What you do after being in a car accident matters. It is essential to stay informed so that you can be able to preserve your legal rights and abide by the California law after a car accident. The time immediately after a car accident is often stressful, and most people do not remember to take some essential steps to protect themselves and preserve their rights. The steps you take after an accident will determine whether you will be able to get compensation for the damages you suffer. If you are at fault, the steps you take after a car accident will significantly affect your legal rights. San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm can advise you on the best action to take after involvement in a car accident.
What to Do After an Accident
Car accidents are a leading cause of injuries in California and the greater United States. Every year, millions of car accidents occur in the United States. There are many causes of car accidents, including driving while intoxicated, failure to yield right of way, and reckless driving, among others. Common types of car accidents in California include side-impact collisions, head-on collisions, rear-end collisions, and rollovers, among others.
After involvement in a car accident, you may incur diverse damages, including substantial medical bills incurred in seeking treatment for the injuries you suffer in the car accident. You may also have to spend some time away from work. This will make you incur lost wages for the time you spend away from work. You may also suffer property damage, and you will have to incur costs in repairing your vehicle.
After getting involved in a car accident, you may feel overwhelmed and confused, and this is a normal feeling after encountering a catastrophic incident. However, it is crucial to understand that the action you take will significantly influence your legal rights as well as the claims process.
Some of the recommended steps, which you should take after a car accident include:
Stay at the Accident Scene
Unless you require immediate medical attention, it is advisable to remain at the scene of the accident until the police arrive. It is particularly essential to stay at the accident scene if another person suffers injuries or dies in the accident. If you leave the accident scene before the arrival of the police, you may face hit and run charges under the California law.
A hit and run charge comes with detrimental consequences, including hefty fines and jail time. If the accident does not involve injuries or death, but only involves property damage, it may be legal to leave the scene of the accident. However, you should identify yourself to the parties present.
To avoid additional collisions with moving traffic, you may consider turning on the hazard lights on your vehicle. If the cars can move to the side of the road, ensure that you take some photos of the cars.
Seek Medical Attention
If you have suffered injuries and you require immediate medical attention, you do not have to wait for the police to arrive. You may call 911 or request another person to call on your behalf. Before you leave the scene, ensure that you leave your contact information with the other drivers involved in the car accident.
If you have the ability, it is advisable to check on the health and well being of the other drivers and passengers involved in the accident even if you are not at fault. You should offer reasonable medical assistance at the scene of the accident. For instance, you may call for an ambulance to help the casualties.
At times, it may be advisable to contact the relevant authorities before moving an injured person. For instance, if a person is complaining of neck or back pains, moving him/her may make the injury worse. However, you should move an injured person if he/she is in a worse danger like fire.
Ensure that You are Safe
Depending on the circumstance of the accident, remaining at the scene of the accident may pose further harm. It is, therefore, vital to ensure that you move to a safe area. Do not remain too close to the wreckage to avoid suffering further injuries in case of fire.
If your car is blocking traffic and may result in further collisions causing more harm to you and other people, you may consider moving the car. However, ensure you take some quick pictures before you move your car. If it is dangerous to move the car from the road, you should leave the vehicle where it is. If you or another person suffers serious injuries or a person is killed in the accident, it is advisable to leave the vehicles involved in the accident where they are until the police arrive.
After involvement in a car accident, it is advisable to compile as much information as possible. You may record or take some photos detailing certain information. Ensure that you note the license plate numbers of all the vehicles involved in the accident. Ensure that you also capture the model, make, year of manufacture, and colors of vehicles involved in the accident. If it is possible, you should capture the vehicle identification numbers of the vehicles involved in the accident.
You can get the vehicle identification number from the driver's insurance card or registration. However, it is advisable to confirm the vehicle registration number on the vehicle physically. Sometimes, the other driver may not be willing to allow you to check the registration number. If the other driver does not cooperate, do not go against his/her will. It is unlawful to touch another person's vehicle without his/her will.
Typically, you can get the vehicle identification number on the inner side of the driver's door close to the door latch. The vehicle identification number may be the dashboard, on the driver's side, close to where the dashboard meets the windshield.
It is advisable to exchange contact information with other parties available at the scene of the accident. Write down the names, the phone numbers, and the addresses of the other drivers, passengers, and witnesses. You may obtain valid information from the valid insurance cards of the other drivers. If the other driver does not have insurance or a driver's license, it is advisable to inform the police immediately.
When the police clear the scene of the accident, regular traffic resumes and the crowd, which may have gathered after the accident disperses. If you fail to obtain the contact information of the witnesses, you may not be able to access them when you require them to testify in your injury claim. Witnesses may be important in determining who was at fault in the car accident.
If you have a camera or a phone, you may take pictures of the other driver's registration card, insurance card, and the license plates of the vehicles. You should also ensure that you take photos of the damages on both vehicles. Taking photos of the accident scene will prevent another party from claiming that you are to blame for the accident. Photos will also assist your injury attorney and your insurance company to determine what happened at the scene of the accident.
When exchanging information with other parties involved in the accident or the law enforcement officers, ensure that you weigh your words carefully. Do not say anything that may lead to the collision being attributed to you. You should cooperate with the law enforcement officer at the scene by answering his/her questions, but be careful with your words.
Never Admit/Accept Fault
Even if you feel that you contributed to the occurrence of the car accident, you should not admit fault or accept any blame for the accident. You may be partially to blame for the accident. However, California is a comparative negligence or a shared fault state. Therefore, the state apportions fault among the liable parties. Therefore, even if you are partially at fault, you may still be entitled to compensation.
A simple action like saying sorry may implicate you and make you appear liable for the accident. Therefore, you should never apologize to the other drivers or passengers after a car accident. Apologizing may prevent you from getting the compensatory damages you deserve from the other party.
It is okay to ask the other party whether he/she has suffered injuries and also whether he/she requires medical attention. At times, the other party may persuade you to accept the blame for the accident. It is advisable to politely tell him/her to contact your insurance company instead of trying to make you admit fault.
Never Say You are Fine
After a car accident, it is common for other parties involved in the accident to ask you how you feel. Even if you feel okay, you should never admit that you are not hurt. Admitting that you are fine may give the party at fault an opportunity to deny you the compensation you deserve.
Vehicle accidents occur suddenly, giving your body a rush of adrenaline. Immediately after the accident, you may be numb and still in shock. Therefore, even if you are hurt, you may not experience any pain or discomfort until the numbness wears off. Therefore, even if you feel okay, you should not inform the other party.
If you suffer injuries in the soft tissues, the injuries may not be immediately apparent. Do not limit the compensation that the other driver's insurance company may offer you by saying that you are not hurt.
However, even if you should not say that you are not fine, it is advisable to avoid lying. Exaggerating your injuries or lying about how you feel may make the other parties question your credibility. If you are not sure about your injuries, you may tell the other driver that you require a medical evaluation.
Make Your Record Outlining What Happened at the Accident Scene
It is advisable to write down all the details about the accident, even the details that may not seem necessary. As days pass, some aspects of the accident may fade from your mind. It is, therefore, essential to record the details of the accident immediately after the accident occurs.
You may write down the date and the time at which the accident occurred. You may also note down the exact location in which the accident occurred and the direction that you and the other drivers were traveling. If some adverse weather conditions were leading to poor visibility, you should write down the details. You should also record details of poor road conditions like potholes.
Record the Injuries Sustained
After suffering injuries in a car accident, it is advisable to record or document your injuries. If you suffer visible injuries like burns, bruising, or scarring, you may request another person to take photos of your injuries. If you seek medical attention, you may ask the nurse or the doctor to take some pictures of your injuries.
You should have your record of injuries outlining the extent of your injuries. By ensuring that you document all your injuries and damages, you increase your chances of getting ample compensation. It is essential to seek treatment for the injuries you sustain after a car accident. However, ensure that you keep track of all the medical procedures you undergo.
Avoid Giving Recorded or Written Statement to Other Insurance Company
After suffering injuries in a car accident, the other insurance company may contact you seeking to know how the accident occurred and the extent of your injuries. However, it is essential to understand that the other party's insurance company is not on your side and does not have your interest at heart. Therefore, you should avoid dispensing any information to them. The other party's insurance company may use the information you provide to them to deny you compensation.
You should only state the other insurance company if your attorney has allowed you to give the information. The other insurance company will not do anything to help your case but will look for every opportunity to deny you compensation.
Inform the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
According to California law, you should notify the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within ten days after the occurrence of the accident. The law requires drivers to inform the DMV in case a person dies in the accident. It is also necessary to report the accident to the DMV if a person suffers injuries in the accident, even if the injuries are minor. It is crucial to inform the California DMV if the accident results in damages worth more than $1,000.
If you are not sure whether you need to report the accident to the California DMV or not, it is advisable to go ahead and report the accident rather than failing to report. It is particularly important to report an accident to the DMV if you plan to put a claim through your California auto insurance.
To report an accident to the DMV, a driver uses Form SR1. If a driver fails to report an accident to the DMV, it may result in the suspension of the driver's license for one year.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
It is crucial to call your insurance company and inform them about the vehicle collision. You should cooperate with the insurance company and let them know if you have suffered severe injuries. If the police made a report of the car accident, you might inform your insurance company to prompt them to obtain a copy.
Many people in California fail to file a car accident claim because they fear that their insurance company may raise their insurance rates. However, the state of California does not allow insurers to increase the insurance premiums/rates if the car accident is not the fault of the policyholder. Only two states in the United States hinder insurance companies from raising the rates if the policyholder is not responsible for the accident. Since California is one of the two states, you should not fear to report an accident because you will not affect your insurance rates in any way.
Do not take much time before you report the accident to the insurance companies. Most insurance companies in California require drivers to report accidents promptly. It is advisable to report the car accident to your insurer even if the accident is your fault. Even if you fail to report the car accident, the other driver may still inform your insurance company.
If the other party reports the accident to your insurer after you intentionally conceal the accident, you may risk losing your driver's license. Your insurer may also cancel your insurance policy after learning that you failed to report the accident to them. By reporting the accident to your insurer early enough, you will give the insurer ample time to investigate the accident and defend you.
Consult a Personal Injury Attorney
After getting involved in a car accident and suffering injuries or property damage, it is advisable to contact an attorney. In the moment of confusion soon after the accident, you may not know what to do. If you are willing to explore your legal options after the accident, the attorney can guide you through the process and help you understand what to expect when making a claim. An attorney will advise you on what to expect from the legal process in case you decide to file a claim to seek compensation for the damages you incur.
An attorney comes in handy in protecting your rights and determining whether you have a right to file a personal injury claim and seek compensation. An accident may occur when you least expect it. Therefore, you may not have adequate income to seek medical treatment, especially if you do not have adequate medical insurance. In this case, an attorney may even connect you with a doctor who accepts medical lien in California if you are unable to meet the treatment costs.
To get the settlement offer, the attorney may assist you in drafting/ writing an insurance demand letter. You should never face the insurance company on your own. When a car accident occurs, the insurer may hire an insurance adjuster to investigate the accident. The insurance adjuster works for the insurance company and does not have the interest of the victim at heart. Insurance adjusters often seek to maximize profits for the insurance companies by reducing the amount of compensation offered to the victims.
Due to the experience gained from handling similar car accident cases, an attorney will be able to handle the insurance adjuster. Lawyers usually understand all the tricks that insurance companies use to deny victims the rightful compensation.
When You Hit a Stationary Vehicle or Other Property
At times, a car accident may occur when you hit a stationary vehicle, or you bump into another type of property, and the owner is not present at the scene of the accident. If you hit a parked car or an object, you should make an effort to trace the owner of the vehicle or the property. However, you may use all means to locate the vehicle owner without success. If you are unable to trace the owner of the vehicle, you should leave a note outlining your contact details and other necessary insurance information.
Can You Legally Fail to Report an Accident
In some instances, you may fail to report an accident and not face any trouble with the law. For instance, if no other driver was involved in the car accident and you did not suffer significant damages, you may choose not to report the accident. If you can be able to meet the costs of the damages from your pocket, there may be no need to report the car accident.
If you damage your vehicle by scratching or backing into the wall and you do not have comprehensive or collision insurance, there may be no need to report the accident to the insurance company. You may also get into a crash only to realize that the costs of the damages and repairs are almost the same as your deductible level, or it is an amount that you can afford. In this case, you may choose to pay the damages from your pocket without reporting the car accident to the insurance company.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you or a loved one is involved in a car accident, the damages may be extensive or even fatal. It is advisable to take the right steps to ensure that you do not compromise your legal rights and the likelihood to get compensation. If you are involved in a car accident in San Diego, CA, contact our San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm team at 619-478-4059 to advise you on the best steps to take.