Although getting into a car accident on the streets of Los Angeles is something we never dream of happening to us, over 6 million car accidents happen nationwide yearly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Whether it’s a severe collision or a minor fender bender, it can be both frightening and frustrating to be in a car accident. Being in a car accident can even prevent us from thinking clearly for days, weeks, and months afterward, so it’s wise to immediately contact a car accident attorney in Los Angeles as soon as possible to help you make a claim.
You should educate yourself in advance and develop a plan if you are in an accident. These tips will help you protect yourself and prepare you for any claims processes you may have to undergo.
What to Do When You Get into a Car Accident?
- Remain at the Scene and Assess the Situation
After an accident, you’re likely to be in shock, but don’t leave the scene, or you’ll get charged with a hit-and-run, which can get you a $10,000 fine and a year in jail or more if someone died or was seriously hurt.
You are legally allowed to leave an accident if the only damage appears to be property damage once you have identified yourself to the involved parties. If you fail to identify yourself, you may face a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge and could be fined $1,000 or jailed for up to six months.
If the other driver flees the scene, inform the police immediately. If they can locate the driver, you can file a claim against their insurer. If the at-fault driver is never found, you may still be able to recover damages from your own insurance company.
- Seek Medical Attention Right Away
When you’re injured severely, get medical attention right away, don’t wait until the police show up; if someone else is driving you to the ER, leave your contact information with them first.
When the accident is minor, and you’re not hurt, move your car to the side of the road, so it doesn’t impede traffic. Make sure to put on your hazard lights so that other people know to slow down. If someone or you is hurt in a severe crash, leave the vehicles where they are and prioritize the safety of everyone.
Even if you don’t think you’ve been hurt badly, take extra precautions when getting out of your car, especially if it happened on a fast-moving street or highway. You don’t want to leave one accident safely only to get into another in traffic.
- Collect Important Information
Make sure you document everything! Take pictures of both vehicles and obtain everyone involved’s names, contact information, and driver’s license numbers. Determine their relationship to the car’s owner if the other driver’s name does not match the car’s registration or insurance papers.
Getting the names and contact information of anyone involved in or who witnessed the accident is also essential. If the police respond to the scene, note down the officers’ names.
If you have your cell phone camera handy, take pictures of the documents or use a pen and paper to record everyone’s name, address, telephone number and driver’s license number. Determine the relationship between the driver and the vehicle’s owner if the driver’s name differs from the vehicle registration or insurance papers. Then note the vehicle’s year, make, model, color, license plate number, and vehicle identification number.
You’ll find the VINs on the driver’s registration and insurance card; however, verifying the physical VIN is also advisable, especially if the other driver is uninsured. If the other driver is unwilling to cooperate, do not attempt to retrieve the VIN from the other driver’s vehicle. Touching another person’s vehicle without consent is not advisable.
If asked, do not share your Social Security number or the coverage limit of your insurance policy, as you are not required to do so. Contact a car accident attorney in Los Angeles if you feel that your rights may have been violated during the encounter with the other driver or the police.
- Notify the Owner If You Hit An Unoccupied Vehicle
California law requires that you notify the owner of an unoccupied vehicle or other property if you hit it and to present your driver’s license and registration to them. If you cannot locate the owner, you must leave a written note containing your name and address and notify the police department or California Highway Patrol as soon as possible.
- Don’t Admit Fault or Say You’re Not Hurt
Even if you do not believe the accident caused injury, you should not tell the other driver because it may give their insurance company an excuse to deny your claim or offer you less than your claim is worth. You should simply state that you will seek medical attention to assess your injury fully.
- Notify Your Insurance Agency
Many people in California choose not to file auto accident claims for fear of their rates increasing. However, California law prohibits auto insurers from raising rates if the policyholder is not at fault. Furthermore, most auto insurance policies require motorists to report an accident promptly to have a viable insurance claim, so you have nothing to lose by doing so and all to gain. As a final note, your insurer will have a better chance of defending your injury claim if you file it early.
If the accident was your fault, it is still advisable to report it because there are legal ramifications, and you risk having your license suspended and your insurance canceled.
Contact Point Law Group if you or someone you know has been involved in a traffic accident and our auto accident attorney Los Angeles will evaluate and advise your case. Point Law Group is locally owned and operated. We serve car accident legal services in Los Angeles and throughout California. It is important to note that California has a statute of limitations regarding car accident lawsuits. Contact us at (310) 560-0606 as soon as possible to determine and discuss the compensation you may be eligible for.