California Car Accident Laws: What You Should Do Right After a Car Crash
Car accidents are an inescapable fact. In a report released by the California Highway Patrol’s SWITRS report in 2017, there were 3,904 people killed in 3,582 crashes, with an 8% chance of a fatal accident killing more than one person. 193,564 crashes resulted in injury to 277,160 people.4 Though fatality numbers decreased the following year slightly, the need for being informed about what should be done after a car crash is still highly imperative.
We do not have to wait to get involved in a car accident to know what to do when it happens. Fortunately, California Car Accident Laws exist to protect from someone else’s negligence. Knowing what should be done and about certain obligations after being involved in an accident is crucial to ensure getting maximum compensation from your insurance company and avoid getting into serious trouble.
What You Should Not Do After a Car Crash
In the event of a car crash in Anaheim, or in any point in California, there are several things you should not do:
1. Sit and Do Nothing:
Aside from resulting in no money or not receiving proper medical care or treatment, taking immediate action the moment someone else causes injuries is crucial. Though insurance companies are not compelled by law to have you report an accident soon after the fact, the policyholder needs to report the accident to the insurer. Depending on the circumstance of the accident, an insurance company could define a time frame for reporting which could be as short as a day. Failing to report an accident within this time frame could result in the insurance company denying coverage.
2. Doing it Yourself:
Seeking help from a personal injury lawyer to help protect your rights, evaluate evidence, and ensure maximum compensation. According to one survey, nine out of ten people get fair compensation with the help of an attorney compared to five out of ten who do not. The numbers do not favor people who want to make insurance claims alone. There is usually a two-year statute of limitations after a crash if you intend to bring a personal injury lawsuit and three years if it involves only property damage.
3. Not Hiring an experienced Car Accident Lawyer
An experienced car accident lawyer is indispensable to ensure that appropriate steps are taken after an accident. A car accident lawyer can help clients navigate California’s Car Accident laws and the insurance claim process. It is also essential to have a car accident lawyer with litigation experience in case the insurance company contests the claim in court.
What to Do Right After a Car Crash
Acting on impulse right after a car crash is one of the worst things anyone involved may do. The goal is to ensure that nothing happens that will undermine your case. By taking the appropriate steps, you can:
- Keep yourself from getting your driver’s license revoked
- Assure that medical and car repair bills are paid
- Spare you from emotional and physical pain
Moreover, California car accident laws allow financial recovery even if the claimant is partly at fault.5 To ensure that you act within the bounds of the law, here are the proper steps to take right after a car crash:
1. Don’t Leave the Site of the Incident
Leaving the site of the incident can result in a hit-and-run charge being filed, or at least getting your license suspended or having your driving privileges revoked. Penalties can reach up to $10,000 and one year in jail.1 The penalties can get worse if there is severe injury or a fatality.
Contact the police if the other driver fled the scene. You can file a claim against their insurer if the police can track them down. You may still be able to recover some damages from your insurer if you have comprehensive insurance coverage or uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
2. Keep Calm and Notify Authorities Immediately
As a responsible citizen, you need to notify authorities whether or not injuries resulted from the accident. Inform the sheriff, highway patrol, or the local California police immediately.
3. In Case of an Injury
If you are injured in a car accident, it is crucial to call and wait for help. Do not attempt to move if you are unable to do so. It is essential to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible if you or anyone else has been injured in the accident.
If you require medical attention, ask a health professional to take photos of your injuries. Documenting your injuries, such as writing down or recording your impression of what was damaged, is imperative.
Whether or not you are injured after the accident, it is also important not to say you are not hurt. Instead of saying you are OK, it is recommended that you seek medical attention before you can say anything about your condition.
4. Gathering Information
Gathering as much information about the accident as possible is crucial in building your case or helping you build a strong claim for your insurance. Likewise, witnesses, such as other motorists or pedestrians involved in the accident, must match your version of the events. You may need witness accounts in case you need testimony should the matter reach the court. As a minimum, you need to gather the following critical information about the accident:
- License plate numbers of the vehicles involved in the accident
- Name, address, and contact details of all involved
- Valid California driver’s license number
- Auto insurance information or any evidence of financial responsibility for the drivers involved in the accident
If possible, you need to take photographs of the accident scene.
If you hit an unattended vehicle, you are compelled by California car accident laws to locate the owner and present them with your driver’s license and registration. If you cannot locate the vehicle’s owner, you must leave your contact information on the vehicle where it can be quickly seen and notify the authorities immediately.
5. Note Down Your Own Account of the Accident As Soon As Possible
Once possible, noting down your version of the accident is essential to supply the information needed for the report. Among the details needed are the following (but not limited to):
- Time and date of the accident
- The best estimate of the speed and direction of the vehicles involved
- Road conditions at the time of the accident
- Identity of witnesses, if you can get them
- What the traffic lights indicate
6. Report the Accident to The Authorities
California Car Accident Laws require you to make a written report of the crash to the police department of the city, which has jurisdiction over the accident site. Alternatively, to the California Highway Patrol within 24 hours if the crash resulted in death or injuries to any person (whether the driver, motorcyclist, passenger in rideshare or in a private vehicle, pedestrian, and others)3. The agency receiving the report is compelled to forward the matter to the responsible authority.
However, if a law enforcement officer arrives at the scene, they will prepare an accident report on behalf of the agency. In this case, you don’t need to prepare a separate written report.
California Law requires you to report the vehicle crash to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within ten days if:
- Anyone involved in the accident was killed
- Anyone involved in the accident was injured
- The car crash resulted in property damage exceeding $1,0002
Failure to report the accident would result in your driver’s license suspension. The report should include detailed and current information regarding your financial responsibility and insurance coverage.
7. Notify Your Insurance Company As Soon As Possible
Many insurance policies require policyholders to report an accident promptly to qualify for an insurance claim, even if the accident was the policyholder’s fault. Moreover, in the case of a car accident case, your insurer has a better chance of defending your injury claim if you report the accident earlier.
8. Consider Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer As Soon As Possible
One of the best decisions you can make in the event of a car accident is hiring a car accident lawyer. They can help you deal with the complicated situation that results in a car accident in many ways:
- They can help you protect your rights per California Traffic Laws and other applicable laws.
- They can help you evaluate evidence to determine your right to compensation.
- They can also help you find assistance if you cannot afford to pay for your treatment by looking for a doctor who will accept a medical lien in California.
- They can also help you navigate through the complexities of the insurance code to ensure that you get the best settlement possible to cover some expenses.
- Best of all, selecting a personal injury lawyer with litigation experience can help you fight for your rights and claims in court, whether your case is against the party at fault or when handling a case against your insurer.
Been in a Car Accident? JSM Injury Firm APC Has Your Back
JSM Injury Firm wants to help the community by assisting people seeking justice and fair compensation after a car accident. As victims of someone else’s negligent actions, we want to help them move forward after the incident. If you have been in a car accident, contact us for a free consultation to determine whether you have a solid personal injury case. Speaking with us will allow you to explain your side after an accident and allow you to ask any questions about California car accident laws and the personal injury process.
Legal References :
- California Vehicle Code 20001 VC.
- California Vehicle Code 16000.
- California Vehicle Code 20008.
- California Traffic Safety Quick Stats as of 2018
- California Civil Code §1431.2.