Whether you are injured in an automobile accident, in a slip/trip and fall, by a defective product, or in some other manner – the very first thing you should do is check yourself for injuries. Check your passengers if in a vehicle, or those around you in other circumstances, to see if anyone else has been injured as well. If necessary, seek immediate treatment for your injuries by whatever means is available.
Next, you need to get yourself (and others) to safety – that could mean moving from a busy intersection to a sidewalk, or determining whether or not it is safer to stay in your car or move to the shoulder of a freeway.
However, where cars come to a rest after an accident may be vitally important to your case. If safe to do so, you should photograph and/or video record cars or other items involved in your accident BEFORE they are moved.
If you have been in a car accident, you should always call the police and ask them to come out and take a report. Sometimes they will only come out if you report that you or someone else was injured.
After a car accident, you’ll want to get insurance information of other drivers involved, a photo of their driver’s licenses, and photos of the damage to the other vehicles and their license plates.
Nowadays, video cameras are everywhere. You should search the area to see if there are any cameras that may have captured the accident – this could be a Ring Video Doorbell, a home security camera, or a camera at a nearby gas station or business. If you see one that may have captured the incident, and you are physically able to, you should check with the owner of the camera as soon as possible as the cameras often record over, or delete footage in a short amount of time.
If you were injured in a place of business rather than in an auto accident, you’ll want photos of whatever it was that contributed to your injury. Is there a puddle on the floor that made you slip and fall? Did a poorly constructed or poorly designed staircase cause you to trip?
ALWAYS report the fall to the business. Make sure an employee (preferably a manager or security guard) at the business takes a report of your fall and injuries. This is extremely important. First, unreported falls and injuries are difficult to prove later. Second, it puts them on notice to save whatever evidence they have of the fall – either the video or the item that caused the injury.
Getting to an attorney quickly will also help in this regard, as an attorney will send a letter demanding the business preserve all videos and other evidence of the incident.
Did a defective product cause your injury? Don’t throw that item away and do not return it to the manufacturer, it will be needed if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim.
You may be contacted by an insurance company in the next day or two after your injury. Remember, you should NOT provide any recorded or written statements to anyone (other than the police) about the circumstances of your accident. You may report the accident to your own insurance company, but you should still not provide a recorded or written statement, unless advised to do so by your attorney.
After most accidents in California, you will have up to two years to file a lawsuit. But you won’t want to wait that long to speak with a lawyer, as it will be a lot easier for your injury legal team to gather evidence and corral witnesses sooner, rather than later.
Also, if a governmental entity is involved in causing your injury (for example, government owned property or a driver in the course and scope of employment for the City, County, State, etc.), a claim must be filed within six months. You may not initially realize a governmental entity is involved, so that is another reason to consult an attorney as soon as possible after your accident.