You’re on your commute, running an errand, or driving to one of California’s many attractions when you get into an accident with another vehicle. There may be injuries. Tensions may run high. What should you do to protect yourself after a car crash?
It’s critical to have a plan ahead of time for what to do after a car crash, because at the moment you may not be thinking clearly. But the actions you take immediately after a traffic accident can make all the difference in recovering compensation for your damages and injuries later.
Follow the steps below immediately after a traffic accident for the best success at protecting your interests and getting the recovery you deserve.
What Should You Do After a Minor or Major Car Accident?
Whether you experience a minor fender-bender or a major collision, generally the steps you should take after a car accident are the same for both types of incidents:
- Check for any immediate injuries and get to safety – Make sure to check in on the condition of yourself and anyone around you. If it’s safe for you to do so, check for injuries in any other vehicles. Watch out for traffic as drivers can get hit by other cars when they stop and get out of their vehicles after an accident. Call 911 in case of severe or life-saving injuries that need immediate and emergency treatment.
- Get medical attention and treatment as soon as possible – No matter what condition you’re in, even if you feel “fine,” you should still get checked out by a doctor. This is because many auto accident injuries are latent. You may not know just how bad they are until days, weeks, or even months after the fact, especially with traumatic brain injuries. Not only do you take care of your own health this way, but you also start documenting a paper trail of your injuries, which is extremely important for evidence.
- Document as much evidence of the accident as you can – When it comes to making a legal claim for damages later, evidence is the most important part of a strong case. If it’s safe for you to do so, try to take photos and videos of the scene of the accident. Dash camera footage can be extremely helpful. Get information from bystanders and witnesses who may have seen the accident happen.
- Call a personal injury lawyer about your car accident – The sooner you get a lawyer involved, the better. Insurance companies use a number of bullying tactics and tricks to try to get out of paying you the full amount you deserve. Your lawyer can deal with the insurance companies for you, help you get the evidence you need to prove your case, and get you the maximum possible compensation for your injuries and damages.
If you’re going to file a claim either with your insurance company or through a lawsuit in court, you must do so within the statute of limitations. For most car accident lawsuits, that’s 2 years.
Plus, evidence is best when it’s fresh – the conditions at the scene of the accident may change over time or a witness’s memory may fade. So you should get started sooner rather than later.
Do You Have to Call the Police After a Car Accident in California?
You do not have to call the police or file a police report in California for minor accidents with no injuries. However, if your car accident resulted in any injuries or deaths, the drivers involved must contact the police to file a written report within 24 hours.
If you suffer any injuries in a crash, you can call a police officer to the scene of your accident before you leave. They can fill out a report there – and you’ll get the officer’s testimony, too.
Is California a No-Fault State for Car Accidents?
California is not a no-fault state. After an accident, California law dictates that whoever was “at fault” in the crash is responsible for paying for the damages and injuries that result from it.
As a result, proving fault is one of the most important parts of a car accident case.
Who Determines Fault in an Auto Accident in California?
Ultimately, fault gets determined by California courts based on negligence or other factors like reckless driving or driving under the influence. Insurance companies go by these court decisions to determine fault and appraise the damage.
In addition, California is a pure competitive fault state. That means you can recover compensation even if you’re partly at fault for the accident. For example, even if you were 90% at fault, you can still recover 10% of the damages from the other party who’s responsible.
On the flip side, that means if you’re partly at fault for the accident, that can also reduce the amount of compensation you can get. So for example, if a court determines that you were 25% at fault for the accident, you can only recover up to 75% of your total damages.
How Do You Prove You Are Not at Fault in a Car Accident?
The best way to prove you’re not at fault in an accident is to prove that someone else is at fault instead. You can do this with evidence, such as:
- Dashcam footage of another driver breaking traffic laws
- A car’s on-board computer log that tracked speed at the time of the crash
- Witness testimony, especially if multiple witnesses can corroborate
- Security or traffic camera footage from nearby buildings or intersections
- Blood alcohol test levels or other drug tests if DUI is suspected
If someone else’s negligence caused an accident that left you with injuries, then the person responsible should be the one to pay for the consequences – not you.
A settlement from a personal injury lawsuit can get you the financial support you need to treat your injuries and make up for any income you lose from being unable to work. A proper settlement agreement can make all the difference after a car accident – and the legal team at Sepulveda Sanchez Law can help. Click here for a free case consultation now.