What To Do After an Auto Accident in California

reviewing car accident damageA car accident can happen suddenly and without warning. If you are unprepared to deal with a car accident or unaware of what you should do after being in one, you might risk jeopardizing your claim. This guide offers useful tips for what you should do immediately after being involved in an auto accident and before contacting a car accident attorney in Sacramento from Arnold Law Firm.

1. Do Not Leave the Accident Scene

If you are involved in a car accident in California, you are required by law to stop and remain at the scene. This rule applies to all accident scenarios, whether it involves a pedestrian, moving car, someone’s private property or a parked vehicle.

Leaving the scene of an auto accident that you were involved in creates several legal and insurance-related problems. You could be charged with a hit-and-run, even if the collision was not your fault. A hit-and-run charge carries serious legal penalties in California, which includes large fines and possible jail time.

An insurance company might also view leaving the accident scene as an admission of guilt for causing the collision. Although you might not have been responsible, your absence will be noted on any police or insurance accident reports and will affect your claim’s eligibility.

It is always in your best interest to remain at the accident scene until you exchange all necessary information with the other affected parties or are explicitly given permission by law enforcement to leave.

2. Help Anyone Who Was Injured and Prevent Further Accidents

Although you may be disoriented immediately after a car accident, you should assess the damage caused by the collision. This includes checking on any parties that might have been involved, such as the other driver or any passengers or pedestrians that could have been injured.

If someone was seriously injured or killed in the accident, you are required by law to call either the police or California Highway Patrol (CHP). Reasonably assist anyone who was injured in a car accident to the best of your abilities.

However, if you do not have any medical training, do not move anyone who is injured. Moving an injured person could result in further bodily damage and could worsen his or her condition. The only time you should ever move someone who has suffered an injury is if he or she is in danger and moving the person would prevent further harm.

If an officer does not show up, it becomes your responsibility to make a written report to law enforcement by completing a traffic collision report with the Sacramento Police Department or CHP as soon as possible.

You can also prevent further collisions by alerting approaching motorists that an accident has occurred. If you are able, place flares on the road if there are no flammable liquids nearby. You can also turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights or lift its engine hood to warn others of the accident.

3. Collect Any Important Information

Once you are sure that everyone involved in the accident is unharmed or has received proper medical care, collect any relevant information needed to file an insurance claim.

This includes the other party’s:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Home address
  • Email address
  • Driver license number
  • Date of birth
  • Vehicle tag number
  • Insurance provider name, address and phone number
  • Vehicle year, make, model and identification number

Collect the same information from any passengers in the other vehicle or pedestrians that might have been involved in the accident.

If there are any witnesses to your accident, collect their name, phone number and home address. They will need to speak with the responding law enforcement officer who can include their account of the events in his or her traffic collision report. Witnesses can help validate your claim and depict an unbiased account of the collision to the insurance adjuster or investigator assigned to your claim.

Also record the name and badge number of the officer who responds to your car accident. The officer will investigate the accident and determine who may have been responsible. You can request a copy of the officer’s report and provide it to an insurer to further support your claim.

4. Document the Accident Scene

Documenting the scene is one of the most important things you should do immediately after a car accident. Document any information that accurately depicts the events that occurred, including:

  • Take photographic or video evidence of any damage inflicted on the vehicles or property involved in the accident.
  • Note the conditions of the road at the time of the accident, such as how it may have been affected by recent weather or poor maintenance or planning, whether the street lights were operational, or if the other driver was erratically weaving through heavy traffic.
  • Describe the behavior of the other motorists, passengers or pedestrians involved in the accident. You should note how they are responding to the accident and look for any indications of fault they might display.
  • Check for any third-party observers, such as witnesses or traffic cameras that might have seen or recorded the accident or the behavior of the other driver.
  • Create a diagram of the accident by photographing or drawing the position of the cars before, during and after the accident.
  • Include traffic and street objects could accurately depict the events that led to the accident and support your claim that the other driver was at fault. Look for indicators, such as skid marks on the road, stop signs, traffic lights, and street signs.
  • Note the time of day that the accident occurred, such as whether it was at night or during a traffic-heavy part of the day.

5. Contact Your Insurance Provider

The next step you will need to take after being in a car accident is to report the collision to your insurance provider.

You should file a claim that lists all damages you might have suffered, such as any injuries or property losses. Your claim should detail the entirety of your losses and provide an accurate estimate of the costs to repair your vehicle, as well as any medical expenses you might have incurred to treat your injury.

Any evidence you collected after the accident might also be used to support your claim and may be an important element for receiving full compensation for your losses.

You also may need to obtain the traffic collision report filed by the responding police or CHP officer. If your accident occurred in the Sacramento area, you can request an online accident report from the Sacramento Police Department.

If your accident was handled by CHP, you can fill out an online collision request form and return it to the nearest CHP Area office either in person or by mail.

6. Limit the Information You Provide an Insurer

It is important to limit the initial information you provide to any insurer regarding your accident to the basic facts only.

Never speculate on the events that occurred before or during the accident. Only recount the situation as you remember it happening and clarify when you are unsure about the answer to any question an insurer asks you.

Also, do not provide definitive information about an injury or property damage you might have suffered. The only information you should initially provide an insurer is that you were injured and sustained damage to your vehicle or personal property.

Only comment on your injuries once you have fully recovered and undergone all necessary medical treatment. This also includes remaining silent on the full extent of your vehicle’s damage until you have received an accurate estimate of repair costs.

If an insurer persistently presses you for this information, immediately contact our experienced auto accident attorneys.

7. Consult with an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

Once you have been treated for your injury, spoken with law enforcement and contacted your insurance provider, it may be in your best interest to consult with an experienced car accident attorney.

The Sacramento injury attorneys at the Arnold Law Firm have represented victims of car accidents in the Sacramento area for more than 40 years, and have recovered millions in verdicts and settlements on their behalf.

We will provide you with a free, no obligation consultation to review your car accident claim and determine if you are entitled to compensation for your losses. We work on a contingency fee basis and will never charge you upfront for our services. We only require payment if we reach a result for your claim.

Call (916) 777-7777 if you or a loved one has been in a car accident.