Every day, drivers venture out onto the roadways only to wind up involved in an auto collision.
Often it isn’t even your fault. After all, you can only control what you do behind the wheel. You are not responsible for the actions of other drivers, especially when they are not even paying attention to driving but are on their smart phones or otherwise occupied while they should be watching the road ahead.But even though California is a “fault” state when it comes to settling auto insurance claims and declarations of fault are important for this purpose, you still can’t get out of going through the process of actually settling the car accident itself.
Knowing what to do to protect yourself will help you and your personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles quickly and successfully settle your claim in your favor.
Common Causes of Auto Accidents in California
Car accidents happen for many different reasons here in California and elsewhere. According to the local news, the most common reasons that you might be involved in a car accident include inclement weather, a reckless driver, excessive speed, driving under the influence (DUI) and distracted driving. But even though these five issues cause more than their fair share of auto accidents, this doesn’t mean they are the only causes.
Car malfunctions, roadway obstructions, poor lighting, confusing street signs and other issues also cause car accidents on a daily basis throughout the state. When traffic gets very congested, this can also be a reason why cars collide because no one has enough room to maneuver safely. Regardless of the reason you were involved in an auto collision, you will take the same basic steps to ensure you and your auto injury attorney have the most complete information to work with when settling your claim.
What to Do Right After An Auto Collision
Right after you have been involved in a car accident, you can expect to feel a bit “spacey” or out of it. You will probably be in some state of shock. You will want to sit for a moment, breathe deeply and get your bearings. Before exiting your vehicle (if it is advisable to do so) be sure to look around you and verify it is safe to emerge.Once you are out of your vehicle, these are the steps you need to take to document everything that occurred for your experienced car accident attorney, alert the proper authorities and protect yourself and your interests to file and settle your claim.
1. Call the police and/or 911 ASAP.
If you are unhurt, call the police. If you are injured or someone else is injured, call both the police and 911 for medical attention. Why do you want to call the police? You need an official record of the scene of the crime (a car accident is considered a crime scene in California).
The police will take the statements of everyone involved and any available witnesses. They will document what occurred and where it occurred. Then they will create a document called an accident report that your Los Angeles personal injury lawyer can submit in court as evidence. You also want to call 911 immediately if you or someone else has been injured in the accident. You want to receive medical care right away.
2. Document everything for your own records.
The first question your experienced car accident attorney will ask you is if you documented everything right after the car accident. While you may be feeling understandably shaken, your memory will still be freshest for most of the details right after the accident. The one exception here is medical issues. You may not notice aches and pains such as whiplash or back injuries right away. Often these take a day or two before you really will notice them.
But all the rest of the information is right out in front of you and it is time to get to work documenting it all while you wait for the police to arrive. If you can, sketch out the entire scene of the accident, noting important details like signs (or lack of signs), where you were, where the other driver was, the closest intersections, road and weather conditions, lighting, where your car and the other car was damaged and more.
3. Exchange information and call your insurer.
You may not be able to complete these steps in this exact order depending on what the other driver decides to do. But as long as you get to every step it doesn’t matter.
When you talk with the other driver to exchange insurance information, do not talk with their insurance agent. They may ask but you are under no legal obligation to do so and it may hurt your claim. It may be seen as an admission of guilt.
Similarly, do not say anything other than what is absolutely necessary to exchange contact and insurance policy information. Anything else may later be used against you as an admission of guilt. When you call your own insurer and open up a new claim, be sure to ask for a copy of the claim document that is prepared, as this can be helpful to your experienced car accident attorney when preparing to advocate on your behalf to settle your claim.
4. Take photos and videos.
The best way to document the condition of both vehicles after the accident as well as the accident scene and surrounding area is with pictures and videos. As a bonus, you can narrate while you are taking videos to record details you can later transcribe for your auto injury attorney to use to settle your claim.
This can be an especially useful tool if you don’t have anything to write with or you are feeling too shaken to focus and write notes for yourself. You have every right to take photos and videos of the surrounding area, your vehicle and the other vehicle. However, it is always nice to let the other driver know using a calm and pleasant voice to avoid any trouble.
5. Continue to take notes as you remember more details.
If you have followed all these steps, the police have likely arrived, and you can get to work creating the accident report. This document will be available to you for your use later to settle your claim. When you go home that night and in days to come, keep making notes. Especially note down any medical issues that show up later, such as back or neck pain.
West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Your Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer
Have you had the traumatizing experience of being involved in an auto collision? It can be hard to know what to do first, especially when all you really want to do is pretend the whole thing never happened and get on with your life. California is one of the strictest states in the nation for traffic laws. Settling a car accident claim can quickly become complicated without experienced guidance. Contact West Coast Trial Lawyers for additional information to get your claim settled quickly and fairly.
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