Car accidents are scary. Though we never want them to happen, occasionally a collision is out of our control. When this occurs, it is essential to know what to do to protect yourself.
In some situations, these accidents are nothing more than fender benders that leave all parties with very little to worry about. In other scenarios, there is a significant amount of property destruction, along with injuries and casualties.
No matter what the scenario, there are basic steps you should take following a car accident. These steps help to protect your body and your wallet from permanent damage.
Check for Injuries
Your top priority should always be your own well-being. Though this sounds selfish, you must care for yourself before helping other people. If you don’t have any significant pain, cuts, scrapes, or bruises, it is okay to check on your passengers. However, if you have significant pain or severe visible injuries, call 911 and stay in place. The less you move, the more likely the EMTs will be able to help.
If you are not severely injured, check on others in your vehicle. Encourage them to stay in place if they are badly injured, then call 911. If they are okay, and you can safely do so, you can step out of your vehicle.
Though you may want to rush to the other car or cars involved, stay near your vehicle. If significant damage has been done, or if others involved seem hurt or unresponsive, call 911.
Many of us have been trained to say that we’re sorry when we do something wrong, so it can feel counterintuitive to avoid doing so after an accident. However, it is vital that you avoid apologizing, even if the accident was your fault. This is because the other person and their insurance company can use this as an admission of fault, and it could make you financially responsible for a lot of bills.
Because most drivers have smartphones on hand, begin taking photos of the damage to your car. Be as thorough as you can be, as there is no such thing as too much documentation. Take photos of the damage to the other vehicles as well. Document the street, any debris, street signs, and any injuries. Be sure to ask for permission before photographing the other driver.
Be sure to note any businesses nearby as well. They may have surveillance footage that could help build your case if it comes to that.
Collect Contact Information
Collect the other driver’s contact and other relevant information, including:
- Phone number
- License number
- Insurance information
- License plate
When you have obtained this information, ask any witnesses present for their names, emails, and phone numbers. Their story may be relevant if the insurance companies do not agree on fault. Remember, California assigns fault in accidents, so the details of the incident are significant.
Speak to the Police
If there is a significant amount of damage, generally more than $2,000, the police should be involved. They will assess the scene, ask questions, and write up a report about what happened. They may have insight that you missed.
If they ask, speak with them openly and honestly about what happened, but try not to apologize or admit fault and do not offer more information than is requested. Note their names and badge numbers, and ask when and how you will see the police report on the accident. Note their answer.
Call Your Attorney
When the basics have been covered, call your attorney. They will advise you on the next steps and help coach you through any further tasks that should be completed in your situation. They might need more information if the accident was unique.
Once you have committed to working with your attorney on your accident case, it is essential to let them do the talking and manage logistics.
Don’t Speak With Insurance Companies
With an attorney on your side, it is in your best interest to avoid speaking with insurance companies about the accident, even your own. You may get a call from the other driver’s insurance provider, making it seem as if you must give them a statement, but this is not the truth. There is no timeline for this process, and their sense of urgency is often simply to get you to admit fault so that they do not have to pay.
If they do call you, answer and give them the name and number of your attorney. Tell them that your lawyer will be handling all communication and to call their office for a statement. If they resist, simply repeat the request and do not say anything else.
See a Doctor
Your attorney may advise that you see a doctor of your choosing following the accident. In some cases, this is not necessary. However, it can provide good documentation of your injuries. By getting an exam quickly following the accident, the other side’s attorney is less able to refute that the accident caused the injuries in question. Your attorney will be able to build a strong case for personal injury compensation with the medical statements you receive.
However, every situation is different. Your attorney may believe that a medical exam is not in your best interest. Your attorney understands your unique position and scenario and will give the best advice for you.
My SoCal Lawyers Can Help
If you are looking for strong, experienced legal advice following a car accident, contact My SoCal Lawyers. We provide some of the best legal advice in Southern California and work hard to make sure all our clients see justice. Whether your accident is complicated or simple, we can help get you the compensation and financial relief you deserve. You should not be held responsible for an accident that wasn’t your fault, and we can make sure that does not happen.
For more information about what we can do for you, contact us today via our website.