1. Call 911! The first and foremost priority when you have been injured in any type of accident is to seek medical attention. If you are unable to contact help yourself, ask another person to call for help.
2. If you are not severely injured and have been in an automobile accident, call 911, assess the other motorist’s injuries and provide as much assistance as is safe and possible. Be aware of your surroundings and conscious of the fact that sometimes it is better to move to a safe location and wait for help to arrive. As soon as it is safe and practical, take down the names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the accident. If possible, take photographs of your injuries, property damage and the accident scene. Keep in mind that, with time, the scene of the accident may change dramatically. This is especially true if the accident occurred due to weather or other unusual circumstances (i.e. construction). Don’t assume that the investigating police officers or other emergency personnel will speak with a potential witness.
3. When the police arrive, if you are able to, tell them what happened. Although it is possible to overcome a police officer’s report, it is much easier for the report to support you from the beginning. Therefore, if the other party ran a stoplight or was apparently speeding, say so. Similarly, if you slipped on a giant patch of ice, tell the officer exactly what you remember about the incident. It is a lot easier to establish liability against a negligent party if the police report is in your favor. Of course, if you are not certain about what happened, you should not guess. A good defense attorney will exploit you at trial if you seem unsure of what happened at the scene. Worse yet, if you give one description at the scene but later change your story, it will be difficult to overcome a good defense attorney’s barrage of questions regarding the apparent discrepancy. Do not, however, discuss the case with anybody else, including the negligent party. It is generally best to also not discuss the case with security personnel (in the event the accident occurred in a private lot). You do not know the level of training these security personnel receive or their motives, and their assessment of the accident is unlikely to carry any weight with a jury.
4. Seek follow up medical care. As is often the case, you may be taken by ambulance to a hospital for evaluation and later released. Just because you are released from the hospital doesn’t mean you don’t need further treatment. Under Missouri law, you have a duty to mitigate your damages. That means you have a duty to seek additional medical care that avoids a minor injury turning into a major injury. If you were not taken by ambulance, it is always a good idea (for legal and medical reasons) to drive yourself to the hospital or a doctor and ask for a full evaluation. There have been many instances where a person leaves the scene of an accident on her own volition only to find out later that she has a serious medical problem resulting from the accident. Unfortunately, sometimes it is too late.
5. Before speaking with any insurance adjustor, insurance employee, witness or other party, HIRE AN ATTORNEY. Although you would like to believe an insurance adjustor has your best interests at heart, the truth is that an insurance adjustor only has the insurance company’s pocket book in mind. Worse yet, anything you say to an insurance company could end up being used against you in court! On the other hand, almost nothing your attorney says to an insurance adjustor can be used against you in court. The same is true for witnesses and opposing parties. It is possible, under certain circumstances, that your attorney may have you speak with an adjustor. However, your attorney will carefully advise you of the advantages and disadvantages of speaking with an adjustor.
6. Continue seeking medical care as necessary and keep track of your damages. To assist your attorney in pursuing your case, you need to keep accurate records of the doctors or hospitals you visit. Additionally, document the times you have been off work as a result of your injury, any medications prescribed, restrictions on the performance of activities you once enjoyed (such as dancing, working in the yard, playing with your children, etc.) and the pain you are experiencing.