The jolt of the impact is shocking – you did not even see the other car coming. You are in a car accident, and it is serious. The air bag blew up into your face before you could even react. You had always wondered what it would feel like if the airbags deployed; now that you know, you hope you do not ever have to find out again. Thankfully, the other car slammed into the passenger side of your car. Your head is throbbing, and you feel disoriented as you climb out of the car . . . and now is the time you have to start making important decisions.
What do I need to do to protect my rights legally?
Under Colorado law, any time you are in an accident involving motor vehicles you are required to report the accident. A police report is not only important for legal compliance, but it also provides important information for insurance purposes. It can also be an important piece of evidence should the need arise for you to file a lawsuit. At the scene of the accident, the first thing the police investigator will do is make sure everyone who needs medical attention receives it. Then the officer will begin the investigation by surveying the accident scene and interviewing witnesses (including the drivers of the cars). The officer will takes notes and record any observations or important information. After making an evaluation of the situation, the officer may issue a ticket to any parties the officer assesses to have broken any laws.
Usually the officer will write all this information in an unofficial accident scene report, which will later be transcribed into an official report and put on file. The official report will contain the reporting officer’s record of the facts surrounding the accident and will usually include a narrative and diagram of the accident scene. The report will also list the names and information of any witnesses to the accident, which can be important information for an attorney if the case needs to be litigated. The reason the police report is important is that, in most cases, it is treated as the most accurate assessment of what occurred at the scene and can be the deciding document for determining who is at fault in the accident – especially if the investigator assigns fault.
Can I make my own unoffical report?
Although the officer’s report is the official report, it does not mean that it is infallible or that other reports or evidence are not important. By gathering additional evidence, you may provide the insurance adjuster (or your attorney) with evidence that the reporting officer missed. You can collect witness names and numbers, take photographs, and write down any other information that you feel may be of importance. Do not rely on your memory – crucial details of the accident are fresh in your memory immediately after the incident occurred. After all, you are the one at the scene and this may be the only opportunity to collect some information that may otherwise disappear forever.
Filing an insurance claim
As soon as possible after your accident, you should contact your insurance company and tell them about your accident. You will need to provide your policy number, the place and date of the accident, and a summary of the facts of the accident. Be sure to keep receipts, bills, and any other expense reports related to your accident. They can be important pieces of evidence for your case if your claim is denied.