Part of your responsibility as a driver is to know what steps to take after you are in an accident. Some drivers never need this information, but most people will have this problem at some point during their driving years. With almost 400,000 lane miles of roadways carrying hundreds of thousands of vehicles on California roads each day, drivers in this state are at risk of being in an accident at least once.
California Accidents & You
The busiest highways in this state are used by approximately 350,000 drivers every day, which contributes to an amazing number of potential accidents waiting to happen. Problems that contribute to the accident rate include things related to modern technology, such as cell phone usage, texting or using a GPS unit or computer while driving instead of giving full attention driving. Alcohol and drug use also account for a good portion of vehicle accidents, as does excessive speeding.
Along with the privilege of driving comes the duty to act responsibly, not only while you are driving but also after an accident happens. This is an event no one wants to experience, but it still is prudent to learn about car accidents, California traffic laws and what is expected of you if you are involved in an accident. You will want to contact an experienced California Accident Lawyer, but prior to that you must attend to matters at the scene of your accident.
After the Accident
When the unexpected happens and you find yourself involved in a vehicle accident, there are several important steps to take. If the accident was caused by a hit-and-run driver, try to recall as much as possible of the description of the vehicle. You should have an emergency kit in your vehicle with a cell phone, notepad and pen. You should also be able to take photos with the cell phone.
- If you are able and not severely injured, the first priority is to assess injuries at the scene and call for help. Find out who is injured and how serious those injuries appear to be. Make injured persons as comfortable as possible, but quickly phone 911 for help at the scene. This should bring police and medical assistance to your accident location promptly. It is very helpful if you have been paying attention to location markers as you were driving. The better you can describe your location, the faster help can arrive. If you have a GPS, use it to pinpoint your location. Even if there are no injuries, you need to report your accident to police and wait for their arrival.
- Make sure all people are safely away from traffic lanes and the road shoulder. Remove vehicles and parts from the roadway, carefully. If vehicles are inoperable, you will need a tow service to move them out of the way. If animals are involved in the accident, you or the police can get them help through the Humane Society if owners are not located. Set out markers or flares to warn other drivers of the accident scene.
- Exchange information with the other driver. This should include contact information (name, address, phone number) and vehicle and insurance information (driver license and insurance policy numbers, registration and license plate numbers and car make/model description).Take photos of the scene, if possible, before anything is moved. Get photos of your vehicle damage also. If you hit a parked car or property, you may leave a note with contact information for the owner.
- Contact your insurance company with all information. Do not admit guilt or make other statements that could jeopardize your claim. Contact your accident attorney immediately before making statements to anyone about the accident or your injuries, other than your doctor.
- File an accident report with the California DMV online or at police station within 10 days. Failure to report an accident may result in license suspension, as can failure to carry proper liability insurance. In California, you must file a Form SR-1, Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California.
- Do not make settlement agreements before consulting with your attorney. You may also have hidden medical problems that only surface later. If you make a premature settlement, some future expenses may not be covered.
- Get a body shop estimate for vehicle repairs and submit that to your insurance company.
California Accident Lawyer
As soon as possible, contact your California Accident Lawyer for legal assistance and representation. They also can help you file the proper forms with insurance companies and the DMV. With their knowledge of California accident laws, they can guide you through all legal process that might arise from the accident including litigation, if that becomes necessary to settle your claims.
Most attorneys will offer a free consultation and accept Personal Injury cases on a contingency fee basis, so there is no fee unless you win. Ask up front about fees and additional charges that might be your responsibility. They also can give you an estimate of what to expect in the way of a settlement or jury award.
Getting fair compensation for your accident claims is the best way to try to recover from accident damage and personal injuries. Your immediate life is terribly disrupted, but your rights, you future and your finances deserve protection and preservation. Your California Accident Attorney is able to help you decide which course of legal action is the beset to pursue.
Accident claims may include:
- Medical expenses
- Work Loss
- Future expenses for rehabilitation and retraining if needed
- Survivor benefits – when wrongful death takes away their loved one
- Vehicle damage claims – repairs, replacement
Even in the best of circumstances, being in an accident is life-changing and traumatic. Being prepared and knowing what to do are the first steps you need to take before heading out on the road. That way, if the unexpected accident happens, you are ready to act responsibly and quickly.