Been in a Car Accident in California? Here’s What to Do.
Being involved in an automobile or car accident can be a traumatic experience for everyone involved, especially if you live in California. That’s because California has some of the busiest and most congested roads/freeways in the country. Car accidents occur frequently on these roads, so it’s extremely important for drivers to know what to do when it happens to them.
1. Remain calm.
If you are too upset to think, you will make mistakes. It is important that you think clearly at both the accident scene, and afterward.
2. Check that everyone is ok.
If you are ok, check to make sure that everyone else involved in the car accident is too.
3. Call the proper authorities.
If anyone is hurt and/or the damage to cars or property is more than minimal, call the police. The officer will fill out an accident report. Make sure to get a copy of that report for your own records.
4. Think safety.
If you can safely do so, move your vehicle(s) out of the way. By moving yourself and your vehicle away from traffic and dangerous situations, you minimize the chance of further injury to yourself, others, and to property.
5. Exchange information.
Ask the other driver(s) for their personal information, such as name; license; insurance company and contact information; license plate number; make, model, color, and year of vehicle; and contact phone numbers. Don’t take the others driver’s word for it. Many people will give you false information and then disappear from an accident scene before the police arrive. Verify all information provided to you by looking at their license, insurance information, etc. Also, gather contact information from all witnesses at the scene.
6. Document the damage.
If it is safe to do so before any cars or vehicles are moved, take pictures of the accident scene so that you can prove what happened. If for reasons of safety you have to move the vehicles, take pictures of the damage after they have been moved.
7. Don’t admit blame.
Even if you think the auto accident is your fault, do not admit blame and do not apologize for the accident. You may believe the accident is your fault, but in reality, it may not be. Your insurance company will examine the police report and accident pictures and take testimony from you and any witnesses before they make any decision.
8. Get medical attention.
If you were injured in the car accident, get medical attention as soon as possible. Even if you don’t think you are injured, it is important to be checked by a medical doctor. You may have injuries that aren’t obvious at first but may become apparent later on. Besides, if you do have injuries and don’t seek medical help within a reasonable amount of time (i.e. a few days), you may jeopardize or limit your ability to claim injury from the accident in the future.
9. Notify your insurance company and motor vehicle department.
As soon as possible, notify your auto insurance company that you were involved in an accident. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of California law states that when an accident occurs and there is an injury or death, or more than $750 in property damage, the DMV must be notified within 10 days. Be sure that you notify them yourself.. Don’t expect your insurance company to do it for you.
10. Document all medical and accident details.
Keep track of all doctor’s visits and medications taken, and what they are for. If your health or lifestyle has been adversely affected due to the accident, it’s important that you document that as well. Keep a written diary of everything you remember from the accident, how you have been feeling, missed days from work, etc., (no matter how small or unimportant you may think the information is). Details tend to fade with time, and you may not remember important details about accident injuries or lifestyle changes when you need to.
11. Discussing the accident.
Do not discuss the accident details with anyone other than your insurance company, your lawyer, or the police officer from the accident scene. Doing so can compromise any claims you have against those who are responsible for your injuries and property damage. If you are injured at the scene of the accident or not thinking clearly, do not answer any questions about the accident. If you say anything to anyone that is inaccurate or might indicate you are not highly injured, it can compromise your ability to file a claim later on. If a police officer asks something that you aren’t completely sure of, say that you are unsure. When things have calmed down and you are feeling better, you can always provide more details then.
12. Signing documents.
Do not sign or talk to anyone from another insurance company other than your own. In fact, don’t sign anything at all unless you are absolutely sure that you know what you are doing. If in doubt, contact an attorney who deals with car accident injuries and accidents in California.
13. Contact an attorney.
Insurance companies usually don’t have your best interests in mind. Their job is to convince you to settle for as little as possible, especially if it saves them money. If you were in a car accident and suffered damage to yourself or to your property, you may not know your rights under the law. You may want to talk with an attorney who is well-versed in California car accident laws.
If you have been injured in an auto accident, you may not be able to provide assistance at the accident scene, nor should you try if you think you could be injured at all. Hopefully, someone else will be available to help police and rescue teams to sort out the details. The most important thing is that you obtain the medical care you need after the accident. Insurance companies are not on your side, so you need someone who is. A highly trained attorney, one that specializes in car accident claims, can help make sure that you receive the medical care you deserve and can help maximize the recovery you receive in a lawsuit.
At M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers, we have successfully handled many car accident cases in California, and have recovered over $100 Million for our injured clients. Get your free injury consultation today and let us help you get the justice you deserve!