how and why the crash occurred. An eyewitness may have noticed the at-fault driver behaving erratically or weaving in and out of traffic minutes before your collision, for example, or running a red light. Multiple eyewitnesses saying the same thing can provide strong evidence of the other driver’s fault.
Police Report Number
It is typically in your best interest to call the police from the scene of an auto accident in Virginia. Virginia law requires police reporting of a car accident that causes injuries, deaths or property damage. Calling the police can create an official record of the accident. An insurance company will want to see this record for proof that your losses happened the way you say they did.
A police report can also provide important details about the crash, such as the directions and speeds of both vehicles, whether one driver was breaking a law, and the other driver’s insurance information. When the police arrive, give them your side of the story for the record. Make sure to write down your police report number before leaving the scene.
After you have seen a doctor for your car accident injuries, start collecting medical documentation for your insurance claim. The insurance company will request evidence of your injuries and related expenses, such as surgeries, treatments and medications. Request copies of all relevant medical records to submit along with your insurance claim. Do not sign a medical authorization form from the insurance company, however, as this could be a way for the provider to access older records and find a reason to deny your claim.
After a car accident, work with a Virginia car accident attorney to help you gather compelling evidence of fault, causation, and your injuries and losses. A lawyer can make it easier to collect the evidence you need for a successful insurance claim.