What You Should Do Immediately After a Car Accident in California

The immediate aftermath of a car accident in California can be traumatic and disorienting. In the confusing hours and days after a crash, you can easily make mistakes that affect your ability to recover compensation from the at-fault party.

Follow these steps immediately after a car accident in California to safeguard your legal rights and protect your health.

Contact the Authorities

Call 911 to report the collision to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) or local authorities. If someone is severely injured at the scene, do not move them. Instead, call emergency services immediately and wait for medical assistance to arrive. Moving someone could cause more serious injuries, particularly if the person has spinal damage.

If nobody was injured or killed, remove your vehicle from the highway or road and wait for the authorities to arrive.

Document the Accident Scene

If possible, you or a friend should take photos of the accident scene. Include skid marks, property damage, your injuries, vehicle plates, and the final resting places of the vehicles involved. Collect the names, insurance details, and contact information of other drivers involved in the accident, and provide yours. If possible, obtain contact details from anyone who witnessed the accident. Your car accident lawyer can contact them later to secure witness statements.

Typically, the police at the scene will include contact information for the involved parties and any witnesses in their accident report. If authorities are not present, however, you must still exchange the following information with the other parties involved:

  • Driver’s license
  • Vehicle registration card
  • Insurance information
  • Current address

Seek Medical Attention

Your health and safety are the most important considerations following a car accident. Even if you do not immediately feel pain or discomfort, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Many injuries are masked by adrenaline at the time of the accident. You may not feel them until days or even weeks later. By seeking medical attention right away, you can help ensure you can recover medical costs related to the accident, even if your injuries manifest at a later time.

Avoid telling the insurance company, other driver, or police that you are uninjured. Downplaying your potential injuries or failing to seek prompt medical treatment could compromise your car accident claim.

File an Accident Report

California law requires all persons involved in a vehicle accident to report the accident within 10 days if the accident involved injuries, death, or property damage greater than $1,000. This applies even if the accident occurred on private property. The crash must be reported in writing to the California Department of Motor Vehicles using a Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (SR-1) form. Your personal injury lawyer can complete the form on your behalf, if necessary.

Information you need for the SR-1 form includes the following:

  • Your driver’s license number and issuing state
  • Your name, date of birth, and contact information
  • Your vehicle’s license plate number
  • Your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN), make, model, and year
  • Your vehicle’s insurance policy information
  • The other party’s name, contact information, vehicle details, and insurance information
  • Date and location of the accident
  • Number of vehicles involved in the accident

Call a California Car Accident Attorney 

A car accident claim begins as soon as someone hits your car. It’s easy to be distracted and make statements that later compromise your case. You can avoid many legal pitfalls by contacting a car accident lawyer immediately after the accident. Your attorney can help you navigate police official statements to avoid any mistakes about fault.

Your attorney can also request police reports, handle property damage claims, and assist with finding medical treatment while you focus on recovering from your injuries.

Contact Your Insurance Company 

Your insurance provider will typically require you to report the accident from the scene, if possible. Call them to advise of the accident but keep your report factual and to the point. Avoid implying fault or pointing fingers. At the same time, do not make any statements that imply that you could be the one at fault. Simply state how and where the accident occurred, with factual details.

Remember that even your own insurance company is motivated to avoid large payouts. The less they pay in settlements, the more the insurance company profits. Protect yourself from lowball settlements, unfair denials, or other bad faith behavior by taking the following precautions:

  • Avoid admitting fault
  • Do not downplay your injuries
  • Do not provide a recorded statement without speaking with an attorney
  • Seek medical attention right away
  • Do not accept or sign a settlement without legal advice
  • Contact a California personal injury lawyer for legal advice

How a Car Accident Lawyer in California Can Help With Your Claim

A car crash can create significant physical, mental, and financial difficulties. You may be tempted to accept the first payment the insurance company offers, but initial settlement offers rarely include the full scope of your losses. Rather than risk losing the compensation you deserve, contact an attorney.

While you cope with these issues, a personal injury lawyer can handle the legal aspects of your case. A California car accident lawyer can:

  • Gather evidence and investigate the cause of the accident
  • Determine all the at-fault parties
  • File insurance claims and negotiate with adjusters
  • File a lawsuit against the at-fault party

Contact a California Car Accident Attorney for a Free Consultation

If you or someone you love sustained injuries in a car collision in California, the skilled personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Kroger-Diamond & Campos APC are here to help. Our compassionate car accident lawyers have extensive experience assisting accident victims in San Diego and throughout southern California. Reach out today to speak with an attorney about your car accident case.