These Note-Taking Tips Can Help You after a Car Accident

August 9, 2016 by

When another car crashes into yours, you’re most likely shaken up. Reaching for a pen and paper is probably the last thing on your mind. However, if you can manage to write down some detailed notes about what happened in a car accident, it will create a much more accurate record of the events than if you rely on memory alone, and you’ll be glad you did so in the event you decide to file a personal injury claim and attempt to receive compensation for any injuries and other damages you’ve suffered.

Of course, your first concern in the aftermath of an accident should be ensuring your immediate safety and that of others at the scene as well as getting prompt medical attention for any injuries. Once you’re in a safe and stable situation, it’s in your best interests to make a written record of the crash and the circumstances surrounding it as soon as possible.

The Hazy World of Memory and Recall

Experts in legal and scientific communities have long understood that memories and eyewitness accounts can’t reliably reconstruct the details of an event. Many people in the general public think of memory like a video recording: the mind “films” events, and when they need to be recalled, your mind will play the recording back on cue.

In reality, though, the process of remembering an event is more like putting a puzzle together. The mind reconstructs the memory from different parts of your brain every time you try to remember it in detail, and each recall creates another opportunity for a piece to get misplaced — permanently obscuring the original details.

For example, many people think back to where they were on 9/11 and remember seeing footage of the first plane hitting the north tower; in a 2003 study, 73% of those surveyed remembered this detail. However, footage of that event didn’t air for the first time until the next day.

This confusion over details exists in many of our memories, and the simple truth is that you can’t rely on your memory — or even the eyewitness accounts of bystanders — to accurately reconstruct an important event, especially an unexpected and traumatic one like a car accident. Instead, you need to take detailed notes as soon as you can before your memory begins rearranging those pieces.

Preparing to Take Notes

As a general rule, when trying to organize your immediate thoughts after a car accident, you should write down everything you saw, heard, said, did, and felt at the scene. If possible, take notes at the scene itself. Even though the moments immediately after a crash can seem like a whirlwind, it is a critical time for a personal injury claim because all of the important evidence is present and untouched, and witnesses are nearby with the incident fresh in their minds. Once responders clear the scene and time begins to pass, it becomes much more difficult to gather clear evidence and uncover all the facts.

Fortunately, reading over the following tips can prepare you in advance so you don’t have to try and figure out what to do and how to direct yourself in the heat of the moment while you’re under the influence of stress and adrenaline. Keep a pen and paper in your car so that you’re prepared to take notes in the event of a crash — relying on an electronic device, like a tablet or laptop, is a bad idea since it can run out of batteries and a crash might render it unusable.

That being said, taking pictures of the scene using any available camera, including your smartphone camera, can be an enormous help if it is functioning after a collision. When it comes to presenting evidence during a personal injury lawsuit, the old saying really does hold true: a picture is worth a thousand words.

Also remember that it’s absolutely critical to follow up and receive medical treatment for any injuries or conditions that result from the crash. In fact, even if you think you were completely unhurt during a motor vehicle accident, it’s best to follow up with a physician and receive an assessment to make sure you aren’t suffering from any injuries that you haven’t noticed — like internal bleeding or a concussion. If you fail to seek proper medical treatment for your injuries after a crash, you’re not only endangering your health, but impeding your chances of receiving compensation through a personal injury claim if injuries do appear later on.

Notes You Should Take after a Car Accident

Once you are ready, you should focus on the items below as you record your notes during the minutes, hours, and days after a crash. Remember that if you’re not physically able to take these notes yourself, you can ask a friend or relative to take them down until you’re capable of doing so yourself.

 The core details of the car accident, including:

  • The date and time
  • Where the collision took place
  • The weather and road conditions at the time
  • Who was involved in the crash, what vehicles they were driving (year, make, model, color, license plate number, notable details), and their contact information
  • Names and other available information about anyone who witnessed or may have witnessed the accident
  • Your written account of what happened before, during, and immediately after the collision
  • Any damage to vehicles and public or private property that resulted from the crash
  • Any statements made at the scene, including statements by the other driver admitting fault (remember that you should never make statements admitting fault after an accident, even if you think you may have been partially or completely at fault — leave that job to the authorities and your attorney!)
  • Information about responders at the scene:

  • Names and contact information for any paramedics or medical personnel who responded
  • Names and badge numbers of any police officers who responded
  • A copy of the police report (if possible) or its reference/service number
  • Details about any injuries related to the crash and your subsequent medical treatment:

  • Any injuries or conditions (or aggravations of existing injuries or conditions) that you experienced as a result of the crash
  • Copies of any medical bills that you receive(d) for treatment related to the crash
  • Any pain, discomfort, or other negative/unusual sensations you felt or begin to feel at any time after the crash; this is not limited only to physical pain but can include insomnia, anxiety, nausea, depression, or any other negative effects on your overall health and lifestyle
  • Name, address, and telephone number of any physicians and nurses who treated you, either at the emergency room immediately after the accident or later for non-critical injuries
  • Names and dosages of any medications that were prescribed to you as well as contact information for the pharmacy and pharmacist that filled them
  • Copies of your medical charts (if possible)
  • Copies of any medical releases or HIPAA documents
  • Information about any financial losses or lifestyle impacts created by the accident:

  • Any lost wages or reductions in hours at work
  • Any missed job opportunities, interviews, or work-related appointments
  • The amount of time you spend receiving medical treatment or traveling to or from medical appointments, including physical therapy (also record the distance traveled)
  • Any activities or events that you can no longer attend or enjoy due to the accident — examples include weddings and vacations missed as well as sports or hobbies you can’t participate in or enjoy

As soon as possible after receiving medical treatment, your next step should be to consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can draw from your notes to evaluate your situation and talk to you about your legal options in terms of pursuing compensation for your injuries. They can also manage all of the documentation related to the accident so you can simply focus on recovering from your injuries.

How Hossley & Embry Can Help

If you or a loved one has suffered harm because of someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior, the attorneys at Hossley & Embry are here to help. We are ready to investigate any potential claims, and we will fight for the compensation you deserve. Please call us immediately at (866) 522-9265 for a free case evaluation. You can also fill out a convenient online form, and we will get in touch with you right away.


Arkowitz, H., & Lilienfeld, S.O. (2010, January 1). Why science tells us not to rely on eyewitness accounts. Scientific American. Retrieved from

Miller, G. (2010, May). How our brains make memories. Smithsonian. Retrieved from