Car accidents can be shocking and traumatic for everyone involved. Even if you escaped with minor injuries, you’re left with many questions.
Who’s at fault for the accident? Should you see a doctor? Is your insurance company going to pay for anything?
Here are the steps to take following a car accident in California, including answers to your questions to help you know what to do next.
Contact the Police
Call the police right away, and wait for them to arrive. Never leave the scene, especially if anyone was hurt or killed. It’s okay to leave if you’re seriously hurt and need to go to the hospital, though.
If you flee the accident scene, the police might charge you with a hit-and-run. That can come with hefty penalties, including a fine of up to $10,000 and up to one year in jail.
Sometimes, the other driver might try to leave the scene if they don’t have insurance. If you didn’t see their license plate number, ask someone else at the scene if they spotted it. Some roads have cameras that may have captured their plate too.
Move Vehicles to the Side of the Road
Never leave your vehicle in the middle of the road. Other drivers may hit it, causing even more damage and injuries.
Don’t try to move your vehicle if you’re too hurt, though. If you cannot move your vehicle safely, turn on the hazard lights to alert other drivers.
After the accident, talk to the other driver and any witnesses. This is one of the most important steps to take following a car accident.
Ask the other driver for their insurance information, registration information, and driver’s license number. If you can find any witnesses, ask them what they saw. Their report may be helpful if you want to file a lawsuit later.
If the police show up at the accident scene, ask for each officer’s name and badge number, too.
When talking to the other driver, don’t admit fault for the accident, even if you think you were to blame. You may be tempted to say you’re sorry, but the other driver may misconstrue your apology as accepting blame, so choose your words carefully.
Don’t tell the other driver you’re not hurt, either, even if you think it’s true. Their insurance company could use what you say against you to deny your claim.
If you hit an unoccupied vehicle and can’t find the driver, leave a note with your contact information on the windshield. You’ll also need to notify the police (or the local Department of California Highway Patrol if you hit the vehicle in unincorporated territory).
Document Damages and Injuries
Take detailed pictures of the damage to your car, your injuries, and the area where the accident occurred. These pictures can give the insurance company a better idea of what happened and help the adjuster determine the value of your damages. You might need these photos later if you contact a California car accident attorney.
It’s also smart to write down everything you can recall about the accident. Do this as soon as possible because you may forget details later.
In your report, include:
- The date and time of the accident
- The direction of travel for each vehicle
- An estimate of each driver’s speed
- Street names
- Traffic light colors
- Road and weather conditions
Seek Medical Attention
See a doctor even if you think your car accident injuries aren’t that bad. Immediately after an accident, shock can make it hard for you to feel pain, so you might not know just how serious your injuries really are. It can take days or weeks for injuries to fully develop.
Common car accident injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Cuts and bruises
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Spinal cord damage
Many car accident victims struggle with their mental health, too. You might feel so anxious that you jump at the slightest sound. It’s also normal to feel blue because you can’t work or do the things you used to love.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) isn’t just a problem for combat veterans. It frequently affects people who have been hurt in car crashes, too. PTSD can cause memory problems, irritability, concentration difficulties, and hypervigilance.
Another reason to see a doctor is to put your injuries on record. Otherwise, the insurance adjuster could use your lack of treatment against you to lower your compensation. Sometimes, they refuse to pay you anything at all if you didn’t go to the doctor.
Report the Accident
Do you need to report your accident to the DMV? Usually, yes. You must report it within ten days if anyone was injured or killed. You also need to report accidents involving more than $1,000 in damages.
If you don’t report the accident, you could lose your driver’s license for up to one year.
Make your report with California DMV Form SR1. In it, provide:
- Name, driver’s license numbers, address, and birthdate of all involved drivers
- Date and time of the accident
- Details about injuries and property damage
- Insurance information for all involved drivers
You don’t need to report the accident if:
- You were the only involved driver
- Your car sustained minor damage and you’ll pay for repairs out of pocket
Call Your Insurance Company
In California, car accident victims must file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. California drivers must carry at least:
- $30,000 of bodily injury coverage per accident
- $15,000 of bodily injury coverage per person
- $5,000 of property damage liability
You’ll need to report the crash to your insurance company, too, even if it wasn’t your fault. The insurance company might cancel your policy if you fail to make a report. It’s vital to first call an attorney so that they can engage with any insurance company on your behalf. Insurance companies want to mitigate any damages that they may owe. Therefore, they might attempt to trick you into making a statement that can hurt your case.
Contact a California Car Accident Attorney
Insurance will pay for property damage and medical bills, but it doesn’t cover everything. If you want to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver for emotional distress, lost wages, or other damages not covered by insurance, call the car accident lawyers at Khalil Law Group at (714) 617-7870 today. We’ll explain the steps to take following a car accident so you have a better chance of compensation.