What To Do After a Car Accident in California?

What should you do if you’re involved in a car accident? At Corrales Law Group we like to keep clients informed so that they can follow California law while also preserving any legal rights. The time immediately after a car accident is very stressful and many times individuals forget to take very important steps to preserve their rights and protect themselves. After the accident a person could expect to deal with a lot of paperwork and communications with insurance companies, hiring an attorney can be helpful for dealing with the aftermath of a car accident.

Stay at the Scene

DO NOT leave the scene of the accident, it could turn the collision into a hit and run scene and you could be charged with a felony. Stay at the scene until the appropriate steps are taken (see below) and all necessary information is exchanged.

To avoid additional collisions with moving traffic turn on hazard lights of all vehicles involved in collision. If the cars can be safely moved, snap a couple of pictures of the accident then move the vehicles to the side of the road or highway.

If you hit a parked car or an object, you must take reasonable steps to find the owner or driver. If you cannot find the owner or driver you must leave a visible note for the owner with all insurance information.

Check the Health of All Passengers and Drivers

Make sure all passengers and drivers are conscious and in non-serious condition. You should provide reasonable medical assistance at the scene of the collision, generally this means calling an ambulance for anyone injured. If someone is experiencing back or neck pain, contact appropriate authorities before moving them to avoid making the injury worse unless the person is in danger of even worse harm (for example, if the car appears to be on fire). If you fear anyone is seriously hurt, immediately dial 911.

Call Police and/or Emergency Operators

In accidents that cause a lot of property damage and/or someone has been hurt, call the police and ask the officer to write a police report. It is always best to get a police report because the officer will collect important information about the scene of the accident and will include helpful information for insurance companies and attorneys. If asked by an officer whether you want a police report, always say yes!

Exchange Information

It is very important to get all the necessary information at the scene of the accident in order to avoid problems later on. Write down the names, phone numbers, addresses of all drivers and passengers involved in the collision. Write down information from the valid insurance card of the other driver and the registration card of the vehicle.  If the other driver does not have insurance or a driver’s license it is especially important to call the police.

TIP: If you have a camera phone, take pictures of: Registration card, Driver’s license, Insurance card, and license plate of other driver. Also take pictures of the damage to both vehicles.

Be careful while exchanging information to not admit fault or to say anything that might lead to the collision being attributed to you. Help the officer at the scene by answering questions but do not say it was ‘your fault’ or that you will ‘pay for damages’. Let the insurance companies sort this out later.

Do not forget if anyone saw the collision, write down their name and phone number. Witnesses can be extremely important if there is any question about who was at fault.

Inform Your Insurance Company

Contact your insurance company and inform them of the collision. Cooperate with them and let them know if you have been injured. If a police report was made, let your insurance know so that they could obtain a copy.

Inform the California DMV

In California, drivers must report accidents to the California DMV if the property damage to any vehicle was more than $750 or anyone was injured or killed. The DMV has a simple form (SR-1) that is free and available for download on the DMV website (dmv.ca.gov)

If you have questions about reporting the accident to the California DMV or want an attorney to help with the SR-1, contact us.

Note Any Injuries and/or Costs Due to the Accident

It is very important to receive treatment for any injuries that were caused by a car accident. Keep track of any treatment and injuries that were caused by the accident. If you need treatment and do not have health insurance contact an attorney to discuss your treatment options. Do not delay treatment whether injuries were notice at the scene of the accident or later!

Also, keep track of any work missed due to the accident and any other property that may have been damaged in the collision (For example, car seats often have to be replaced after a car accident).

Take Lots of Pictures

Pictures are worth a thousand words, when in doubt, take more pictures. Take pictures at the scene of the accident, take pictures of any injuries, and take pictures of any damaged property.

Getting Your Car Fixed

When you report the accident to you insurance company, they will likely tell you the first step to get your car fixed. If you have comprehensive insurance coverage, you will likely be able to get your car fixed through your own insurance quickly. If you only have liability insurance, it will be important to show it was the other party’s fault in order to get your car fixed quickly.

Sometimes cars will be declared, total losses, meaning the insurance company will want to pay you the value of your car instead of fixing the car. If you think the insurance company is undervaluing your car or not responding to demands to fix your car, you may want to contact an attorney to deal with the property damage

Do Not Give a Recorded Statement to Other Insurance Company

A lot of times you will be contacted by the other insurance company, they will ask about how you are feeling and about how the accident occurred. They will be collecting information to try to deny your claim. The attorneys at Corrales Law Group strongly recommend that no recorded statement be given to the other insurance company unless you have been advised by an attorney. The other insurance company will be looking for any reason to deny your claim and it will very rarely help your case.

Hire an Attorney

Attorney Peter Corrales and the attorneys at Corrales Law Group take accident cases on a contingency basis. This means that there is no charge until the matter is settled. Generally, individual that are represented by attorneys will receive higher compensation at the end of their case than if they tried to resolve the case without an attorney so it is generally a good idea to have your case evaluated for free. If you are injured it is especially recommended to not wait and contact an attorney that can help you today.