Automotive manufacturing has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Car-making is today a sophisticated, automated, robot-driven process that is not only more efficient than ever before but is creating cars that have unprecedented levels of safety. Nevertheless, no matter how safe cars become, it’s ultimately the decisions of the humans who drive them that determine whether accidents occur.
Unfortunately, car accidents in California have been unrelenting (see Los Angeles’ statistics here, for example). There were more than 480,000 reported motor vehicle crashes on California’s roads in 2017. This averages to over 1,300 accidents per day. It’s a sobering statistic that implies whether you are a resident or visitor to California, there’s a real likelihood that you could at some point find yourself involved in a car crash.
We outline some of the things you need to pay utmost attention to, after a California auto-accident.
If you’ve been involved in an accident, do not continue driving away from the scene no matter how minor you might think the accident is. Stop your car at the scene or if that isn’t possible due to safety concerns, stop as close as you can. Stay focused, remain calm and maintain an awareness of your surroundings. Check if anyone has been injured.
2. Call 911
Call 911 and provide specific information on your location, whether there have been any injuries and if tow trucks and paramedics will be required. Be specific on your location and reference nearby landmarks, intersections, highway mile markers and street signs.
Describe the accident scene and mention any overturned vehicles, leaking downed power lines or other hazards that could endanger safety. The 911 call isn’t the time to explain who was at fault. The objective is to make sure lives are saved and injuries aren’t exacerbated by delay.
3. Report to the Police
Not every accident has to be reported to the police, otherwise law enforcement would be overwhelmed. If you are, however, caught up in something more serious than a minor fender-bender, then you need to get in touch with the authorities.
The terms and circumstances of reporting however vary based on the severity of the collision. For accidents where at least one person has been injured or where repairs exceed $1,000, the Department of Motor Vehicles must be notified as quickly as possible.
4. Gather Evidence
If you or someone you are with has been injured, or if your car has been damaged, you’ll require evidence to back up your compensation demand from the at-fault party’s insurer (or the at-fault party themselves).
The period immediately after a crash is crucial. It won’t be long before the cars are towed or driven away, debris cleared from the road and the injured rushed to the hospital. In no time, key evidence will be lost or dispersed. So even though the aftermath of a crash can be traumatic, it’s important to gather evidence (e.g., by taking photos or videos of the scene) as soon as you can.
5. Notify Your Insurer
An insurance policy is a legally binding contract between the insurer and you. Your policy requires the insurer to provide cover up to the limit defined by your policy and to defend your rights following an accident. This includes legal representation in case you are sued.
In return, you’re expected to immediately report the crash to them even in instances where you don’t think the accident was your fault. You are also obligated to cooperate with the insurer’s investigation following the accident. A failure to cooperate could see a rise in the premiums you pay, the non-renewal of the policy or, in the worst case, its cancellation.
6. Hiring an Attorney
Not every personal injury claim calls for legal representation. There will, however, be instances when engaging a lawyer is the prudent thing to do. Soft tissue injuries are usually minor and don’t attract large medical bills, so can be resolved by negotiating a reasonable settlement with the insurer without legal representation.
Hard injuries such as fractures, head trauma, deep gashes and third-degree burns are more serious and need costly medical care. Compensation for hard injuries may be substantial and there are therefore high stakes in negotiation. In this case, a personal injury attorney can be more than worth it as they could successfully push for a higher settlement than you could obtain on your own.
In the aftermath of an accident, you’ll have to contend with medical bills, police reports, car repairs, insurance companies and attorneys. You’ll want to do everything possible to place you in good stead for compensation. Adhere to the above California accident rules, and you’ll be in the best position to secure your interests.