For the year 2013 in the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association recorded 5,657,000 non-fatal crashes. California, with its high number of miles of roadways, ranks as a leader in highway traffic and motor vehicle collisions. With accident numbers in the millions, risk is present whenever you are in a motor vehicle. Every driver should know what to do if they are involved in an accident. There are several steps to take even before you get into your vehicle to make sure you are prepared for the unexpected.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Each year in the U.S., millions of people are injured in motor vehicle crashes. During 2013, over 30,057 people were killed from injuries received in vehicle crashes. The costs of these crashes run into billions of dollars yearly. Although the numbers are slowly decreasing, many things still contribute to this problem. Alcohol and drug use, speeding, distractions, inexperience are top causes of these accidents. Your chances of being in a motor vehicle accident should not be ignored. Every driver should know how to prepare for this possibility and know what to do if they are involved in a motor vehicle crash.
Plan Ahead for Protection
The vehicle you drive should be prepared in advance for a variety of potential problems. Make sure you have a basic emergency kit available at all times. Your kit should have items you might need if you are in an accident, such as a camera, emergency contact numbers, paper and pen, and a flashlight. You can put larger items like a blanket and warning cones, triangles or emergency flares in the trunk. Most people have cell phones, but if you do not carry one, add that to your glove compartment kit.
At the Car Accident Scene
When you are in a car accident, there are several things to do immediately:
- Don’t Leave the Scene – You could be charged with a crime if there are injuries or fatalities and you leave the scene. If it was a hit-and-run driver who crashed into you, chances are good that they either are uninsured or have warrants out for their arrest. Get any information about that runaway car if you can.
- Make Safety a Priority – Check to see if anyone is injured or needs prompt medical attention. Move vehicles off the roadway and turn on flashers, set out warning devices. Stay far off the road; many people receive injuries after a crash from oncoming traffic that hits them.
- Call 911 – Contact the police and report the accident with location. Wait for them to arrive. You may also be required to file a written report with the state. In California, for most accidents you have 10 days to file your accident report at a police station or the DMV website.
- Take Photos – Take photos of the scene and vehicle damage. You want to also record what the traffic flow, weather and time of day is. Try to show all damage, open the hood if possible to include under-hood damage, and also damages to parts that are underneath the vehicle. Take photos of the other vehicle if possible, to verify their claims against your insurance.
- Exchange Information – Each driver involved should exchange information that includes their name, address, phone number, driver license number, license plate number and insurance company/policy number. If any driver is not the vehicle owner, obtain owner information also.
- Document the Event – Write down what happened before you forget details. Include descriptions of each car – the make and model type, color, damages. Do not make any written statement or verbal admission of fault.
- Don’t Discuss Fault – Do not claim to be at fault and do not let the other driver tell police it was your fault. Do not discuss fault with any insurance representatives or that could reduce your ultimate settlement amount.
- Car Care – Call a towing company if you cannot drive your vehicle due to damage. Call your insurance adjuster and make arrangements for them to inspect the vehicle to assess damage.
Contact Your Attorney
Do not make any statements or settlements without checking first with your car accident attorney. The main reason for this is that you could jeopardize your chances of winning any future case. If another person’s injuries do not become apparent until later, they may file a lawsuit against you for medical expenses and other damage claims. You should only discuss any accident with your own attorney; they will fight for your rights and fairness.
California Car Accidents
Drivers in California have specific rules to follow if they are in an accident. No matter who is at fault, you still need to report any accident within 10 days if damage exceeds $750, or it caused injury or death. If the location of the accident was on your own property and did not involve anyone else or cause injury or death, you do not need to report it. The same applies if the vehicles are not required to be registered.
Failure to report an accident to the California DMV could result in a license suspension. Do not fail to report an accident, even if the other driver offers to pay for damages and does not want you to report the accident. Your report must also include your current insurance information.
After the Accident
The police should make arrangements to clean up the roadway, if necessary. You only need to complete the above steps at the car accident scene and find a way to get safely home again. Your next few days will be filled with making arrangement to get your car repaired or replaced, and doing other regular activities that will be more difficult without having your vehicle available. Get the legal advice you need from your experienced California car accident attorney; soon life can be normal again.