Being involved in a car accident is a traumatic event. California has almost 200,000 car accidents each year. Over 3,500 of these car crashes involved fatalities. As stark as these numbers are, they mask an even higher statistic. The nearly 200,000 car accidents that occur on California roadways each year injure over 277,000 people, accounting for the fact that not every car accident involves a single driver of one vehicle versus a single driver of another. While these figures represent a decrease from years past, California still leads the nation in fatal car accidents.
In the aftermath of a traumatic event like a car accident, it can be easy to forget oneself. Often, those involved in car accidents are injured, shaken up, and not thinking clearly. This list is intended to be a easy reference reminder of those things you should never do after a car crash.
Never Do These Things After a Car Accident in California...
...Leave the Scene
In California, it is a misdemeanor or a felony to leave the scene of a car accident, depending on whether the accident involves only property damage (Vehicle Code section 20002) or whether the car accident also involves injuries or fatalities (Vehicle Code section 20001). Drivers must remain on the scene and exchange information, including vehicle registration number, license, and proof of insurance to the other party or any law enforcement officer.. If the driver is not the owner of the car, they must give the name, contact details, and the address of the owner.
...Forget to Gather the Other Driver's Information
It is common to be disoriented after a car accident. This causes car crash victims to sometimes forget to exchange their information. Do not forget to gather as much information about the other driver as possible. You will need their information to open a claim with your own insurance.
...Admit Fault Without Knowing All the Facts
One of the first things many people want to do after a car accident is apologize. While this is well-meaning, it is still a mistake. You may not know all the facts. The other driver or their insurer can - and will - use this against you as justification for denying compensation for your property damages or bodily injuries.
...Forget to Call 911
You should call 9-1-1 immediately after a car crash, whether or not anyone has been injured. People often do not realize they are injured - or the full extent of their injuries - immediately after a car accident. Failing to get medical attention right away can impair a claim for compensation down the road. More importantly, untreated injuries may get worse.
...Underestimate the Extent of Your Injuries
Related to the previous point, you should not underestimate how badly you have been injured. Many drivers who report feeling uninjured immediately after a car accident wake up the following day with pain, stiffness, and a host of other symptoms. Other types of injuries, such as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) may not manifest for weeks after one hits their head on an object or experiences a violent whiplash-type motion. Get yourself checked out as soon as possible. If in doubt, call for an ambulance. If not an ambulance, see your doctor as soon as they can accommodate an appointment. Insurance companies love to use "delays in treatment" to argue that a person was not really hurt in a car accident.
...Forget to Take Photos
As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is definitely true in the aftermath of a car accident. Photos or video recordings - both of which can be done easily with one's phone - are vital if you intend to pursue a personal injury claim. If you are able to do so safely, take photos of all vehicles involved and the damages to them. Take some close up and others from about 10 feet away. Take photos of the surrounding structures, "the scene." This may help you identify surveillance cameras, Ring devices or other recordings that captured the car accident. Also, take photos of any road conditions, including skid marks, warning cones, and traffic signs. In addition to depicting the aftermath of the car accidents, photos and video recordings have time and date information encoded in them that will help establish when the car accident occurred.
...Fail to Report the Car Accident to Your Own Insurance Company
Another call to make as soon as possible after a car accident is to your insurance company. You must report your car accident to your insurance company in order to have coverage, even if the other driver was at fault. If you do not report the car accident in a timely manner, your insurance company may have grounds to deny coverage, which would preclude you from obtaining a more immediate source of funds to pay for property damages and medical expenses.
...Give a Recorded Statement to the Other Driver's Insurance (At Least Not Without a Personal Injury Lawyer Present)
The flipside of the previous point is that you should never give a recorded statement to the other driver's insurance company, no matter how hard they pressure you or how nice they seem. The other driver's insurance company is not your friend. If the other driver's insurance telephones you, you should, at a minimum, state at the outset of the call that you do not want to be recorded. California requires consent of all parties in order to record a conversation. Failing to obtain this consent is illegal eavesdropping. Cal. Penal Code section 632. A wiser telephone conversation to have after a car accident is with an experienced personal injury attorney who can communicate with the other driver's insurance on your behalf.
Be Smart! Take Action to Protect Your Rights!
If you have suffered a personal injury as a result of a car accident in California, it is important to have competent representation to navigate you through the legal process. Do not negotiate with the other driver's insurance company on your own. Do not try to handle litigation yourself. The insurance company will have attorneys on their side; you should, too. Call Young Law Group today for a free consultation.
In the meantime, a handy reference guide is included below to help you remember the points discussed in this article. You can save it and keep it with you in your car. You can also download the infographic here.