What to Do After a Car Accident in California?
What to Do After a Car Accident in California?
May you never get involved in a car crash. But considering the congested roads in California and the high accident rate, your safety is in your hands. Even if you were responsible for the crash or damages that occurred to others’ property, the steps you take after the accident could mean the difference between your license getting suspended or you getting compensation.
You can do your part by following safe driving habits, but you don’t have control over other drivers. Of course, you will need a lawyer if you ever get involved in any kind of road accident in California. However, an attorney can help you only if you take the right steps after a crash.
First things first, do not panic. We understand it can be a traumatic experience, but you need to stay calm and check if everybody is safe.
Here’s what to do after a car accident injury in CA:
Check if Everyone is Safe
Do not wait at the accident spot for the police if you are seriously injured or one of the passengers needs immediate medical attention. After a crash, the first thing you are supposed to do is check if everyone is safe. See if you are alright. Is there any visible wound? Safety should be your priority. Call 911 immediately or ask somebody to do that. If possible, give your contact details to the other party involved.
Some injuries are not felt immediately after an accident. For example, a brain injury or internal bleeding is not noticed until a doctor performs an X-ray, MRI, and other tests for diagnosis. Even if you don’t see the signs of any injury, it’s best to head to the hospital to get yourself examined. Another reason you should approach a healthcare expert after an accident is that it helps you recover the compensation easily.
If the symptoms of the injury from an accident occur days or weeks after the accident, the insurance company might not accept your claims. They need proof that the injury occurred due to an accident.
Be Present at the Accident Spot
If everyone is safe and there’s no medical emergency, stay at the accident spot until the police arrive. In California, a driver who’s at fault can be charged a penalty of $10,000 and a one-year jail sentence for the “hit and run” crime. The penalty could be higher if somebody gets injured or dies.
You should stay at the scene even if the damage is confined to the property. If you need to leave urgently, show yourself to the parties involved in the crash so that they don’t file a misdemeanor hit and run case against you.
If you leave the scene, you can be charged a fine of $1000 and a 6-month sentence. If another driver left the scene, contact the police immediately. You will be able to recover the compensation for damages to the property and lives if the driver is found guilty. Even if they are never found, your insurance provider will compensate the damages.
Move to a Safe Place
If you got into an accident in the middle of the road, move your vehicle to a safe place. Just drive it to any nearby corner where your car doesn’t block the road. Traffic is a common problem on the busy roads in California. If you leave your car in the middle, it might lead to other accidents or further damage to your property. Move it only if it is safe and you are in a position to drive. The car must be left at the accident scene if someone got injured badly or died. Moving your vehicle out of the way can save you and others from injuries, but do it only if it doesn’t create any significant hazard.
Once you have checked the passengers and yourself for any injuries, start collecting the evidence. In California, the driver at fault is responsible for compensating you for all the damages to your vehicle. However, you need to submit proper evidence to claim this compensation. Collect as much information as possible immediately after a crash.
Here are a few important things to collect at the accident spot:
- The registration number of the vehicles involved in an accident
- The make, model, and year of purchase
- The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
The information needs to be submitted to the California DMV. The VIN can be found on the car’s dashboard or inside the door. Don’t collect the VIN without the driver’s consent. Gather contact details of the witnesses. Get contact details of the police, investigators, and other parties involved. You must also give your contact information to the other driver regardless of who is at fault.
California makes it mandatory for each driver to report the accident to the DMV whether or not they were at fault. This must be done within 10 days of the accident. A driver needs to submit a report to the DMV if a party involved in the accident got injured badly or died on the spot or if the accident caused property damage of above $1,000.
Capture the accident scene pictures, including damages to the property and people. Photos give your lawyers and police a clear picture of what happened at the scene. Sometimes, these photos from the accident spot are sufficient to understand who violated the driving laws or who was responsible for the accident. If you can do it safely, click the photos of the damaged cars and injured people.
It also prevents people from making false claims later. For instance, the other driver can show damages that their car sustains later. If you click the photos, they will serve as evidence of the damages the car sustained after the crash. It makes your case stronger. If you are not in a position to click the photos of the scene, ask someone at the scene to do this work for you.
Never Admit Your Fault
The biggest mistake of a driver is admitting their fault. People panic and admit the accident occurred due to their negligence. Not only will you miss your only opportunity to get compensation for the damages you suffered, but you might end up paying a hefty penalty. Even an attorney can’t help if you admit your fault.
Even if you think you are at fault, do not accept anything immediately. What if it wasn’t your fault, or if you were partially responsible for the accident? What if it occurred due to a bad road design, construction negligence, etc. You shouldn’t even apologize after an accident, as it can be seen as a sign that you are at fault. The last thing you want is to lose your only chance at getting compensation.
Don’t Say Anything that can Affect Your Compensation
Let’s face reality—the insurance companies are often on the lookout for one statement or a piece of evidence that can prove that you are at default or you are not hurt from the accident. This helps lower the amount they have to pay to compensate you. That’s why you need to be very careful around the parties involved in an accident. They will come and ask if you are okay and if any passenger is hurt.
Don’t say you are absolutely fine. As mentioned earlier, soft tissue damages are not noticed immediately after a crash. It takes you a while to start noticing the symptoms of damage. If you tell the driver you are in good condition, their insurance provider will use this statement against you if you ever file a claim. You should not lie about your health either. Just tell them you don’t know if you have sustained an internal injury.
Share Your Contact Details with the Other Driver
Even if there’s no visible damage to anyone’s property, sharing your contact details with the other driver makes sense. You don’t know what injuries the other party has sustained from the accident. If you can’t find the driver or the driver is not in a state to collect your contact information, drop a written note showing your car’s registration number and contact details.
You can leave this note in the car and notify the police of the area where the accident occurred immediately. This note should contain detailed information about the accident. But, as writing a lengthy note might not be possible for either party, you can just enter the address where the collision occurred and briefly describe what you saw.
Document the Accident Immediately
People don’t really remember the details of the accident they were involved in. You don’t think straight at that time. But, once everything calms down and you are in good condition, try to recall the accident. Get a rough paper and write everything you remember about the collision, even if it’s just the color of the other cars or a retail store in the area. If you took the contact information of the witnesses earlier, call them to collect more information about the accident. A few important things your lawyer will ask you are:
- Place of the accident
- Date and time
- In which direction were you and the other vehicle involved driving?
- What was your car’s speed, and what do you think was the other driver’s speed?
- The traffic signal
- The exact location of the collision
- Traffic condition
- Poor road condition, construction, weather, or any detail you remember about the road or the environment
You need to prepare a record showing your version of the accident. The more information you can provide to the lawyer, the better they will be able to assess the accident. It also increases your chances of getting compensation (if your car or any passenger sustained damage).
Create a Report of Your Injuries
This part is important. Your doctor will perform a series of tests to examine the injuries you have sustained from the accident. They will give you the medical reports disclosing the fractured bones, burns, cuts, spinal cord injuries, damaged tissue, traumatic brain injury, and other such visible and non-visible injuries.
However, don’t wait for the medical records. You should have rough records of the visible injuries. You can photograph them on your own or ask someone around you to click the pictures of the wounds. If you can feel the pain, note that down too. The injuries can range from small wounds to catastrophic injuries that can lead to permanent disability. The damage doesn’t only include the physical wounds.
The trauma can result in multiple mental and psychological disorders. Ideally, your insurance company should cover all types of damages you’ve suffered due to the car crash, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety disorder, and other mental health issues. So, consult a mental health specialist once you have seen a doctor for a physical examination.
Call Your Insurance Provider Immediately
No matter who was responsible for the accident or who violated the driving laws, you should call your insurance provider as soon as you are in a good physical and mental state.
One of the biggest mistakes of drivers is that they don’t file an insurance claim for fear of raising their premiums. The accident may or may not be your fault. However, if you don’t file a claim, you will never be eligible for compensation for your incurred damages. What’s the point in having car insurance when you can’t claim compensation for the car repair?
Insurance companies in California can’t raise the premiums on auto insurance if the policyholder is not at fault. Even if you think you violated a traffic rule or you caused the accident, you should report it to the insurance company immediately after the crash. If it’s your fault, the other party will most likely notify the insurance provider. This will put you at risk of a suspended driver’s license and canceled insurance.
Insurance companies require the policyholder to report crashes immediately so that they can process the claim requests without any problem. Don’t wait for your recovery. Call your insurance provider immediately. You can also ask a friend or your attorney to notify the insurance company on your behalf.
Pay for the Repairs Our of Your Pocket
Having an insurance company pay for the car damage doesn’t always make sense. If it’s minor damage (let’s say a small scratch that occurred from hitting a wall), your best bet is to pay for the repair out of your pocket. If you file a claim, the company will ask you to pay a deductible, which will most likely exceed the cost of repair. Calculate the repair cost and compare it with the deductibles before filing a claim.
You also need to check if your insurance plan covers the type of damage your car has sustained. For example, if your car got damaged due to a collision, you need collision insurance to cover the expenses. Check your auto insurance policy for more information about the coverage.
Hire a Professional Car Accident Attorney in California
An attorney can handle your car accident case flawlessly. They will check the evidence—the medical documents for proof of your physical or mental injuries and police reports. Based on the evidence, they will tell you whether you are eligible for compensation. If yes, how much compensation you can expect from the party at fault. They will also prepare the documents needed for the lawsuit. In addition to representing you in court, a professional and licensed accident attorney can draft the insurance demand letter for you.
The insurance will cover current and future medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, temporary or permanent disability, and other losses. Your lawyer will save you the headache of dealing with other drivers’ insurance companies. They will take care of the settlement process. The question is, how do you find a reliable and professional car accident attorney in California?
Check out the local law directories to get an up-to-date list of the top attorneys serving accident cases in your city. For those looking for legal help for an accident case, Marc Lazarus can help. He is a certified and licensed personal injury lawyer in CA.
Got into a Car Accident? We Can Help!
We understand the trauma a person experiences after a car crash. You might not be in a state to seek legal help. But, the sooner you call an attorney, the better. If you don’t know where to start, we are here for your help.
Handel On The Law is an online lawyer directory that presents the list of the best, licensed, and experienced personal injury attorneys in California. We can help connect you to the most reputable lawyer. They will represent you in court, draft the insurance claim letter, and help you with the compensation. Filter the search list by “personal injury attorney” on the website and find the top lawyers in your area.