You were in a car accident in Rhode Island. Now what? There are steps you can take immediately after your car accident to ensure that your legal rights are protected, including documenting the accident scene, getting medical help and speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Below is a brief overview of "what to do if you are in a car accident" — steps you can take to help with your legal case:

  • Seek medical help
  • Call the police
  • Obtain witness statements
  • Call your insurance company
  • Take pictures
  • Share information
  • Find a lawyer
  • Schedule a free consultation

We invite you to review the information and tips on each step to take after a serious car accident.

Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum, in Warwick, has been a leading law firm in Rhode Island for more than eight decades. During this time, we have helped thousands of clients throughout the state find answers after serious car accidents. To learn more, please contact our injury lawyers for a free consultation.

Seek Medical Help

What you can and cannot do after a car accident largely depends on the severity of your injuries and the injuries of the other driver. By law, a driver involved in an accident must stay at the accident scene and render medical assistance.

Do not refuse or hinder rescue efforts, whether those efforts are meant to help you and/or the other driver. Be specific when describing your injuries to the medical professionals.

If you do not need immediate assistance at the accident scene, visit a doctor as soon as possible. Even if you believe your injuries are minor, it is important that you get an assessment of all your injuries. Knowing the extent of your injuries will help you determine what medical care you need today and in the future — a vital component of any injury lawsuit.

Call the Police

Even in accidents that do not involve serious injuries, it is important to get the police on the scene to assess the damage and draft/file a police report. You do not want to be a car accident victim with absolutely no official record of the accident. If you choose to just "exchange numbers," then you are simply left with your word against the other driver. Even if you call the police at a later date, they will ask you why you did not immediately reach out to the authorities at the time of the accident. Furthermore, the accident scene is long gone, and there is very little evidence to then gather to help your case if any.

Obtain Proper Witness Statements

Oftentimes a car accident case could have been stronger for an accident victim if they had only obtained proper witness statements. Do not be shy about getting witness statements. No one else will be looking out for you at the accident scene other than yourself when it comes to getting these statements. Do not rely on the police to do this for you (although do this within reason and remain cooperative). The more information you can glean from accident witnesses, the better it is for your case.

Take the time to get a very detailed statement from each relevant witness. Have them write a statement down that very moment. If they are unable to do so, take a video of them and be sure to start the video asking their name and have them state this is their statement. Encourage these witnesses to also talk to the police so that they are on official record. The police record is the more valuable part. Do not be afraid to be insistent with the police in giving your own thorough record.

Call Your Insurance Company

Call your insurance company to report the accident. It is important that you answer the insurance agent's questions but do not provide a statement about who or what caused the accident. The goal of this conversation is simply to report the accident and provide general information.

Another important piece in reaching out to your insurance company is to make sure you do not accept a settlement. No matter how enticing the settlement may seem, you must understand that the insurance company is only looking out for their business interests. Not your best interests. Only an attorney will have your best interests at heart. Give only the information necessary when discussing the accident with your insurance carrier.

Take Pictures

If you are able, take pictures at the scene of the accident, including pictures of both cars, any objects involved in the crash, the debris and the road. While your attorney will be able to conduct an accident investigation, evidence of the accident can disappear quickly. Pictures taken at the scene of the accident are often invaluable.

Going even further, take video with your smartphone or cellphone if you are able to. Take a video of the surrounding area, road, show what the weather was like, lighting conditions and even get witness statements on camera. This is all valuable information for your case.

Share Information

By law, drivers must provide certain pieces of information to each other at the scene of the accident, including names, addresses and insurance information.

If there were witnesses at the scene of the accident, it is important to ask for their names, numbers and addresses, too. But do not engage with the other parties so far as to start arguing, talking too much about the accident or even admitting fault. Exchange what is necessary and leave it at that.

Find an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

Finally, contact an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. We can help you understand your legal rights and your options for making an accident claim.

Many people choose not to work with a personal injury attorney because they believe the cost of working with an attorney outweighs the benefits. Yet, this often proves a costly decision, leading to smaller settlement offers by insurance companies that do not cover the full extent of the injuries suffered.


Christopher L. Russo
Helping Rhode Island personal injury victims for nearly three decades to get the compensation they deserve.