Car accidents are the leading cause of injury in California and the United States. Statistics estimate that about 6 million car accidents occur each year in the US. Also, one in three people in California suffer injuries or get killed in a car crash. An auto accident can lead to damages like lost wages, medical bills, and damaged personal property.
If you’re involved in a car accident, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. However, remember that any action you take can affect your claims process and the legal proceedings. Understanding what you need to do after a car accident in California is critical. One of the first to do after an accident is to call an accident attorney. Here at Drake Law Firm, we specialize in car, motorcycle, truck and pedestrian accidents. Reach out and speak to Benjamin Drake to get answers to all of your questions before proceeding with your accident claim.
Things You Should Do If You’re Involved in a Car Accident
In the unfortunate event that you’re involved in an accident, here are some things you should do immediately. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to assure that the proper action is taken and the correct forms are filed.
Never speak to the opposing insurance company without a legal consultation and representation.
Stop and Evaluate the Situation
Never attempt to run after the accident, even if you’re responsible for the damage. You need to stop and check if there are any injuries, deaths, and the extent of the damage. Failure to stop in California can result in severe criminal hit and run charges.
In the case where you hit a parked car or in a parking lot and you’re unable to find the owner, leave a note with your name and address secured to the car damaged. Also, you’re responsible for reporting the incident to California Highway Patrol or the police.
If you’re injured in an accident, stay calm and wait for help if you are unable to make a call. Never attempt to move.
Get the Necessary Information
It’s imperative to get all the critical information at the scene of the accident as this helps to avoid problems in the future. If you’re injured and can’t move, get a friend or a family member to gather information on the names, phone numbers, and addresses of those involved. Call the police if the other driver doesn’t have a driver’s license or insurance.
Make sure you take photos of the insurance card, driver’s license, registration card, and the license plate of the other driver. Do not forget to take photos of the damage of both vehicles. Avoid saying anything that may incriminate you. Answer questions from the police officer but never admit fault or say that you’ll pay for the damages. The insurance company is responsible for the damages.
Also, do not leave out information of any witness who saw the collision. Ensure that you get their phone number and name. Witnesses can help answer any questions that prove your innocence.
Consult a Car Accident Attorney
If you’re involved in an accident that leads to extensive property damage or injuries, you need to contact an accident attorney. Most firms offer a free case assessment to anyone who would like to explore their legal options.
You’ll get to know what you can expect from the legal process should you decide to pursue a claim for damages incurred. Contact Drake Law Firm for any questions regarding your claim. Our office locations include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Stockton, and Fresno.
Let the Insurance Company Know
Your insurance company has to be notified about the collision as soon as possible. Part of having an attorney represent you is that we notify all involved, insurance company and file the necessary paperwork on your behalf.
If you insist on managing your own accident claim, let your insurance company know if you’ve been injured and if a police report is available for them to get a copy. You also need to contact the other insurance company. They may call you before you reach out to them to gather information that could be used against you during the settlement.
Avoid giving any recorded statement until you’ve talked to an attorney. Talking to the other insurance company reduces the opportunities to get awarded for damages.
What’s more, avoid signing on any authorization sent to you by the other insurance company. The authorization provides access to your employment and medical records. Any incorrect information could be used against you.
Inform the DMV
Drivers in California must inform the DMV if the damage resulted in injuries or people died in the incident. Also, you need to report if the damage to any vehicle was more than $700. An attorney can help you fill a simple SR-1 form that is available on the DMV website.
Seek Medical Attention
Never ignore an injury no matter how small it may seem. Certain injuries like those that affect the soft tissue do not fully manifest until hours or days after the accident. Any pain or discomfort would necessitate a doctor’s visit. An ER visit is essential if you’ve suffered from head trauma, disorientation, or sensitivity to light.
Make sure to follow the doctor’s treatment plan as this could play a role in determining your case in court.
The Car Accident Claims Process in California
Filling a car accident claim is daunting if you don’t know what to expect. It’s critical to note that most car accident claims are settled out of court. The process involves negotiation and settlement with an insurance company in the presence of a personal injury attorney.
In California, the driver files a claim with the other driver’s insurance company, to compensate for any damages associated with the accident. You’ll need to gather evidence to support your claim during the settlement process. Make sure to collect evidence like photos of the damage, receipts for repair bills, medical reports, and anything you can find.
As always my law firm strongly recommends allowing an attorney to communicate with insurance adjusters regardless who was a fault. The insurance adjusters main job is to pay as little as possible for damages and medical bills.
The first step involves drafting a formal demand letter in which a lawyer details the extent of the injuries and any damages incurred. After the investigation, the insurance company accepts or denies liability for the accident. The negotiation process formally begins.
Having an experienced attorney is critical as it ensures that you get a settlement that reflects any damage or injuries suffered, a fair compensation also takes care of intangible losses like suffering and physical pain.
With a settlement, you get compensated for lost wages, medical bills, future medical care costs, and more.
Car, truck and motorcycle accidents can leave you disoriented and confused. Knowing what to do after an accident can help you make the right decision. Talk to a personal injuries attorney to know what to expect with the claims process.