Car accidents are a leading cause of death and unintentional injury for children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are one of the top two most common causes of unintentional death and a top ten cause of unintentional injury for U.S. children under 15 years old.
Sadly, California matches this national trend. In a recent year, California traffic crashes caused 101 deaths and 17,194 injuries among children under 15.
Steps To Take After a Car Crash in Los Angeles, California
The steps you take after an accident involving your children could affect your:
- Criminal risk
- Civil liability
- Child’s right to injury compensation
As a result, you need to act carefully as you deal with police officers, doctors, and insurers after a crash.
Stop at the Accident Scene
Under California law, you must stop at the accident scene after all collisions. If you do not stop, prosecutors can charge you with hit-and-run. A conviction for a hit-and-run can land you in jail, depending on the outcome of the crash.
Call the Police and Exchange Information with the Other Driver
You must report to the police all car accidents that cause injury or death. You should immediately call the police about your accident so they can investigate the crash and prepare an accident report.
When you stop at the accident scene, you need to exchange insurance information with the other driver. If you don’t feel uncomfortable talking to the other driver, wait for the police to arrive and ask for their assistance.
Ask for Help for Your Child if Necessary
If your child requires an ambulance, ask the 911 operator or the responding police officers for one. Your first priority after you stop at the accident scene will be your child’s health and well-being. You can deal with insurers and police officers after making sure your child’s injuries receive attention.
Cooperate With the Police
The responding officers will prepare an accident report. You want the police to hear your side of the story so they can complete their investigation and include your version of events.
But as you speak to the police, you should try to stick to the facts. Tell the police officers what you saw and heard before and during the crash without embellishing or speculating.
You should also refrain from apologizing or accepting blame for the accident, as doing so could hurt your case for compensation.
Seek Medical Attention for Your Child
If your child needs medical attention, you should get them to a doctor as soon as possible. Seeking immediate medical attention has several benefits, including the following:
- Getting a full diagnosis for your child
- Identifying any internal or hidden injuries
- Creating a medical record of what happened to your child
- Avoiding any delays that could worsen your child’s condition
California uses a legal doctrine called pure comparative negligence, which can relieve at-fault parties of partial liability if the accident victim contributed to their injuries. Importantly, your child’s damages are reduced by the share of fault that is assigned to you.
Thus, after an accident that injures your child, a jury or claims adjuster can assign partial blame to you for their injuries. If you get 20% of the blame, your child can only receive 80% of their damages from the at-fault driver. As a result, you need to take reasonable steps to get medical care for your child.
Do Not Speak to the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company
After the other driver reports the accident, their insurer may try to contact you. You should decline to speak to the other driver’s insurance company despite the pressure to speak to them. The insurer may tell you that:
- They cannot process your claim until you speak to them
- They need your help to figure out what happened
- You have been blamed for the crash
Instead, you should speak to an injury lawyer. If your lawyer believes you should speak to the insurer, they can represent you during the phone call or meeting. But your attorney will probably recommend against speaking to the insurer since they should have enough information to handle your claim without a statement from you.
File an Insurance Claim
California uses a fault-based insurance system under which accident victims must pursue a claim against the at-fault driver for injury compensation. Your lawyer can file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s auto insurer using the insurance information you received at the accident scene.
This claim will contain a description of what happened and the losses that resulted. You will also include copies of your child’s medical records and documents explaining how their injuries affected them.
Try To Negotiate a Settlement
The insurer will assign an adjuster to your claim to investigate and determine whether the insurer will accept or deny it. If the insurer denies your claim, your lawyer will try to overcome the claim denial.
If the insurer accepts your claim, the adjuster will make a settlement offer. This offer will likely be far below the value of your claim. Your lawyer will need to negotiate with the adjuster to try to obtain a fair and just settlement.
File a Lawsuit
If the insurer refuses to make a fair settlement offer, you may need to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. The insurer will join the lawsuit and defend the at-fault driver. Most cases settle before reaching trial. During discovery and pretrial, your lawyer will continue to try to settle your case.
That said, a small percentage of cases do go to court. At trial, your lawyer will present evidence to the jury explaining what happened and how your child was injured. They will also explain the losses you and your child suffered due to their injuries.
Hiring a Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer
You do not always need to hire a Los Angeles car accident lawyer. But in many cases, your child will require more time and attention from you to help them recover. Hiring a car accident lawyer will allow you to focus on your child while the lawyer handles your case.
To discuss your child’s injuries and the compensation you can pursue, contact M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (877) 300-4535 for a free consultation.