What To Do After a Car Accident
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (CA-DMV), more than 27 million people hold driver licenses in the state.
12:53 03 October 2019
If even a fraction of licensed drivers choose to get behind the wheel on any given day, there could be literally thousands of potential accidents just waiting to happen.
Being involved in even a minor fender bender is stressful and traumatic. More serious auto accidents can have life-changing consequences mentally, emotionally, physically and financially.
Having a plan in place to react quickly after you have been involved in a traffic accident is something most drivers neglect to do. Yet this is absolutely essential to document what happened and guard against unnecessary liability issues as well as to protect your legal rights.
In this article, learn the exact steps to take after you have been involved in a car accident.
Step 1: Stay put at the scene of the accident until the police release you to depart.
While it may be understandably tempting to leave such a stressful situation as quickly as you can, the law may not be on your side if you do.
Leaving the scene of a crime, which all traffic incidents technically are, can open you up to "hit and run" charges - even if you were the one who got hit!
So stay put and move on to step two.
Step 2: Call the police immediately and ask them to come to the scene.
Police documentation is your friend in a situation such as a car accident. You need an independent third party to witness the details of the incident and put it in writing for your own protection.
No better witness exists than the police and it is their job to provide this service to you!
The police will have everyone involved give their statement and this will all go into a written accident report you will have access to.
While it is most vital to have the police on hand when the incident is more serious or fatalities are involved, it is the best protection you have against a future lawsuit from the other parties involved for even minor fender benders.
Be sure to ask each attending officer for their contact information and verify how you can access the written report after it is filed.
Step 3: Talk with everyone else involved and exchange contact and insurance information.
While the police will be very helpful in making sure this happens, it is always smart to take the initiative to approach the other parties involved and begin the exchange of information.
This way, you have a chance to assess possible injuries and potential issues. When you do this, remember to stay very friendly, polite and noncommittal.
Refrain from the urge to apologize to the other parties no matter what, as this could be used as an admission of guilt later when your personal injury lawyer begins to litigate on your behalf.
Step 4: Look around and locate any witnesses you can talk with.
Here again, the police can be very helpful in assisting with this task, but you shouldn't wait until they arrive as witnesses have a tendency to disappear from the scene quickly.
They are under no legal obligation to give you their account of what they saw, but by approaching them in a friendly manner and requesting their help, you can often get them to talk with you.
Ask first, but be sure to take good notes about what they remember and get their contact information so you have it just in case legal issues arise later on.
Step 5: Take photographs of the scene, all vehicles involved and the other parties.
You have every legal right to take photographs at the scene of the incident, but it is always nice to let the other parties know before you start snapping pictures of them or their vehicles.
You should try to get close-up photos of the vehicles and distance photographs of the accident scene itself if it is safe to do so.
Step 6: Write down your own account of what happened during the incident.
Since it can take some time for the police to arrive on the scene, you should have enough time to write down your own account of what occurred during the accident while it is still fresh in your memory.
In addition to writing out everything you remember, it is a great idea to sketch out a diagram of the area where the accident occurred. Note where you were, where the other drivers were, major nearby intersections, traffic signs (or lack thereof) - the more detail the better.
Write down how you are feeling and also draw a diagram of your own body. Note areas of scratches, scrapes, bruises, aches, pains and other potential health issues. Be sure to do this again in the first couple of days following the auto accident as sometimes health issues like whiplash and back pain can take some time to develop.
Also note the time of day, the weather conditions, the roadway conditions and anything else you can possibly think of that might become useful to your Los Angeles accident attorney later on.
Step 7: Speak only with your own insurer - do not speak to the other parties' insurers.
You can count on the other parties' insurance claims specialists asking to speak with you. Do not do this.
You could inadvertently say something that the insurer will try to use against you later to have you declared at fault in the incident. This is very important as California is currently a "fault" state when it comes to handling claims for auto accidents.
If it becomes necessary later on to speak with the other parties' insurers, your Los Angeles accident attorney can handle this on your behalf.
Step 8: Assemble everything regarding the incident together in one place and add to it as needed.
The shock of being involved in an auto accident often delays memory recall until a later time. So you can expect to remember additional details later on that night or the next day.
Continue jotting down notes as you recall details from the incident. When you get your accident photos developed, find any photos you have of your vehicle before the accident and add them to the accident file as well.
Once the police copy of your accident report is ready, print out a copy and add it to the file as well. Gather as much detail as you can for your initial meeting with your auto injury attorney. Even if you think some details won't be helpful, include them anyway.
Under California law, you have legal recourse if you have been injured in an auto incident and also if your personal property has been damaged or destroyed. At times, the awards to victims of auto accidents can be headline-worthy.
But it is important not to wait and hope the other parties will do the right thing on their own. Instead, take charge and begin the legal process yourself.
To learn more about your legal rights after being involved in a car accident, contact West Coast Trial Lawyers for additional information.