What Should I Do If I Get Into a Car Accident?
A serious car accident can be a terrifying, traumatic, jarring experience. Car accidents are not events that people deal with many times in their lives, if ever. If you were in a car crash, there are a few important steps to take to protect your health, your rights, and your finances. Read on for tips on what to do after a car crash, and if you’ve been hit by a negligent driver in Southern California, call a seasoned Riverside car accident lawyer for assistance.
Stop and Assess the Situation
The first thing you should do if you have been in a car accident, if possible, is to pull over to a safe spot on the side of the road. Check yourself, your passengers, and other motorists for injuries. If anyone is seriously hurt, call 911. Do not continue driving. If you were seriously hurt, try not to move, and ask someone to call 911 if you are unable to do so yourself.
Exchange Info With Other Drivers
California law requires drivers who have been in an accident involving damage to property or injury to a person to stop and exchange identifying information with the other drivers involved. Failing to stop and trade info at the scene is punishable as a criminal hit-and-run. If anyone was seriously injured or killed in the accident, the penalties for hit-and-run are extremely severe.
Trade contact information with the other driver(s) involved including contact information (full name, phone number, address, driver’s license number), vehicle information (license plate number, type, color, and model of vehicle), and insurance information (insurance company, policy number, and phone number). You’ll need this information to ensure that you are covered by insurance or that you are able to hold an at-fault driver liable, should the need arise.
See a Doctor
As soon as possible after your accident, get medical attention. If you are seriously hurt, get to a hospital immediately; accept the ambulance ride and assistance from first responders. Even if you are not critically injured, however, it’s still important to see a doctor soon after the accident. You could have latent injuries that are dangerous but hard to detect, such as internal bleeding, organ damage, or a concussion.
Moreover, if you delay in seeing a doctor, an insurance company or defense lawyer might try to limit the value of your injury claim or coverage by asserting that your injuries arose in some event other than your car accident. Getting checked out immediately after a crash prevents liable parties from limiting the value of your claim by avoiding responsibility for your injuries.
Report the Accident
Even if there were no serious injuries, it’s a good idea to call the police. The police will conduct an investigation and generate a report, which can serve as useful evidence for your eventual insurance, injury, or property damage claim. California law, in fact, requires drivers to report the accident to the police if there was property damage over $1,000 or if anyone was injured or killed in the crash.
Gather Evidence: Photos, Witness Information, Documents
If you are physically able, it’s helpful to start gathering evidence about your accident as soon as it happens. Take photographs of your injuries, the vehicles involved (including the damage caused), and the surrounding area (stop signs and lights, weather, time of day, any traffic cameras or other recording devices). Collect contact information from any witnesses.
Additionally, it’s important to keep copies of any documents that are generated in connection with your accident. That includes the police report, communications with insurance companies, medical reports, medical bills, statements from your employer, and any other documents relating to your accident, your injuries, or your claims. The more evidence you gather and retain, the easier it will be for your attorney to build you a strong case quickly and efficiently.
Secure the Recovery You Are Owed After a California Car Accident
For help getting benefits after a car accident in Southern California, call Ochoa & Calderón to discuss your case with a knowledgeable and dedicated California personal injury lawyer. Call 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 toll-free throughout Southern California.