For any Oregon driver who has ever had to file an auto accident insurance claim, giving a clear, accurate description of what happened is critical to a successful settlement of that claim. Even if you weren’t directly involved in an accident, but you were a witness, there are a number of key things to remember to ensure that you’re giving an accurate description of an auto accident. You’ll probably have to talk to the police and the insurance companies. These can be stressful experiences, so to make it as painless as possible for yourself, try remembering and following these tips:
- Stay as calm as humanly possible. Shouting, crying or becoming angry and emotional will make you seem less credible, and you will also have difficulty recalling details accurately.
- If no one was seriously injured in the accident, don’t touch anyone, but if someone is in danger, don’t hesitate. Render whatever assistance you can.
- If someone asks you for help, provide it. Other than that, keep your distance to avoid being influenced by one of the accident victim’s version of events.
Never Leave the Scene of an Accident
Whether or not you were directly involved in the accident, if you witnessed anything you should always remain at the scene until authorities arrive. It’s not enough to simply give your name and number to someone else. If the accident wasn’t bad enough to warrant the authorities being called out, stick around until everyone who was involved has calmed down, and try to see if they’ve all exchanged license and insurance information.
If you were unfortunate enough to be one of the people involved in the crash, it’s essential that you stay on the scene and exchange information with the other driver or drivers. However, it is also important that you do not admit fault to anyone until after the police have had a chance to question witnesses. It’s quite possible that even if you think you were at fault, there might have been other factors at play of which you were not aware, which could have a major impact on your auto accident insurance claim.
Work out in your own mind what happened. Write it down.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who was involved in this accident?
- Who appears to have caused it?
- How many people were involved?
- Even if you witnessed the accident from a distance, ask yourself who appeared to be at fault. Were they speeding?
- Had they been driving erratically or dangerously? Had they been swerving before the crash?
- Is there any reason for you to suspect drunk or impaired driving?
- Was one car trying to avoid another careless driver who somehow managed to escape the crash, but who almost undoubtedly caused it?
- Who was the first person to come to your assistance if you were involved in the crash? Was it a witness or someone else who was involved in the accident?
Take Pictures. Take Notes.
While it’s not always possible to get photographic evidence, most cell phones nowadays can take pictures. If you don’t have a cell phone with you, a witness or passerby almost undoubtedly will. In that case:
- Take pictures of the scene until law enforcement officials arrive on the scene, especially any damage to vehicles you can photograph, as well as skid marks on the road and if possible, bodily injuries. These pictures may be exceptionally valuable when filing an auto accident insurance claim.
- Get the names, license numbers, addresses and phone numbers of any and all witnesses who look like leaving the scene before the police arrive. You might need them later.
- Take note of the weather and road conditions and try to determine if they were a contributing factor in the crash.
- Were there any road works or detours that may have confused drivers or put them onto unfamiliar roads?
- If you were involved in the crash, figure out at what point along the road you were hit as compared with where your vehicle ultimately came to a stop. Do you think you may have blacked out before the car came to a stop? Write it down!
- If you rear-ended a vehicle, can you remember if their taillights or brake lights were working properly? Did they stop suddenly?
- In the case of a hit-and-run, try to remember even the smallest details about the vehicle that drove off. Anything you can think of may help police track down the driver, right down to a set of fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror, or a bumper sticker saying.
File a Report with Police and DMV
Whether the police were called or not, or whether or not anyone was injured, it is critical to your auto accident insurance claim that you report the incident to your agent as soon as humanly possible. If you want to speed up the claims process, file a state vehicle accident report at your police station or download the report from the DMV website. Whatever evidence you have, be it in the form of photos, witness statements, police reports or medical reports, give everything (and keep copies for yourself!) to your insurance agent, as well as the police.