It can be a dangerous world out there, especially if you’re a driver in California. In 2013, the last year for which there are statistics, nearly 200,000 people were injured across the State of California in vehicle collisions. The auto insurance industry estimates that the average driver will be involved in a car accident once every 17 years. This means that the average driver who was licensed at age 16 will be involved in three to four accidents over the course of a lifetime. What it also means is that you, as a driver in California, need to know what to do, and what not to do, when you’ve been involved in a car accident.
It is very important that you stay at the scene of the car accident. In order to protect your interests, you need to obtain personal and insurance information from the other driver and give statements to the police so that an official report on the accident can be prepared. Furthermore, if someone was injured or killed in the accident, leaving the scene is against the law. Simply stay put until you are told by a police officer that you can leave.
There is a tendency to apologize to the other driver(s) after an accident has occurred. Avoid the urge to do this. An apology can be misinterpreted as an admission of fault. In addition, do not say that the accident was your fault. It is not your job to determine who is legally responsible for the damages caused by the accident. Remember, anything you say at the accident site may be used against you in a court of law.
After the accident you need to talk to the other driver(s) involved in order to exchange contact and insurance information. You also have to talk to the police in order to preserve an official record. Finally, you need to talk to your insurance company in order to obtain coverage. However, you should not talk to any representative of the other driver’s insurance company. If you are contacted by the other driver’s insurer, simply refer them to your insurer or your attorney. Under no circumstances should you discuss the details of the accident with them or give them a recorded statement, unless instructed to do so by your attorney or insurer.
If you are able, determine if anyone involved in the accident has been injured. If there are injuries, call 911 so emergency medical treatment can be given to those who require it.
Even if there are no injuries, it is in your best interest to notify the authorities that there has been an accident. The police are trained to take witness statements, document the location and nature of the accident, and prepare an official report that contains all of the relevant information they discover.
It is important that you exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver or drivers involved in the accident. Don’t let anyone else write down information for you. If possible, get this information directly from official documents like a driver license or proof of insurance card. If the other driver or drivers are uncooperative, don’t push the issue. Note the license plate number(s) of the other vehicle(s), as well as the make and model, and wait for the police to arrive.
If there are other people on the scene who witnessed the accident, make sure that you talk to them. If possible, get their contact information, too, so that should their statements need to be taken at a later date, you can get ahold of them.
If you are able, it is vital that you take photographs of the accident. Clear photographs can be extremely valuable in establishing exactly what happened just prior to, during, and after the collision. Take photographs of the damage to the vehicles involved, the positions of the vehicles relative to each other and the general location of the accident. If possible, also take photographs of any skid marks on the pavement that occurred because of the accident and the weather conditions, if relevant.
It is important that you let your insurance company know that you’ve been involved in a car accident. Your insurance company will provide you with coverage for the damage to the vehicles involved, as well as for the cost of any medical treatment for any injuries that occurred. A failure to inform your insurance company about the accident can jeopardize your ability to obtain this important protection.
After a car accident, it is important that you have all the protection that is necessary to secure your interests. This is especially true if the accident involved serious injuries or fatalities. An attorney who is experienced in California car accident law can give you the critical advice necessary to guard you against liability while, at the same time, obtaining the compensation that you need to cover your damages.