Are you looking for every advantage in your accident lawsuits? An accident intake form can be your or your case manager’s best way to document the facts of loss when a client retains you to take legal action after an accident. However, heavy workloads might entice you to postpone fully interviewing your client or to only collect a few top-level details. You can increase your chances of successfully arguing your case with an accident intake form, especially if you follow these accident intake form best practices.
What is an Accident Intake Form?
At its most basic, an accident intake form is an outline or list of questions you use to document the facts of loss in the case. When used correctly, it enables an attorney or case manager to focus on capturing the details rather than wondering about what to ask. The form you use should be comprehensive in the questions asked and the information collected. It prompts the attorney or case manager to record the details of who, when, what, how and where relating to the accident.
The comprehensive nature of the questions is also important in prompting the client to provide information they may have thought was unimportant or irrelevant to the case.
Finally, the form creates the foundation for a good investigator to flesh out the details of the case. It directs the investigator towards sources of evidence such as traffic and security cameras, provides information regarding potential deep pockets and more.
When Should the Accident Intake Form Be Filled Out?
Accident intake form best practices say you should start the accident documentation the first time your client walks into your offices or calls your firm. Evidence has a lifespan: the more time that passes between the accident and documentation, the more memories will fade and evidence can become inaccessible.
- Clients and witnesses will have the best recollection of the facts of the accident right after it occurs.
- If a police report was completed, knowing about it and getting it will be a great help in documenting the details.
- Physical and electronic evidence also has a finite life. Debris from the accident may be cleared away by road maintenance crews or passing traffic.
- Traffic and security cameras often record in a loop to conserve video storage. Over time, the cameras will overwrite older footage. If your client’s accident footage is available, you may have a short period to obtain it.
What’s On an Accident Intake Form?
The accident intake form is designed to capture a comprehensive set of information about the accident. It is necessarily lengthy in order to document all the potentially important details relating to your case. Do you need to answer every question on the form for every case? Maybe you won’t, but you should ask each question to ensure an important detail isn’t missed that will materially impact your successful litigation of the case.
The form will have sections for all the vital information. All of them are important and need to be covered with your client. Completeness is crucial so nothing is missed and to equip an investigation to collect additional details with the best chance of success.
There are many sections on a well-designed intake form. Rather than list them all, here are a few of the major sections.
- Contact information for all involved parties; your client, passengers, witnesses, the defendant(s). You will want to collect addresses, landline and cell phone numbers, email addresses.
- Vehicle information from your client and the defendant. Identify any indicators of a work-related vehicle, including Uber and Lyft decals, company logos or magnet signs, the presence of tools and equipment on the other vehicle, or any other appearance of the vehicle being used for work.
- Vehicle insurance information for all involved vehicles.
- Accident site details such as a work zone, unmarked section of roadway, pavement obstructions, time of day and weather conditions.
- Health insurance and medical information for your client and passengers. Also ask to see if anyone has a pre-existing condition that might have been aggravated.
- Descriptions of all injuries as a result of the accident to anyone involved. Include details of medical transportation providers and their destination if the defendant or their passengers were taken for medical treatment. Consider running a Claim History Report to see if your client has any prior related injuries.
Filling Out an Accident Intake Form: Best Practices
Even though an accident intake form is a tool that can capture enough information and supporting details to help you successfully litigate on behalf of your client, even the best tool loses effectiveness if it isn’t used correctly. These four “best practices” will help you make the best use of the form.
- Record the conversation so you don’t miss writing down anything.
- Ask every question on the form. If there is nothing to record, fill in N/A or some other designation to indicate that the question was asked. (The absence of an answer is not the same as an N/A. It only means that the question wasn’t answered.)
- Allocate plenty of time to collect the information. Rushed interviews inevitably lead to missing, incomplete or inaccurate information.
- After asking a question, slow down, remain silent and let your client talk. People have different ways of expressing themselves, and your client may be one who needs to talk until they make their point. On the other hand, use your judgment when to employ the famous Sgt. Joe Friday character from Dragnet quote, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”
- Listen actively and be inquisitive. Follow up with detailed questions when you find an important thread.
What Are the Risks of Not Completing an Accident Intake Form?
Not completing an accident intake form can lead to missed opportunities. For example, if your client swerved to avoid a pothole, dig into the details including:
- How long had the pothole been there?
- Did your client drive this route frequently?
- Has the pothole changed or gotten worse recently?
What does such a line of questioning get you? Perhaps the ability to add the deep pockets of the municipality or agency that is responsible for maintaining safe streets.
Here’s another example. If your client tells you the other vehicle was a pickup truck, you will want to ask additional questions:
- Were there work tools on the truck?
- Did the truck display a logo or numbering that indicated it was a company-owned vehicle?
- Was the license plate a commercial plate?
- Was there a company name on the license plate frame?
Again, discovering that the defendant’s vehicle was owned by a company or being used in the performance of a work assignment for a company identifies another potential deep pocket.
Don’t Have an Accident Intake Form? Try Ours.
Glucroft Investigations are specialists in accident investigations, including accident scene investigations, and have investigated over 14,500 accidents in 2021 alone, including auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, work-related vehicle accidents and more. So, we’ve seen and received a lot of accident intake forms.
Most of the accident intake forms we have received from attorneys’ offices are deficient in some way, whether by not asking the right questions or not being used properly. We designed our own form to help avoid those flaws.
If you would be interested in using our form, click here to download a copy. And once you fill out your accident intake form, let us know if we can help with your accident investigation. We do over 10,000 accident investigations every year and are very, very good at what we do. Call us today at (866) 411-8646 to talk about your case, or contact us online here.
At Glucroft Investigations, We Uncover The Hidden.
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to offer legal or insurance advice. For advice concerning your particular situation, please contact your appropriate legal or insurance professional.