Car accidents are everyday occurrences, but many of us believe that, since we’ve never been in a wreck, we probably never will be. The truth is that the average driver will be in an estimated three to four accidents throughout their lives. If you’ve never been in one, consider yourself lucky.
Whether it’s a simple fender bender or a devastating wreck, knowing what to do after a car accident in California can save you a lot of stress — and even save your life. There are a few steps you should always take to make sure you stay safe after an accident and are able to successfully file a personal injury lawsuit later on.
As San Luis Obispo car accident lawyers, we know the mistakes drivers make after a wreck that have significant effects on their health and wellbeing. Be sure to follow these steps after a car accident:
1. Move to a Safe Area
If your car was not seriously damaged, pull it over to the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights. This will take you out of traffic, and the lights will (hopefully) alert other drivers that you and your car are there.
If you can’t move your car, try to get yourself to the side of the road. If traffic is too heavy for that, stay at the front of your car to lessen the chances of you being struck by another vehicle.
2. Check On Everyone Involved in the Wreck
First, take a deep breath to calm yourself, then check yourself for major injuries. If you have significant injuries, stay put and move to the next step. If you only have minor injuries, check on your passengers. Make sure they are out of harm’s way, then check on everyone in the other car.
If anyone has any serious injuries, do not attempt to move them! Moving them can do much more harm. The exception to this rule is if that person’s life is in immediate danger if they stay where they are, such as if the car is on fire.
While you’re checking on everyone, you may end up talking to the other driver. Never admit fault for the accident. This includes apologizing. You should also never tell them that you’re okay or uninjured; if you’re not a doctor, you can’t accurately diagnose any injuries. Keep your conversation brief and focused on the facts.
3. Call 9-1-1
As soon as it’s safe to do so, call 9-1-1 and request an ambulance along with the police. By getting your injuries evaluated at the scene, you can better show later on that any injuries you sustained were directly related to the accident.
When the police arrive, be sure to give your statement accurately. Avoid assigning blame or being emotional. Simply give your statement of what happened to the best of your knowledge. You will need to retrieve a copy of the police report later if you plan on filing a personal injury lawsuit.
4. Gather Evidence at the Scene
First and foremost, you need to gather information from the other driver. This includes their name, contact information and insurance information. If possible, take a picture of their license so they can’t claim later on they weren’t involved. At the very least, take a picture of their license plate.
You should also take pictures of the scene itself. Take photos of damage to the cars, weather conditions, road conditions, any skid marks, injuries to yourself and to others, and any other information you may think is important. It’s always better to have too much documentation than not enough.
If any witnesses saw the wreck and stayed at the scene, be sure to get their name, contact information and a brief statement of what they saw. Your San Luis Obispo car accident attorney may call these witnesses later on.
5. Call Your Insurer and the DMV
Unfortunately, you will need to call your insurance company and report the accident, even if you weren’t at fault. When you make this call, only provide the minimum information possible. If they ask questions about the accident, tell them politely but firmly that you’d rather wait to get a copy of the police report before saying anything.
Remember, insurance companies are looking out for their bottom line. They’ll ask you seemingly innocent questions, but they’ll be recording the call and using anything you say to pay out the least amount possible. If you’re ever uncomfortable with their questions, let them know you want to speak with your attorney before answering.
In California, you will also need to report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles if the accident resulted in injury, death or property damage over $1,000. You must make your report to the DMV within 10 days of the accident.
6. Talk to a Lawyer
Chances are, your insurance company will send you a settlement check after the accident. Before you accept it, talk to an experienced attorney. Many personal injury attorneys offer free consultations, during which they will review your case and the settlement offer and let you know if they believe they can get you a better number.
If you accept the settlement offer, the case is over, and you won’t be able to sue for a greater amount. Free consultations are risk-free, so it’s always in your best offer to at least get the opinion of an attorney before accepting a settlement.
Give Our San Luis Obispo Car Accident Lawyers a Call Today
At Ernst Law Group, your first consultation is always free. If we believe we can get you greater compensation, we’ll take on your case. If we don’t believe we can help you, we’ll let you know that, too. We know the time after a car accident is already stressful enough, and we don’t want you to spend your time and money on the legal process if it won’t be beneficial for you.
If you’ve been injured in a wreck, call our San Luis Obispo car accident attorneys today at (805) 541-0300 or contact us online for your free, no-obligation consultation.