If you've been in a car accident in Orange County, you understand how frightening it can be. Car accidents can injure you not only physically, but also emotionally, mentally, and financially. Given the high number of vehicle accidents on California roads, it's always best to be prepared. Equipping yourself with the knowledge of what to do ahead of time can help you protect your rights and respond more calmly in a high-stress situation.
Check Yourself and Others for Injuries.
The most important step is check yourself, your passengers, and other involved parties for injuries. Likely, nearby witnesses have already called 9-1-1, but if you can comfortably do so, call to report the accident yourself. If your car is still on the road and it's still able to run, move it onto the shoulder. If you can't move your car, but you can easily exit it without injuring yourself further, try to get to a safe location off the road.
Stay at the Scene.
Unless you need to go to the hospital immediately for your own injuries, California law requires you to remain at the scene of the accident if someone other than yourself was injured or killed. California Vehicle Code Section 20001(a)—also known as the hit-and-run law—mandates that drivers wait for authorities to arrive, exchange relevant information with the other parties, and aid the injured individuals at the scene. If you're an involved party and choose to leave the scene of an accident where someone died or was injured, even if you don't think you were at fault, you could potentially be charged with a felony.
Record Pertinent Information.
Write down on a pad or type in your phone as many details as possible about the scene of the accident. Note the make and model of the vehicles; the positioning of the vehicles; the date, place, and time of the accident; and your perspective on what happened. If you can safely do so, take photos with your phone of the position of the vehicles and any damage to them, as well as injuries you or your passengers have.
Exchange Information with Other Involved Parties.
Be sure to get the name, address, phone number, email, and insurance information of all individuals who were involved in the accident. If there are any witnesses to the accident, also get their contact information—they may be helpful in the future for insurance purposes, or if you choose to file a lawsuit.
File a Police Report.
File a report with a local law enforcement agency, even if no one involved in the accident was injured. California Vehicle Code section 20008 requires the driver of any vehicle involved in a car crash to report the crash to the California Highway Patrol or the local police department where the accident occurred. You must file this report within 24 hours of the accident. A police report is often required by your insurance company when making a claim. Tell the officer at the scene exactly what happened. If you're unsure whether you're injured, tell the officer this. Jot down the officer's name and get a copy of the accident report to take home.
to Your Insurance Provider.
Whether you or another party is at fault, make a report of the accident to your insurance company. Your insurance contract likely requires you to report an accident soon after it occurs. By failing to report it quickly enough, you may risk your insurer denying coverage related to the accident.
You can this with the help of your attorney.
Get Medical Attention.
Sometimes, injuries can show up hours, days, or even weeks after an accident occurs. Waiting too long to see a doctor could put your claim at risk, so make an appointment with your medical provider for a checkup and go as soon as you notice any pain or injury.
Report the Accident to the California DMV.
Within 10 days of your accident, you must report it to the California DMV if:
- Anyone in the accident was injured, even if the injury was minor;
- Anyone was killed in the accident; and/or
- The accident resulted in damage to property—either the vehicle or real property—and the damage is over $1000.
You can report this through the Traffic Accident Report SR1, which is available on the California DMV site.
Contact a California Lawyer Experienced in Car Accident Cases.
To protect and secure your legal rights, contact an Orange County attorney who can advocate for you with your insurance company and the insurance company of the other involved parties. Scott D. Hughes is a Los Angeles attorney who represents his clients in a wide variety of matters, including car accidents. If you have suffered injuries in a car accident due to the negligence of another person, contact the Law Offices of Scott D. Hughes today at 714-423-6930 for your free consultation.