If you get into a car accident anywhere in California, the way you handle your car accident may impact how you would pay your medical bills or how you will fund the car repairs. As a resident and a driver in California, there are many state laws you need to adhere to, but you cannot possibly know them all. These steps will help you handle your California car accident without jeopardizing your rights, even if you were responsible for the crash.
- Don’t Leave the Scene
Leaving the scene of a car accident is only advisable if you are in need of immediate medical attention. In any other way, no matter if someone was injured or worse, you need to remain at the accident scene and wait for the police.
If you leave a scene and there are people injured from the accident, you could be charged with a hit and run and you may end up paying, at best, $10,000 fine or, at worst, be sentenced to 1 year (an more in case of fatalities) in jail.
If there was only property damage, but you leave the scene before identifying yourselves to everyone involved, you can expect the charges for misdemeanor hit and run and up to a $1,000 fine or 6 months in jail.
- Seek Medical Attention
If you were injured in a car accident in California and need immediate medical attention, you don’t have to wait for the police to call an ambulance. Make sure you get the other driver’s information if you are in a condition to do so.
- Get to Safety
In minor car accidents where no one was injured, it is advisable to move the vehicle to the side of the road. Leaving your vehicles blocking the traffic can result in another car accident very easily. But only do this if moving the vehicles would not be dangerous.
If there were injured or if someone was killed, do not move your vehicle before the police come. Just make sure you get out of the road and to safety.
- Get information about the other vehicle
The California DMV requires you to report the accident and to do so correctly you will need the following information:
-the license plates of all vehicles involved in a car accident
-the model, color, and year of the other vehicles
-the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) which you can find in the driver’s insurance card. This one can be obtained only with the cooperation of the other driver and don’t attempt to do it by using force or any other means if the driver won’t share this information with you.
- Exchange Contact Information With Everybody
You can ask the other driver for an insurance card and registration, but they may not be willing to share this info with you, only with the police. That’s okay because you still can try to get contact information from everyone involved as well as anyone who witnessed the accident. You should also write down the name of the officer who came to examine the scene of the accident. And be a good sport- even if other drivers are not willing to share their information, make sure to give them your full cooperation.
- DO NOT ADMIT TO ANYTHING!
Even if you think that the accident was your fault, keep quiet and do not admit to anything. There are situations where another driver may also be partially blamed and that goes under shared fault or comparative negligence law.
If your first instinct was to apologize, DON’T, no matter how rude it seems not to. Your apologizing implies you yourselves think the accident is your fault thus you feel the need to apologize. This is not benign detail to the insurance companies and you may very well end up losing all rights to compensation for being polite.
You may, however, ask if the other driver needs medical attention or if they are in any way injured. If the other driver wants you to admit to the fault, tell them to talk to your insurance company.
- Take Photos
If you are not injured and are able to take some photos, do so. Take pictures of the whole scene, as well as the individual vehicles and the damages caused by the accident, but also make sure to photograph any injuries you’ve or others involved sustained.
This will help both your car accident attorney and insurance adjuster determine what exactly happened. It will also save you from having to pay for property damages that occurred before your car accident as many drivers try to make you do.
- Contact Your Insurance Company
If you file a car accident claim in California the rates will not go up because in this State, this is legally prohibited. To have a viable insurance claim you need to report your accident as soon as possible to prevent any possible license suspension or your car insurance from being canceled.
- Call Your Car Accident Attorney
If you don’t have one, it is very advisable to hire a car accident attorney. They will be the perfect person to help you by protecting your rights and handling your claim professionally. A car accident attorney in California will evaluate your case based on all the evidence and reports you collected and pursue your rights to fair compensation while you focus on recovering from your injuries. They will also handle any negotiations with the insurance companies and make sure you are getting the best settlement possible