Anyone who has been involved in a car accident knows that the experience can be scary, especially if anyone has been injured. It is very important to stay calm, quickly assess the situation, call emergency services and exchange information with the other driver. In some cases, it may be a good idea to get information from witnesses who saw the accident as well.
After an accident, police will usually come to investigate the accident. The police may or may not issue citations finding a driver at fault for the accident, especially if it occurred on private property such as a business parking lot instead of a public roadway. Police will usually take statements from both drivers unless one driver is incapacitated due to injuries and unable to speak to officers. Police may still attempt to get a statement from the driver later at the hospital. Officers will also usually interview any witnesses. In some cases, police do not take witness statements.
If you were involved in an accident, the other driver may dispute that they were at fault for the accident. In fact, most insurance companies advise their insureds not to admit fault at the scene of the accident. Many companies even have this advice printed on their auto insurance cards. Therefore, a driver may not make a statement at all and may invoke his or her right to remain silent and avoid incrimination if police try to discuss the accident. In this type of case, witness statements can be very important later in court because the situation could become a contest of one driver’s word against another if no one else can testify about what happened.
After a car accident, witnesses usually want to help make sure that anyone who is injured receives help and may want to stay at the scene to clarify what happened. If you were involved in an accident, you may want to politely ask any witnesses to stay until emergency personnel arrive so that their statements can be taken. You may also want to write down their names and contact information, including their phone number and address. This can be important later on, especially if police do not take down a written statement and an attorney later needs to speak with any available witnesses. You may also want to quickly write down where they were located or what they saw when the accident occurred.
If it is unclear who was at fault, do not make any incriminating statements to witnesses. In some cases, the accident happened so quickly that you may not have been able to observe what happened. Some cases involve negligence by more than one driver. You still want to get all the information you can from witnesses so that they can be later contacted if necessary. Sometimes a witness statement can make all the difference when it comes to proving liability.
It is also important to contact an attorney right away after emergency services have been rendered and the accident has been reported to the police and to both insurance companies. An attorney can advise you what to do next and can contact witnesses for any additional information needed.