WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE INVOLVED IN A CAR ACCIDENT
- 1. STAY IN YOUR CAR AND GET TO A SAFE SPOT. Never get out of your car in traffic. If you get out of your car in the roadway, you might be hit by another car. Your best bet is to stay in your car, and if possible, move your car to a safe spot out of traffic. This usually means over to the right shoulder. If you’re on a busy street, consider turning onto a side street. If your car is too damaged to move safely, or if you or anyone else is too injured to move safely, then just stay in your car and proceed to Step #2.
- 2. CALL THE POLICE. California law requires that all traffic accidents be reported to the local authorities. Do not be afraid to call 911. If anyone is injured, immediately call 911 and be sure to request an ambulance.
- 3. EXCHANGE INFORMATION. Once you are safely pulled to the side of the road and out of the flow of traffic, be sure to get the names, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance information of all involved drivers. Emotions will almost always be running high at this point, but try to remain calm and respectful. Do not discuss who is at fault… there will be plenty of time for that later!
- 4. TAKE PICTURES. Make sure you take pictures of all the cars involved in the accident. Pictures that show damage to the cars in the accident are extremely important, because they can help prove how an accident happened. Pictures of damage to vehicles, damage to other property, skid marks, etc. can also help corroborate injuries. You can never take too many pictures.
- 5. TALK TO WITNESSES. Be sure to get the name and phone number of any witness, even if the other driver admits the accident was their fault. An at-fault driver (or their insurance company) will often try to change their story and deny any wrongdoing. Witnesses who can verify what happened in an accident will help ensure that at-fault drivers and their insurance companies don’t try to weasel their way out of accepting responsibility for their negligence.
- 6. GIVE YOUR STATEMENT TO THE POLICE. When the police respond to the scene, cooperate fully with them and aide them in their investigation. Speak clearly and slowly. The police will give you a receipt with instructions for how to request a copy of the police report. It’s usually a little quarter-sized or half-sized slip of paper. Be sure to keep that receipt in a safe place, because you will need it later.
- 7. IF YOUR CAR IS TOWED FROM THE SCENE. If your car is not drivable, the police will call a tow truck to have your car moved to a certified police tow yard. The tow truck driver will give you a receipt with the location and phone number of that tow yard. Be sure to keep that receipt in a safe place, because you will need it later.
- 8. TREAT YOUR INJURIES. If you are badly injured, treating your injuries is usually not a choice. You may be rushed to an emergency room in the back of an ambulance. But even if you are able to safely drive away from the scene of an accident, it is important to see a doctor if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort at all. This includes what people commonly refer to as whiplash symptoms. Whiplash is a phrase that has been hijacked by the insurance industry and turned into a code word for “minor injury that will get better with just a little time.” But frequently, what feels like whiplash may actually be a much more serious injury. This is the type of injury that will NOT get better with just a little time. Sometimes, pain symptoms can develop hours or even days after an accident. One of the best ways to see a doctor quickly for a non-life threatening injury is to visit an urgent care facility. Urgent care facilities tend to operate a little more efficiently than emergency rooms. If you experience any symptoms associated with head trauma, such as nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, or slurred speech, be sure to visit a doctor immediately.
- 9. CALL A LAWYER. There is only one person who can truly protect your legal rights after an accident: your lawyer. It is important to understand that your legal rights and interests will not be protected by insurance companies, not even your own insurance company. In fact, insurance companies will almost always take immediate steps to minimize the value of your injury claim. Your own insurance company will try to find a way to make the accident partially your fault, so they can increase your rates later! Call the lawyers at Karns & Karns before you do anything else, and keep insurance companies in check.