If you sustained a serious injury in a collision due to the other driver’s careless or negligent actions, you may be entitled to pursue compensation for your damages in a personal injury claim.
There are certain steps you must take to recover compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Learn how to respond to a car accident so you have the best chance at recovering compensation and avoiding prolonged legal hassles.
What to Do After a Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault
California law requires that anyone involved in a car accident that causes injury or property damage must:
- -Report the accident to law enforcement authorities
- -Remain at the scene until they arrive (except in cases where immediate medical attention is necessary)
- -Render reasonable assistance to victims if safe to do so
- -Provide their contact information to the other involved parties
Even if the accident is not your fault, you must stay until the police arrive or you may face a hit and run charge.
Take the following steps after experiencing a car accident:
- –Call the police and remain at the scene of the accident unless you require medical attention. Regardless of who caused the accident, you are legally obligated to follow this law. If the other driver was responsible for the accident and fled the scene, DO NOT attempt to pursue them. This can be extremely dangerous. The police may be able to track them down so you can still file a claim against their insurance company. If the driver cannot be located, you may still be able to recover compensation from your own insurance company if you carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, comprehensive and collision coverage, or both.
- –If possible, move your vehicle to a safe area. Leaving your car in an intersection, highway ramp, or other area that blocks traffic can lead to secondary collisions, additional damage, and further injury. If your car is obstructing traffic, move it to the shoulder. However, you should not move your car unless absolutely necessary if it would be dangerous to do so, or if someone was seriously injured or killed in the collision.
- –Provide injured victims with reasonable assistance. Reasonable assistance means first determining what type of assistance is necessary to help an injured person and then making a reasonable effort to ensure that they receive that assistance. This can involve rendering first aid, arranging transportation to a hospital or other medical facility, or transporting them yourself. If you suspect someone has a head, neck, or spine injury it is often best to wait for EMS assistance before moving them.
- –Record information about the driver and witnesses. After victims receive medical attention, record all relevant information about the involved parties.
- –Take photos of the accident scene. If you can safely do so, take photos of the scene from multiple angles, including the vehicles involved in the accident, any property damage that occurred, and bodily injuries you or others have sustained. Gathering evidence now can prevent the at-fault driver from claiming that you are responsible for any damages that may impact the other driver’s vehicle, property, or person at a later date. If you had to leave the scene to seek medical attention or it is not safe to take photos immediately after the accident, return as soon as possible to take these photos.
- –Do not apologize or state that you were not injured in the accident. Even if you do not believe you were injured in the accident, do not apologize to the other driver. Serious injuries like traumatic brain injuries may not always be apparent right away but can rapidly worsen over time. Indicating that you are not hurt provides the other driver’s insurance company with leverage to deny your claim or offer a lower settlement amount than your damages are worth.
- –Record everything you can remember about the accident. As soon as you can, take time to write down every detail of the accident, regardless of how unimportant it may seem. Memories fade and distort over time, so the sooner you record your experience, the better.
- –Document your injuries. If you sustain an injury, take photos of the injury immediately or ask someone else to take them for you. When you seek medical attention, ask a nurse or medical professional providing treatment to take additional photos and to provide you with copies of any records related to your office visit, diagnosis, and treatment.
- –Report the accident to the DMV. In California, you must notify the DMV within ten days of any accident involving injury, death, or more than $1,000 in damage. Failure to take this step can result in suspension of your driver’s license.
- –Notify your insurance company of the accident. Most insurance companies require drivers to report the accident promptly for a valid insurance claim. The longer you wait, the higher the likelihood that your insurer will deny your claim.
Q: How is fault determined in a car accident case?
A: California adheres to a comparative negligence system for establishing fault in car accidents. This means that both drivers can be held responsible for the accident depending on their actions or inactions that contributed to the collision.
Q: Should I call my insurance if it wasn’t my fault?
A: Always call your insurance company to report the accident regardless of who was at fault. If you fail to report an accident to the DMV, even if it was not your fault, and the other driver reports it first, this puts you at risk for a suspended license and cancellation of your insurance policy.
Q: Will my car insurance go up after an accident if it was not my fault?
A: No. Unlike most other states, California legally prohibits auto insurance companies from raising a policy holder’s rates if they were not at fault for the accident.
Q: What damages can I recover in a car accident claim?
A: With a valid car accident claim, you can claim medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, pain and suffering, physical disability or disfigurement, and emotional distress
If the other driver’s conduct was particularly egregious (meaning intentionally malicious, vindictive, or reckless beyond basic negligence), you may also be eligible for punitive damages.
Recover the Maximum Compensation for Your Injuries
At the Law Office of Kenneth M. Sigelman, our attorneys can help you navigate every stage of the claims process, including investigating the accident, proving liability, calculating damages, negotiating a settlement, or litigating your case in court. Having an attorney on your side is crucial for protecting your right to recover compensation and resolving any potential issues that may arise. Contact us today to discuss your case.