While all drivers are required to comply with traffic laws and use reasonable care when operating their vehicles, many fail to do so, leaving others to suffer the consequences. Fortunately, there are a few steps that motorists can take immediately following a crash to help ensure that the process of filing a claim goes as smoothly as possible.
What You can do to Prepare for an Accident
It never hurts to be prepared. In fact, it can make all the difference when it comes to recovering after a car accident, so California motorists should consider creating an emergency kit that contains some or all of the following items:
- Flares, warning triangles, and traffic cones;
- A spare flashlight;
- Current insurance policy paperwork;
- A pen and a notepad; and
- An emergency contact list.
While being prepared for an accident is not always enough to prevent one, it can go a long way towards helping accident victims avoid worsening the results of a collision and can even help them obtain compensation for their losses.
What Should You Do Immediately Following a Car Accident?
First and foremost, if you have been in an accident, you should focus on your health and safety. This includes checking on any passengers in your car, as well as those who were in the other vehicles involved. If a person does require medical assistance, be sure to contact emergency responders as soon as possible. Even if you do not require emergency medical attention, you may still want to visit your doctor, especially if you are experiencing any lingering pain.
Immediately following an accident, if it is safe and possible to do so, you should move your vehicle to the shoulder of the roadway. Leaving a vehicle in the road after a collision can pose a danger to other drivers. After a collision, those with drivable vehicles should move them to the shoulder of the road or to an emergency lane. It is also important to turn on one’s hazard lights and if possible, to set out flares and reflectors to help other drivers avoid the stopped vehicles. If, on the other hand, a vehicle is not drivable and thus unable to be moved from the roadway, the parties should be sure to remain in their cars with their seat belts on until emergency responders arrive.
After a car accident, it is important to assess the damage to your vehicle. Once the safety of all parties has been assured and the vehicles have been moved out of the way of traffic, car accident victims should begin the process of assessing the damage to their vehicles. This includes taking photographs not only of the damage sustained by their car, but also of the scene of the accident itself, as this can help the parties demonstrate fault at a later date. You may also want to consider getting a dash cam for your vehicle, as California courts permit the use of recordings from these devices by motorists who are attempting to demonstrate fault. It is important to note, however, that dash cam recordings can also be used against the plaintiff who submits them as evidence, making it especially important for claimants to carefully assess the recordings before submitting them to the court.
Exchange information with the other driver. It is important for drivers to exchange information with each other and take notes about accident-related details, including:
- The parties’ names and contact information;
- The parties’ driver’s license and plate numbers;
- Each party’s car insurance policy information; and
- Details about the exact location and circumstances surrounding the accident.
This information can all play a crucial role in helping motorists submit successful accident claims and demonstrate another person’s fault in causing a collision.
Speak with an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
Not all car accidents require the aid of a legal representative. It can, however, be helpful to consult with an attorney about important state laws and procedures. For instance, many accident victims are not aware that they have only two years from the date of an accident to file a claim in court. Those who fail to file a claim before this deadline passes could end up missing out on their only chance at recovery.
What You Should Not do After a Car Accident
While it is important to take certain steps after a collision, it is also critical to avoid certain things, including admitting responsibility for an accident, leaving the scene of a crash before law enforcement arrives, signing an accident-related document without an attorney present, and discussing an accident on social media.
These actions can all be used against a driver who is attempting to recover compensation following an accident, making it particularly important for motorists to be careful about what they say to others about their collision.
Personal Injury Attorney
Russ Wyatt is a personal injury attorney who practices law together with his father Raymond Wyatt and his brother Peter Wyatt. Prior to becoming an attorney, Russ served in Iraq with the US Marine Corps. The Wyatt attorneys handle cases throughout California and take clients on a contingency basis. There is no fee for their services until they win your case. They can be reached at (916) 277-8820.