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What information should I gather at the accident scene?

Since many records now are confidential under the law, you may not be able to obtain the information that you want from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). So be sure to get as much correct and complete information as you can at the scene of the accident. You and the other driver should show each other your driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.

Then you should write down:

  • The other driver’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number, driver’s license number and expiration date, and insurance company.
  • The other car’s make, year, model, license plate number and expiration date, and vehicle identification number.
  • The names, addresses, telephone numbers and insurance companies of the other car’s legal and registered owners-if the driver does not own the car.
  • The names, addresses, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers and telephone numbers of any passengers in the other car.
  • The names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the accident. Ask them to stay to talk to the police. If they insist on leaving, ask them to tell you what they saw and write everything down.
  • Try to identify people at the accident scene, even if they will not give their names. For example, if someone who saw the accident drives off, take down his or her license plate number. Law enforcement officials can trace the owner’s name and address.
  • The name and badge number of the law officer who comes to the accident scene. Ask the officer where and when you can get a copy of any accident report.
  • A simple diagram of the accident. Draw the positions of both cars before, during and after the accident. If there are skid marks on the road, pace them off. Draw them on the diagram, noting the distance they cover. Mark the positions of any crosswalks, stop signs, traffic lights or streetlights. If you have a camera with you, take pictures of the scene, and of the other drivers and occupants. However, do not place yourself in a position of danger in order to complete an accident diagram. Be aware of traffic conditions and skip any measurements that could place you in a position of harm.

Make notes, too, on weather and road conditions. If the accident happened after dark, note whether the streetlights were on. Estimate your speed and that of the other vehicle. Be sure to record the exact time, date and place the accident happened.