A California car accident is generally an unexpected and traumatic event that leaves most of us overwhelmed and with many questions about what to do next. Do I need to call the police? What information do I need from the other driver? How do I protect my rights? From notifying law enforcement to consulting with a California car accident lawyer, we have outlined a step-by-step guide of what to do after a car accident in California below.
Step 1: Stop and Stay at the Accident Scene
You must stop and stay at the accident scene until it is appropriate to leave. If someone has sustained injuries, needs assistance, or was killed, and you leave, you could be charged with a hit-and-run. You should stay until the police arrive. If the accident only caused property damage, you can leave after you have exchanged important information with the other driver.
Step 2: Check for Injuries and Ensure Everyone’s Safety
Your top priority after a car accident in California is to check yourself for any visible injuries and check on the safety of the other parties involved. If you or anyone else is injured, call 9-1-1 immediately to request emergency medical attention.
Step 3: Call Law Enforcement to Report the Accident
Even if the accident seems minor, you should call 9-1-1 to report the accident. Authorities will decide whether to come to the accident scene. If police officers arrive at the scene, they will investigate the accident and create a police report.
A police report can be significant evidence if you need to file a car accident claim. It includes information about all parties involved and an unbiased account of the accident, which can help establish fault.
Step 4: Exchange Information With the Other Driver(s)
You should exchange important contact information and insurance details with the other driver. If the crash included multiple vehicles, exchange information with every driver involved. Our California car accident attorneys recommend obtaining the following information:
- Phone number
- Driver’s license number
- Information about the vehicle, like its year, make, and model
- License plate number
- Insurance company name
- Insurance policy number
Step 5: Document the Accident Scene and Your Injuries
If possible, take pictures of the accident scene to preserve evidence. You should take photos of the vehicles involved and any injuries sustained. Also, write down details about the accident, like the date, time, location, road conditions, and weather conditions.
Step 6: Talk to Witnesses
If there were any witnesses to the accident, try to get their names and contact details. Witness statements can be invaluable for determining accident liability and supporting your potential car accident claim.
Step 7: Seek Medical Attention
You should seek a complete medical evaluation as soon as possible after leaving the accident scene. Even if you feel fine right now, some injuries may not be immediately apparent due to adrenaline or delayed symptoms. If you sustain injuries, you want to receive medical treatment immediately. Additionally, medical records serve as critical evidence for your potential accident claim.
Step 8: Inform Your Insurance Company About the Accident
Your auto insurance policy likely requires you to report the car accident to your insurance company. Provide your insurer with the necessary information about the crash. However, we do not recommend providing a detailed statement or making any assumptions about the cause of the crash or the severity of your injuries. Anything you say could be used against you if you need to file a claim with your insurer.
Step 9: Report the Accident
If law enforcement does not come to the accident scene, you may be required to report the accident to your local police or the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You must report the accident to the local police or the CHP within 24 hours if anyone was injured or died in the accident.
- Anyone involved in the crash sustained injuries, no matter the severity
- Anyone involved in the crash died
- The accident resulted in property damages exceeding $1,000
Step 10: Consult With a California Car Accident Lawyer
After a car accident, we recommend scheduling a consultation with an experienced California car accident attorney. An attorney can answer your questions and help you determine whether you may have a viable claim to obtain compensation for your injuries and damages. Getting an attorney early in the process is beneficial for multiple reasons. For example, an attorney can help you preserve evidence, communicate with the insurance companies on your behalf, and protect your best interests.
Get a Free No-Risk Consultation With Our California Car Accident Lawyers
At Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys, we help car accident victims get the compensation they need and deserve after serious accidents. We have offices throughout California and encourage you to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with us about your situation. Call us at (888) 779-1180 or contact us online to discuss your potential legal options.