Being involved in a car accident can be a frightening experience that can leave you with lasting trauma and injury. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, you may be too shocked to think about how to react, but what you do right after an accident can determine whether you will be able to get compensation for your medical bills, car repairs, and pain and suffering.
Acting rationally can also help you ensure you do not violate California law. Even if the accident was your fault, the steps you take immediately afterward can have a big impact on your rights.
Here is a look at what to do after a car accident in California.
Stay At The Scene
Unless you require immediate medical assistance, it is essential to stay at the accident scene until the police arrive if someone was injured or killed.
If you do leave the scene of an accident that involves an injury, you may be charged with hit and run, which can carry a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000; the penalties will be higher in cases of serious injury or death.
If the accident only involves property damage and there is no physical injury, you may leave the accident scene after you have identified yourself to the other parties involved in the accident. Failing to do so is considered a misdemeanor hit and run, and you may face jail time and fines.
In the event that the other driver involved in the accident flees the scene, contact the police so they can attempt to track them down so you can file a claim against their insurer.
Seek Medical Attention
If you have a serious injury and require immediate medical attention, you do not need to wait for the police. Instead, call 911 or ask someone to call them on your behalf. Be sure to leave your contact information with other drivers involved in the accident, if possible.
Move Your Vehicle To A Safe Place
If your vehicle is still functional, you are required to safely relocate it to a safe location such as the shoulder of the road to avoid blocking traffic and causing further accidents. If moving the car would be dangerous, however, you may leave it where it is.
In an accident where someone is killed or seriously injured, you should leave all the vehicles involved in the accident where they are until the police arrive so they can get a clearer picture of what happened, unless they are in a position where they are a significant hazard.
Exchange Information With Other Parties Involved In The Accident
After seeking medical attention for those who are injured and moving the cars if appropriate, you should exchange information with the other parties involved in the accident.
Write down and photograph information such as the license plate numbers of all the vehicles involved in the accident; the year, model, make and color of other vehicles involved; and their vehicle identification numbers. Take extensive photographs of the accident and the area surrounding it. This will all be helpful when reporting the accident to the California DMV and working with insurance companies and attorneys.
Ask to see the other drivers’ insurance information, driver’s license, and registration and write down the numbers. If possible, take photos of these documents. Ask all parties present to provide you with their contact information. If law enforcement officers are present, be sure to note their names as well.
Regardless of who is at fault, you must provide your information to the other drivers. You must also show the police your driver’s license, registration, and insurance if they ask for them.
Do Not Say That You Are Unharmed
Even if you feel okay after the accident, it is important not to tell the other driver that you are not hurt. This is because certain types of injuries, such as soft tissue injuries, may not be apparent immediately. Claiming not to be hurt at the scene may give the other driver’s insurance company a reason to deny your claim or offer you less than you are entitled to. While you don’t want to lie, it is acceptable to say that you do not know if you were injured and will seek medical attention if needed.
Avoid Admitting Fault
Do not admit to any wrongdoing at the scene, even if you believe it may have been your fault. You might be wrong, or another driver involved could also be culpable. The accident may have also arisen due to highway construction negligence, a poor road design or problems with the vehicles involved. Therefore, it is crucial that you do not say anything related to fault or apologize for anything.
Obtain A California Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, there is a statute of limitations governing the amount of time in which you may file a personal injury lawsuit in the state of California. Therefore, you should contact an experienced California car accident lawyer as soon as possible after the accident to protect your rights. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Lehr Law, APC are prepared to fight on your behalf and ensure your case receives the attention it deserves. Contact our expert team today.