Driving on California roads and highways can be dangerous even for the most cautious, defensive driver. Collisions happen constantly and knowing what to do after a California car accident can help you remain calm in a stressful and panicked situation. Following a collision, most people experience an adrenaline rush that may prevent them from thinking clearly and taking the proper steps to protect them, their passengers and other individuals. It can also cause you to forget to take steps that will protect your legal rights that will help you receive compensation for your injuries.
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Familiarizing yourself with the steps to take following a collision in California is a sensible way to be prepared to act quickly and accurately if you become a victim yourself.
Steps You Should Take Following a California Car Accident
- Check for injuries. Check to see if you, your passengers or the occupants of the other vehicle are injured. If so, immediately call 9-1-1 for assistance. Follow the instructions of the 911 operator and never try to move an injured victim unless specifically instructed by the 911 operator or in the case of immediate danger (i.e. the vehicle is on fire or about to explode).
- Move the vehicles. If there are no significant or serious injuries and you can safely move the vehicles, you should move the vehicles to the side of the road to avoid further collision from oncoming traffic. You must use caution when moving your vehicles as you may put yourself in more harm depending on the situation. If in doubt, err on the side of caution to avoid further injury. If possible, take pictures of the vehicles before and after they are moved to preserve important evidence.
- Contact the local or state police. If no one was seriously injured and you did not need to contact 9-1-1 for emergency assistance, you should call the local or state police to report the collision.
- Exchange information with the other driver. You need to obtain and provide the following information from the other: name, address, telephone number, date of birth, license number (and state where license was issued), insurance company name, policy number, effective dates of the insurance policy, the insurance policy holder’s name and address and the name and address of the owner of the vehicle. If possible, take a photograph of the other driver’s license and insurance card. If you offer to allow the other driver the same courtesy, most people will respond in kind. If the other driver refuses to allow you to see his or her license and insurance information, make sure you write down the vehicle license plate and notify the police immediately.
- Collect evidence. You can collect a lot of evidence yourself at the scene. Taking photographs of the scene, the vehicles and anything relevant is just one way you can preserve evidence. Write down the names and contact information for any witnesses as well as anything that they say to or in front of you.
- Make notes. Take a few moments before you leave the scene to write down the details as you recall them including what was said and the actions taken by others at the scene. It is easy to forget key pieces of information; therefore, taking a few moments to make some notes is a smart way to ensure that you remember key details later. Information such as whether the collision knocked the breath out of you momentarily, the condition of the roads, the weather, the behavior of the other driver, what was said by the other driver or witnesses and whether the other driver seemed to be distracted (i.e. wearing a low hat, dark sunglasses, was eating, using an electronic device, playing loud music, etc.) are very important when you are required to provide proof of your claim for damages.
- Report the collision to the Department of Motor Vehicles and contact your insurance company. You should immediately contact your insurance company to report the collision no matter how minor the damage may seem. If properly damage exceeds $750, someone was killed or injured, you must report the accident to the DMV within 10 days.
- Contact a personal injury attorney. You should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident. Never provide a written or recorded statement, offer to share photographs or sign any other documents that the insurance company, the adjuster or its attorney requests without first consulting with an experienced automobile accident attorney. Signing medical releases or providing statements may damage your personal injury claim.
Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations so that you can find out more about what to do. Even if you do not intend to pursue a claim or you do not believe that you have a claim, you should have all of the information you need before making any decisions about how to proceed.
In most cases, personal injury attorneys do not charge you any fees or costs until and unless you receive a settlement. Therefore, you have nothing to lose by consulting with an experienced attorney prior to making any decisions pertaining to the accident.
Injuries sustained in an automobile accident can have permanent life-changing consequences for you and for your family. Even a minor injury can turn into a serious condition in the days, weeks, months, or even years following an automobile accident. Protect your rights to receive compensation for your injuries by contacting our law firm.
Call (800) 838-6644 today to receive a free consultation from a skilled CA car accident lawyer with decades of experience assisting those in your position. There is no obligation to retain our services.