Even more importantly, following appropriate procedure can ensure that you don’t suffer further injury, that you do get the medical care you need before complications develop, and that you meet your obligations under the law.
Here are seven important steps to take after a car accident in California:
Seek Emergency Medical Attention if Needed
Your health and safety matter more than anything. Auto accidents are emotionally jostling, but take a deep breath and assess yourself for injuries. If you suspect you could be hurt, call 911 right away.
Can’t dial 911 on your own? Shout for help and ask a specific person in your vicinity to call 911 for you. (If you ask a particular individual for help, he or she is more likely to respond right away, whereas generalized “someone help!” pleas can cause confusion as to who should take action.)
If you can, try to find out if anyone else at the scene is injured. If so, call 911. No matter who is at fault for the accident, everyone deserves to receive the urgent medical care they need.
Notify the Authorities & Stay Put
Don’t leave the accident scene without notifying law enforcement about the accident. Departure without permission from an officer could be considered a hit and run. Even if the accident seems minor or insignificant, the authorities must be notified.
If it is safe and possible to do so, move your vehicle out of the road and away from traffic. If necessary, exit the vehicle and move yourself out of harm’s way. (Safety first, always.) But avoid leaving the scene unless it’s in an ambulance.
Stay Calm and Don’t Say Too Much
Panic can feel like a natural response, but it isn’t in your best interest. Try to stay calm and focused on the situation at hand. Don’t react angrily toward the driver at fault. If other parties are angry or out of control, don’t engage. If someone is dangerous or threatening, call 911.
When a police officer arrives, he or she will want to ask you about the accident. You should cooperate and follow instructions. Never lie; doing so could get you in bigger trouble.
However, it is important that you not talk too much or say the wrong things. Avoid any statements that might sound like you are admitting fault, accepting blame, or waiving your rights. It is best even to avoid statements like, “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t mean to.”
Remember: there is a difference between feeling at fault and being legally at fault. You will have an opportunity later to talk to a Bakersfield car accident lawyer about how the complex issue of liability might play out in your situation.
Notes and Photographs
One of the most important steps to take after a car accident is gathering evidence while still at the scene. Examples include:
- Photographs (from multiple angles and distances if possible)
- Names & contact info for every driver, passenger, and witness
- Written notes about what happened, how it happened, and where & when it happened
- Video recordings of the accident scene
- The name(s) of the responding law enforcement officer(s)
- A copy of the accident report (or a reference number for getting a copy of the report online)
- Insurance information from the other drivers
Let Your Insurance Company Know About the Accident
Don’t let too much time pass before you notify your insurance company of the accident. It’s important to do this even if you weren’t at fault for the accident. The terms of your insurance policy might require you to do so.
You still want to be careful when talking to your insurance company. In some cases, you might ultimately have a claim against them too, so they are not necessarily on your side. Provide notice of the accident, but avoid saying too much or making self-defeating statements.
Schedule a Diagnostic Medical Exam
If your accident did not require emergency medical attention, it is still important to see a doctor soon afterward. In fact, of all the steps to take after a car accident in California, this one might have the single biggest impact on your potential financial recovery. Tell the doctor’s office that you have been in a car accident, insist on seeing a Medical Doctor (M.D.) instead of a physician’s assistant or nurse, and ask for a comprehensive post-accident diagnostic examination.
Contact an Experienced Bakersfield Auto Accident Lawyer ASAP
A car accident is the beginning of a complex insurance claims process. Don’t face the insurance company on your own. They have a lot of experience, and they are not on your side. A Bakersfield auto accident lawyer can protect your interests and fight to maximize your financial compensation.
If you haven’t been in an accident, we encourage you to store our law firm phone number in your smartphone’s contacts now: 661-333-3333 in Bakersfield, CA. That way, you’ll have it handy right after an accident, should you ever find yourself in that situation.
If you have already been in an accident, call those phone numbers or contact us online as soon as possible. Ask about scheduling a free, no-obligation consultation with a Bakersfield auto accident lawyer at The Law Offices of Mickey Fine.
We will never charge a fee for our services unless we get you money first.