Being involved in a car accident might leave you feeling bewildered. Moreover, if there are any serious injuries or fatalities, it can be a traumatic experience.
Knowing what to do under these circumstances can determine what damages you might be able to recover and help prevent you from violating California law.
Cohen & Marzban are car accident attorneys with over 45 years of experience in personal injury cases, including car accidents. We help clients to get compensated for injuries sustained in a car accident.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a car crash due to the negligence of another party, our car accident attorneys stand ready to help you.
We hope our guide to everything you need to know after you are in a car accident will help you follow the best course of action to protect your own interests and well-being.
According to the latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 4,258 traffic fatalities in California in 2021.
10 Things to Do After You Are in a Car Accident
1. Call 911 if there are injuries
If you or anyone else require immediate medical assistance, do not wait for the police. Call 911 immediately and if you are unable, ask someone else to do it for you.
If possible, give your contact information to the other driver(s) before going to the hospital.
2. Call the police
The police do not always go to every accident scene depending on the severity and location of the accident. However, you should still always attempt to notify the police.
According to California Vehicle Code section 20008, the driver of a vehicle involved in “any accident resulting in injuries to or death of any person” involved should, within 24 hours, make a written report of the crash to the California Highway Patrol or to the police department of the city where the accident occurred.
Note that if a law enforcement officer comes to the scene of your accident, the officer will prepare a written report of the accident. In that case, you need not make a separate written report.
3. Take photos or record a video of the accident scene
If you have a camera or a cellphone, take photographs or record a video of the accident scene. Try to capture the damage to all vehicles, their position, and physical injuries suffered by yourself and others.
If there are external factors that might have contributed to the accident, such as defective traffic lights, poor weather conditions, and obstacles on the road, capture them as well.
Photographic evidence can help your car accident lawyer or insurance adjuster determine what happened and who was at fault. It can also protect you if someone later claims you are responsible for subsequent damage or injuries.
If you cannot take photos or record a video, ask someone, such as a witness at the accident scene, to assist you.
4. Move out of harm’s way
Cars blocking the road after an accident might cause another accident. Other motorists might not stop or swerve out of the way in time to avoid colliding with your vehicle or others.
If possible, move your vehicle off the road. However, if it is impossible or unsafe to do so, leave it, but try to alert oncoming traffic.
If someone was killed or badly injured in a car crash, wait for law enforcement to arrive before moving cars. That is unless they pose a significant hazard to other motorists.
5. Do not leave the scene of the accident
Do not leave the scene of an accident if someone was injured or killed unless you require immediate medical assistance. If you do, you can face a hit-and-run charge. Wait for the police to arrive.
As per California Vehicle Code 20001 (b)(1), failure to comply with the law shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.
Note that if your vehicle is involved in an accident resulting only in property damage, you need to locate the property owner. If you cannot find the owner, leave a written notice on the property with your address, contact information, and an explanation of what happened. In addition, if you cannot find the owner, notify the police as soon as possible.
According to California Vehicle Code 20002 (c), anyone failing to comply with the above requirements is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months or by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.
6. Exchange contact information
As per the California Department of Insurance, obtain the following information:
- Names, addresses, telephone numbers, and driver’s license numbers from all drivers
- License plate(s) and vehicle identification numbers. Ask to see the driver’s license(s) and vehicle registration(s) to verify the information is accurate
If you can, take a photo of these documents or write down the numbers.
If possible, get the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of passengers and witnesses. If a law enforcement officer arrives on the scene, write down their name as well.
Give your contact information to the other driver(s), regardless of who is at fault.
7. Document your injuries
The more evidence of the injuries you have sustained, the better the chances are that a personal injury attorney can seek damages on your behalf.
Take photos or make a video of any visible injuries you sustained as soon as possible after the accident. If you cannot do it yourself, ask someone to help you using your cellphone.
If you are in a hospital, ask a healthcare professional to take photos of your injuries as well, and make sure to obtain copies of your medical records
Serious car accident injuries sometimes include:
- Loss of limb(s)
- Fractured or broken bones
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Back injury
8. Notify your insurance company
Most auto insurance policies typically require motorists to report any accident promptly. Failure to do so might compromise your coverage.
Note that California is one of 38 states that do not have no-fault car insurance laws. It means whatever party is responsible for an accident is liable to pay the other party for damages. Therefore, car accident victims must file their claims with the at-fault party’s insurer.
9. Make notes of what you remember about the accident
Write down everything you can remember about the accident while it is still fresh in your mind. Include as many details and observations as possible, even if they seem unimportant. Include a date next to each entry.
Going back to the scene of the accident may also jog your memory.
Possible legal proceedings typically do not happen overnight. The longer you wait to record details of the accident, the more likely you won’t remember everything.
Do not only focus on your actions but also those of the other driver(s), such as how fast you think they were traveling.
10. Report the accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMC)
When you have an accident, you or your insurance agent, broker, or legal representative must report it to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMC) within ten days using an SR 1 form if at least one of the following occurs:
- Any vehicle or property involved has over $1000 in damage.
- Anyone is injured (no matter how minor the injury) or dies.
Note that you should submit an SR 1 form whether you caused the accident or not, even if it occurred on private property.
If you do not complete an SR 1 form or do not have the proper insurance coverage at the time of a car accident, you will forfeit your driving privileges.
What NOT to Say After a Car Accident
After a car accident, people may use any of your answers or comments against you or take them out of context.
Here are some tips that might help you:
- Do not admit fault or any wrongdoing
- Avoid saying you are well or not hurt
- Do not share information not asked of you
- Withhold the names and contact details of relatives or friends
- Reject making a recorded statement
- Decline a quick (low ball) settlement offer from your insurance company
In addition, the California Department of Insurance advises motorists to avoid the following:
- Do not argue with other drivers and passengers
- Save your story for the police and your insurance company
- Do not sign statements regarding fault or promise to pay for the other party’s damages
- If the other party offers to pay your deductible, don’t sign anything
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you or a loved one is injured in a car accident, you might be entitled to compensation.
In a personal injury lawsuit, you could recover economic and non-economic damages, including:
- Past and future medical expenses.
- Psychological counseling
- Prescription medications
- Rehabilitation or physical therapy
- Lost wages and reduced earning capacity
- Medical or assistive devices
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional distress
Note that California is a comparative fault state. That means that even if you are partly to blame for an accident, you can still be awarded damages. However, the amount will decline based on your percentage of fault.
For example, if you are 10% liable and the damages total $100,000, you will receive $90,000.
Why Choose Cohen & Marzban?
Cohen & Marzban is a top Los Angeles car accident attorney firm.
We help clients who have been injured in a car accident due to the negligence of another party to receive the compensation they deserve.
- We have already recovered $2,000,000,000+ in damages for our clients!
- With over 45 years of experience, we understand the ins and outs of recovering damages for car accident victims.
- Our list of accolades includes winning The Litigator Award™ – an honor given to only the top 1% of trial attorneys in the United States.
If you need a reputable Los Angeles law firm with the best car accident lawyers on your side, Cohen & Marzban should be your first choice.
We offer all new clients a FREE consultation to evaluate the merits of your case. Remember, we don’t get paid unless you get paid!
Call us at (310) 464-2670 to schedule an appointment. Our phone lines are open 24/7.
If you cannot travel to our offices, we will gladly send a car accident lawyer to visit you at home or in the hospital anywhere in Southern California.
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