Car Accident Checklist: What to Do After an Auto Accident in California
The aftermath of a motor vehicle crash can be chaotic and overwhelming, especially if you suffer injuries because of another driver’s negligence. Not surprisingly, you may be confused about what to do, when you need to do it, and how to go about it. Still, your actions are important to preserving your right to compensation through a potential auto collision claim.
For these reasons, it’s important to keep a car accident checklist handy to provide guidance during all the commotion. Review these items carefully, keeping in mind that your California car accident attorney can provide assistance at each step along the way.
Your first step is one related to preparedness: Download this document, print it out, and keep it handy somewhere in your car. Take each of the other tasks in turn and as appropriate to protect your interests.
Checklist: What To Do After A Car Accident
1. Make Necessary Phone Calls: The details will vary depending on the severity of the crash and whether you’re physically able to make a call. Generally, after you pull over safely, you should dial 911 to cover all bases. When you provide sufficient information to the dispatcher, he or she will send:
- An ambulance and emergency medical technicians (EMTs);
- A fire crew; and,
- Any other first responders.
2. Seek Proper Medical Treatment: One of the most important items on a car accident checklist is making sure you get proper medical care for your injuries. If your injuries are life-threatening, you should either be transported by ambulance to the ER or have someone take you immediately. Excessive bleeding, periods of unconsciousness, difficulty breathing, damage to internal organs, and other issues need to be addressed on an emergency basis.
For less severe injuries, you should still seek treatment at an urgent care center. These facilities are set up to handle same-day and minor medical procedures, so you’ll still get the care you need to get on the road to recovery.
3. Exchange Contact Information with Other Drivers: While you’re still at the scene, you should speak with any other motorists that were involved in the crash. Keep your words to a minimum, and only ask for basics like name, address, phone number, and insurance details. Do not apologize, lay blame, or make any statements regarding fault.
4. Collect Facts and Evidence at the Scene: Aside from getting contact information, you should also gather evidence from the scene of the accident. Use your cell phone to take pictures of:
- Damage to your car and all other vehicles;
- Any damage to other property;
- Your injuries; and,
- The scene, such as skidmarks, a stop sign, traffic signal, and other physical conditions.
As soon as possible after the crash, you should also write down detailed notes about what happened with the auto crash. These details may be important to proving your claim, and could be helpful when your auto accident lawyer is working with an insurance company. Plus, the notes can serve to refresh your memory about the collision, which can fade with the passage of time. Include details on:
- Where you were going;
- Who was with you;
- The weather conditions;
- The specifics of the intersection and/or roadway;
- Any statements by people at the scene; and,
- Any other evidence you think may be relevant.
A final note on information to gather at the scene relates to witnesses: Pedestrians, bicyclists, and other bystanders who were not involved in the accident can provide valuable details because they represent an outsider’s view.
5. Contact a Car Accident Lawyer: At the first possible opportunity after an accident, you should reach out to an attorney for legal guidance. Not only will a lawyer provide knowledgeable advice on your rights and remedies, but you can also get assistance regarding the additional steps on a California auto accident checklist:
- Notifying Insurance Companies: You’ll need to reach out to the responsible driver’s insurer as a first step in filing a crash claim. You can obtain the necessary forms and learn about the process by talking to a claims adjuster.
- Filing an Insurance Claim: Beyond filling out the forms, you’ll need to supply important supporting documentation regarding your claim. Examples include paperwork on the damage to your car, medical records and notes on your injuries, and any information showing that the other driver was at fault.
- Negotiating Settlement with an Insurance Company: It’s rare that an insurer will payment in full to resolve your claim, so you can expect a counteroffer and ensuing negotiations. Claims adjusters will do all they can to lowball your compensation or deny your claim entirely.
- Taking Your Case to Court: If you can’t reach a settlement on your claim, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit in court to get fair, reasonable compensation for your losses. Litigation is very complex, but your attorney has the courtroom experience necessary to represent your interests.
In addition to these forms of assistance, a car accident lawyer can also help you avoid common mistakes with the claims process, which are:
- Providing a Recorded Statement: Your words can be used as grounds to reject your claim if you admit fault, even partially;
- Accepting Payment: If you cash a check, the amount is generally considered acceptance of the insurer’s counteroffer – usually an amount far less than what you deserve;
- Signing Release Documents: When you sign a release, you’re giving away any and all rights you may have against the responsible driver’s insurance company. You cannot request additional monetary damages as compensation – even if you’re otherwise entitled by law to recover them – because you’ve already released your claim.
Schedule a Consultation with an Experienced California Auto Accident Lawyer
When you download, print, and keep this car accident checklist in your vehicle, you’re in a better position to act accordingly after an auto crash. You’re also an advantage when you contact an attorney right away, so please contact Levinson Law Group to set up a case evaluation right away. We serve clients throughout the San Diego area from our offices in Carlsbad and Oceanside, CA, and we’re happy to explain your legal options.