A car accident in California comes with a lot of questions. Who caused the car accident? Who will pay for the medical expenses? Will the insurance provider compensate for the lost income? A competent personal injury lawyer will be beneficial as far as guidance on what steps to take in the confusing and chaotic world of insurance claims and settlements is concerned. Orange County Personal Injury Attorney has many years of experience in ensuring car accident victims receive fair compensation for losses incurred.
Introduction on Steps to Take After an Accident
There are several ways to avoid a car accident in Orange County, but once it occurs, it is essential to know what steps to take as well as what questions to answer. This is what makes the difference between being awarded a satisfactory compensation and not. Read on the article to get a checklist that will assist you in knowing what to do in the event of a motor vehicle accident. It is wise to review the article and then bookmark it on your computer or phone.
Stop Near or At the Accident Scene
If your car is functional and you are still physically able, you ought to stop near the accident scene without obstructing other road users. Make sure you stop safely and near the scene. Don't stop in an area where other motorists cannot see you like after a blind curve.
Activate the emergency flashing lights if they are working.
Also, to lower the possibility of a fire and more damage to the vehicle's engine, make sure your turn off the ignition.
Assess the State of affairs
After stopping safety, the next step is assessing the condition. Are you hurt? Where are you hurt? Do you've passengers in your car? Are they injured? It is okay to be disoriented and shaken after the accident. Therefore, take a few deep breaths.
If you or your passengers are hurt, don't leave the vehicle. Instead, reach out for emergency help. If you have a baby in the car during the accident, don't take them out of their seat until an emergency medical technician (EMT) instructs you to.
If you aren't injured and can exit the car, keep an eye on moving vehicles around you. Take note of the surroundings. Is it raining, cold, day, night, hot or cold? Even though few people are using the road at night, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that forty-nine percent of vehicle accidents occur at night. While darkness may contribute to the accident, it could also affect the outcome by making the accident scene challenging to gather evidence.
Assessing your surroundings is also crucial for your safety. Be cautious of the debris since it can be hazardous.
Also, take some time to analyze the situation and collect your thoughts before interacting with people around you. It will assist you in remaining calm.
Call the Police
Just like in most states, when a motor vehicle accident causes injuries and vehicle damage that exceeds a certain dollar amount, the police should be notified. The law enforcer can be a great source of information as well as assist in the situation by:
- Providing Medical Care
If you have suffered a severe injury, medical attention is the first thing you need. Most likely, the police will be the first to reach the scene, and they will often be in a position to offer first aid to those injured. Besides, they can clear a space for the ambulance to park as well as assist the EMTs in moving wounded persons to the ambulance.
- Protecting the Scene of the Accident
After a severe accident, the police will block off the area around the accident. They can block the entire road or a section. This is to ensure the area is free of traffic as they carry out their investigations and clear the scene.
This creates a conducive environment for you to talk to the police, other motorists, and any witnesses. The moments after the car accident are essential as far as collecting information and telling the police your side of the story is concerned.
- Investigating the Cause of the Car Accident
This is another primary reason why it is essential to call the police to the scene. The police will collect witness reports, gather information from all parties involved, and test whether the other motorist is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If they suspect the other motorist is drunk, the police will use roadside tests to confirm the suspicion. This will be of great importance when you bring a claim to an insurance company.
- Drafting a Police Report
Another reason to get law enforcement officers to the accident scene is that they will prepare a report. A police report is a brief description of details about the car accident with both accident details and the investigating officer's opinions.
How to Obtain a Police Report
There are 2 methods of getting the police report. One way is free while the other will cost you money.
To get a copy of the paid report, you should ask a copy from the law enforcement agency which prepared the report. Before you leave the scene, make sure the investigating police officer gives you a receipt that has the police report's identification number. Then contact the traffic division of the law enforcement authority (which came to the accident scene) and pay the administrative fee.
In case you don't know or have the police report's identification number, you can give the location, time, and the date of the accident alongside your name to help in finding the report.
To get a free copy of the report, you could ask your insurer's claim representative to see whether they have a copy. If they do, request the insurance representative for a copy. More often than not, insurance providers will not have the report, but if they do, it will save you money.
Irrespective of how you get the report, it will take a couple of days for the police to complete and make it available.
Police Report Contents
At the accident scene, you will notice the police performing a few tasks like inspecting cars, talking to witnesses, writing notes, taking photos, and measuring distance. Well, the investigating police officer is collecting the information needed when drafting a report.
In other words, a police report gives a summary of the law enforcer's investigation. It will contain information such as:
- Approximate location, date, and time of the accident,
- Identifying details of those involved in the collision like names, phone numbers, insurance details, and addresses,
- Witnesses' identifying information,
- Where the cars are damaged,
- Statements given by witnesses and the parties involved,
- Accident's diagram,
- Roadway, lighting, and weather conditions of the car accident scene,
- Fault determination, and
- Violation of law
Is it Still Important to Call the Law Enforcer even if the Accident is Minor?
Yes, it is essential. Even after a minor corrosion, a law enforcement officer can still assist you in documenting what happened. However, in most metropolitan areas, police will not come to the car accident scene for a fender bender accident. Instead, they will ask you to exchange details with the other parties. Additionally, the police won't draft a police report in this case.
Remember to ask to see documents from which you will get information like insurance verification card and driver's license. This is because drivers without vehicle insurance will sometimes give false details if you fail to confirm what they are telling you.
Seek Medical Attention
If you're severely injured in the accident, probably emergency service providers will come to the incident scene and rush you to a health facility where you will get the medical attention you require. But what about the seemingly minor accident that does not come with significant discomfort or immediate pain?
Any experienced personal injury attorney will tell you that many clients come to their office, claiming that they felt no pain at the scene or later that day. Only to wake up the next morning feeling like a truck ran over them. This could be attributed to the fact that people respond to stress and pain signals by producing hormones known as endorphins. The hormone masks the pain until the mind and body have had adequate time to pull through the accident's stress.
Therefore, it is essential to get medical attention whenever you feel symptoms like numbness, dizziness, or pain after an accident. Do not assume the injuries will go away on their own.
Continue Treatment till Your Doctor Asks You to Stop
If your physician diagnoses injuries and starts treatment, carry on the treatment until the doctor tells you to stop. This is because:
The physician can decide how serious your injuries are as well as prescribe the most effective treatment that will assist you in recovering quickly.
The records of the doctor's visit document as well as verify the extent and nature of the injuries and the treatment duration Verification is essential when filing a motor vehicle accident claim. Medical expenses and treatment are significant components of damages awarded in personal injury claims.
Review the Physician's Treatment Records
If you're receiving treatment for injuries originating from a motor vehicle accident, ask the physician for medical records copies. Go through them thoroughly and have the doctor rectify any mistakes that you get.
When reviewing the records, focus on the accident description. Usually, this is the records' first entry. Did the physician misunderstand the fact? Does the record claim that you were driving at 45 mph while the law enforcement officer report says you were at 40 mph? Defense attorneys and insurance adjusters from the at-fault party will use discrepancies like these to present evidence that the corrosion did not occur how you said it did.
Additionally, ensure the doctor gets your medical history right. For instance, if your physician has written that you have a history of an eye problem like the one they are treating, but you never experienced eye issues before, you should have the information clarified. When you file a personal injury lawsuit, the defense attorneys will always look at the medical history. This will be in search of a pre-existing health condition which can be used as the root cause of the current health condition.
Finally, ensure the records document your symptoms accurately.
As the old saying goes, a photo is worth a thousand words. If the insurance provider doesn't believe that you were severely injured, a photo of your injuries will substantiate the claim. And if the at-fault driver claims that the accident didn't damage your car, a photo captured at the scene will show the level of the damage.
Photos also show how the accident happened. For instance, photographs which capture skid marks, rainy weather, and yield sign at an intersection may mean that the crash happened because the motorist:
- Did not yield,
- Attempted to brake all of a sudden, or
- Was driving too fast for the condition
Another importance of taking photos is because you can forget the accident details. A car accident can be traumatic, and it isn't uncommon to suffer memory loss following the accident.
What Happens if You are not Able To Take the Photos after the Accident?
The best time to capture accident photos is after the crash as you await the law enforcers to arrive and before the cars are moved. However, it isn't always possible to take photos at the scene. You could be seriously injured that you require immediate medical attention.
If you're not able to take the photos, ask somebody else to do it on your behalf. It could be your loved one who rushed to the scene upon hearing that you have been involved in an accident. Also, there is a possibility that somebody else took the photos. It can be a police officer who responded to the corrosion, witnesses or other motorists involved in the accident.
Moreover, depending on where the accident happened, a business security camera or traffic cam could have recorded the accident or taken some photographs.
Contact Your Insurance Provider
Most people fail to file motor vehicle claims for fear their insurance rates will escalate. California is one of the two states that lawfully ban insurance companies from increasing rates if the policyholder did not cause the accident. Additionally, many car insurance policies require motorists to report the accident immediately.
Even if you are liable for the accident, it's best to report it. When the other party reports it, it will put you at risk of having your driving privileges withdrawn and insurance canceled.
Finally, reporting prompting gives your insurance firm a better opportunity to protect your accident claim.
Report the Car Accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles
The law requires you to report the accident to the DMV within ten days of the car accident if:
- Any person was injury (whether the injury was minor or severe),
- Any person died, or
- The car accident led to damage that exceeds $1,000
If you aren't sure, report the crash, particularly if you will be filing the claim through your insurer.
Accidents should be reported to the California DMV on DMV Form SR1.
Failure to report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles can lead to the withdrawal of your driving privileges for a maximum of one year.
Watch What You Say
There can be surprisingly a lot of people at the accident scene. Besides, a phone call will connect you to the entire globe. As a result, you should be cautious about what you say digitally or in person. Discussed below is what you should and not say after an accident:
In the event of a motor vehicle accident, you should not say the term sorry. It can be taken to mean an admission of fault which can be used against you later.
Even if you think you are at fault, do not say sorry. The truth is that you do not know all the accident's facts yet. For instance, you may think you are liable for the accident because you rear-ended another driver after reasonably believing they were moving. Later, to learn their brakes lights were not working or the road was not paved properly.
California is one of the states that follow a pure comparative negligence rule. Therefore, saying sorry straightaway after the crash can complicate investigations that follow.
So What Should You Say to Other Motorist?
The only thing you can ask those involved in the corrosion is whether they are okay.
Irrespective of the liability, check to make sure that no one is injured. If the other motorist is responsible for the accident, you can quickly get angry and even yell at them. Well, this isn't the time to be upset. Instead, demonstrate concern for the wellbeing of all involved as well as remain calm.
Don't say much after checking on everyone. Instead, exchange contact information without accusing or apologizing as you wait for the police to arrive.
What to Say to a Law Enforcement Officer
Once the police arrive at the accident scene, the rule of thumb is that they will speak with the driver they think caused the accident first. For instance, if another driver rear-ended your car, it's likely they caused the accident and will be interviewed first.
Therefore, wait in your car for your turn. During the interview, fight the urge to eavesdrop, correct, or interfere. Instead, write what you can recall on a paper.
In the course of your interview, be honest and polite to the police officer. If they ask anything you did not include in your accident summary, write it down. These are the details the insurance representative will ask.
Do not throw the notepaper away. With time, your memory will start fading away, and this could be helpful.
Watch What You Say on Social Media
Whether you apologized at the accident scene or not isn't a big deal. What is more crucial is that:
- You did not agree to a recorded statement when the other party's insurance adjuster called, and
- You kept quiet about the accident on your social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
Most people are not sure whether and when they require a personal injury attorney following a car crash. Discussed below are the reasons why you need to consult a lawyer immediately after an accident:
- Handle Negotiations with the Insurance Provider
After you're involved in a motor vehicle corrosion, the other motorist's insurer will contact you and attempt to obtain a statement about the accident. They will also attempt to get you to accept a low settlement.
The insurer is in the business of making profits. That means their trained insurance adjuster will do their best to minimize the damages you are owed, even to the point of attempting to deny the claim altogether.
Since you don't have experience negotiating with an insurer, it is nearly impossible to acquire fair compensation without the assistance of a lawyer. It is the responsibility of your lawyer to ensure you receive compensation for lost income, medical expenses incurred, and property damaged.
- Determining Accountability for your Injuries
Determining whether the other motorist is liable for the corrosion is complicated. This is because the other party will try to shift the blame to you. An experienced attorney will analyze both the evidence and the injuries suffered to determine what occurred.
- File a Personal Injury Claim
When you have a lawyer handling your case, they will advise you on all legal options available to you. If the insurance firm isn't willing to reach a fair agreement, your attorney will file a lawsuit in court on your behalf. This step will push the insurance company to make a satisfactory settlement before the claim proceeds to court.
- Statute of Limitations in California
Moreover, your lawyer will help you with the statute of limitations (the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit). If the deadline passes, the court will not consider your case. In California, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident. The two years may seem like a lot of time, but it passes quickly, particularly when you are recovering from a severe injury. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the sooner they can start filing your claim.
Find a Reliable Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Insurance companies have adjusters who will begin evaluating your car accident claim immediately. Well, it's possible to handle the claim alone, but you will be at their mercy. These people spent every day, all day fighting claims. To level the playing field, you should retain a personal injury attorney immediately after you are involved in an accident. At Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, our experienced team of legal experts will guide you on what to do after the accident. This will help you avoid costly mistakes. Call us at 714-876-1959 to schedule your initial consultation.