A Checklist: What to Do If You Have A Car Accident
After any type of auto accident – with another vehicle, a pedestrian or a stationary object — California law mandates that you must stop and exchange information with the involved parties. Never leave the accident scene until after authorities have been alerted and the injured attended to. If you drive away, you may face criminal hit and run penalties, which include monetary fines and jail time.
Given the amount of bodily harm and property damage that can arise from fender benders, it’s no surprise that car crashes are the number one cause of personal injury claims. If you or someone you love is involved in a vehicle accident, it’s important to protect your legal rights by taking appropriate steps at the accident scene and communicating with your insurance carrier.
Auto accident checklist
Ellis Law’s Los Angeles Personal Injury lawyers have years of experience assisting car accident victims throughout Southern California, and offer the following checklist of what to do (and avoid doing) after a crash. As difficult as it may be, it’s vital to stay calm and composed and prepare yourself for the possibility of filing a claim.
At the accident scene
- Call 911 immediately. Describe your location and if ambulance assistance is required.
- Contact the police and report the accident.
- If you are able to, move your vehicle out of oncoming traffic but stay at the scene.
- Get the name and badge number of the police officer or California Highway Patrol who attends the accident scene. Ask when you are able to get a copy of the accident report.
- Exchange information with all parties involved – this includes all drivers and passengers. Be sure to get: names, addresses, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers and telephone numbers as well as insurance company and policy information of the other vehicle’s registered owners.
- Be cooperative and cordial to other drivers but never apologize or admit fault, even if you believe you are partly to blame for the accident.
- Speak to any witnesses on the scene. Get their contact information.
- Take pictures and/or video of your vehicle, the accident scene and any damage done.
- Report the accident to your insurance provider, giving an honest detailed description of what transpired.
- Make detailed notes about the accident while it is still fresh in your mind. This includes: location, weather and road conditions, direction of travel, injuries to yourself or any passengers. Also include a list of property damage to your vehicle.
After the car accident
- Always seek medical attention and follow doctor’s orders and treatment protocols.
- Keep a record of all medical exams and treatments, hospital costs and out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of your car accident.
- In California, you must report the accident to the DMV within 10 days if any injuries or deaths occurred or property damage totals more than $750 in either vehicle.
- Get a property damage valuation from your insurance company. You do not have to accept their first offer. Compare and contrast repair estimates/quotes from several body shops.
- Review your insurance policy coverage thoroughly. Do not provide a written statement to your insurer without understanding policy limits and clauses.
- Be careful discussing the car accident or your injuries in person or on social media until the claim is resolved.
- Never sign any waivers or releases provided by your insurer without the benefit of a legal evaluation. By doing so, you may inadvertently harm your chances of a recovering a fair settlement.
- Be cautious of low-ball settlement offers. Insurance companies are always looking to improve their bottom line, and may attempt to settle your claim quickly, before your injuries have been properly assessed and treated. Don’t settle a claim without first talking with a qualified car accident attorney, who can ensure the settlement is a true reflection of all financial losses and medical expenses.
Contact a car accident attorney in Los Angeles
For more than two decades, Ellis Law Corporation has devoted their practice to helping injury victims get the settlement they deserve. Each member of our team is a talented, hard-working Los Angeles personal injury attorney with the resources and skill to protect your rights and maximize the value of your claim. For a free, no-obligation case review with Los Angeles car accident attorneys has come to trust and rely on, please call our offices toll-free at 310-641-3335.
Additional Auto Accident Checklist Resources:
- State Bar of California, What Should I do if I have an Auto Accident? http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Pamphlets/AutoAccident.aspx
- Insureuonline,org, Auto Accident Checklist http://www.insureuonline.org/auto_accident_checklist.pdf
- Geico, Learn What To Do If You Get Into A Car Accident https://www.geico.com/claims/after-an-accident/
- Insure.com, What to Do After a Car Accident that’s Not Your Fault http://www.insure.com/car-insurance/third-party-accident.html