Getting involved in a motor vehicle accident is one of the most stressful things that can happen to you on your daily commute. It’s also one of the more common occurrences on California roads. Catastrophic and permanent injuries are frequently encountered in car accidents.
The majority of the population is unaware of what they should do after an accident. Car accidents leave victims confused and disgruntled. Some victims act on instinct and do what they think is the right thing to do for the situation. But, your judgment may be clouded by the accident.
Recklessly acting can be detrimental to your situation. Some victims unknowingly destroy pieces of evidence by acting on instinct. This lack of knowledge or understanding can be frustrating because it causes delays during an already hectic time.
Our Los Angeles, CA car accident law firm has put together this guide to help drivers involved in a California car accident. This guide will help auto collision victims understand the dos and don’ts after a car accident. This can help car wreck victims preserve the necessary evidence in a motor vehicle accident.
If you encounter an accident, you should remember that you always have legal options. There are laws established governing the victim’s rights in every type of accident.
Victims of a California car accident should discuss their case with a lawyer. Our Los Angeles, CA car accident lawyer will help you understand your rights. Our expert personal injury attorney will inform you of the appropriate actions you can take to recover compensation for your damages.
Important Things You Should Do Right After A Car Accident in California
“What to do after a car accident in California?” It’s common to ask this question after being involved in a car accident in California. You might question the regulations or statutes that can help you support your case. Or you might also ask if there is any special documentation needed when reporting a car accident in California.
We compiled the best practices you should do if you are involved in a California car accident.
You Need to Remain Calm And Move to a Safer Area
It’s normal to panic after getting in a car accident. But don’t let the chemicals in your brain get the best of you. The first step you should take is to try to calm yourself down.
Remaining calm can help you make rational decisions. Acting out of instinct can do more damage to your case than good. You could unknowingly destroy pieces of evidence that can support your claim and help you recover compensation.
The best way to ease yourself is by doing breathing exercises. Take deep and controlled breaths in your nostril and exhale slowly in your mouth. This will help you steady your breathing and heart rate.
Focus on the moment. It will help if you try to rationalize the situation at hand. When you encounter a car accident, there are multiple legal options available for you. Discuss your case with a lawyer as soon as possible.
Your California personal injury attorney will help you find your way out of the devastating situation. They will make sure that you understand your rights and explore available legal actions. Your lawyer will devise a defense strategy you can use to support your case and recover compensation for the damages you sustained.
You Should Not Leave the Accident Scene
It’s advisable to stay where you are. But, if the responding California Highway Patrol officer asks you to move or if you are blocking the roadway, you should move to a safer place. Make sure that you are near where the accident took place. Moving out of the accident scene can get you convicted for a hit and run.
A hit and run case can be classified as a felony or a misdemeanor. A felony hit and run case is described as fleeing away after injuring or killing another person in a car accident. Under California Vehicle Code 20001, a felony conviction of this crime is punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to four years imprisonment in state prison.
The lack of inflicted injury characterizes misdemeanor hit and run cases. Most misdemeanor hit and run cases incur property damage without signs of causing a personal injury or death. Misdemeanor convictions are punishable with a $1,000 fine and up to 6 months in county jail. This is under California Vehicle Code 20002.
You Need to Contact the Police
Personal injury attorneys advise victims to contact the police department after an accident. Police officers will create an accident report documenting the accounts of the accident. Both parties can acquire a copy of the police report for their disposal.
A detailed police report can help in assessing whose at fault for the accident. It can also identify if the accident victim is partially responsible for the accident. Because of this, a police report can be an unbiased and valuable piece of evidence you can use to support your case.
In some cases, an intoxicated driver may cause a car accident. A law enforcement officer can help you identify this by conducting some breath tests. An at-fault driver who is intoxicated will face heavier punishments as compared to sober drivers.
Calling the attention of legal authorities will help protect your legal rights. California police officers are well-versed in local laws surrounding a car collision. They can help you identify the regulations violated by the responsible driver and understand your rights in the situation.
If, for some reason, you decided not to contact a police officer. In that case, you might lose valuable pieces of information to support your case. In this case, make sure that you gather every detail you can get at the accident scene. Evidence and proof are essential in building a solid case.
You Need to Seek Medical Help
If you sustain injuries in an auto accident, you should seek immediate medical assistance. This will prevent further progression of the sustained injuries. Victims of a car crash may suffer from various serious injuries.
A victim may suffer from a devastating traumatic brain injury (TBI) in most cases. A traumatic brain injury is severe damage to the brain caused by a violent external force. TBI patients often experience memory loss caused by brain trauma. In extreme cases, victims may permanently lose their ability to use certain body parts.
Spinal cord injuries are also encountered in a car accident. These injuries can also be caused by intense external pressure on the back of the victim. Victims who suffer from spinal cord injuries may experience body paralysis. Depending on the severity of the injury, a victim may temporarily or permanently lose control over their body.
Broken bones or fractures are also common in car collisions. Some victims may suffer from a hairline fracture or a minor scratch to the bone. In catastrophic cases, a victim may sustain a total fracture. This type of fracture is hard to treat and may take ample time to recover.
You Need to Gather Information About the Other Driver
It would be best not to leave a car accident scene without collecting the other driver’s information. This is crucial in a car accident case. The other driver’s personal and contact information are necessary for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Victims should try to obtain the other driver’s license. A driver’s license holds valuable information about the other driver. Getting the other driver’s insurance information is also helpful in appointing financial responsibility for the accident.
If there are more than two parties involved in an accident, you should also get the information from the third party. Processing a personal injury claim in a car accident involving three or more parties can get complicated. This is why proper documentation is essential in pointing out liabilities.
Personal injury lawyers will get this information from you during the initial consultation. Collecting the defendant’s driving and insurance information is crucial in building a solid personal injury case. A strong case is essential in recovering damages for your medical expenditures and vehicle repair costs.
In a rental car accident, the rental car company may be entitled to your injuries and vehicle damage. This will depend on the contract signed by the renting driver. In some cases, the driving individual is liable for any accidents they cause while using the rented car.
You Need to Gather Information About the Other Vehicle
Obtaining the information about the vehicle involved helps build personal injury cases. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires injured motorists to submit the defendant’s vehicle information when reporting auto accidents.
The victim should have the license plate number of all vehicles involved. They should also document the car’s manufacturing date, year model, and brand. The victim’s party should also create descriptive documentation of the vehicle’s physical appearance.
A vehicle’s identification number or VIN is crucial information that should not be left out. VIN is a unique identifier for all cars. VINs can identify recalls, verify vehicle registration, and check warranty claims.
In most car models, the VIN can be seen on the lower-left corner of the driver’s dashboard. The car’s VIN is also indicated in the driver’s insurance and registration form. In some cases, when the driver will not let you have the vehicle’s identification number, don’t try to take it forcibly. You can let your lawyer or other authority obtain this information for you.
You Need to Gather Evidence of the Accident Scene
Collecting evidence can help you prove that the other driver’s negligence caused the accident. There are several pieces of evidence you can take from a car accident scene. This can include photographic evidence, video footage, or witness accounts.
It would be best if you took pictures of the physical copy of the insurance and the registration information of the other driver. A victim must take photographs of their vehicle damages, the other car’s damages, and sustained physical injuries. It would help if you took pictures of anything you think can be helpful when demanding compensation from the insurance company.
A victim has many sources for the accident’s video footage. They can use dashcam footage if they have a dashcam installed in their car. Streets around California are usually installed with close-circuit television (CCTV) cameras. A victim can request a copy of the footage from the city’s local office or the owner of the CCTV camera.
Witness accounts are also helpful in obtaining personal injury claims. If the accident occurred in a crowded place, then there’s a high chance that someone witnessed how the accident occurred. You should get the contact information of a willing witness. They could testify in your defense and provide the accounts of the accident from their perspective.
Under California law, victims should prove that the defendant is negligent before being held liable for any damages. This is why establishing a good and solid case is beneficial for you as a victim. Our Los Angeles, CA accident attorney will help you gather essential evidence to support your claim.
You Can Leave Your Contact Info And Address
Like you, other drivers will try to seek medical attention for their bodily injuries. At this point, both of you are still suspects of causing the car accident. The other driver will try to recover damages from insurance companies.
Similar to your situation, they will also try to build their case. You can provide them with your information as long as they agree to do the same. If the other driver is uncooperative, it would be best not to give them any of your information.
Exchanging information is beneficial for all parties involved. Give the other driver your contact and insurance details if they give you theirs. You should also provide your vehicle information. This includes your VIN, car model, and the descriptive information of your car.
Let them take pictures of your car’s damage. Just make sure that they let you do the same. The voluntary exchange of information makes the entire process easier for all involved parties in the accident.
Don’t be afraid when the other driver tries to create a false narrative that you caused the accident. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how to debunk this misinformation. Remember, they cannot change facts.
You Need to Document Your Injuries
If you sustained bodily injuries in a car accident, you should call emergency services as soon as possible. If it’s possible, you should document your injuries. Otherwise, ask the emergency representative to take documentation of your injuries.
Documentation of your sustained physical injuries will help when you demand compensation from the insurance company. Make sure that you hold on to your injury documentation carefully.
You should create personal documentation of your sustained injury. You can jot down the damaged body parts and how terrible you feel from your injuries. The more documentation you preserve, the more compelling your case will be.
Financial compensation is not limited only to physical damages. If you suffer from mental anguish or emotional distress, you can also consider this. Write a detailed description of how the accident affected you mentally.
You can also discuss this with a mental health provider. They will conduct a thorough assessment of your mental health condition. Suppose the evaluation confirms that you suffer from mental health issues because of the accident. In that case, you can use this to support your claim.
These records will serve as factual documentation of your pain and suffering. The court will base the majority of its decision on the presented facts.
You Need to Document Your Medical And Accident Details
Car accident injuries are often severe and may take a long time to heal. Not to mention the expensive medical expenses accompanying these injuries. Your personal injury claim will cover any necessary financial expenditures you incurred for your recovery.
When you sustain injuries from a traffic accident, you should seek medical attention immediately. Your attending health provider will keep your medical records. This medical record contains your injury information and other necessary tests and treatment you need to do.
You should secure a copy of this document. A victim is entitled to recover financial compensation for their present medical bills and future medical expenses. Victims are also entitled to recover damages for their emotional and mental distress.
Besides medical-related expenses, a victim can also recover damages for their lost wages. In some cases, a victim will sustain a severe injury rendering them unable to report back to work. They can demand compensation for their missed days. The victim’s employer may provide documentation of the victim’s lost hours.
Property damages are also compensable under California state law. A victim should take photographs of the damages dealt with their property. They can also create a written account of how the accident occurred and the value of the property destroyed.
Securing these documents is necessary for recovering damages from the accident that occurred. Effective documentation is crucial in building a compelling case. Remember, both you and your lawyer will be working on your case to meet your best interests.
You Need to Report the Accident to the DMV
Car accident cases must be reported to the DMV within ten days from the accident date of the accident. The victim or the car owner must report a car accident to the DMV if someone is injured, someone died from the accident, or the equivalent property damage is greater than $10,000.
Under California car accident law, Vehicle Code 20008 and 16000 oversees the regulation of car collision reports. A driver should report to the police any injuries or casualties caused by the car accident. Breaching this duty is punishable by the law.
A driver will submit this report to the DMV using a Form SR-1. A Form SR-1 is also known as Report of Traffic Accidents Occurring in California. This form will require you to provide the driver’s license information, their insurance information, VIN, and car’s insurance information.
The DMV requires motorists to report every car collision incident in California. They do this to monitor negligent drivers. They also include this report in the driver’s history. The DMV established a point system for every ‘negligent driving report.’ Once a driver or operator garnered enough points, their license may be suspended.
California car accident laws state that involved drivers should report every car accident to the California Highway Patrol or a police department within 24 hours from the accident. This law will only apply if there are no responding police officers to the accident.
You Need to Inform Your Insurance Company
After an accident, both drivers will need to report the accident to their respective insurance companies. Most insurance companies advise their members to report a car accident as soon as possible. This allows involved motorists to have a viable car accident insurance claim.
Whether you caused or partially caused an accident, it is still a best practice to report an accident to your insurance agent. Insurance members are often reluctant to report car accidents to their insurance company for fear of a premium surge.
However, waiting until your case settles can cost you a lot of money and time. If you report your car accident to your insurance company, this will assure you that you will get an immediate remedy for your damages. Insurance companies have the right to deny coverage if you fail to report the accident immediately.
Early intervention will give your insurer ample time to defend your personal injury claim for your car accident case. It’s worth noting that the state of California requires motorists to have comprehensive car coverage when registering their vehicles.
You MUST NOT ADMIT FAULT
Never take the blame for a car accident. The atmosphere after the accident may pressure you to admit that it’s your fault even when it’s not. Some people take the blame right off the bat to diffuse the tension.
Various factors can cause car accidents. It could be caused by a poor road design or an existing road hazard. In most cases, car accidents occur because of a negligent driver. Suppose you admit that you are partly to blame for the accident. In that case, it will go to the accident report, and the other driver can use it against you to dodge liabilities.
Under California Law, the state functions in a ‘Pure’ comparative negligence regulation. This means that despite partially causing the accident, a victim may still receive compensation for their damages. However, the money they will receive will be deducted by the proportion they share in the accident.
For example, a victim entitled to receive $80,000 compensation was 50% at fault for the accident. In that case, they can only receive $40,000 as compensation. Admitting to your fault can risk your chances of receiving the maximum amount of compensation you deserve.
Sometimes, the defendant can even use your apology against you. Keep in mind that both you and the other driver will be pointing fingers at each other to avoid taking responsibility for the accident. Let your lawyer speak on your behalf if you are being pressured to take the blame for the accident.
You MUST NOT SAY YOU ARE NOT HURT
Saying the wrong thing after an accident can jeopardize your chance of recovering damages. Victims may find it hard not to speak their heart out after an accident but saying too much can negatively affect your case. It’s best only to say enough after an accident and fully disclose what happened and how you felt only to your lawyer.
Even if you think you are not severely injured in an accident, don’t admit that you are not hurt. Some injuries may take time to manifest. You might be completely fine today, but you may start feeling sharp pains throughout your body by the following day.
The adrenaline in our body is elevated after an accident. This is a normal fight or flight response of our body. Because of this, your body may overcome any pain or damage it’s experiencing, but once the adrenaline drops back to normal levels, you will start feeling your injuries.
You Should Seek Help From a Car Accident Lawyer
By now, we have already established the importance of hiring a California personal injury lawyer for your car accident case. An experienced lawyer can help you process your personal injury claims seamlessly.
A California personal injury lawyer will carefully review your case and look at different perspectives to help you build a strong case. They will assess your position in the accident and provide practical legal advice that you can use to support your claim.
California car accident lawyers can help you collect pieces of evidence for your case. As mentioned in the previous sections, a strong case needs compelling shreds of evidence. They will help you recover a fair settlement without taking the case to court.
Suppose the other party didn’t agree to your terms and decided to take the case to trial. In that case, our expert lawyer will represent you on your behalf. We will present your case in the best way possible to receive the maximum compensation you deserve.
The state of California established a two-year statute of limitations for car accident cases. This means that the victim only has two years to sue the defendant after the collision. It’s crucial to hire a lawyer as soon as possible because your lawsuit will automatically deny once the two-year limit has passed.
Contact Our Los Angeles Personal Injury Law Firm If You’re Injured In A Car Accident
The aftermath of a car collision can be extremely stressful. A lot of thoughts are running through your head and including your judgment. But you should keep in your mind that you have legal rights, and there are several legal options available for you.
At Alden Law Firm of Los Angeles, we help clients injured in devastating car accidents. Even if you think your injuries are minor, you might still be entitled to recover compensation for it. We will ensure that you recover every penny you can from your case.
Our law office was built with a vision to protect clients who are injured because of another person’s negligence. We have been helping numerous victims since we established our firm in 2013. Our entire legal team will work together to help you achieve the best outcome for your case.
Alden Law Firm of Los Angeles caters to probate and personal injury clients. You can call us at (213) 214-6937 for a free consultation. You may also fill up our online form to tell us more about your case, and we will review it for free.
Early intervention is the best defense for personal injury cases. Call us now so we can start working on your case as soon as possible.