Rain in California, Southern California has come, thank goodness. But with rain comes more automobile accidents. You have just been involved in car accident, now what?
The scene can be chaotic immediately after a car crash, but following some basic steps can make things a little less stressful. You should always think about your safety and the safety of others. If someone has been injured, call 911 for assistance. Stay calm, being in a car accident is stressful and upsetting but failing to remain calm will only make things worse.
Stay at the Scene of the Accident
In an auto accident, California law says you must stop— if you drive away from the scene of an accident you can be charged with hit and run even if the accident was not your fault. Whether the accident involved a moving car, parked car, a pedestrian or someone’s property you must stop and identify yourself. Hit-and-run penalties are severe. Depending on the damage or injuries, you may be fined, sent to jail or both. You also could lose your driver’s license.
In addition to stopping you must also exchange information with the other driver or party —you must give your name and driver’s license number, the vehicle identification number of the car you are driving, the name and address of the car’s owner, the name and address of your insurance company and your insurance policy number.
If your accident involves other property or a parked car, you should attempt to locate the driver or owner. If you cannot locate the driver or owner, California law indicates that you may leave the scene of the incident only after you leave behind, in a conspicuous place, your name, address and an explanation of the accident, and the name and address of your car’s owner (if other than yourself). Also you are required to notify the local police or California Highway Patrol either by telephone or in person as soon as possible.
The law also requires that you call the local police or the California Highway Patrol if the accident caused a death or injury. An officer who comes to the scene of the accident will conduct an investigation. If an officer doesn’t show up, you must make a written report on a form available at the police department or CHP office as soon as possible.
Check on All Pedestrians, Drivers and Passengers
Immediately following an accident make sure everyone involved in the accident is basically okay, no broken bones or other emergency conditions. If someone is unconscious or has neck or back pain, don’t move them until qualified medical help arrives. The only exception to this suggestions is if a hazard is present that requires moving the person. Call 911 for emergency assistance. Check on all parties before assessing property damage,
Call the California Highway Patrol or local Police
If there is a death, physical injury or significant property damage you need to call the highway patrol or police. The appropriate authority will come to the scene of the accident and most likely prepare a report. It situations where officers do arrive at the accident scene, you should obtain the name and badge numbers of those responding.
Even if officers come to the scene of the accident, you should get the names, numbers, addresses, drivers’ license numbers, license plate numbers from the other drivers involved. As well, you should get the basic insurance information. A good idea is if you have a smart phone and conditions allow, take a photograph of the other driver’s insurance card (front and back). If there are pedestrians or passengers, also obtain their names, numbers, and addresses
Talk to Witnesses
If there are witnesses present. You probably should ask each witness what he or she saw and take some notes concerning their observations. As well if possible, get their names, telephone numbers, and or addresses, if possible. If the accident happened on a surface street you might want to ask if accidents have frequently occurred at the location.
You Have a Cell Phone, Use It, Take Pictures and Other Tips
If safe to do so, it is a good idea to take photographs of the scene of the accident and any damage to the vehicles. It is also a good idea to take pictures of your vehicle as soon as possible after the accident. Photographs can help establish fault and document property damage. As well, pictures of your car after the accident help show the severity of the collision in the event you or a passenger suffered personal injuries.
A simple diagram of the accident scene is often helpful later on. If you have paper or a smart phone draw the positions of both cars before, during and after the accident. If there are skid marks on the road and it is safe to do you may wish to pace them off and jot down your findings on your diagram. Be sure to point the skid marks out to investigation officers. Mark the positions of any crosswalks, stop signs, traffic lights or streetlights..
Also take notes, about weather and road conditions. If the accident happened after dark, note whether the streetlights were on. Note if any stop signs or traffic lights were missing, out or covered, take a picture if such problems exist.
Again, do not place yourself in a position of danger in order to complete an accident diagram or other “investigation.” Be aware of traffic conditions and skip any suggestions that could place you in a position of possible danger or harm
Who’s at Fault
It is rarely a good idea to discuss fault at the scene of an accident. If the other driver is obviously at fault, i.e. unsafe lane change or other obvious circumstances. Stating the same to the other driver in my opinion is OK, however, when talking to other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, or witnesses always try to be pleasant and cooperative. DO NOT BE COME ARGUMENTATIVE.
It is probably not a good idea to apologize for anything at the scene. For example, if you say, “I did not see the stop sign! Is everyone all right?” Your statement may be considered an admission of fault. However, immediately after an accident, it might not be clear who was at fault for accident. For instance, may the stop sign was covered by a low hanging tree branch. Therefore, I suggest you do not accept responsibility for an accident at the scene of the accident. You will have plenty of time to consider what happened and ultimately decide whether or not you were responsible for accident.
Report the Car Accident to Your Insurance Company
Most insurance policies require that you promptly report the accident to your insurance company. Your insurance policy and common sense requires you to cooperate with your insurance carrier. They will interview you and you should tell them the truth about what occurred. When questioned clearly explain the facts as you believe them to be. Lying is very problematic, indeed if your insurance carrier finds out that you have been untruthful you can have serious problems including possible denial of your coverage for the accident or even insurance fraud.
Get Medical Attention and Keep Track of Your Medical Care
If you are concerned about possible personal injuries at the scene of the accident tell the investigating officers about your injuries. If you were hurt in the car crash seek medical attention as soon as possible. A checkup may be a good idea for both you and any of your passengers if any of you have concerns about having suffered injury. If you are concerned about possible personal injuries at the scene of the accident tell the investigating officers about your injuries. It is very a good idea to tell officers or the other party “I am fine.” Often one could be injured and not know it right away
If your personal injuries are troubling at the scene of the accident, you may wish to be taken to an emergency room by the ambulance. Often the day following an accident one is in more pain, if that is the case you may wish to call your doctor or another health care provider for advice. Keep in mind the your automobile insurance may pay some or all of your medical bills if you have medical payments coverage. You should consult your policy or agent for details on what is covered and for what amounts.
If you did suffer personal injuries you should keep a list of any facilities, doctors, chiropractors, or other medical professionals that you received treatment from.
Get a Property Damage Estimate
Depending upon your insurance company, you may wish to obtain an independent property damage estimate. Particularly, if you are unhappy or not satisfied with how your insurance company has evaluated your car. If you are unhappy, tell your adjuster about your concerns. If you have a reasonable position most adjustor will try and reach an amiable compromise. If your car is totaled and you can’t agree on automobile’s value, most policies provide for a mediation process to review the matter or you may wish to consult an attorney.
Use Caution in Posting or Discussing the Accident
It is not a good idea to post or discuss your car crash. I strongly recommend that you only talk to your lawyer, your insurance company, and the police about the accident. I suggest you do not talk to a representative of another insurance company, without the express knowledge and consent of your attorney or insurer. If contacted by the other driver’s insurance company, be polite, do not discuss the accident and ask him or her to call insurance company or your attorney to discuss. Be sure to get the name, address and telephone number of the adjustor so you can provide it your insurance company or attorney. Also, inform your lawyer and/or insurer about the call and provide them with the contact information.
The Danger of An Early Settlement Offer
Be careful if shortly after the accident you are contacted by an adjustor offering you a nominal settlement. Under California law you can settle your claim for personal injuries at anytime. Once a personal injury claim is settled you cannot re-open the matter even if your personal injuries are more severe then you originally believed. Before any settlement offer should be considered you must be certain that physical injuries have been treated and you have recovered from them. The truth is some injuries do not reveal themselves for days, weeks, months or even years later. Attempting to settle a claim in which you suffered moderate to significant personal injuries is a bad idea, in my opinion. At a bare minium consult a personal n attorney before settling any personal injury claim.
Consult or Hire a Personal Injury Attorney, The Law Offices of Richard M. Katz
If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident, it’s best to consult an experienced personal injury attorney. A well qualified personal injury attorney can help you obtain proper compensation for your injuries and related damages. As well, as assisting in your defense if you are claimed to have been partially at fault. Our office works on a contingency fee basis. This means that we only receive a fee if we recover compensation for you. We offer free consultations – so don’t delay call me, Richard M. Katz at 626-796-6333. I look forward to talking to you soon. You can learn more about The Law Offices of Richard M. Katz at http://lawyer-personal-injury-law.com