After getting into a car accident, your mind is likely racing. It can be hard to think straight; adrenaline may be rushing through your body. However, there are important actions you must take to ensure you protect yourself after an accident.
What You Should Do
Stay at the scene of the accident
Even if you feel overwhelmed and scared, you need to stay at the scene of the accident. Leaving the location of a car accident can warrant hit and run charges.
If you leave the scene and someone was injured, it could become a felony offense.
Check for injuries
Make sure that everyone in your vehicle and the other one does not need immediate medical attention.
If there are injuries, call 911.
Call the police
You are required by law to call the police if:
- The accident resulted in injury
- The accident resulted in death
- The accident resulted in over $1,000 in property damage
For minor car accidents, you are not required to call. However, it can be helpful to have police immediately at the scene. They can help facilitate the process of exchanging driver information, begin investigating, and write the official police report that helps with insurance claims.
Your memories of the accident will fade, but pictures will not. Take lots of pictures. Take pictures from all different angles to make sure you capture the extent of the damage caused.
This can be some of the most important evidence in the future.
Collect the other driver’s information
Under California law, Vehicle Code 16025, drivers are required to exchange insurance information after a car accident.
Drivers are also required to share:
- Their name
- Their address
- Their driver’s license number
- Their vehicle ID number
- The address of the vehicle owner if it is not their own car
If you or the other driver do not share this information, it can result in penalties. You could be charged with an infraction, which is a law violation that is less serious than a misdemeanor and not considered a criminal offense. You could also be fined up to $250.
What Not To Do
Now that we’ve covered some of the important things to do after a car accident, let’s discuss some of the things you should refrain from doing.
Don’t say sorry
When something as big as a car accident happens, you may feel naturally inclined to apologize - even if it wasn’t you who caused the accident.
It is important not to say sorry, or anything that would imply fault. Though this may seem like a small detail, it can end up hurting your case later on. The other party could argue that because you apologized, you take ownership of the accident. Because of that, you may get less compensation for any damages.
Other statements to avoid include:
- “I didn’t see you there!”
- “That was my fault.”
- “I apologize…”
A good rule is to simply ask if everyone is okay, then limit your discussion to exchanging your information.
Don’t say you aren’t hurt
Even if you don’t see any injuries at the scene, don’t make a definitive statement that you aren’t hurt. Your injuries may take time to show up. Many injuries can take hours or even days to become noticeable.
If you state that you aren’t hurt, that may hurt your chances of getting compensation in a future personal injury lawsuit.
Don’t act out of emotion
We get it, being in a car accident is frustrating. This is especially true when you did everything right on the road and still were hit.
It is important to stay calm. You don’t want to say anything you’ll regret.
Personal Injury Claims
If you were injured in a car accident due to another driver’s negligence, you have the option of filing a personal injury lawsuit. You may be able to collect compensation for damages including:
- Property damage (typically vehicle damage)
- Medical expenses and anticipated medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
If you wish to seek compensation, it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side. Not only do they have a deep understanding of the law, but they can also handle:
- Speaking with insurance agencies
- Collecting evidence
- Help you get the compensation you deserve